Nashan naren nagou (1999) - Postmen in the Mountains
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My life as a postman in the mountains began on an uneventful morning.
I got up to find my father unpacking the mail that I carefully packed.
I knew he was worried. It was my first trip away from home.
I was a bit worried about myself.
But I didn't let it bother me. I was sure I'd get used to it.
The trip and back is 230 miles. It takes 3 days.
I stay over for 2 nights on the road.
I know. I've seen you doing that for years.
Today is your first day. I made this map for you.
80 miles up the mountain, over Tianche Peak to Wangfeng Brook.
Stay at Jiuban Slope for the night. Then dash to Hanpo Pass early in the morning.
Cross Yaozhang Mountain to Geteng Downs, from Dayue Range down.
Another 80 miles. On the third day. all downhill for 80 miles again.
If I cover more distance on the first day, I can be back within two days.
This is a long term thing.
We're not talking about a few trips.
It is not my job anymore.
It was your decision to take over from me.
The job is a tough one.
You may regret about this very soon.
I can step into your shoes or wear your uniform.
The deputy bureau chief does not have my size of uniform at all.
Things are much better in the mountains now. Why can't you settle as farmer?
Or you can go to the town. The weather condition is unpredictable.
Mom, don't you see?
A postman is a state official. It has a better status than a factory worker.
I've got to carry the line in this family.
Don't you think?
I'm not a state official.
The deputy bureau chief is.
If I were him, that's fine.
Didn't he start off as a postman too?
The weather condition is unpredictable.
You need all the precautions you can take.
This is a rain cover.
I know that it is.
Come on. Buddy.
Go on. Go on.
From this day on, I no longer do the mail routes.
The deputy retired me. Even though I am not that old, my knees are failing me.
So I am retired. But you are not, not yet, Buddy.
Lead him the way. Keep him company.
Off now, Buddy.
He doesn't know the way. Go.
Buddy, come here.
Do you want a leash or what?
Move, or I'll beat you up!
Fine, Im going without you.
Wait a minute, son. Dad wants to go with you on this one.
Mom, if you need anything, go to my friend Xu Wanchang.
don't drink contaminated water.
So long, Mom.
Mom! How affectionate.
Buddy may not speek, but it knows a lot.
It knows what my Dad wants. They have spent their lives together.
They are inseparable.
Dad insisted to come with me. I can't stop him.
But with him on tow, it is a bit awkward.
If something comes up, who makes the call?
Buddy, take it easy. My son is not ready for it.
Let if, Dad. I'm doing fine.
Next time, try to shift to your right.
The bag gets heavier with each step up the hill.
I can't imagine having it on my back for 3 days.
I was tempted to take the bag off a few times.
But I can't give Dad the idea I am not up to it.
In any case, if Dad can do it, I certainly can do it better.
I won't stop until he says so.
Buddy, take a break.
Age has caught up on me. It's time to retire.
Am I old?
Didn't the deputy say? It's not your decision.
I tried everything, medicine made from centipede.
The bureau spent a lot on my medication.
Didn't the deputy say, you can still claim medical?
I'm not talking about medical.
Yes, you are. What else?
Buddy, come here.
Why don't you go home? I can manage by myself.
It gets hot when the sun is out.
I know what I'm doing.
If I get lost, I can ask the villagers.
Come on, Buddy. Let's go.
We should have a chat or something. But I don't know what to say.
Dad was always away from home. So I never got beaten up or disciplined. All the kids envied me.
They didn't realize what it's like. To have a father so distant, a father as a stranger.
Those days. he came home once a month.
On the day he came home, I stayed out late to avoid seeing him.
I can't explain that feeling. I missed him.
I was also frightened.
I have never called him Dad.
Buddy, Where's my father?
Where is he?
Where is your mail bag?
I did not lose it.
Still, Dad was mad. I had never seen him so anxious.
I am frightened of him.
Dad used to say, the villagers don't care much about the director.
They care about the postman.
So I thought we would be met with a little bit of warm welcome.
Just like in the movies to receive their mail.
Longlingly, villagers would gather and to smile in satisfaction.
Nothing of the sort happened.
There was not a soul in sight.
No body seems to care about us.
Put the bag down.
and rest for a while.
Where is everybody?
Working People don't stay for us.
We are not officials on tour. We don't need a welcoming ceremony.
How long shall we wait?
Buddy will let them know we are here.
You've been busy?
We're building houses.
Let me freshen up.
I was on the other side of the mountain. I ran all the way back here.
It's so warm today.
Allow me. Thank you.
He is taking over my job.
This is Mr. Secretary.
And you'll be the bureau chief soon?
I'm retired. I don't mind coming back to see you.
all those who come here to work as teachers, doctors,
bank clerks and security officers have become model officials.
Only you are left to just doing the mail route for so many years.
I don't mind doing it.
Your son is a grown man. It's time you retire.
Right. Now let's get the outgoing mail. We have a long way to go.
The school teacher has to send an application.
Let me get it. Won't take long.
Sure, I didn't know you smoke.
You are not around much. Idon't smoke when you're home.
Don't make the same mistakes I did. Like wading the water for a short cut.
It's bad for your health.
No one knows how tough the route is.
It's always been just me on the route.
I don't like praying for attention.
Last month, the deputy did a round with me.
He cried at the end of it.
He said he had no idea the mail route was so tough.
He said I would be commended.
I never imagined he had you in his sleeves. Training you to replace me.
Didn't any officials write anything to commend your service?
Of course they did. I didn't send it out.
I can't mail my own commendation letter.
who's going to commend those who commend me?
don't brag about yourself.
Let's go. We'll meet him on the way.
Come on, Buddy.
They came to see you.
What about me?
They've not met you before.
What shall I do?
Didn't you expect a warm welcome?
what shall I do?
I am not prepared for this.
This is my son.
He is your new postman.
Trust your mail to him as you trusted on me.
We've got to be going.
We've got to be going.
See you then.
Go...go to your classroom.
Dad did not look back at all.
The villagers saw us off at the pass. They stood there, watching us leave.
It was a farewell to my father. My comments about his job hurt his feelings.
I knew he wanted some sort of recognition.
Sometimes things don't come out the way you want.
But Dad's service is recognised.
By the villagers. I'm sure they'll miss him.
Not a single soul in sight for miles.
Even the nymphs would be bored.
If they'd be bored, they wouldn't be here.
Why do the villagers stay in the mountains?
Cause they are descendents of nymphs.
My mother is a local.
She met my father on a mail route deep in the mountains.
There was a rainstorm.
Mom was herding a buffalo. She sprained an ankle and was trapped.
Dad found her when he delivered mail.
Dad asked her to ride the buffalo. But she wouldn't.
So Dad carried her on his back.
When the only buffalo of the village returned safe and sound, the villagers were thrilled.
Dad was thrilled by only one sight.
Dad took his new bride away from the mountains.
The music is awful.
Do you sing when you are on the road?
Don't you get bored?
Watch where you are going.
I get locused.
Buddy is singing along with me.
No, Buddy is sending signals.
It is Hanpo Pass dow there.
All mail goes to the committee office.
That's where you pick up outgoing mail too.
Remember two things.
If there's mail for Ge Rong. Deliver it personally to his family.
It's 2 miles down the road.
Ge's family is at odds wth the secretary. The committee does mot pass on the mail to Ge.
Ge contracted some illness. Ge's wife is desperate for any mail.
Buddy, over here.
Aren't we going into the village?
I've got a special delivery.
I have it. I didn't give it to you.
Buddy, come here.
Another thing. Wang Wuxing is crippled.
Her eldest son is in the army. When there is a remittance, hand it to her.
Don't leave it to here young son. He stole her remittance.
Can you remember all that?
Is that Buddy?
Sit down please.
Who is this?
It's my son, Grannie.
He's taken over my job.
Can he manage it?
Grannie, he is young. We are too old to handle this.
you are not old at all.
you are only 41, aren't you?
Read it to me.
Grannie, how are you?
I hope this letter finds you well.
Are your eyes better now? And your backache is it better?
The same questions again and again.
I am fine here.
The special economic zone is developing fast.
So I am kept very busy.
I do not have time to visit you yet.
If you have any problems.
Tell the postman who delivered this.
He'll take care of you.
He always bothers you.
Tell him we have a new postman.
Don't worry, Grannie.
The new postman is my son. He'll take care of you just as well.
So if you need anything, tell him.
You take over.
It's tough for you to live alone in the mountains.
The living condition is better here.
I should try to get you here.
and live with me.
Wishing you well and healthy.
Is that it?
We've got to go, Grannie. I'll write the reply letter for you.
Your son can do that for me.
He sounded just like my grandson.
I'll come back to see you.
Sure. I have a lot of mail.
Let's go, Buddy.
Let's go, Buddy.
Why didn't her grandson write?
A new Year Card a year and a remittance in Spring Festival, that's all he does.
His mother died when giving birth to him. Grannie mastered all her strength to raise him.
In these mountains, he became the only one who was admitted to the university.
I delivered the admittance notice to him.
He broke down and cried.
He said he had to leave.
And so he did, and never comes back.
Even when his father died.
The old lady was so distraught. She cried so much that she went blind.
What's left of her is the hope for a letter, or the return of her grandson.
You are harboring an ungrateful grandson.
You should tell him so.
Look, he is educated and is now an official. He should know what he is doing.
Hell with his university education. When he is wrong, he is wrong.
It's not our business.
Just remember, in every two weeks come back to see her. Read her another letter.
I'll do whatever you tell me.
What if someone else does this mail route?
Others may not be so kind as you.
This is something her grandson should do. You cannot do everything.
You're not in a position to lecture me.
I don't care what I can or cannot. I just do what I should do!
Big ideas are nothing but ideas if you cann't accomplish them
You'll find out what I can accomplish.
The grandson is Grannie's life. Don't you do anything reckless.
When I held Grannie's hands. I thought of Mom.
Those on the road are not necessarily homesick because they are always busy.
It is those at home who miss their travelling loved ones.
I'd give anything to see Mom smile.
Mom's smile is the broadest only when Dad is home.
Mom appreciates Dad's career. She never complains.
Neither does Grannies about her grandson.
My son. He is the new postman.
He is 24 years old.
Is he the one who called his teacher Dad and got a beating from his Mom?
He is the one.
The first time I saw her she was only this tall. Her sister was this tall.
Come on, Buddy. Our place.
We are going to have a feast.
A special occasion?
Yes, I hope you didn't have a big lunch.
We postpone the celebration to this day so that you can join us.
I am honoured.
You can have all the wine you want.
You've got soot on your face.
You've just pulling my leg.
Is the congee done? Smells so nice. I'm starving now.
The hotter the better.
Are you trying to kill me?
The Tong minority is a passionate people.
I didn't say anything. I was just trying to know her better.
Everytime I saw her, I thought of you.
I knew very well that
When the two of you met
you'd not want to leave this place.
Before you leave the village.
always check this letter box. The key!
Go through every one.
Something like this means that you have to buy the stamp. Got it?
We can take the bus, you know.
Follow the mail route. No detour.
But there is no village in this section. We don't have to do this.
Stick to the route, and you have a better idea of the schedule.
The buses are meant for commuter, not for you.
You never know. It could be a better way.
I'll never spend time waiting for a bus or asking for a free ride.
We can take the scheduled buses. I'll pay for the fare.
It is only a few stops away.
My feet are more reliable than the bus.
There must be a time-table.
The mail route is meant for mail delivery.
If you all want is an easy way out, you shouldn't be in this business at all.
I'm just trying to be efficient.
When helicopters fly over these mountains.
and we still rely on my little legs. We'll be tou of business.
This is a short cut 8 miles less.
But you have to wade in chilly waters. Local people will take the higher path.
But the river floods. There is an even higher one.
Buddy knows all about it.
Carry it above your head away from the water.
You can balance better too.
Let Buddy lead the way.
The wake makes it easy for you.
Relax, I grow up by the river.
You need skills of wading, not swimming.
The pebbles are covered with moss. You will slip.
And the bag is filled with letters, not rice.
You stay out of water.
You have me. You don't get wet.
I did that numerous times.
I don't mind doing it again.
Just let me take care of you.
Buddy, I've been a lone ranger all my life.
I've never been taken care of.
The elders in the village said, a boy is a grown up when he carries his father on his back.
When I was little, my Dad looked so big.
The prospect of carrying him on my back was almost impossible.
But then in my early teen years, I was already bigger and taller than him.
You weigh less than mail bag.
Buddy seems to have a good time. He is warming himself up.
The water is freezing cold.
That's how I got this knee problem.
Buddy, put it here.
What is he doing.
He's picking up firewood for me.
I used to light a fire to warm myself.
I don't need that. Let's go.
Not yet. show Buddy your appreciate.
I saw a scar on you neck.
Oh, it happened ages ago.
You never told me.
How did you get that?
I was 15 years old, I guess.
I came home from the field.
The share fell on my neck and I got slashed.
Even your Mom didn't tell me.
I told her not to. It's no big deal.
When you were born, I was away.
I was usually away for 3 months.
That day, your Mom wrote me a letter.
I delivered letters all my life.
Never received one for myself until then.
So many years.
Your Mom wrote to tell me about you.
I was so thrilled bythe news.
I used my meal allowance to treat everybody.
I used to think Dad did not love me. Mom would get upset when I said that.
He seldom spent time with us during festivals.
Yet, whenever he made it, he would always buy me lots of firecrackers.
Now I realized it was hard on him too.
Time to go, Dad.
What did you say?
I said, Dad, it's time to go.
Did you hear that, Buddy. He called me Dad at last.
Give me the bag.
No. It's my job, my responsibility.
This path is so steep.
The better path was washed away by rain.
Mind the pebbles.
You shouldn't be here. Waiting for us on such a windy day.
I have to make sure you are safe.
My grandpa said, this is my job.
You fell down the slope once for us.
We can't allow that happens again.
Your grandpa is a worrywart.
My son is your new postman.
You don't have to come to wait for him.
Oh, yes, it's my job.
You fell down the slope once. We can't let it happens to your son.
Juan. Are you in school?
I was in junior high.
The road to school too far. My parents told me to stop going.
Even Grandpa said, I have learned enough.
Idon't need school.
What do you think then?
They did because they love me. I don't need a classroom. I can sigh up distance learning courses.
I have learned enough.
I do not need senior high. I go to distance learning degree course.
So what sort of degree?
How I want someone from the press to come here and do a story on me.
But I have never seen a journalist here.
So I am going to study journalism. One day I'll do a stroy on myself.
You'll make a good journalist.
The way you talk sounds just like a reporter.
Distance learning suits you. As for me, all I can do is wait.
I got to go.
Tell your grandpa not to get drunk.
Let's go, Buddy.
What is it about your fall?
It happened 6 months ago.
I did a letter for the villagers in Xiajiao.
So I was late coming here and it was windy.
I slipped and passed out until dark.
The entire village turned out.
with torches to look for me. I was embarrassing.
This route is treacherous.
The other path will be repaired.
It is still treacherous.
Are you having second thoughts?
The deputy never told me I had to climb rocks here.
You never breathed a word to me.
You never asked.
Hey, Brother, Grandpa.
It's me again. I got the exams results.
I got three A's, two B+'s.
and one B. My essay was sent to a newspaper.
The Distance Learning Institute Said they are not going to charge me tuition.
They encourage me to do more writing.
Next time you are here, I'll write about you.
Sure, Juan. It's a deal.
Did you hear that? He's going to write about us.
He called you Brother, me Grandpa.
He can't even get our relation right.
Anyway, I'm not coming back here.
A long while after that, neither of us speak.
We got things on our mind.
then we heard girls singing.
Out of the blue, Dad asked me if I liked the Tong minority girl.
She is different from the girls I know.
I'm not sure if I want to marry a local.
You think the locals are ignorant?
No, actually she knows a lot.
Yesterday, she covered my radio with a bowl and it sounded better.
She said that was stereo.
You detest their poverty?
She'd be like Mom if she married me.
She'd have to leave her own people.
Mom told me about her life in the mountains.
And I asked her why mountain people lived in the mountains?
What did she say?
life in the mountains
was like feet in slippers. Simply comfortable.
She married me but I am never around.
It must be hard on her.
Because Dad was never home. I gave up a lot of working opportunities.
I was angry with him for that.
I know he cares a lot about the family, about Mom.
I know when he stops coming here.
He'll keep this mountains and the route close to his heart.
The toll is greater on the heart than on the legs.
Take a rest.
Who put this here?
Some kind villagers. Leave it here for travellers.
You get some rest here.
The next section is easy. I'll go there by myself.
I've got the mail for this sector.
I'll get it, Dad.
Buddy, you are superb.
Here we are.
This is my son. He takes over my job.
He is tall.
He'll stay here every now and then.
Please take care of him.
You are most welcome. Make yourself comfortable.
I'll put the kettle on.
They've been living here for generations.
They don't have a life.
Yes, they do.
They have dreams.
The tougher life is, the more valuable dreams are.
As long as you have dreams, you live.
A life without dreams is not a life fully lived.
Same goes with this mail route.
It is tough.
But you meet nice people on the route.
You learn a lot on the route.
Then you find new meaning in the job.
The villagers give your job a meaning.
Their life gives you a new meaning.
By this time tomorrow
we'll be home.
The first thing you should do is to visit the village warden.
He takes care of us all the time. Anything we need, we tell him.
He is go generous.
I've got to thank him.
That's not necessary. He is quite a dignified person.
He complains about you being arrogant. You never visit him.
I meant to. I just don't have time.
That's what I told him.
And the village head. He engineered the development of our village.
He may pocket a bit here and there.
Just turn a blind eye to that. Play dumb.
He is, after all, an official.
He is a crook.
I don't kowtow to him.
It's not that. Just leave him alone.
But I'm an official too.
He controls all the supplies, insecticide, fertilizers, seeds, everything.
He can give you a hard time.
He has to do it by law. I don't have to kowtow to him.
Just listen to me. Or you'll regret.
So much politics going on.
It's been like that for years. There have always been politics.
Let's go to bed. We have to get up early tomorrow.
I need a smoke.
Xu Wanchang will do the farming for us.
So don't you go to the fields.
Mom has a cough every winter.
She refused to go to see a doctor.
You know people in the county. Why don't you take her there for a check-up?
Time to wake him.
Give him a few minutes. He must be worn out.
The deputy was in tears.
If not for your insistence.
He would never let our son do it.
I can't trust anybody else.
I trust my son.
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