Hi everyone! I’m yingniang, a temporary blogger here to try my (amateurish) hand at translating an entire novel. Hui3r and Peanuts have been very kind in lending me this incredible platform and also in mentoring me every step of the way. (You guys, so much thought goes into posting and factors other than translating have to be considered. Do appreciate your translators and shower them with love!) I’m fortunate in that I’m in the middle of my holidays so I have some spare time on my hands currently to translate a little more frequently but please don’t expect that to be the new standard here or that it would be maintained.
You Are Still Here is Xin Yi Wu’s earliest work of fiction, an author whose most famous novel To Our Eventually Lost Youth was adapted into a blockbuster movie entitled So Young directed by Vicky Zhao. This novel centers on a favourite trope that is first love. Our two leads of vastly different personalities have to battle through misunderstandings, the uncertainties of growing up as well as the greatest barrier that is the unspoken expectations they have of each other. Would their love remain resolute in trying circumstances or would it mellow with time? There is a saying the first cut is the deepest; will that be the case here?
While the rawness of Xin Yi Wu’s debut effort can be seen at parts, I like that her characters, though imperfect, are winsome in their own rights. With some 44 chapters to go, we really need characters we can root/bleed for.
I sincerely hope you will enjoy the book as much as I have. Please sound off in the comments section below on any thoughts you might have, be it good or bad. But hopefully good haha.
That summer was indelibly imprinted in Cheng Zheng’s memory. It had been swelteringly hot and seemed to go on forever. Standing on the cusp of senior high graduation and preparing for the starting of university, it felt like metamorphosis. But to Su Yun Jin, what left the deepest impression was the struggles and confusion preceding the transformation; she did not know if the caterpillar fresh out of the cocoon would turn into a colorful butterfly or if a dark and gloomy journey awaited.
Su Yun Jin was born and raised in a county near the provincial capital. Her father was a biology teacher while her mother was originally an accountant in a textile factory who was eventually forced to step down during the “enterprising revolution” and become a homemaker instead. Due to her father’s poor health and constant admissions to the hospital, the family was not rich. However, her parents were extremely doting on their only child so Yun Jin never had to experience what it felt like to lack something. After completing her junior year in the high school her father taught at, her parents lamented the fact that the local schools’ standard was behind. For their beloved daughter to stand a good chance of attending a quality university, they utilized whatever savings and connections they had and transferred her to a better school in the provincial capital.
Yun Jin felt uncomfortable with her parent’s arrangements. Firstly, this would require her to be independent and live apart from her parents for the first time in her life. Secondly, the expensive school fees caused her much heartache every night. Of course, she could not battle her parent’s desires nor did she want to disappoint them so for her sophomore year, she became a transfer student at a school in the provincial capital.
Yun Jin had already expected that she would require some adjusting to a new environment but she did not foresee how emotional she would get when she met challenges and setbacks. Her grades were not shabby. In her previous school, she was always among the top ten in her cohort. However, in her first examinations in the new school, she felt the distinct difference in standards and was fifth from the bottom in her batch. That night, she hid under her blanket and cried for a long time, despairing at the prospect of telling her parents about her grades. Shocked, with a greater dose of embarrassment, Yun Jin felt that she had frittered away her parents’ hard earned money. In the subsequent days, she felt burdened by her identity as “fifth from the bottom” and could not bear to face her classmates.
Eventually, she grew out of her embarrassment and strove towards excellence. However, reality being the cold damper it usually is, meant that no matter how diligent she was, Yun Jin was never able to have that one outstanding moment to reverse the shame of that first examinations. Although she was never again ranked from the bottom, when her sophomore year ended, in a class of sixty odd students, Yun Jin never broke into the top half in standing. Slowly, she came to believe that her parent’s expectations of her and this school transfer were a complete mistake. Perhaps, she had never been an intelligent child.
With the completion of their sophomore year, the students were to be allocated into either the Sciences or Arts stream. Yun Jin did well in Languages, was terrible in History and her favourite subject was Physics. Her Mathematics and Chemistry left much to be desired, and she was middling in English and Politics. Understandably, she took a long time to decide on her major.
One day after school, she was passing the doorway of the class which was chocked full of boys and was heading towards the ladies at the end of the corridor when she heard “… What rubbish! I’m obviously choosing the Sciences! Who doesn’t know that only nerdy girls and those terrible in their studies would enrol in Arts…”. This was followed by the raucous laughter of quite a few boys.
Yun Jin felt all the blood in her body rush to her face. Actually, she was aware that those boys were unlikely to be targeting her, but, to a young sensitive girl with low self-esteem, she felt that she was the exact “geeky and academically poor student” they were laughing over. She turned her head back and glared hatefully but was unable to identify the boy who had passed the comment. She felt out of place since it was all boys and hurried off in the direction of the ladies.
As a result of that incident, when the final moment to declare one’s interest in Arts or Sciences came, Yun Jin chose Science without hesitation. She thought to herself, perhaps this decision would preserve her final shred of dignity.
So, in the sweltering heat of May, Yun Jin sat in a Year Three Science class, staring at chemical equations that was alien to her. She tossed the pen she was holding back into her pencil case, heaved her body back to lean against her backrest, and let out a despairing sigh. She was finally aware of how silly she was to have decided in a fit of emotion.
She knew there could only be dark days ahead.
What bothered her wasn’t merely academic work. She glanced round the filled classroom; everyone was buried in their study material and it was utterly quiet. Everyone was concentrating on their self-revision and no one was conversing with another. Yun Jin thought self-mockingly, even if she was surrounded by groups of students chattering away, she would not likely be a participant either.
This class was similar to all the other Science classes in that there was a masculine majority. After the streaming, there were 57 people in this class of which only 8 were girls. Among them, 5 were locals in the provincial capital so they did not stay in the hostel. They would return to their homes for meals before returning to the campus at night for self-revision sessions. And when those ended, would once again return home for the night.
Everyday, the city girls were most lively before morning reading periods and evening self-revision sessions. They would discuss the exciting plot details of the previous night’s drama serial and the latest style of their favourite idols in the newest MVs. They would continue with the gorgeous dress in the shop at the corner of someone’s alley or they would converse with the boys about the latest sporting news. Yun Jin would merely listen passively since she hadn’t any knowledge on such matters anyway. She existed on the fringe of their colourful existence and everyday after self-revision sessions, she would return to her hostel where she faced a bed and four walls.
Since most of the students were locals who did not have to live in the school hostel, the hostel was very simply furnished. The hostel residents were just like Yun Jin; they were either from the nearby counties or villages. They were mostly similar, having a quiet disposition and a wooden expression. Even when they gathered back in the dormitories at night, there was little conversations. The only thing of note was that often in the dead of the night or in the wee hours of the morning, one could make out light coming from under the blankets.
The other two female classmates were Yun Jin’s dormitory mates. They were called Mo Yu Hua and Zhou Jing. But unlike Yun Jin, they entered the school because they had performed well in the nationwide examination. Furthermore, they were still very competent in their studies and were always mugging. They regarded Yun Jin with a touch of scorn in their eyes. Yun Jin found this to be expected. They were all county kids yet she could not even compare to them since they entered through “proper channels”.
Mo Yu Hua was chubby and looked plain. Still she was the one of the most diligent in class and hardly smiled. Solving problems and memorizing words were second nature to her. It cannot be said that she was difficult to get along with though; sometimes she was even willing to share some of her boiled water with Yun Jin.
“People like us, apart from studying with all our hearts, what chance do we have of getting out of a farming future back in the county?” This was the only time that Mo Yu Hua shared her thoughts with Yun Jin so openly.
On the other hand, Zhou Jing was a petite and upright girl. She was always ready to help out. She liked to run ahead of the teachers and would always rush to dust the blackboard. She also liked to join in the conversations of the city girls but was never fully accepted. However, she was pretty popular amongst the boys and was neither close to nor ignored Yun Jin.
Yun Jin once overheard one of the female classmates, Meng Xue, telling a boy “It’s not that we don’t like to talk to those county girls but there really is nothing in common. We can’t be talking about livestock and arable land right?”
Indeed, Yun Jin agreed there was no common topic. So she kept to herself and was nothing like the spirited girl back in her hometown.
As for the boys, now that the “sea” was comparatively larger, it was only natural that there were better-looking “fishes”. But at this awkward age, the young lads still had not grasped the concept of gentlemanliness. Even when it came to filling their cups with water, the boys would jostle with the girls. What really took the cake was the boys would refer to all eight female classmates as the eight dinosaurs. They were nothing like the romantic male leads in romance novels.
When Yun Jin looked in the mirror, she saw a plain girl in a uniform that was washed so often the material had thinned out and the colour a fainter blue. Even she felt that the story of Cinderella is ridiculous nonsense. Who is Cinderella, a girl who has everything except money? Although ill-fated before meeting the prince, at least she is kind-hearted, adorable and beautiful. Although, they were both poor, she had awkward character, average grades and nothing particularly winsome going for her. Hence, even if the prince by chance walked past her, would only treat her as a passerby.
Yun Jin gave a few self-deprecating laughs and was determined to deny herself all thoughts of youthful passion.