Gen Zer lauded for caring for father
Huang Silin, 26, appears to be a typical member of Generation Z－those born between the late 1990s and early 2000s. She talks to an earbud stuffed in her left ear and blurts out social media one-liners on the two-minute walk to her doorway.
But behind the door she cares for her 49-year-old father, Huang Jingliang, who is paralyzed from the neck down, as she has done since she was 7.
She carries her bedridden father from his bed to a wheelchair and wheels him out under the sun.
Earlier this month, Huang Silin was honored as a nominee of national models of high morality for her 19 years of meticulous care for her father, a title she never thought of earning.
"I don't think it's laudable for me to take care of him because he is my home," she said, rubbing shampoo over her father's head outside their hillside home in Minhou county, Fujian province.
Huang Jingliang, a loving and hardworking father in the eyes of his family, fell headfirst from scaffolding at a construction site when Huang Silin was 4 years old. The spinal injuries he suffered left him a quadriplegic.
Three years later, Huang Silin's mother succumbed to financial and emotional pressure and committed suicide. That saw Huang Silin become her father's primary caregiver. Even though he weighed 55 kilograms and she was just 25 kg, she learned how to move him from his bed to his wheelchair.
"I couldn't say no, even if I was too little to do anything expected of me, because we simply couldn't afford otherwise," Huang Silin said.
For 19 years, Huang Silin has kept a tight schedule. She always heads home immediately after school or work to help her father eat, dress, go to the restroom and shower. Every night, she gets up two to three times to turn him over to help with blood circulation and prevent rashes.
The housework once weighed on Huang Silin's adolescent mind and incited her to seek refuge.
"When I was in middle school, I used to have a bag with all my essentials ready in the closet, so that I could sneak out for a few days when I couldn't stand my father," she said.
But the three times she fled ended up in her returning home to tend to her father because all she could think of while away from home was "whether he is properly turned over in bed, or whether his diapers are changed".
Since then, Huang Silin has kept her father close by, working temporary jobs to support the family. She maintained the fixed routine with no interruptions other than giving birth to her two sons and undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer.
"She is everything to me," Huang Jingliang said slowly, describing himself as a "dead weight" to his daughter. When she leaves his sight to fetch water and towels, he agitatedly calls for her to come back.
Huang Silin's optimism is contagious to family, friends and others. Sister-in-law Liu Xiuling has teamed up with Huang Silin at her invitation in running a barbecue stand at a night market in the county seat.
"I feel uplifted just being around her," Liu said as she loaded a tray of skewered bacon rolls onto the stand. Since Huang Silin spent the afternoon caring for her father, Liu offered to prepare the food herself. Their husbands also help out from time to time.
The night stand's signature dish is grilled pig's feet, which sell out every night. "Because it's my picky father's favorite snack," Huang Silin said, giggling.
A frequent customer surnamed Chen, who drove for 20 minutes to the snack stand, said he was deeply touched by Huang Silin's stories and decided to eat there as a show of support.
Over the past 19 years, Huang Silin has always received support from the local government and strangers like Chen, including a basic living allowance, a free place at a private primary school and donations from people of all walks of life.
The Minhou government is now arranging affordable housing for Huang Silin and her father that is close to the night market.
Her biggest plan for the future is making the barbecue stand a success while caring for her father, saying she has been "inspired by the national models of high morality to live a meaningful and loving life".
"Instead of plain rice porridge, I'd like my life to be a bowl of pork congee with preserved egg and seafood, because spice is what matters," she said of her eventful journey so far.