Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 51: Struggle
Zhang Siyi swiftly sent a message to Lu Qiao: “Hey, have you seen the base-map? There is nothing! Not even the surrounding environment. How should this be designed?”
Lu Qiao: “→_→”
Zhang Siyi: “This time I owe you!”
Lu Qiao: “Oh, actually, it also caught my eye.”
Lu Qiao: “Hey, in fact, I have two eyes!”
Zhang Siyi： “……”
Lu Qiao: “Design an office building wherever you want. Just follow the requirements in the task book.”
Zhang Siyi: “…… Is that it?”
Lu Qiao: “I’ve done it like this before. First design and when more detailed conditions come out, modify later.”
Even though Lu Qiao said it can be done like this, Zhang Siyi doesn’t feel it is the right approach to solving the problem. He doesn’t agree with a doing-first-change-later attitude because he feels his efforts and time would be in vain.
Moreover, without any analysis, “just doing it” would disrupt his normal logical thought process. It would be like opting to write a thesis paper first which is inherently more difficult instead of choosing a simpler path like creating multiple-choice questions for a quiz.
Having so much nothingness to work with, Zhang Siyi played around with the shape of the office building according to the volume requested by the project plan. By the evening he thought it was useless and felt frustrated.
Feeling unproductive he sent a message to Lu Qiao: “Qiao Mei, I think we have to go visit the area.”
Lu Qiao: “Hey, is that necessary? The weather is so cold, the business trip is so tiring, the design cycle is still so short, and it’s almost New Year, I don’t want to go!”
“…” This means that I can go but he doesn’t want to go?
Zhang Siyi said: “If you don’t want to go, I will go alone. I checked it. C-City is not too far away and we can take a high-speed train back and forth. Wait until I collect the information and share it with you then you can adjust your work and work overtime if needed to catch up.”
Lu Qiao seems to have been touched by Zhang Siyi’s work attitude and selfless dedication. He said: “If you say this, I am embarrassed not to go. We have to inform the Boss before going so he can go through company approval which is a paid business trip. Also, there is a higher travel subsidy than usual.”
Zhang Siyi: “So good!”
Lu Qiao: “No way! Going on a business trip is more tiring then sitting in the office drawing.”
Getting irritated Zhang Siyi replied: “I can just go alone.”
Lu Qiao: “Together, together. If you go and I don’t know what the Boss will think? I’m the elder here!”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
After reaching an agreement with Lu Qiao, Zhang Siyi quickly messaged Gu Yu before leaving work: “Boss, I and Lu Qiao want to go to C-City to evaluate the land for the project.”
Gu Yu immediately replied: “Yes, someone from the personal department will help you make reservations.”
Surprised, Zhang Siyi didn’t expect Gu Yu to agree so easily. He was worried that he would say, “no need.”
Gu Yu sent another message: “A few days?”
Zhang Siyi: “No. I will be back tomorrow night.”
Gu Yu: “Well, pay attention to your safety.”
Based on his previous business trip experience with Gu Yu and because the trip will be done in one day, it is necessary to get up very early. He let the personal reserve tickets for the high-speed rail at 7 o’clock in the morning.
Not liking the predicament, Lu Qiao complained: “That’s too early, right!? It won’t take two hours to see a field! I live far away and can’t catch the high-speed train that early. Can we change the time and start later?”
In order to get back home at a reasonable time to work on the plan, he wanted to travel to the sight very early and take notes. This was the first independent project that he was given and he wanted to make every effort to do it well. However, Zhang Siyi was a bit embarrassed. He made arrangements in a hurry without talking to Lu Qiao first.
Contemplating the issue for a moment, Zhang Siyi suddenly was inspired: “Lu Qiao, the place where I live is 20 minutes from the high-speed rail station. If you don’t mind, you can stay over. One of my roommates is not here and his room in empty. We can go together early in the morning.”
Lu Qiao listened and replied excitedly: “Oh, OK! Of course, I don’t mind. Staying over in one place versus another won’t’ matter to me.”
When the workday was over, Zhang Siyi printed an itinerary for the next day’s business trip. Also, he called Fu Xinhui to let him know of his plans and the guest that would be staying over for one night. Fu Xinhui didn’t have any qualms over the matter and he suggested they all go out for dinner.
Lu Qiao asked: “Is your buddy is the handsome guy who came to KTV last time? He looks nouveau riche! Before, I heard that you lived in a nice district near xxx station where the rent is very expensive, right?”
Reminded of his financial state, Zhang Siyi replied: “Yes! Super expensive! I barely have enough to eat! If I had known the rent was such a big expense each month, I wouldn’t have lived there.”
Lu Qiao doesn’t know how much the rent for Zhang Siyi apartment costs. He listened and nodded: “Yes. Same here. The rent has always been a huge expense. They have been rising faster than wages in recent years.” He sighed then continued: “I think I’ll have to move even farther away next year to survive.”
Zhang Siyi was curious and asked: “Where do you live now?””
When Lu Qiao reported the place, Zhang Siyi was surprised. “Isn’t that the last station of the subway line? How do you live so far? How much time do you take to come to work every day?”
Lu Qiao scratched his head: “It’s okay, forty or fifty minutes. I can take a nap for the duration of the trip on the train.”
Zhang Siyi: “How much farther would you move? What about your commute?”
Lu Qiao: “I’ll have to go by bus to get to the subway station. Hahahaha!”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
In contrast to Lu Qiao, Zhang Siyi suddenly realized his living conditions were in fact excellent, and most likely would pull hatred, so he started to feel a little uncomfortable.
Sure enough, when Lu Qiao visited their residence, he gnashed his teeth and said: “Four you are the evil second generation!”
In defense, Zhang Siyi pleaded: “I am not rich! Rent is four thousand dollars a month and our wages should be about the same. If I deduct the rent clearly you have more money than me!”
Lu Qiao was a little surprised: “Do you pay your own rent?”
Zhang Siyi nodded again and again: “Yes!”
Lu Qiao shut his mouth and adjusted his initial thoughts about Zhang Siyi, but he wasn’t entirely convinced. “You pay so much for your rent!”
Zhang Siyi squinted at Fu Xinhui and Fu Xinhui cleverly chose to remain silent.
Lu Qiao is from Mianyang, Sichuan. In the evening, Fu Xinhui invited them to eat at a Sichuan restaurant.
At the start of the meal, Lu Qiao was still feeling displeased. Picking up on the emotions of Lu Qiao, Fu Xinhui was very generous and ordered a set of dishes for the table; spicy shrimp, boiled pork and various vegetables. After two glasses of wine, a belly full, and Fu Xinhui said that he was a friend, Lu Qiao seemed to relax and enjoy himself.
Lu Qiao: “Thhheees meeeet iith ferrry soooft…. iizz guuud.” Dipping his meat in spicy red oil, in drunken words and face flushed, he told Fu Xinhui to visit him in his hometown so he could take them out to eat.
Fu Xinhui laughed and said: “Okay.”
Zhang Siyi didn’t like to eat such spicy foods. With only a few bites, he already had red eyes and a red nose. He didn’t look well. He quickly poured some cold beer to drink. Lu Qiao gave Zhang Siyi a hard time about his lack of ability to tolerate very spicy dishes.
Lu Qiao said: “Don’t be a baby! You also come and eat my hometown Sichuan dishes!”
Zhang Siyi was going to say something, but the spicy taste burned his throat as he swallowed his beer. “cough-cough-gasp-cough-gasp-cough.” Lu Qiao laughed.
As the mood became more relaxed, Zhang Siyi learned more about Lu Qiao family. His parents aren’t well and he has a younger brother. He is now the family’s biggest financial source. In order to support his family, he lives far away so he is able to send half of his wages home.
Zhang Siyi, with sympathy, asked, “Will things be better when your brother is working?”
Lu Qiao:” Compared to how things were before, it is really great now. Life is so much better! When I was studying, I was miserable. Learning the profession is too expensive. In addition to tuition, every year I had to spend money on materials and fees. I was too busy to work and if my parents did not borrow money to strongly support me after college, I would have dropped out of school. Hey, when I got my first month’s salary and when my parents called, we all cried!”
Lu Qiao said again: “As for my brother, whether he works or not, he will always by my younger brother. I have to take care of him to eat and grow up so there is a lot of pressure on me.”
Zhang Siyi listened to this remark and turned his sympathy to Lu Qiao into admiration. Even if he was short and even if he was jokingly called “Joe Sister” by his colleagues, he could not cover up the soul of the man standing upright in his body.
Feeling a sense of shame, Fu Xinhui lowered his head and ate quietly.
Zhang Siyi noticed that Fu Xinhui only had a heavy expression when Lu Qiao mentioned “brother”. He wondered if Fu Xinhui was thinking of his sister. Fortunately, he steered the conversation away from such heavy thoughts. After eating for more than an hour, they finished up and went back home.
Early the next morning, Zhang Siyi was woken up by the alarm clock. He had to wake-up Lu Qiao in order to catch the high-speed train. At the station, Zhang Siyi bought two cups of coffee and gave one to the yawning Lu Qiao.
Lu Qiao held his cup out and up, like an offering and spoke excitedly: “Ah nouveau riche, I never go out to buy this luxury stuff!”
After listening to Lu Qiao yesterday, Zhang Siyi subconsciously wanted to be nicer to him. Both feeling cheerful on the train, Zhang Siyi casually asked Lu Qiao why he studied architecture. Similar to Zhang Siyi, Lu Qiao also thought being in the construction industry would make money. It was only later that he discovered architecture was just a huge money pit.
The people who make the money are the ones who catch the wave. In the early years, the whole country was under development and if you graduated at that time, you were sure to get a good job and make a lot of money. But now, the market is very different. Construction in big cities is nearing saturation and the development in small cities can’t keep up with domestic demand. In addition, second and third-rate schools have broadly opened construction departments in the name of architecture and thus, diluting the value of an architect. A layman wouldn’t know the difference between a correctly trained architect from someone with just a construction certificate.
Despite this fact, Lu Qiao’s outlook is very positive. He said: “I have already learned this line of work and I wouldn’t know what to do now if I changed. My hometown is small and people there don’t talk about design and the salary is lower, only three to four thousand. Even if I go back, the rent is still the same so there won’t be much left over. I save five to six thousand each month renting a cheaper house in Haicheng so it’s much better.”
Zhang Siyi nodded and was quite touched.
Throughout the ride they chatted and go to know each other better. Unexpectedly they learned they both like Sci-Fi and liked movies related to space adventures like “Apollo” and “Star Wars”.
Since the city of C was originally a county town, there was no high-speed railway station. They first arrived at the nearby city and then took the bus and a taxi to their destination. When they arrived at the designated location it was almost 12 noon.
Although it was a clear and sunny day, it was cold. The wind was quite strong. Zhang Siyi and Lu Qiao felt chilled to the bone. The two walked around the outer road section. As Zhang Siyi saw on the map, there were some irregular areas of farmland and water areas with beaches. There were a few small buildings here and there as though the farmers spontaneously built a structure, then abandoned it. The designated area needed as much land development as was needed when Z-City was planned. Zhang Siyi really can’t imagine an office building being built on such an enormous flat desolate piece of land. The local government’s request seems like nonsense. The cold wind blowing on their shivering bodies increased their desolate mood.
Just then, Lu Qiao suddenly raised his voice: “NASA America to Houston! Repeat!”
Zhang Siyi then blurted out: “We are out of the orbit! Flying into dark space!”
Lu Qiao looked up at the sky: “The hydraulic pressure has leaked, the control system has completely failed, the fuel is going to run out, there is no need to send rescue, no hope!”
Zhang Siyi raised his arms: “Please take care of our family!
Lu Qiao followed his hands and clenched his fists: “For the future of mankind, for the cause of construction!”
The two of them shook their arms together: “Struggle!”