“My job that time was to oversee supply of materials,” she said. “There were large quantities of material coming from China and other countries that needed to be checked, sorted and hoisted into place. We employed 20 workers from the local people in Mianwali. I had a lot of close contact with them.”
Every morning, Li stressed safety rules and work protection measures with them before they started work.
“They had the habit of wearing slippers,” she said. “So I found some recycled leather shoes and gave them each a pair to prevent them being injured while lifting steel. Every month, I also gave them two or three pairs of gloves, protective glasses and specially made uniforms.”
After each day’s work, the Pakistanis had to shower and change back into their own clothes.
“Among them, a young guy named Ressel was extremely clever and mastered the skills of doing important jobs within a month,” she said. “He could do nearly everything. I was very pleased.”
“Though we worked together for only two years, I came to admire their kindness and frankness,” Li said. “Whenever I recall that experience, I never fail to be impressed anew. I remember the head of the labor team, named Alfodor, and an 18-year-old named A Hedl most of all.”
In 1996, on the way back to her accommodation, her vehicle overturned, trapping her inside.
“I heard somebody calling Nani, which means ‘grandmother’ in Pakistani,” she said. “It was A Hedl! I was saved!”
Li suffered a broken arm in the mishap.
Another incident stands out in her memory, this time involving Alfodor. It involved the volumes of wooden boxes used to transport material to the city. Once emptied, they were of no use. Not wanting to dispose of them by burning close to the power plant, Li found a truck and told Alfodor to take the boxes home for wood-fire cooking.
Employees taking home any property violated the rules at the Chashma plant. Li took blame for the decision, but Alfodor was put in detention for four days. She interceded when plant authorities sought to have him dismissed.
“Whenever I recall that incident, I still feel guilty,” Li said. “I owed him so much.”
The people in Pakistan and China are like brothers, she said, and she hopes that close relationship continues. During her stay in Pakistan, she wrote four poems dedicated to the people there. A Pakistani paper might not publish them, but we share two of them here:
“Spring in Chashma,” written in April 1995
“The beauty of spring,
Lies in the canal water,
Thick forests along banks.
Birds are singing everywhere.
There is the fragrance of flowers.”
“Autumn in Chashma,” written in September 1995
“Smart clouds hang in the sky,
The west wind gently breezes,
The golden time of the year has come
When melons ooze flavor and oranges turn green.”