The first time I saw Li Zhenhua, he was locked inside his house while his grandmother was away visiting relatives. Through the crack in the door, I witnessed big eyes full of fear and expectation.
The second time I met him, I walked 40 minutes with his teacher, Xing Ruyu, to reach his home. The teacher suggested we drive along the mountains, but I ultimately opted to hike to better understand the seven-year-old’s routine shuttling between home and school. “He does it faster than you!” grinned the teacher along the way.
The boy wasn’t home when we arrived; he was herding sheep on the hillside while his grandmother cooked. “He will be back soon,” she revealed, pointing at the mountain path. Before long he emerged from behind a sheep seemingly running out of his control - maybe because the shepherd was too young.
As soon as he arrived at the house, Li wasted no time helping his grandma cook, demonstrating maturity far beyond his years. While he ate, his grandma filled a bottle with porridge - his lunch for school - along with some thin pancakes.
The little boy can’t help but weep when witnessing classmates leave the classroom hand-in-hand with their parents.......