Unmet expectations inspire narratives of bitterness among Chinese road builders. These tales of suffering, however, derive not only from the obstacles they face on the construction site, but also from their backgrounds as sons of peasants who are struggling to cast off their rural backgrounds – migrants who are forced to move overseas to climb up the social ladder in China, and men who seek to gain respectability as sons, husbands, and fathers. Their hopes of fashioning Ethiopian laborers are intricately linked to expectations regarding themselves. The bitterness reflected in their tales derives as much from their predicaments abroad as at home. Yet speaking their bitterness also has a positive twist and fulfills a crucial function. Juxtaposing conditions of victimhood with collective strength in enduring these conditions, the narratives offset self-pity by celebrating perseverance, lending workers the strength to carry on.
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