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Tent dwellers never lose heart
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The tent community is wide awake before the sunlight shines on Leigu Township locked in the remote mountains of Sichuan Province.

For the 3,000 quake survivors from Beichuan, a county that perished with the 8.0-magnitude earthquake of May 12, home means a tent shared by at least two families.

Their lives goes on in the 300 tents in Leigu, south of Beichuan County. The men and women, young and old, have never lost heart though the grief over their dead family members and friends persists.

One big family

Every tent is crowded with an average of 10 people. In tent No. 126 live three families: 50-something Luo Shao'an and his wife Yuan Bangying who lost their only son in the quake, Li Yuping, 40, with his wife and daughter, and Mao Zhiyun's family of five.

Their tent was reinforced and its soft, waterproof floor consists of bricks, plastic, palm fiber cushion and a bamboo mat. Their little home is piled with food: biscuits from Guangdong in the south, instant noodles from Chengdu and bananas from Yunnan.

But what makes these Sichuan natives heartily content is the half a kilo of rice a day rationed out to each tent dweller. People take turns cooking at the makeshift "burners" made of bricks and fueled by firewood handpicked from the foot of the mountain or rubble of former homes.

After a meal they can get a newspaper free at the nearby "post office" -- another tent that is piled with mail and parcels from across China. "Many are simply addressed to 'people in quake-battered Beichuan County'', said Huang Qiong, a postal worker.

Huang said she delivered all the letters to children. "Those encouraging words make ideal textbooks for them."

At dusk, after doctors disinfect each tent, it's time for a movie, a daily occurrence in the past weeks. Large crowds are drawn to the daily feast of entertainment, be it a cartoon, an action film or a detective film.

When the film is over and everyone is ready to sleep, Xie Chunrong's baby son almost always wails. The seven-week-old infant has apparently slept too much during the day.

As the mother apologetically looks around her, she finds her roommates have all learned to fall asleep without being disturbed.


The "householders," often men elected for each tent, are responsible for collecting and distributing the bottled water, toilet paper and other materials rationed out to the tent dwellers.

Occasionally, people squabble over who gets more than his share.

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