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June 27, 2010

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Making the best of trashy job

CLEANER Zhang Jinliang, 41, has worked around the boat-shaped Saudi Arabia Pavilion for eight hours each day since the Expo opened on May 1.

The Anhui Province native walks around the popular 6,000-square-meter pavilion about 30 times a day cleaning up the enormous amount of rubbish left by visitors waiting to get in.

But he has never been inside and often dreams about "what attracts tens of thousands of visitors to wait for more than five hours to enter."

"My boss agreed to take us into the pavilion after the Expo, but I know all the buildings will be dismantled," the thin man said with a forced smile.

He works at the Expo site under contract to the Shanghai Environmental Industry Company and it is his first job outside his hometown where he has two daughters aged 15 and 16 and a son aged 10.

"My son always asks me to bring him to the Expo when we talk on the phone at night, but I have no money to rent a room for him and the food here is rather expensive to me," he said.

About 20 cleaners work along the Saudi Arabia Pavilion waiting lines. As the pavilion is one of Expo's most popular, the lines stretch about 4,000 meters and litter is a major problem with empty food containers and bags dropped everywhere.

Two groups of 10 cleaners work continuously from 5am to 12pm and 12pm to 8pm clearing the trash out of people's way.

Zhang gets up at 4am in his dormitory near the Expo site, has breakfast and starts work at 5am when he said the Saudi pavilion looks like a vessel from a fairy tale under the morning sun.

He clears all the trash bins along the pavilion entry lines and cleans the handrails. He then stands ready for the first group of visitors who dash to the pavilion at 9am when the Expo gates open.

And that's when he gets busy, not only cleaning the area but also buying water and other drinks for waiting visitors who can't leave the line but pass their money to him.

Zhang said he doesn't mind every morning fetching drink for up to 20 visitors. Once they move into the pavilion, he cleans up their mess, including many empty bottles he bought for them.

He also helps answer many questions from passing visitors, like how to get to the China Pavilion and find the nearest toilet.

Zhang said he tries his best to answer their queries and leads them to volunteers if he can't help.

But it is disappointing seeing how most people treat the hardworking and warm-hearted cleaner. Almost no one says "thank you" after getting help from Zhang but conversely they are courteous to the volunteer helpers.

And many complain when he asks visitors sitting on benches to lift their feet so he can clean. But Zhang said he does not mind.

"I am happy to have the chance to come to Shanghai and to the Expo site," he said. "When I go home I will have many things to tell to my girls and boy.

"Though I've never been in a pavilion, I can describe what the popular China and Saudi pavilions look like," he added.


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