“There’s no place like home!”, I believe the saying goes, and this modest migrant family from China proves it applies even when home is an abandoned public toilet in the city of Shenyang.
Zeng Lingjun was born in a small village, in the Jilin Province of Northeastern China. As a boy, he dreamed of one day attending college, but because his family was too poor he had to abandon his dream and settle for becoming a cobbler and repair shoes for a living. But just because he couldn’t afford to go to college, didn’t mean he was willing to spend the rest of his life in his village. He had bigger plans for himself, so one day, with just 50 yuan ($8) in his pocket, he left for Shenyang, the biggest city in northeast China. Being a hard worker and a skilled cobbler helped Zeng make a living in the big city, and he was soon earning around 2,000 yuan (315) per month. But this wasn’t enough for him to get his own place.
Six years ago, a friend tipped him off that an abandoned hotel toilet was available for rent at a very low price. He immediately borrowed the money he needed and rented the derelict toilet as his new home. He took down the old door and all the wooden cubicles, and laid down some planks to cover up the toilet bowls and make room for a bed. The dismantled cubicles were converted to storage space and, even though the place is just 19 square meters in size, he somehow found space for his own little cobbler workshop.
In 2008 Zeng Lingjun met his current wife, also a migrant worker. They married in 2010 and had a baby shortly after. Now the three of them live in the abandoned toilet. At one point, they saved enough money to move into a normal 80 square meter apartment, but they found themselves coming back to their old home just days after they had moved out, unable to afford all the expenses. Although the smell never lets them forget they live in a toilet, Zeng and his family just flush the toilets whenever the stench becomes unbearable, and just enjoy their life together. After all, who needs luxury when your loved ones are near and you have your health?