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Some love to wear many hats

By Tareq Zahir | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-08 08:17

After a hard day's work, Zhang Heng readies to strum the guitar in Sanlitun. [PHOTO BY TAREQ ZAHIR/CHINA DAILY]

When one is not enough, some Beijingers juggle two or more jobs and seem to fit into each role like it were tailor-made for them, Tareq Zahir reports.

They say that everyone should pick up a job of their choice and then they can stop working. But when people pick up a job that is different from their hobby, the hobby keeps popping up till it too assumes a life of its own. We look at three cases here.

Every evening at 7:30 pm, Zhang Heng will be cycling to Sanlitun, after finishing her day's job for an online education website-changing the site's banner, redesigning it sometimes, writing new content, and posting it also on the company's WeChat. All this to fill her belly before some soul food.

Parking her cycle against the wall of a residential community between the Diplomatic Residence Compound and Uniqlo, she takes out her most prized possession-an acoustic guitar-and then, after ensuring her hat is in place, she perches herself on her cycle and begins strumming. Lightly. And then hums a tune. Like Hey Jude.

Arriving in Beijing in 2006 after graduating from a teacher training college in Tangshan, Zhang settled for a coaching center job before joining the website. While renting a place those days she found the abandoned guitar. She bought it at a pittance from the house-owner and learned how to play it all by herself. "I can use both hands." Since 2015, she has been cycling to Sanlitun, some 20 minutes from her place, to play and sing from 7:30-9:30 pm.

Unless there is a specific request, she sings songs by rock bands like The Cranberries, Linkin Park, Green Day, Suede and BRMC. Sometimes people ask her to sing Ed Sheeran and Charlie Puth, but "I don't like them".

They also ask her to sing Chinese folk songs such as Cheng Du by Zhao Lei or Dong Xiao Jie by Song Dongye, "but I'm not confident singing Chinese songs. I sing only in English".

If people surround her and become loud, or unruly, she sings unpopular songs and they soon decide to go away.

Two Africans paused to hear her sing one evening. Then one of them stepped forward to record her singing on his phone, while the other took out some money and placed it on her cycle basket. "She plays the guitar well," says Jone Kamal from Kenya. He couldn't say which song it was, but "that hardly matters".

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