After my previous post about the paradisical utopia we are living in, I dare say you will be shocked to discover that in the past few weeks, used disposable nappies have been strewn about the communal village garden – by me, no less! I know I was!
But that is the grave allegation levelled against me by my neighbour, and I have not taken it lying down (especially since the only available lying down space is covered with rancid old poo naps). What’s that you say, “Please elaborate”? Oh – “No, please don’t, we can all guess the long-winded and racist direction this narrative will surely take”? Well, too bad, my friends, because I am on my high horse, and I don’t intend to get off any time soon (though last week I did adopt a side-saddle position, a mid-battle laying down of arms if you will, deferentially after our neighbour actually died. Since it was his daughter I have my beef with – or rather who has the beef with me – I intend to sit astride that horse again until this matter is resolved one way or the other.)
Our neighbours are the Kang family, so it’s Kings v Kangs, which title I feel adds a bit of panache and Hollywood sparkle to what is otherwise a sordid affair concerned entirely with nonbiodegradable plastic bumwear, and poo. In the time since the initial confrontation, in contrast to usual village practice, there have been no polite exchanges of “josan”, and relations have deteriorated to the point where all we do exchange now are terse looks and trying to outdo each other in how loud our screen doors can bang. It’s tense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it develops into a siege situation. Which works in our favour, because while I have to concede the Kangs have a natural advantage in hand-to-hand martial combat, I know we can take them with our superior arsensal of FisherPrice projectiles. Take that! La. (There were two racist points in that paragraph alone. I bet you didn’t think this would degenerate so quickly. Or possibly you did…)
A bit of background. Our village has 11 houses. There are three other villages nearby. All these villages share a communal waste area containing five smallish skips for rubbish which are emptied daily, not like at home where you put your own personal bin to the kerb once a week for collection. The waste area is at the bottom of the hill our village is situated on. The village dogs, of which there are plenty, enjoy congregating there, because they are dogs and dogs are tip rats. (If all ogs are pogs, or however that riddle goes, are all dogs tip rats? Shit, I don’t know, but I do know they all like rooting around rubbish bins).
All 11 houses in our village are owned by the Kang family. There’s Mr Kang Snr and his wife, Kang Pau Pau, to our right, whose son Mr Kang Jnr lives upstairs with HIS wife and kids. To our left are Mr Kang Snr’s brother (of sad recent decease) and his wife. THIS branch of the Kang family tree are the subject of this fracas.
Mr Kang (dec.) and his wife have a number of daughters, at least five by my reckoning, all aged in their 50s and prone to large fluffy hairstyles. Recently one of these daughters approached me over the 60cm “fence” (made of tiles, of course) separating our two properties. Her tone was hardly discreet and clearly intended to be heard by our helper, MaryJane, engaged in feeding Zadie her WeetBix alfresco because that is how we roll in this damned tropical climate.
KANG DAUGHTER: Is that your baby?
ME: Yes. (See any other gweilos here of child-bearing age?)
KANG DAUGHTER: You know when you throw her nappies away, please wrap them up, put them in a plastic bag and put them in the bin.
ME: Yes, I do.
KANG DAUGHTER: There’s nappies all over the garden. It’s not nice. Don’t do it.
ME: I didn’t.
KANG DAUGHTER: You are the only house in this village that uses nappies.
ME: What about the three down the front with toddler children, not to mention the many really old people who may be wearing continence pants?
KANG DAUGHTER: Just please stop throwing nappies in the garden.
KANG DAUGHTER: If it’s not you, it’s your maid. She is dirty.
At this point Kang Daughter retreated slowly and mysteriously behind the potted plants and I was left bewildered outside my front door, not least of all by her backwards-walking departure. The accusation was so silly I waved it off and proceeded down the communal driveway with Rufus, on our way to a playdate with some other gweilos of our acquaintance. Which playdate did not involve the discarding of any disposable products.
We had only just made the halfway point of the driveway when I sensed Kang Daughter creeping up behind me like a malevolent yet polite ghost. She swept her arm towards the gardenbeds. “Look!” Indeed the garden was strewn liberally with shredded-up old nappies. “Stop doing this!” And despite Rufus’s presence, I could feel the anger rising in me at her persistence. I looked from her to Mr Kang (dec.)’s two ratbag dogs, Bobby and Mickey, who are some kind of wild dingo breed, and suggested that perhaps SOME DOGS had taken the nappies from the bin and ripped them up.
KANG DAUGHTER: Dogs don’t do that.
ME: Are you fucking kidding? Are you suggesting not only do I dispose of my baby’s nappies in the garden, I also shred them up beforehand?
KANG DAUGHTER: Okay, I don’t think it’s you, I think it’s your maid. She is dirty.
ME: How is she dirty??
KANG DAUGHTER: My mum says she doesn’t bring in the washing at 4pm. You shouldn’t do that in Hong Kong. It’s humid and mould spores can get in your clothes. Very bad for your children. Dirty.
And so it continued. We tried to keep it civilised, her because of the innate need to “keep face” here, and me because I was holding the hand of my 3-year-old son. But she refused to let up. I would say something, civilly; she would rejoin with a cordial “Stop throwing nappies in the garden”. Around and around it went, until she said “This place used to be clean until you moved in”. OH NO SHE DIDN’T!! My angry bogan could not be suppressed, I was in her face saying “Don’t make me go inside and show you our nappies! That’s not even the brand we use! WHY WOULD I EVEN DO THAT?! IT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE!!” etc etc. But that bloody Kang Daughter, she just said “Stop throwing nappies in the garden” and walked back inside, Bobby and Mickey trotting angelically behind. I was all Rufus T. Firefly to her departing back, “You tell ME I put nappies in the garden? Refuse my explanations, will you? Madam, this is an OUTRAGE!” and rushed to slap her saved face with my glove, but to no avail. The die had been cast: we are filthy cut-up-nappy chucking whiteys, who also think we are black, or a 1930s dictator, who don’t bring their washing in until it’s dry, 4pm notwithstanding.
How do we come back from this?
Her father actually died later that same day, so that was necessarily the end of hostilities for the time being. Every day since then has seen strange and wonderful mourning customs next door in the house of Kang as they discharge the Taoist funerary rites. The family spent many days gathered around a brazier burning Mr Kang’s clothes. As bits of charred polyester swirled onto our balcony I thought of yelling out “THIS PLACE USED TO BE CLEAN BEFORE YOU DID THAT!” but reverence for Mr Kang stopped me. He was a nice old guy. It’s not his fault his daughters are ignorant molls.
Yesterday a minibus arrived at the village in the early morning and disgorged a large number of white-clad mourners, who enter the deceased’s house and stay all day. There was more burning, and lots of floral tributes piling up.
We think today was the actual funeral. The white-clad mourners returned, and so did a priest in a blazing red robe. He officiated over some sort of service in front of the Kang house, and then they all made their way down to the bridge leading up to the village, where we were waiting for a taxi – all the better to observe the amazing spectacle, but unfortunately too close to discreetly take a photo. A van was opened to reveal a large model of a house made out of paper, about 7 feet high. Two tall marionettes were produced, a man and a woman, the man one wearing Mr Kang’s old pyjamas. The house was set up on the bridge, and the puppets placed in front of it next to a box of fruit, some bouquets and stacks of (real) money. Then the priest banged his cymbals and someone set the whole thing on fire. The family released sparkly party poppers and threw more money into the flames. When the flames died down, they jumped over it like dervishes. There was no representation of grief as I know it. The mourners milled around chatting casually all the while.
Most bizarre, but a nice spot of culture on a hot Sunday morning.
So, vale, Mr Kang. I’m glad you’re not going to be around to see me defeat your offspring soundly in the current neighbourhood dispute. Hope there’s something good for you to spend all that “death money” on up there. And also that there was a celestial towel handy to cover your dead modesty in those three days between when you died and when they got around to burning your clothes so you didn’t have to roam around nude in whichever of the 18 realms you ended up in.