Born without a penis has been a lifelong curse leaving me in no woman’s land and plagued with a sense of not belonging. Not enough for/of anything …
In my own family I stuck out like a sore thumb, labelled a rebel and black sheep from a young obstinate age, refusing to bend to thousand years old tradiition and values. In the adopted country the colour of my skin meant I couldn’t merge into the crowd despite giving myself an English name in the Sixth Form. I was extremely lucky not to have encountered any nasty racist incidents and my best friends are British but a part of me always yearned to seek my roots.
In Hong Kong, my birthplace I have found some kind of peace. I find it comforting to walk amongst my own people and be just another Chinese face in the crowd. I feel that I have come home and that my life has come full circle. Although I am far from being one of them, marked by my dress sense, attitude, movements and mannerisims, yet I feel I have been accepted and my eccentricities put down to having been brought up abroad. Ah she grew up in London seems to cover a multitude of sins.
Hong Kong can be an intimidating, fast pace kind of place but luckily I have found a quiet haven in an out of the way part of the New Territories. The locals hate its inconvenience, being inaccessible by road and the long flight of concrete stairs that need to be negotiated daily but that is exactly what affords it a sense of serene seclusion. There are only a few houses and half of them abandoned by the elderly who could no longer negotiate the steps. I share this sanctuary with a young family downstairs, a soicable Filipino family opposite and lots of single people living in bed sits.
I belong to neither the very poor who make do with one room for the whole family nor the filthy rich of the nearby gated community. In limbo again, not the grassroots and not the ivory tower either. Perhaps I am the bridge between the two. I have had glimpses of both worlds at different stages of my life thanks to my higher education.
It struck home the other day while at my first barbecue since returning to Hong Kong that I am accorded a lot more respect to the hired help, though I don’t really see myself as any different. We are both offering a service in exchange for money. I observed that the latter never sit at the dining table to eat but at the kitchen counter and even young kids just order them about without even a please or thank you, which I really dislike. When I started to help clear up it seems that this does not become an English tutor, a professional and that this should be left to the maids, it is their job. Status is very clearly defined; I am seen as an equal and they are not. This concept is alien to me, as far as I am concerned we are all human and therefore deserving of respect.
I guess if I had been more ambitious, career minded or married well or not have succumbed to bad health I could have joined the league of those of the gated community. Every time I enter the hallowed grounds I try to imagine what it would be like to live behind those ornate gates being waited on hand and feet and driven around in a high status vehicle. To be honest I don’t think I would like it. I would prefer to do things for myself, why should someone else fill my bowl of rice when I am perfectly capable. I value my space too much now to share it and I am rather fond of my small but cosy flat where the ‘common’ folks live.
Mama bless her taught me many great and wonderful things how to live life and be a good person. She had a wise saying for every occasion and I credit her with how I turned out.
She always taught me that if I did good things and was an upright citizen good things would happen to me. That, sorry Mama, is a blatant lie. Worse than Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Boogey Man, the Policeman who will arrest you for not eating up your greens …
On the contrary sometimes horrific unimaginable things happened to the kindest most selfless people. I am sure you can come up with events in History that will bear witness or have personal experience of friends, family and even yourself.
If it is true that good things happen to good people then it follows that bad things happen to bad people. Well, you know as well as I do that that is a great big lie. Sometimes they appear to be very happy, healthy and rich.
I am not keen on the Law of Attraction as it implies that I caused or deserved what shit was thrown my way. Yes I take responsibility for the divorce, it takes two to tango and two to mess up. We both had a part to play, of course. But no I didn’t attract the cancer. Maybe I was under a lot of stress at the time and my immune system weakened and allowed the cancer cells to turn nasty. Who knows? I’m not a cancer specialist and even they don’t know really why, otherwise it would be prevented and cancer eliminated? Now that would merit a Nobel prize in Medicine.
If we are going to attract things into our lives, surely we would attract good stuff and not invite disease or death? No, sorry, I don’t buy this theory. Anyway how could you prove it either way?
In my cynical moments I wonder if I’d do better if I copied the bad people, after all being good hasn’t got me anywhere. But then that wouldn’t be me, and I quite like being me, having the freedom to be me makes me happy so I’ll just keep the status quo.
If good things really do happen to good people there wouldn’t be all this suffering and poverty in the first place because I believe the vast majority are decent people and only a minute minority are evil. But you’ll find that it is the minority that control the majority’s wealth in the world. Odd that, isn’t it?
Several times a week I have to go through the ‘border’ control didviding the haves and have nots; in my case it is only a matter of a few hundred yards. I have to produce my identity card and the details are duely noted. I have to state which residence I am visiting and their name and this is checked against the data stored on the computer. But the guards aren’t armed and not stationed at Lo Wo or Shenzhen. Even they don’t ask you where you are going.
This sentry is stationed at the gateway to prosperity, mansions and posh cars, namely my neighbouring gated community. Every time I crossed that line and pass the interrogation I am struck by the instant difference between my habitat and theirs. It really is us and them.
The streets are immaculate, yet there are sweepers virtually on every corner brushing the odd leave. Not much of a sense of job satisfaction, I shouldn’t think. I joked with one that she should come to my village, lots of rubbish there, her services would be highly appreciated. She laughed and thought it was a joke. I guess with the obsene management fees charged they’ll have to at least keep the streets clean.
The same with wealth, I thought. Those in need don’t get any extra yet the filthy rich get wealthier and wealthier.
Behind the hallowed gates everyone is cleaning. Well not eveyone, just the Filipino and Indonesian maids and the chauffeurs. Some are washing the cars, others are watering the plants. Saving water and recycling don’t seem to be an issue. Almost tempted to rush back to my hovel, get a bucket and collect the wasted water.
Yes it would be nice to live somewhere clean, devoid of litter, dog poo, ignorant neighbours and roaming dogs who won’t let your repair man in. Probably lovely to live in those huge houses and being waited hand and foot. No mundane household chores to roughen your hands or ruffle your hair. The outdoor swimming pool where you can have a quick dip in the unforgiving humid sun is particularly tempting. And of course the posh car you can parade round in denoting status, all the better if you are chauffeured around. I note that the proud owners always seem smug when they drive by staring at me trudging up the hill laden with rucksack or even a trolley at times. They must think I am the hired help and I am, we just perform different roles and I don’t get the full board.
In spite of all that I don’t find myself plagued with envy, wishing to trade places. I’d rather live with the ‘commom’ people and experience what it is like for the vast majority. Similarly I’d rather be on the noisy ward than secluded in a private room.
I guess the divide isn’t that invisible.
I have the privilege of living right next to a very posh ‘gated’ community full of ex-pats and well-to-do locals. There is no physical gate but security guards checking cars going in and even pedestrian traffic. However I can enjoy their facilities such as landscaped gardens, supermarket, cashpoint machine, bakery and waiting taxis.
The supermarket is convenient for rainy lazy days and saves lugging heavy bottles and cans around. The downside is as it is catering for the luxurious private estate the prices are rather inflated and I laughed when I saw products from Waitrose. Yoghurt and cheese and any imports are extortionate. Anyway I’d much rather eat the fresh local produce. And best of all, I can sneakily push the trolley just short of the guard’s station which means it is only a little further till I make it back.
But that’s where it ends. I am denied access to the much envied private minibus which shuttles residents and their maids mainly from the Phillipines and Indonesia back and forth to Tai Po to buy groceries. It is a door to door service. Whilst, I on the hand have to battle through the heat and humidity and/or heavy rain to the nearest bus stop 5 minutes away. It doesn’t sound too far but trust me that particular combination is a real killer, especially if you are returning laden with shopping bags.
Then there is the country club… Imagine my delight when one day a banner appeared announcing that its membership was now open to non-residents. I just wanted to take advantage of their swimming pool, right on my doorstep. So I boldly went to enquire what the fees might be. I was gobsmacked: lifetime membership would be a cool 5 million HK dollars or an annual fee just 1.5 million. As if that wasn’t enough, in addition there is a monthly fee of $4,200. ‘And just for swimming?’ I ventured to whispered after recovering from the shock. But it was all or nothing. I was reminded that I could enjoy all the facilities: playing golf, tennis, squash, state of the art gyms, aerobics classes, professional swimming coaches, bars, a restaurant and so on and so forth. And even better your spouse, children under 21 become automatic members and you get the all important permit to park your car. I summoned up my best acting skills and said that I would take the brochure away and think about it. Yeah right.
As taxi drivers are familiar with the name of this top end development and not my hamlet, I always tell them to head that way. They always want to take me through the security barrier to drop me off but I tell them to stop in front of the entrance. They assume I am filthy rich, have maids and drive around in posh cars. They couldn’t be more wrong. And because I shop in the local supermarket that I am a resident.
I don’t enlighten them as for once I’d like to indulge in the fantasy of being so wealthy that you don’t have to worry about money. A huge wad doesn’t buy you happiness but it certainly smooths the way and reduces anxiety about the future. And often while perusing the reduced meat in the chiller; by the way nobody else does this as money is not an issue, I dream that one day some multi-millionaire will spot me and find me irrestible and move me into his decadent penthouse. Come on, a girl can dream, especially with my makeover.