The hidden new neighbor(s)

Ah-hei showed up at my workplace one afternoon early October, he was coming from Shop A3, and he was planning to get back and continue working there after spending some time at the bookshop here. I was glad seeing him at that random time. My plan was to properly invite him for a tea at some point but I thought to myself “It’s even better to just have a chat with him now without any agenda!”


So after a short chat with him, I followed him to Shop A3, the tiny showcase room just 3 minutes away from where I work. It’s been 2 months already since I last visited the shop. It’s totally like a brand new space, last time it was a playful installation by a collaborative of 3, it was full of colors, words, objects, and looks like some accidental mix of different styles, skills and gestures - a poem was written on the wall while an abstract painting was directly painted on the floor...etc. Chaotic yet energetic was how I felt last time, while Hei’s “new home” here is illustrating some sort of peacefulness, as if a quiet open cave.


Now the soft blue plus white was the main tone of his apartment, it looks very inviting and cozy. I wondered how big it was, is it like... 50 sq. ft.? Should be less than 100 sq. ft. I guessed. But Ah-hei has built an attic up there, also a tube-like bedroom behind at the corner, so the “practical size” should be bigger than before. The room itself in an interesting shape, and his private room inside at an confusing space behind the wall. Has he ever took a nap there? Did anybody watch him sleep? Could he get any privacy at all at this open cave? Is privacy something he needs/ doesn’t concern about? “I sculpted those little raindrops on the wall the other day as it was raining outside.” he said.


He told me that he picked up some furnitures from the hotel opposite to his place, like the  fancy round tea table, with a thick glass layer looking heavy and classic. However the size of the little table is completely stuck in the middle of the apartment, leaving no room to walk from one side to another side of the table. Okay... A SMALL FOUND TABLE THAT OCCUPIED COMPLETELY THE FULL WIDTH OF THE APARTMENT. I thought the table surface was in 2 colors, glassy green the original color as half, with light grey on another half, later I realized that the light grey was carefully colored with pencil by Ah-hei. I have never imagined these 2 colors could stay together on a same surface, however they were fitting so well and looked natural. Oh and he mentioned that the height was exactly the same with his own height - a perfect room of one’s own? 


So is this really too small? It depends on how we define “this” - - -“this” supposed to be where Ah-hei lives these 2 months, “this” is the environment created (and was still being creating) by him; and the atmosphere that he kept making. Furthermore, it’s the connection he was recognizing, and the community he was realizing. He recognized the same guy that smoked regularly in front of his door (which is at the back lane), there was a few times he helped the old lady who picks up paper boxes to sell everyday, he knows how the furnitures at the hotel next door looked. He knows where to find all the daily necessities, and he even got to know the activity pattern of the small insects outside his glass wall. I bumped into him one day at the zebra crossing, he was walking with a relaxing gesture as usual. I guess Ah-hei had attained the wisdom of living there, he is good at maximizing his living space, by including his neighbor’s livelihood into his daily life, very actively.


By recalling what I saw and what I heard, I’m sending my gratitude to this temporary neighbor who enjoys embracing what’s happening around him, right there, right now.




Susi Law

written on a Wednesday night, during a day off on 4/11/2015, 11:19pm