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Pina. Dirty.

23 January, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Po Lin monastery on the island of Lantau just off Hong Kong is a peaceful and spiritual place. It is the home of the the monks and, in ’93 they inaugurated the Big Buddha which is big and… a buddha.

However, despite all that tranquility, I had not expected the following conversation while at the vegetarian cafe in the monastery and looking for somewhere to relieve myself.

“Here, I show” says the old man who’s just come out of the kitchens and is clearly heading in the same direction.

“You go here” he says, gesticulating towards a cubicle. I feel honoured he’s picked out this one for me especially. Naturally there isn’t a toilet seat… that’s a westernised thing of bringing in something which purports to be cleaner and better, but actually is less clean and not so good for your bowels. like wearing trunks in a sauna. anyway, i digress. … but the lack of toilet seat isn’t an issue as I only need to… er… do a number 1. (was going to say “have a waz” but caught myself using 1980s slang and showing my age)

I do my business. He does his and finishes first. We meet again at the wash basin. I want to say “how nice to see you again” or “that was indeed a most splendid cubicle, thank you” but know that smart-arse attempts at wit will be met with incomprehension.

He washes his hands. I mine. Then the conversation takes an unusual turn:

“Wash, wash”

I am confused and don’t move.

“wash” he repeats, “dirty”. Now, I was brought up well and always wash my hands. Plus, he’s just seen me wash them in front of him. Ok, so there’s no soap, but you can’t be fussy. What on earth’s he still on about??

“Dirty. Wash. Dirty,” he keeps going. This time gesturing towards my flies. Oh no, think I, have I split something? been a little messy? are my flies undone? is it traditional to wash your zip, perhaps.

“dirty,” he repeats, with more insistence in his voice “Pina. Dirty. Wash.”

What? what the hell are you on about old man…. oh… hold on…

“Pina dirty. Wash,” and this time his hand nudges me in the base of my spine. “Wash pina.” again, more vigorously pushing my groin towards the basin and at the same time gesturing with his other hand.

As the penny drops it flits across my mind to say “after you” but think the resulting images could have ruined my entire trip and leave me scarred for life. Is it normal to wash your nether regions after urinating? in a public toilet? in the hand basin? Admittedly the height was about right for me, but I suspect my.. er.. host might have had to be on tip toes. Perhaps they have a little bank of steps, like in a library, for the smaller races to get up to the right height. But if this was the case, don’t you think somewhere as resourceful and ingenious as China would have designed a hand basin which had a special outcrop to enable the easy ablution of the old chap? And what the hell happens in the ladies’ loo? do they have little baths that extend?

Ok, I conclude in a moment’s thought, this is not right. Perhaps the old chap (not mine) is just having me on. But he looks so serious. having said that, I can’t tell whether he’s smiling or not, he has so many creases on his face. Would it be insulting to refuse? Will it really be much of a problem for me to acquiesce? I suppose I could, but my shorts will get wet and anyway, will he turn his back?… I catch myself thinking the unthinkable and I decide to fall back on the old British response to anything culturally confusing / alarming: polite refusal.

“No thanks,” I respond, and not wanting to seem dismissive of his local approach to local cleanliness, I still can’t quite believe I added “Yes, you’re right, dirty pina, but I’ll take care of that when I get home. Thank you.”

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  1. Freemano
    27 January, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Disgusting – what a lack of ettiquette. I’m always getting it out for a wash! 😉 (honestly officer!)

  1. 23 January, 2009 at 7:35 am
  2. 23 January, 2009 at 12:08 pm

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