the dongguan dormitory
This place was just built about a year before the pic was taken. They erected it on a simple concrete slab on wet ground and stacked all the levels up with the best deal concrete available.
The Chinese live about four to six in a room and share the toilets and bathrooms with everybody else on the floor.
They sleep on bunks or on the floor. There are no women.
The foundations constantly shift as the ground expands and shrinks in the semi-tropical conditions and the crack in the wall that you could put your finger in last month fits your arm this month. Everything moves in the wet.
Two small canteens on the ground floor service the locals and the expats, the cars belong to the canteen manager and the owner’s chauffer.
The food is richly dusted with chili and at times you don’t ask what it is you are eating. Plates are banged down onto the tables and the older hands watch the newcomer take a nip at the pickled pig’s arteries before they tell him what it is. He just smiled over them and shovelled another load onto his plate. The chinese workers in the next room eat and roar at the same time.
Expats sometimes use the spare lot to race their radio-controlled cars in the half-hour after lunch.
The locals either watch or sleep against the walls – there is a natural segregation.
Expats live about twenty minutes away in a gated compound. The MD rents a three story mansion, the boat-builders share three-bedroom apartments. The compound offers restaurants, an expansive swimming pool, tropical gardens, artificial lakes, a theatre and a pool hall. Some expats bring their chinese girlfriends in to live with them. They use them as domestics and wives. The chinese factory owners live in large villas by the lake.
Outside the walls nobody sleeps, the six lane highway is always busy, the roadside is unlit and groups of men linger in the shadows all night. Expats are advised not to go out alone at night, though some do. Not even the bravest contemplate walking too far up any of the dark side streets, where only the small interior cooking fires provide illumination.
First published in kurungabaa – diary notes