Looking back, what was the essence of Anthroponix for you?
Actually, what I liked most, was to witness how the other people were excited. And to
see that there are actually people in Hong Kong who are interested in fermenting their urine. That kind of blew my mind, because I thought that is impossible. Initially I was thinking this was a Beta test, but early on I realised it was, what I call an Alpha test. I think at this stage, it is better to keep things flexible and open. Because actually it’s not like a fully tested system. You are not establishing how it is supposed to work. You want people to try different things and then share what has worked best.
In absence of real, tangible results, what made it possible to stay engaged?
Actually, it really is in the group where this works. It is a sense of some kind of common experience of overcoming common trouble. That’s just nice.
The project gave me a lot more starting points than before I started. Like for example this fermentation thing with practitioners like Wilma and Cella. I am also interested to take a look at Felix’ farm if it is possible.
The group helps people to continue, because you know that what is failing, is not just
your own problem. Everyone got the same problem and then it’s actually good to see
how people tried different ways to make to improve the system. That really makes me rethink the whole thing, because they have tried and I might not need to try the same way
In other workshops I wouldn’t be talking so openly about urine. Other friends I have told
about this project had the yuck! factor. Then, I am doing something different, which I like because it sort of gives me little bit of notoriety.
When I knew about your project, I was sure that the result is not good: so I joined!
[laughing hard] I knew that this resource, maybe the proportion is very limited. I simply was interested in what would happen. Sorry, I still joined in...
At the beginning I thought this concept does work. And after that and during the project
I think, maybe it doesn’t work. But later on, I just changed the seed. The lettuce didn’t
work. The mung beans didn’t work. I ended up using the soy beans and then the White Navy Beans. I just kept trying out with other seeds until I got something to grow. Look, they are so powerful the White Navy Beans!
I don’t quit, I never quit. If you quit you might miss out on potential learning
opportunities. I definitely learnt something from the presentations you gave as well. The whole thing about leaf observation and root health issues was useful. If I hadn’t come I would have missed that.
Many people were very new to it the subject matter. It is interesting to see how they
have interesting discoveries. So, I try not to make any judgement or give them any comments because it is more gratifying for them to experience by themselves.
I sort of pick up little stuff here and there, every week I come. Like the weird stuff, for
example, that the plant roots need oxygen. It seems like that in this moment of my life, such kind of knowledge is something I am interested enough. So that made me coming back.
It was interesting speaking to people I would never normally speak to. And we got a common purpose for being there. So that’s what our conversation can provide.
The design was amazing. It was fancy and beautiful. The urine became something else.
It was much better than we assume in our regular perception. It is cleaner than what we thought before and its smell was not unpleasant. It was acceptable.
What was most challenging for you about this homemaking intervention?
I can observe how my life is too busy and I really want to slow down. I am aware that
this is not green living. You make yourself so busy you cannot enjoy life. This project gives me a message that I really need to slow down, look after my health, my family and my lifestyle.
During the week it’s quite hard, finding time to do the testing, because I get up at six, I
leave at quarter to seven. And when you get home it is usually not until dark so it is
difficult, especially to do the test strips. Each time, I mean, it is 15 to 30 minutes to go through that whole process. Weekend is okay, I got more time, I can sit down, I can go through it.
My parents asked me why I need to store the urine in the living room. The bathroom
was simply too wet and too tight, so it was untidy there. Then I cleaned the package,
tidied it up and put it in our living room. Now I have a cup where I collect the urine tubes because it saves space. I think it’s okay because in mainland China they also mix urine to the water for growing vegetables.
How did you communicate the projects with your family and others?
I won’t tell my in-laws because it is just quite hard to make them comprehend the
whole story. It is better that I experience the whole experiment and then I tell them the whole story, what happened. Because first I have to know what I have to go through, before I can tell them anything.
My brother and my parents said nothing about the urine because there was no smell: I
tied up all the tubes and put them tidily inside a plastic bag. My family would also ask
why I am planting so many mung beans. But after a few days they can see that it is
decorative and beautiful and they can accept this… I told my friends that I store my
urine and they asked me: “What!? Why would you store your urine at home?” Then I tell them how I am using the urine for planting and their opinion changes: “Wow, it’s possible to grow plants with urine?”
I explained to my parents: ‘this is not urine anymore, this is the plant solution.’ But they
would not buy into it (laughing). My entire family tells me to keep the stuff solely in
my room and nowhere else [laughing]. They are just afraid of the urine. It is not related to smell. They just have the perception that this is dirty and not suitable to store indoors. Actually, I believe this urine is sterile. At the beginning they think that I am crazy. And after I show them some leaves or plants that grow successfully in the tubes, I find that their attitude has changed. They now can take it for what it is: a simple plant in my house without any negative image. They can see the growing leaves and they realise, it is not just an experiment about the urine alone. I think working toward such a result is an important point.
I explained to my mom that it has been fermented and is not urine anymore.
Nonetheless she would always complain so I started to make fun of her. When I do the
urine diluting, she believes it is dirty and tries to stay away from me. So I would just go after her. I asked my mom to help me blow the plants when she had time but it was just too disgusting for her.
How did you feel about linking the personal health condition directly with the flourishing of urine-hatched plants?
It is very personal. It connects participants with their bodies, they were like very carefully
observing their urine testing results and thinking, oh, you know, is my body healthy or not. Everybody wants to be healthy and that is like a big motivation to test themselves, am I healthy or not.
I think, oh, I am eating this junk food which is not healthy to myself, then I really feel uncomfortable. So I want to change. I also want to look out whether any changes or negligence have any influence on the plants. I am very interested in the direct linkage of emotion and diet. The sleeping pattern, the stress levels, as well as the diet are very important to the quality of my urine. I find that pH level or the characterisation of urine resulting from such negative factors may actually harm the plants. They died quickly after I ate unhealthy foods.
I think it was useful for me to analyse my inputs and outputs. Seeing the connections between my output and the plants was a bit more difficult. In the planting part there were so many variables, it’s just scary, so many variables.
Ah, one thing is interesting. If you pee into a small cup, the colour is different from when you pee into the toilet. Because it dilutes in the toilet. So you can’t really tell what colour your pee is without using a cup. So without observing the cup, I won’t know what colour my urine really is.
I always wondered, what from my fermentation goes through me and into my urine. I am eating all kinds of fermented foods… so what is coming out?
Usually we don’t see plants really growing. But this time I found when I germinate in the
little cup… it is just a strong feeling that a little seed can really grow like that and
amazing what life is. I think the most important is that I feel a connection with the plant. Even though I don’t spend the time for the poor babies.
My motivation for planting has improved. Yes, despite all the shortcomings of this project. I felt the concerning part is the urine solution and I believe it can be improved so that the plants can grow stronger.
I want to ask you [the facilitator] something. In week two of pee collection I took some
flu pills because I caught a cold. I wanted to get well quickly, so I choose the western
pills instead of Chinese medicine. Therefore, my pee may be not very good for the plants which grow out of it. If I eat them it means that I keep ingesting the medicine again, and again. I maybe get addicted to the pill [laughing]?
Everything in this set-up seems to connect. Your body, your life, your heart, even your sleep… It is in your house, in your washrooms and in your bedroom.
What impact did Anthroponix have on you?
The project did affect me, because every time I went for a pee, I felt a little bit guilty about, just
letting it down the toilet. And I was thinking, well, the bit before and the bit after the
sample, it’s such a shame that it’s going… This lucky little sample is gonna be fermented and treated like royalty, and tested, and listened to, and smelled and…
I mean it is better to acknowledging that you are dealing with this life/death cycle rather
than avoiding it, right? I think that it is very nice that the workshops and project kind of triggered that. And at the same time that sense of wonder of what’s happening in and around us.
You show the plant seed next to the human embryo. That way I can very easily connect
myself with nature. People usually think we are human and different from plants but when you look closely and put them side by side, you can see the linkages. It is very inspiring for us to think like that.
I do like the whole concept. It’s very eye-opening. In a different way, a fresh
perspective, to rebuild a relationship between the plants and us and our ‘waste’, including
also doing a logbook. Scientists, are very raw and rudimentary in this. Here I could see
the design, very detailed and well thought out to make it work. Everything in this set-up seems to connect. Your body, your life, your heart, even your sleep. It is in your house, in your washrooms and in your bedroom.
I just want to say thank you because it was a great opportunity for me to join this
project. And it was very well prepared. After the first workshop I thought to myself, this is like a model: Next time when I approach a new project, I hope to match this kind of level. It was great.
I certainly would participate again in the project because it will influence our future
world. In Hong Kong, all life processes are really detached from nature. This research
trial, this attempt, can encourage us to know more about green living in the future. Like
others, I am not really successful [growing plants] this time. But I keep in my mindset
how to embed green ideas into my busy life. The mindset is very important, not the technique, not the knowledge. It is about a greener life that you can practice by yourself, not just buying something ‘green’ like organic food from the New Territories instead actually using your small window as gardening space.
We cannot continue to deal with our own ‘waste’ in the way that we have been doing.
We may technically not have been very successful. But it is worthwhile to promote
critical thinking and discussion by having a group of people trying this out. I think this is the purpose of social experiments since people never contemplate this when they pee.
Thank you for making this happen and your passion for connecting people, urine and
bacteria. I think it is a daring project in Hong Kong and I am glad it happened. I think in general it was a good beginning. And all beginnings are hard. Well, it is interesting: if you bring in a lot of people into a unity of purpose, then you are also learning really fast, right?