Singapore would not be what it is now, if not for the many years of racial harmony & natural camaraderie we have all enjoyed. We have indeed come so far… this far. Why? Because we have all learnt to compromise, despite our cultural differences & social standings.
Foreigners from various parts of the map have since become quite attracted to this harmony we have… the rich culture each of us bring out from within us and of course the growing economy that was promising enough which got them coming… (more so of late) to seek a new life, in this so-termed dot of ours.
With the influx of foreigners to our homeland… which isn’t new to begin with… (since we cannot even affirm whether our forefathers were indeed born and bred here before our time : we could be jolly well be descendants of a long line of foreigners ourselves!)… things have somewhat spiralled into a bad case of every other person I’ve met being forced to be labelled the bad neighbour. Are we bad neighbours? Have WE been bad neighbours? Do we really have bad neighbours? Did we/they try to work things out or even do anything about it? Here’s sharing some true life experiences with my ol’ neighbours..
I used to reside in Choa Chu Kang.. i had to adjust to a new environment as it had been a long time since i set foot in the west. Little did i know that despite the struggles i had in my very own supposed family home, i found solace outside the home… with my neighbours.
"My daughter is very sociable by nature, if you don’t already know it.."… my daddie quoted once to hubs when he came to discuss marriage with the big man.. "If you want to be with my daughter you have to understand that she has always been this jovial by nature and it will be tough if you have a jealous tendency within you." He resumed.. (Well yeh.. hubs had a bit of that then.. sorry, i meant.. A LOT!) Daddie went on to explain that my exuberance towards life itself was obvious & contagious, as ppl around me were usually infected by my nature. Daddie was often surprised i knew all my neighbours by name and they know me too.. I’d know they just came back from a trip and even where their grandchildren went to school, just to cite a couple of examples.
Hubs didn’t really pay much attention to what daddie shared (obviously.. since he was there on a mission) but he came to realize this when we resided in good old Choa Chu Kang. He would ask who are all these ppl greeting me and acknowledging the kiddies along our way to the market, to the playground, to the pool… gosh.. who are all of these ppl? My reply was simple. They are the people in our neighbourhood. 😉 Which kinda now reminds me of the song from Sesame Street.. kekeke..
While hubs is a xenophobe, i was the direct opposite and i have benefitted so much from being.. well, me.
My row of neighbours come from diverse backgrounds and countries and we live in harmony.. neighbours come and go but the relationship we share is unmistakably harmonious.
I had to send my DD1 to her morning playschool at a nearby centre just for fun. During dismissal, i hung out with the teachers to chit chat since the centre belonged to a friend of mine. It started to rain and i started to pick up my things, called out to DD1 and began to push DD2 who was in the stroller… when i realized i didn’t have my house key with me. Panic sunk in. I had my phone, ATM card, some cash and ez-link cards… but no key.. which was all supposed to be in my back pocket. Everyone pitched in to help look for my precious bunch. Lightning seemed to beckon bad weather and i thought shucks.. i’m doomed. Crazy thoughts ran thru my mind and i feared the house would be in disarray once i reached the front gate.. gawd.. what if i actually left the key hanging at the key hole of the gate, we could be robbed! Needless to say, i was going quite cuckoo..
A familiar face came up at the glass door entrance of the centre and the person gave a soft knock on it. It was my neighbour’s helper. What was she doing there? The centre proprietor let her in and she says she wanted to speak with me.
"Mum.." Began the Indonesian maid. "You dropped your keys." The colour must’ve rushed to my face cos it felt warm. With relief! I hugged her and said that she was my lifesaver. She even brought two extra brollies (which looked like mine) cos she saw that i forgot my umbrellas at the gate and she worried if the girls and i might get caught in the rain. I said quick goodbyes to the teachers there and went back home. It rained very heavily the minute we were back in the house.
How.. you ask? I have a koala key ring (a present from my cousin who came back from Down Under…) attached to my bunch of keys that usually seem to look like it was peeking out of my pocket. The helper who once noticed it while watering the plants commented it looked like i had a really cute pet in there. That was how she connected the key was mine cos apparently the key fell off from the stroller’s canopy to my next door neighbours slippers. The maid returned home from the market while we were off to the centre. She knew where the centre was so she rushed with the housework and lunch and rushed to the centre at the nick of time.
A car once drove up in front of the girls and i while we were waiting for the bus. It was the uncle from another block offering us a lift since his girl was in the same school as my DD1. He said, "Hop in, we’re gg the same way and my car still has some space." He even came out to help me with my stroller and i went into the car realizing he offered to send another boy from his flat as well. 😉
We get so many oranges, candy and sometimes some cake during Chinese New Year n the girls get hong bao from ah ma fourth unit from our flat. The girls returned the favour by giving them a handmade card with lovely pussy willows to place on their wall.
DD2 around 3yrs old once got lost amidst the crowd in the market once and being so small and timid too, she just kept walking around to find jiejie and i.. already crying. Realizing that the small arm supposedly wrapped around my elbow was no longer there, i panicked.. Not knowing which way to look first, i took a deep breath and tried to back track.. as i did, the Indian boss from the provision shop i chatted with when i bought groceries from him hollered & was waving his hands wildly.. "Your daughter is here! I gave her a lollipop to calm her down, she refused to take it maybe thinking she shouldn’t accept sweets from strangers but i just let her hold on to it and told her i will help you look for your mother and there you are.. i’m sure you’d come back round here cos you last bought from the store next to mine. She’s ok now.."
I thanked him profusely and even DD1 got a lollipop just to be fair. DD2 no longer afraid nor crying smiled at him and waved..
The moms (incl myself) whose kiddies take the school bus with DD1, we’d take unspoken initiative to look out for one another’s kiddies.. like wait up with any one of our children should we not be there to receive our children from the bus when it arrives. Stuff happens sometimes.. oversleeping.. late from window shopping at lot one.. or caught up with something urgent. We’d just get a ring or a text from one another just to say, "Babe, i bring your girl back to my place first.. take your time okay? No worries. Lemme noe if you’re coming over to pick her up or you want her to go down on her own when you receive this message.."
Another festive season coming up and usually we’d get yummy goodies from our ex-muslim neighbour upstairs..
Knowing my neighbours and being a part of the community brought about a sense of security and harmony within my ol’ neighbourhood. Unknowingly and almost like a natural instinct, we all looked out for one another in good times and unfortunate ones too. I miss my ol’ neighbourhood and some of us still keep in touch and we get animatedly excited when we bump into one another in other parts of Singapore too.. like old friends.
While i’m still a noobie in this new neighbourhood in Woodlands now.. i look forward to slowly open up to new acquaintances. We compromise on our differences and respect one another’s beliefs. Just the other day, Jef from next door said to us (much to the surprise of hubs cos i acknowledged him by name)… "Hope you don’t mind my son always on the piano, he’s taking his Grade 6 exam soon."
My reply. Simple. "As long as you don’t mind our daughter’s screeching violin practices, it’s a deal!" We parted off laughing heartily and sealed the deal. I’ve been known to pack a mean fish head curry, which i’m definitely sharing with my new neighbours today… they have had the pleasure of having a go at buds’ laksa special already.. and here’s sharing it too with all of ya here.. my cyber frenz/neighbours here.. Enjoy! Tehehee.. LOL!
Make the effort to know thy neighbour (don’t have to love them you know).. they too would take the time to know you and such a small initiative is sure to make your stay wherever you are… a happy one. Cheers all!