Live and let live

I’m so out of my comfort zone, I think to myself.

I’ve been sanding down bricks for the last 3 hours, and praying for the “dinner” call. Here in this family, they term lunch as dinner and dinner as lunch.

I look over at the fifteen bricks I’ve sanded down in the last 90 minutes and feel a pride surge up. My arms are aching so bad, my nails are non existent, and my work clothes are covered in clay dust. I’ve never done such a job before and I wondered if there was any scenario back in Singapore that would have given me the opportunity to do something like that.

View of storm in his play pen while I sand down bricks

I’m the only girl living here as a workawayer, together with two other guys my age. One is Lee, Brazilian, previously in the military. He’s introverted, loves animals and spends most of his alone time playing computer games. There’s Matias, from Chile, who has a masters in neuroscience and likes to read up on philosophy in his free time.

Then there’s the family. Mark and Caroline, together with their 2 sons, Lance and Miles, and one more Foster son who’s not living in the house at the moment.

After work, I plop down in the big couch and whip out my phone. A Facebook reminder reminds me that our boat wedding was 2 years ago. Memories come flooding by and I can still hear the music ringing in my ears. I can still see the smiles on my friends and family’s faces. Who was that Jane, living that life? I don’t recognise her. And yet, it definitely was me. The me who believed I knew what I wanted life to be like.

I haven’t got a damn clue. But I’m soaking it all in. All these unique experiences I wouldn’t get if I had stayed in my comfortable Singapore.

Mark hands us cans of shandy and we sit together, the 4 of us. He starts telling us the story of how he got to own the estate. The house itself is big, 2 floors, many rooms, and the land is about 4 acres big. He tells us how he used to come by the place on his paper runs, and started helping John, the owner, do odd jobs around the house. Eventually, he moved in to help do more restoration work because the house was in a bad condition. Years pass and John, who never got married, gave the estate to Mark, if only he and his family would look after him in his old age.

Just like that, Mark came to own quite a piece of property! He tells us how he worked for many years to build this place up and that one day, his sons won’t have to do all this work, but that they will reap the benefits.

I like Mark because he’s kind to people. He has a “live and let live” motto and that was probably what earned him this piece of property. Thing is, he never did the work with the intention of owning the house. He just went about his life, doing the work, and being kind to people. His job didn’t define who he is, the way he treats people does.

I realize that we often put a value to people in our lives. Why do we do that? I’m reminded by Mark, it really doesn’t matter how much people earn, what they own, and what they do for a living. It matters how we choose to treat them.

I’m embarrassed by an incident that happened recently. One of the neighbors was watching us work, and staring at us intensely. I smiled and said hi but she only opened her mouth to say “you can’t be piling up dirt here. The council won’t allow it!” I ignore her and keep at my work. The next time I looked up, I saw her taking photos of us work. I couldn’t believe her audacity. An anger washed over me and I snapped at her. “You can’t do that. Take a photo of us. That’s rude! We’re not doing anything wrong. Delete it.” she shook her head and walked away.

We told Mark about this incident and he had a word with her. “hi Margaret, we’re just about done with this pile, and we will be done. I just wanted you to know these lads are with me and they’ll be no trouble at all” she started off complaining again but then mellowed down once Mark kept his cool and friendly demeanor.

The following day, while we were working, Margaret comes over to us, holding a box of freshly baked scones. We figured it was her way of a peace offering and I thanked her.

“live and let live” – mark’s simple and plain motto.

In the day, this motto seems really easy to uphold because I’m having so much fun, and being so free, free from…. Everything back home in Singapore. But sometimes, the dreams come again. And they stand to remind me how much baggage I have yet to overcome. I wish I had stood up better for myself sometimes, but I’m also proud that i stood my ground in being kind to D and his fiance. Is being kind being weak? I don’t know really. I don’t feel weak though, I feel strong.

The days here fly by fast. I’ve been cooking lots of Asian dishes for them. On free days, we open up the summer house, spread out blankets on the grass and bathe in the sun.

Sun bathing

I’m thankful for this time in my life, to explore the world and absorb everything it is trying to teach me. I may be confused all the time just about everything, but I know that in time to come, it’s just about making decisions. Sometimes, it’s also just about enjoying life the way it already is. Salud everyone. Enjoy the sun!

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