I think I haven’t been that neighbourly lately. You see, I’ve moved out of my parents’ house for four years. I like where I am so far. No personal questions asked, just awkward greetings and polite smiles.
It’s not that I don’t want to be nice and friendly, although I don’t expect people to believe me. I just hate their somewhat intrusive questions sometimes.
“Are you alone?”
“Going home late again?”
“Are you married?”
“Why aren’t you married?”
“Ever considered dieting?”
Well, let’s just call that the downside of being Indonesian. Sometimes they just want to talk or strike up a conversation. Too bad they don’t always know how.
Sometimes they have nothing better to do. Maybe they don’t mean to be rude.
Still, they should accept that if people feel uncomfortable and annoyed with such approaches, then they’d better stop. It’s not an excuse to belittle their feelings by calling them ‘overly sensitive’. That’s not fair. That’s just being a jerk.
However, I still appreciate the kindness of some neighbours. Like this lovely family who live by the main street where I am now.
Whenever I have a chance, I will stop by to buy their ice cream. The weather’s been so hot lately that it’s become a habit.
Before I knew it, I began talking to the parents and their two grown daughters. One of their girls is married and now has a 1.5-month-old baby girl. About the other single one, their mother once told me:
“I always encourage her to live life to the fullest, no matter what people say. When it’s her turn to get married, then it is – by God’s decision, not out of mere social pressure.”
I guess you could already tell why I ended up hanging out with them. Last Eid-ul Adh was really great. I was passing by their house that night, wondering what to buy for dinner with the last IDR 20,000 bill in my wallet. (No joke.) That was when the mother called out to me:
“Hey, have some sate kambing* with us!”
So we did. It was a feast for the night. I thanked God big time. My motto is always the same:
“Never say no to free foods.”
I guess there are still good things about being in an Indonesian neighbourhood.
(*skewered goat meat grilled with soy sauce and spices)