In my old Singapore life, from the minute I woke up I had people tending to me. The kids would have been dressed and sent to school by the Fillipino nanny. From bed, I would dial the extension to the kitchen and place my breakfast order with the Indonesian cook. The driver would start idling the car when the cook cleared away breakfast, making sure the air conditioning cooled down the leather seats before I got in so my pampered little bum wouldn’t stick to the hot seats.
Didn’t that last paragraph sound obnoxious? But I want to give you an idea of why my friends thought it was highly ridiculous when I announced that we were voluntarily moving to the middle of the Australian countryside to grow vegetables, wash dishes, cook 5 days a week and live 62 km away from a decent hairdresser.
When I announced I was leaving, one of my friends dramatically crumpled a piece of paper and smoothed it out over the starched restaurant table cloth to show me what my skin would look like if I exposed it to those nasty uncultured Australian sun rays. “You’ll regret it. Take care of yourself. ” he intoned ominously.
Another one came to visit and said “Well, you see The Good Life, and all I see is “lack of domestic help”’.
Anyway after nearly more than 3 years of surviving in the countryside and seeing me covered in everything from drake blood to chicken shit, I think they’ve finally accepted my crazy decision and every conversation with a Singaporean friend doesn’t need to be tinged with faint pity and concern on their part and a mild prickly defensiveness on mine.
It’s good because for the first time I’m anticipating going back to Singapore for a trip and just being happy to be myself without having to explain my choices.
Charlie Chaplin wrote “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” And we do get used to it if we don’t watch out.
When I was a Singaporean I used to grumble all the time about petty little inconveniences. I come from a nation where your plane touches the tarmac at 12.01 a.m. and you can walk out of the sparkling clean airport bags in hand 8 minutes later. If real life dares to interfere with your plans, there’s hell to pay.
Now I may not have the freshly squeezed fruit juice and steaming fresh nasi lemak in the mornings, but I drink my homemade soup barefooted on our stone terrace looking out over the sea to Phillip Island. My home smells of fresh eucalyptus in the rain.
We don’t have a swimming pool in the countryside, but the other day Mark put the garden hose sprinkler on and Dylan shouted “This is the LIFE!” and the trees in the bush echoed “..life…”
True luxury is an inner sense of calm and being at one with the world. This I know we have. And we are privileged and lucky for it.
Tonight I fly to Singapore and around the world for nearly 6 weeks, but what I’m most looking forward to are the dinners with my family, good unpretentious home cooked food, trolling my younger brothers with annoying questions about their personal life, Mum holding my hand when we walk together just like when I was a little girl. And of course the nasi lemak. We can’t not have that.
(This post originally appeared on my business blog Thoughts of Legacy http://www.thoughtsoflegacy.com)