I am not a countryside girl.
I’d be the first to admit that I’m a 100% city girl, 100% metropolitan. I am not the type of person who likes the soft quiet haven of the countryside, who is content with no other companions than the rolling mountains and the humming breeze. I remember a time back when I was 13 and stuck in a little Swiss town for a week while visiting my aunt, where the view of the swiss alps from the living room balcony and the 5 minute trek to Migros* and Coop** were my only sources of entertainment in the little town. Needless to say I was positively drowning in the salty tears of my boredom.
I crave for the loud, in-your-face cosmopolitans, the global financial hub, that awe-inspiring primate city. I crave for the hustle and bustle, the static humdrum at 2am that gives you your privacy of being in quiet solidarity. I crave for the need to imagine sounding a horn behind people who hog the sidewalks because they aren’t walking fast enough for my liking.
And yet, suddenly, just as I was about to drift off into peaceful slumber a few days ago as I was writing this article, I was struck by a silver of childhood memory of my times in a Malaysian kampung where some of my relatives used to live, something that I have not thought about in over a decade. Given how I’ve just spent the first five minutes of this article convincing you that I’m a diehard city dweller, this might come as a surprise if you’ve made it this far, or know me personally in real life.
Because I have got to say this: I really miss chasing kampung chickens through the gravel road.
We, the children of the 90s, had our own form of entertainment to keep us occupied as restless young ‘uns after all, given that smartphone technology have yet existed (not that our parents would have given us a phone when we were 5). Mine just happened to be chasing chickens every time I visited Malaysia during Chinese New Year.
I am not a kampung girl, but I’d be damned if I so do miss the gravel path braided with wildflowers and weeds, and the soothing crunch it resounded under tires and feet. I miss the scene of my relatives squatting outside their house, washing the dishes with the rusted outdoor tap, listening to water’s cadence as it pelts down into the earthen tin. I miss the feel of mosaic tiles seamlessly transitioning to cold, smooth mud floor.
And of course, my chickens. For the uninitiated, catching chickens should be promoted as a full body workout with multiple health benefits involved, because damn if they are fast. I probably only succeeded at catching the chickens in my uncle’s backyard 1 out of 10 times as an energetic 5 year old. At my grand old age of 20 now all couch potato and readings cramming, even an old mother hen could probably outrun me at this stage. But okay, 5 year old me derived much joy in chasing after them only to pick them up and throw them into the air to see if they could fly. Evil? Well, maybe. But was it fun? Hell yes. Also I learnt that they could stay in the air for about 3 seconds or so before they lose steam and prepare to crash land onto the ground.
The moral of this verbiage is that there is no moral. If you’ve made it thus far, I thank you very much for sticking by me and reading about my little trip down memory lane.
As I write this though, I think back upon my stance about cities and countrysides, and I think about what I’ve learnt in a class recently about city liveability. As Joel Kotkin writes:
“Ultimately, great cities remain, almost by necessity, raw (and at times unpleasant) places. They are filled with the sights and smells of diverse cultures, elbowing streetwise entrepreneurs and the inevitable mafiosi. They all suffer the social tensions that come with rapid change and massive migration.”
I think it is this very liveability that has had me so entranced with cities. I love the movement and crowd and sights and smells of a bustling city full of life, the crazy horn blaring people brisk walking down the streets. And I think that its ever changing facade in all its constants make it so endearing to me.
*Migros: Switzerland’s largest retail company and supermarket chain
**Coop: One of the largest retail company in Switzerland
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