I live in a house with a large yard populated with fragrant frangipani and jackfruit trees. Our village is located in the middle of paddy fields where a gentle flock of buffaloes graze in. In the windy weeks leading up to the monsoon, you can hear a weird buzzing noise generated by the string from kites flying high up in the sky.

To be honest, I’d never truly appreciated our living conditions for the past 5 years that we’ve been here. You see, living in a village comes with a lot of adjustments for city slickers like us. Having half an acre of flowering garden looks nice for the ‘gram but raking up the never-ending leaves is the behind the scenes that no one wants to see. We make the best out of our 10mbps Internet speed with hazy Netflix and if there’s a gift that keeps on giving, it’s lizards and their poop. We also receive regular house visits from our friendly neighbours – the shrews, frogs and snakes.

Image: Pexels.com

When the pandemic first pulled the rug from under the world’s feet, I wished I were back in the city. A place where food delivery options are as vast as the amount of lizard droppings I find everyday. I envied my family who could have groceries delivered to their door by a delivery guy they didn’t even have to talk to. I lived vicariously through friends who dare venture out for of an essential trip into a city that I imagine looks like London in 28 Days Later. As I now had all the time in the world to notice every lizard poop filled crevice in our house, I pined to live in a two-bedroom apartment where cleaning could be done in less than an hour. 

In the first week, I told myself it’s okay, just one more week till freedom again!

The yard is my oyster

Then two weeks became four, then six, then eight. I was on Houseparty, Zoom, Whatsapp and Google Hangouts every day with friends who were braving out the lockdown in a city I so wished to be in. Friends who were going nuts sitting in apartments that seemed to be shrinking day by day. Those who lived alone craved physical human contact, and those who lived with parents/housemates/partners started to nitpick each other. In contrast, my husband and I had more than enough space in our weirdly built village house to avoid each other when the situation called for it (quite often, as it happens).

I started spending time in the garden. Raking leaves became a part of my morning followed by walking the dogs in the paddy field next to the house (still a part of the same property). I also discovered where the lizards liked convening and made it a mission to repel those suckers.

Image: Jules Tang

Healthy Is Wealthy 

Grocery delivery is not a thing where we live so trips to the shops still had to be made. Previously, we ate out a lot but obviously things had to change. I started planning weekly meals to make shopping efficient and delved into experimenting with different cuisines. This helped save us a fair bit of cash and though not every recipe turned out like those “easy” Tasty videos, they were palatable at worst. 

I also followed daily WODs posted by a personal trainer friend on Instagram. This was another thing I used to think would have been better if I had lived in the city: getting fit. But now I realise, all I really needed was discipline and a few household objects to workout with. As I got into the groove of things, I even incorporated turbo lizard poop vacuuming into my exercises. No need gym! No more excuses!

Mental Battle

Pre-pandemic, I started a small business creating luxury picnics with my partner. We were gaining good traction when the lockdown happened. Like many others, our business took a hit and we were absolutely crushed. I admit, there were some pretty dark days of wondering whether I should return to the city to get back into the workforce, if there was even any work to be had. 

Fortunately we have wifi so I picked up a free online language course just for something to fill up my days with. From there I levelled up with a course on programming with Python, which had always been an area of interest. Sure, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to work as a UN translator nor will I be creating an app to detect lizard poop anytime soon but the routine of studying truly got me through those months. For this, I was humbled by my privilege of having the opportunity to upskill even as I lived in a rural village.

Image: Jules Tang

Gratitude, dude

At what point does one truly feel gratitude? Is it when we receive something we want? Or is it when we are faced with loss or the possibility of it? Mindfulness experts all seem to agree on the same thing: it’s a mindset that can be moulded through consistent effort. Gratitude is a practice.

As the pandemic rages on, we are forced to confront change and the discomfort that comes along with it. For me, it’s still a struggle to figure out how to make our business viable enough to weather through COVID. My rural life that was once a tiny thorn in my side has shown me in the past year how fortunate I am to even be able to take things a small step at a time. There are others out there who have not been as lucky. I am grateful to have my family, a home, wide-open space, and lizards leaving white-tipped poop surprises on the daily.