My family lived in a suburban subdivision seven kilometers away from the city. Our house is one of the first houses built by the developer in this particular subdivision more than ten years ago. Back then, it was a wooded area and the climate was cool. Fog descends on us at four o’clock in the afternoon and at past six each mornings on ordinary days. It can get colder during the rainy days. We did not have the need for electrict fans.
At first, we feel so isolated. It seems so far away from the city center. Public transportation is very far and between, thus, I rarely go to the city whenever I came home. I was also discouraged to join in hanging out with my friends at night for want of transportation except on occasions when they offer to bring me home. It clips my social life though I did not mind it so much. I preferred to sleep and rest whenever I was home to make up for many late nights at work and the toll of constant travelling incidental to my work.
My only qualm back then was we’re too far from the market. I love markets especially that ours offer an abundant array of seafoods and fresh vegetables. Another is the absence of mobile telecommunication network. Back then, my phone is already like an appendage to me and very important to my work. It was imperative that I am accessible almost all the time. I had to hang my phone in the window ledge of our house to intercept some signal if I was lucky. It was only in very recent years that I relished being disconnected and going off grid and not freaking out about it.
Over the years, many families settled in the area. A phase 2 was developed. With each house construction, development and expansion, trees were felled and the land was flattened by bulldozers. We were no longer isolated as households increased. Road network were developed. And one day, we were connected to the outside world through the telecommunication network!
Alas! the so much awaited development has arrived. Yet, gone were the foggy mornings and afternoons. No more swaying trees in sync to the rhythm of the wind that used to surround the neighbourhood. In their place are one storey to two storey houses. In fact, electric fans, even air-conditioning units,slowly, have crept into some households. These, especially in houses in more than one lot, where the owners decided to cement their whole place leaving no space even for grasses to grow.
A rich person bought three lots in-front of us and built a mansion, which was rarely lived in. Its only maintained by a caretaker who comes every now and then to tend to the potted plants and clean the place. The owner usually comes once in a month and stays for a couple of days or so.
Most of the residents in our subdivision are from the middle class. Most are government employees, while others are families of migrant workers. On weekdays, the most time with a lot of bustling are in the mornings as workers, parents and students alike prepare to leave for work and school. Then again in the afternoon when people are coming home. Peace and quiet often pervade the neighbourhood. The neighbours also rarely see and talk to each other. I, myself, only knew the neighbours flanking us in the left, right, and rear houses. Beyond them, I only see some faces once in a while when I ride the subdivision’s lone public transport. The driver then gets confused in which block to drop me off as I was rarely home.
While this house was our first as a family, I did not develop affinity with it during the early years we transferred to it. I did not have the feeling of community with others as we only go on with our respective lives.
From the surface, our neighbourhood subdivision looks nice, orderly and peaceful. However, it lacked the warmth and character of a neighbourhood where neighbours commune with another, sharing pains and laughters as a community.