from lakemba to lane cove
When I arrived in Sydney from Singapore, we moved into a brown brick house in Lakemba. I was twelve years old. I stayed in that house for almost fifteen years, excluding my two year exodus to the deserts of Arabia. That’s another story altogether.
You can imagine my trepidation early this year when I chose the double whammy of getting married and (gasp!) moving across the Harbour Bridge. Ladies and gentlemen, I am now a resident of Lane Cove. I wake up to the sound of kookaburras from Lane Cove National Park. This is a far cry from where I used to live.
When I was first exploring my new neighbourhood, I remember saying hello to a friendly shop assistant at a local store. She asked me where I lived before I got married. ‘Lakemba?’ she gasped. Her face grew serious. ‘You are a good person. And now you live in Lane Cove and you won’t want to live anywhere else.’ I laughed a tad too loudly and said Lakemba really wasn’t all that bad. Really.
On that note, I’ve had some adventurous friends from Lakemba, Bankstown, Greenacre and surrounding suburbs come by and visit me. They marvel at how far away I am, then at the greenery. Then they say, in a whisper, ‘Everyone’s really…nice!’ And I nod triumphantly. Ah, the warm fuzzy feeling of a paradigm shift.
This story is one that ought to happen a lot more often. Think of it as mixing things up a bit. I had my misconceptions about the Sydneysiders who live up north. Bizarrely, now I live on the lower north shore, and I’ve actually met some very lovely people. Admittedly, it does get a bit tiring when getting a massage sometimes becomes a Q&A session (‘I thought all Muslims are Arab!’), when small children stare at me, and when a curious local doctor asked if was forced to wear the headscarf. No, it’s really all very voluntary, and can we please talk about something else?
True, the sight of a young woman in a headscarf, runners, and a backpack isn’t the most common thing around these parts, but I daresay, the locals are getting used to my library and grocery stops. I’ve learned to smile and say hi to the passers-by, and they’re saying hi back. I’m even thinking of attending some local events at the library. I could even volunteer. Actually, I am a local by this stage, come to think of it.
Moving out of comfort zones can be jarring, especially if you think about too hard. This is when being a kid has its advantages. When I was twelve, I couldn’t wait to move to Sydney and see what snow was like. That was all I cared about. Sure, I’d miss my friends, but after the sweaty, humid heat of tropical Singapore, even thinking of snow would make me shiver in anticipation. We arrived, it was freezing, and well, it didn’t snow. The first time I actually saw falling snow was during my first winter in Jordan. It’s funny how I had to move closer to the desert to experience snow. Life is full of surprises like that, and some of them are actually pleasant. The tricky part is being open to the unexpected joys that come with stepping outside the familiar.
Alas, the serenity of my new suburb has recently been ruined by the constant rock-hammering construction from seven in the morning. I kid you not. Just when I was getting used to hearing the kookaburras! To escape the noise, my husband and I are thinking of moving. And you know what? I actually want to stay in Lane Cove. My new home.
By Raidah Shah Idil