back in my home town, it’s almost a sin (or at least people would think you’re incredibly rude) if you don’t know your neighbours. by neighbours, i mean, at least the people who live next door to you, though in reality, you practically have to know everyone living in your street.
i guess i was incredibly rude (or very sinful) for not knowing them. when i was a little kid, since i went to a kindergarten nearby, it was only natural that i got to know a few other kids who happened to live at the same street as i did. or maybe it was the fact that back in those days, my mum was active in our street’s ‘arisan’, which is basically a gathering for housewives, in which they would… swap recipes? stories of their kids? their spouses? tips on how to make marriages last? who knew (as you can probably tell, i’ve never been to one myself). anyway, maybe, because she did that, she also got to know a few of our neighbours who had kids my age, and that’s how i got to know a few of them myself. sure, i knew who lived across our street, and i used to know the man who owned a small traditional market (‘warung’) next door. but people moved away, and many more moved in, and after a while, i couldn’t keep up anymore. whenever i walked to and from the nearest bus stop there on the street where i used to live, some unknown stranger (to me) would greet me with my nickname, and all i could do was give a small nod and smile as i thought in my head, who the hell are you??? (see? very rude of me, indeed.)
i know, i guess knowing your neighbours have their own benefits. like… maybe, if you lost your house key, and your mobile phone’s battery’s dead, all you have to do is ring the next door neighbour’s door and ask for help? or… if you’re dead bored on a Sunday morning, you can just look up over the fence and gossip with them? … right. i’m pretty sure neighbours are more useful than that, except that i don’t know what the other ‘uses’ are.
anyhow, then i moved out of town. or actually, out of the country. away from those people who think it’s rude or sinful to not know your neighbours. in here, where i live now, there’s no unwritten rule about ‘knowing your neighbours’. no one would suddenly call my nickname on the street, and thank God for that.
if i lost my house key, all i have to do is call the apartment’s service number, and they‘ll help me, not my neighbours. (though don’t ask what would happen if my mobile phone’s battery’s also dead at the same time, since there’s no fricken payphone here! luckily this whole scenario has never happened to me *knocks wood*.) i’m not a gossiping person to begin with, so no matter how bored i’d get on a Sunday morning, i’d never crave to talk to my neighbour about how the upstairs tenant likes to throw noisy parties on Thursday nights aka workday nights. so no, i still don’t know what’s the real use of ‘knowing your neighbours’ is.
i do get used to people i see everyday in or around our apartment building. sometimes i would meet other tenants in the laundry room, and exchange a few small chit chats now and then. and when i happen to remember these people’s faces enough that i would recognize them even when we’re not in or around our apartment building, of course i would greet them, or at least give a little nod and smile (some things never change). i still never properly shake hands with our neighbours here to introduce myself, and i never know their names (neither do they know mine). people keep to themselves, and respect other people’s privacies. i like it like that.
i’ve lived in the same apartment now for 6 years, and for 6 years, other tenants on the same floor as our apartment had come and went, except for one. a family of four, living right next door to ours.
when i first moved here, their kids were in their teenage years. i would sometimes meet the mother in the laundry room, but she must’ve known back then that i didn’t speak Finnish yet, so we only said hellos and byes. back then when i didn’t have anything to do (no work, no language courses), i would get depressed a lot of times, but then i could hear the piano playing from their apartment, and suddenly i’d feel not so lonely anymore. i got reminded of my sister, who used to play the piano in our parent’s house, while i danced to it (this was when i was small).
and then, when i finally could talk Finnish, my conversation with this neighbour of mine became a bit more than just hellos and byes. one time, they even gave us fresh tomatoes from the mother’s father’s own garden. they had two dogs (i don’t know what the breed is called… long & very thin legs, brown, super short hair? anyone??), and the other one was always so curious, she’d come to me whenever we’re out of our apartment’s doors at the same time. then the mother explained to me that the (curious) dog felt that i was a part of the family, which was why sometimes she’d come to me. 😀
around summer this year, i noticed that their daughters have moved out. after a while, i also noticed that they no longer have two, but only one dog. and then i remember our neighbour once said that the other dog was old, and was already a bit blind, too. i’m guessing it passed away around the same time as Romppu did.
and then finally, some months ago, the mother told me they’re looking for another place to stay. a smaller apartment, since their daughters have moved out. for months they kept looking, and i secretly hoped that they wouldn’t move that far away, because even though i never got too close to them, they’re a nice family that never causes any loud noises. even the dogs were quiet (like Romppu. snick).
but then one day my husband said he saw the men from a moving service company came to their apartment and started taking out their things. and yesterday, before i came home from work, my husband saw a truck from the same moving service company, and our neighbours were getting in there. it figures, of course, yesterday was the last day of October, so i guess it was the last day for them to move out from their old apartment. so they did find a new place to stay, and unfortunately, it’s nowhere nearby.
so that was that. no more ‘neighbour of 6 years’, no more short talks in the laundry room, and no more listening to the piano playing (not that i have the time lately to hear it, anyway, since i’d be at work almost every day). no more curious dog coming towards me.
now all that’s left is the suspense (for us, me & my husband) on who’s going to move next door. would they have little kids? would they have dog(s)? would they have noisy parties every Thursday nights? (hope not.)
farewell, old neighbours. you were one of our best neighbours, ever. wherever you are now, we hope all is well with you.