David and Eric managed the restoration and building. Gywnn Jenkins documented and recorded the process and after 1 year and 9 months we moved in with the family and haven't looked back. I never thought that it would be this delightful to live here in town. I use the local restaurants, I buy my vegetables, fruit and flowers from the local shops and stalls, tailor clothes around the corner, buy bread and local cakes and sweets from the bicycle stalls that come round at different times, buy the best yogurt from Enrico's, my spices from Market Street and my lovely Bollywood movies from the boisterous shops on Penang Street. I use my old bicycle, I walk, Tessa rollerblades on the Esplanade, rides her bike on the padang and we watch modest cricket games between the Indian foreign workers sometimes early on Sundays. I also drink way too much masala tea and eat too many times at the Sri Ananda Bhawan restaurants on Penang Street.
We have become part of the community here and it's a great feeling walking down the street and being able to say 'morning' to lots of people from very different backgrounds. I am thankful for the council road sweepers and cleaners who, by the time I open the door at 7.15am, have cleared away all the rubbish each day, swept the street clean and cleared the drains. These men work thanklessly doing their jobs each day.
Then there are the surprises. At the end of the nine days of Hindu vegetarian fasting, on the 28th of September this year, the chariot appeared after the sound of drums. Dancers, not just a few but a hundred, come down the street dancing with sticks, crowds come to the chariot, families, individuals offering trays of fruit to the holy chariot with flowers returned in thanks. You suddenly realise that all around you here in George Town people are living very quietly and on days like this they get cleaned up, put on smart clothes and come to give offerings on the side of the streets. It is wonderful. Each time this happens our upstairs shutters overlooking China Street are opened and we spend our time hanging out and watching the show.
Earlier on the 8th of September I had gone out at about 9.30 pm to water my bamboo at the front of the house. I opened my doors to see a vision of metallic papers scattered all the way down China Street. When cars came driving down the effect was magical as the breeze tossed these metallic papers into the air and up into the street lights. It was beautiful and yet I had no idea, no inkling at all, that people had obviously gone by in some sort of vehicle tossing out piles of metallic paper money all over the street for Cheng Beng.