Good day plant folks!
Today's post might be quite upsetting and deals with some mental health issues. If you are sensitive to these issues. Please do not continue.
Chapter 3 - Dream turned into nightmare.
We were so blessed to be given an opportunity by Social Innovation Park, to be able to rent the space for our Littlebotany project. I am super surprised that they liked my super amateur proposal. At that time I had a broken computer(still broken) and I literally drew out what I imagined Littlebotany would looked like. Ash helped me with the content. Sarah even helped me to digitalise it and made it more presentable. I was really touched that they really believed in me from the very beginning. Also, I did not think that I would be working together with Sarah today.
(Early proposal of Littlebotany)
Fast forward to me standing at the front of the plot. I am thinking, what the hell did I get myself into. The grass was so thick that you can really lose things in it instantly. It was almost like a black hole of a grass patch. Ash is super scared of snakes, so to him, it was a giant snake pit. I was super positive about it at first. I had to be, I did not want to discourage my friends who are here willing to help me.
So we decided chopping the grass. We used some tools but the grass was so thick and it has so many dead grass piled underneath. The tools did not work so we had to use our hands to yank it out. We pulled so much grass that the grass collected could probably make another plot somewhere. Like seriously, it was so huge that i could not find our friend, Lut.
(Yup, that is Lut)
That is not the worst, under the giant grass island lies a giant sandcastle kingdom. The previous tenant was building a rice field but gave up halfway. Under those sand mountains, lies the stone kingdom. The previous tenant used giant granite stones to achieve (or failed) his rice field creation. We had no choice, we had to flatten the land manually. I did not have the money to rent professional help at that time. So we just kept digging and clearing as much grass as we can. At this rate, I would not be surprised if I found human remains. Probably the guy building the rice field.
(The team behind the scenes)
It just gets worse. On top of that, there was something about the particular bunch of grass. We itched for at least 2 weeks. We were covered in sandfly looking bites. All the way into my underwear even. We were all probably suffering from allergies. It was just horrible. This was just the physical things that were hurting me. Little did i know, there were more mental torture for me afterwards. It was not Littlebotany yet. It was Littletortury.
(We respected the nature there and did not remove the wild plants)
Chapter 4 - Being different
There were times I felt like I uncomfortable and unwelcomed at the plot. It felt like I was not seen as equal with my neighbours who have been there longer. There was also a path that led to the back area of one of the adjoining plots. Despite starting work on our plot, many continued to walk across our space. Hear me out, we had markers put into the ground as part of our work and those markers were moved aside because they were in their path! They even walked over our equipment while we were building. To put things into context, the plot was not occupied by any tenant, and it was previously used as a storage area for some of the other tenants. Piles of soil and other materials were still being stored at our place. They only moved it hesitantly after I asked. At that point of time, I felt like I needed to apologise because they seemed to be inconvenienced by me. I felt I was being troublesome. Their actions made me feel like I was the enemy, and I was disrupting the peace in this community. That was how it affected me mentally. Looking back, I know I should not have had to apologise and should not have been made to feel that way, especially within a community that supposedly works towards building inclusivity.
(Our carpenter gave us poor advice. Telling us to make a wooden fence)
We felt like we had eyes on us while building the plot. On one occasion, we had just finished yanking piles of grass and we set them aside neatly to pack into bags for disposal. It was a hot day (every day was a hot day!) so we left to grab a drink nearby. We were already exhausted and itchy from the grass allergy. Just 10 mins into getting our drinks, we received a complaint through our management that we were causing a fire hazard by leaving the piles of dead/dry grass behind. Frankly, the entire grass patch that was on the plot before it became Littlebotany was a crazy 12 inches of uncut dried grass that was already a fire hazard way before we even stepped foot on it. I still remember that day so clearly; I was speechless, and I started breaking down a little bit on the inside. I had no choice but to brush it off. My friends, Lut, Ash, Ayun were there and they saw how much support I needed to get through the day. Muchas-GRASS-ias for being there guys!
(That tree at the back, was our only shelter back then)
"Are you a worker here?" asked one of the aunties nearby.
"Malay got do this?" another auntie asked me.
"You must be Indonesian right?" a passerby asked me.
"Malay got do this kind of business ah?" one of the farmers asked me.
"They are Malay people, they don't want to talk to us" as told by one of our Chinese friend who had a casual chat with one of the farmers.
These are a few things that we came across since working on the plot. There were times when their statements made me doubt myself and think that maybe I am not cut out for this. At that time, besides our neighbour, Frank, we were the only other minority
Words can be very damaging and when one receives such negativity on a regular and constant basis, it creates a maladaptive mental response. It made me think that maybe they were right, I was not supposed to be doing this type of work. Perhaps I did not have what it takes.
Every now and then, I still face this form of treatment, sadly. Recently, there was a person who walked past me and straight to Clare, asking if she was the owner. There were also a few business owners who had come to ask to collaborate, and they would approach me to ask if I could direct them to the owner. Isn’t it hilarious because my face is literally on the Littlebotany logo? I hope it was an innocent mistake and I hope these people did not mean it to be offensive in any way. However, from this side of the lens, it was hurtful and disparaging, and anybody else would have felt the same way. Sometimes it feels like they are expecting to see someone else.
Speaking of whom we are expecting to see is my friend, Farhan, who is a carpenter. He owns an interior design company and worked with us to create the outdoor wooden structures. One of the structures is where my giant Philodendron jose buono resides under. He decided to disappear into thin air. Leaving my dreams scattered, body and mind broken. It was too much to take.
Disappeared into thin air just like the structure that was supposed to be here. More less depressing chapters ahead!
Chapter 5 - The lady In the Night
You’re changing not only the physical landscape of the area and other homes but also tearing down the walls of prejudices and stereotyping of the farming community. Kudos to you for being a hardy plant that may waver in strong storms but don’t give up. Press on!
Such an inspiring story ❤️ And an important lesson of how perseverance pays off. Well done to you guys…love the plot 😁