After our first brush with the primate neighbours, the monkeys and us have lived together peacefully. The macaques roam around the forest, and only visit occasionally. On those days I have learned to keep windows closed and bananas out of sight, so they will play in the garden quietly and snack on palm seeds instead.
There is plenty other wildlife to encounter too. In the morning the cock-a-doodle-do of wild roosters wakes us. Roel has spotted one of the flying lemurs this area is famous for, squirrel-like creatures that come out in the twilight, gliding between the trees. Little brown, non-flying, but extremely agile squirrels abundantly whirl through the trees around us, as do colourful birds and butterflies. We are less impressed with stories about a wild boar molesting one of the neighbourhood’s dogs, and the next-door neighbour who had a nest of baby black spitting cobras. We have been in awe of a monitor lizard that stretched over a meter, leisurely strolling over the road, and remain unperturbed by his smaller cousins, the chi-chaks and geckos, that roam freely through the house. They are friendly little creatures, feeding on insects and mosquitos, the only annoying thing about them being the little droppings they leave.
No, the real hazards of living on the border of the jungle have been botanical rather than animal, at least so far. The decorative grasses in the garden cut my hands with their razor-sharp thorny leaves till I bleed. And after two weeks of drought and haze, it took only the smallest of tropical storms for the old mango tree behind the house to drop a large branch, on top of our roof. Neighbours told us roof damage by falling trees was a common problem. A large part of that same mango tree had fallen on the roof before, and the former tenants experienced a mayor leakage in the bathroom. The landlord, the Singaporean government, was so slow repairing the damage, they finally left. By the time we moved in, the house had gotten a brand-new roof. So when we complained that we wanted the tree gone we were curious what would happen.
Surely, the next day a smiling Indian bloke arrived with a small chainsaw. Unfortunately, it was the same twenty-odd year old boy who had done the ‘professional’ cleaning of our house, dirtying kitchen cabinets I cleaned before him with his muddy rag. The same boy who clumsily mutilated the palm trees in the front garden, which bought me disapproving looks from the professional gardener I later hired. When I saw him, the only thing my brain could do was shout: No. Drop the tool. No. I am not letting you anywhere near my mango tree. No. I could only picture the whole thing smack down, bang in the middle of our shiny new roof. He smiled again, offended, assuring me it would be no big deal, he had cut bigger trees. But I stood my ground. And so does the tree.