Penelope doesn’t like to sleep during the day and the best bet for calming her down is to walk, walk, walk. This is a child of the tropics; the hotter it is, the better. So we’ve developed a new weekday routine where I slide her into the baby carrier and go exploring Georgetown on foot. She falls asleep as long as we keep walking and while we both end up sweaty, it’s the best way for me to maintain my sanity when the two of us are alone.
The other day, I decided to visit the historic Christian cemetery. There are two sections, one half Protestant and the other half Catholic. The earliest burials date to the 18th century and the last burial was in 1892. The site has suffered from neglect over the years and many tombstones are toppled, cracked, and illegible. Perhaps the most extensive damage occurred during WWII, when Japanese bombs obliterated both the north and south ends of the Protestant Cemetery.
It’s actually a beautiful place for a stroll. Tucked into a city with so little green space, it feels like a park.
Plumeria trees arch over the main pathway to create a shady arbor and muffle the noise of the nearby traffic.
I saw more species of birds here than anywhere else in Georgetown. A bright blue kingfisher perched in a tree and watched me for quite some time. Several mynas perched on gravestones and followed behind me. It was dramatically cooler inside than out on the street, but the recent rains had contributed to the number of mosquitoes inside.
Reading old tombstones can remind us of the hardships of life in previous centuries. Of the legible stones, the majority were under the age of 50. Quite a few were young men in the 20s, and there were many children and babies as well.Causes of death were occasionally listed, and I saw several shipwrecks and drownings. Perhaps the most unusual was the Jackson family: Lt. Col. Gregory Jackson (55), wife Matilda (59), and son Gregory (21).
“Both Parents expired on the Morning of
The 1st April 1855, and their Son
The previous afternoon from jungle fever.
One of the notable graves belongs to Thomas Leonowens, a British civil servant. Poor Leonowens is best known for his death, for he was the husband who died and widowed Anna Leonowens, the governess of “The King and I” fame.
As I strolled along, I came upon a worksite. A tarp was installed above one particular tomb and tools were strewn about. Nobody was around, but clearly work had been going on recently. I assume that the site was being used by preservationists, who were perhaps trying to restore the inscription on this gravesite. Or perhaps it’s the site of some very fastidious tomb raiders! In a show of sheer practicality, the tarp was tied down on the edges of other tombstones. A box of sterile gloves was perched on the arm of a nearby cross. I guess if you spend enough time in cemeteries, you probably stop thinking of them in such sacred terms. Simon’s babysitter, Thiva, tells me that the cemetery is a popular place for Chinese couples to have their wedding photos taken. I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but I was surprised to hear that.