Time flies by so quickly.
It’s been another two months from my last update on the situation in Kuala Lumpur from my perspective. I thought I’ll provide everyone here another round of updates of what is going on with this expatriate family.
Accepting The New Normal
Our daily lives are almost back to normal with a few exceptions. The mask, hand sanitising and temperature taking has become a routine embedded deep into our lives so much so that my daughter feels uncomfortable without wearing her mask. As little as she is (3 years old), I’m surprised that her mask can stay on the entire day without her touching her face at all.
In reality, it is heartbreaking to me. That she is exposed to a procedure that is not normal but now that is integrated into her life, our lives. The only redemption is that she’s not alone. Millions of children are donning masks and face shields to save their own lives and their loved ones. As much as we explained (and keep explaining) to our young ones, I wonder how much they understand in their young minds.
Without a vaccine, we will always be living with a little bit of fear in our hearts.
Don’t Fear Fear
A little fear is good. I remembered a common saying that “Good if you are scare, it means you will be careful.”
As we go about our daily lives, wearing mask serve a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet. We have to stay vigilant and prepared in the event of a reoccurrence of another wave of infection.
We shouldn’t be complacent but neither should we holed up like it is end of the world. Every individual needs are different and these are trying times so we all need to find that balance that we are comfortable with, without bending the laws or putting others in danger. While keeping in mind, we should practice tolerance and kindness within the community.
I was invited to join a Facebook group that name and shame individuals who do not wear masks in public. Photos and videos will be taken of such individuals and posted online. I find such actions tactless.
Instead of shaming them online, wouldn’t it be more effective and humane to just remind the said individual to wear his mask? Or even better, carry an extra mask and offer to those you see without one? You may not know the individual could have forgotten his mask or maybe dropped his mask. He may be on his way to get a new mask. We’ll never know because we hide behind a camera phone and happily snapping photos to put on social media, hoping that it is my post that will go viral.
The Pandemic That Made Us Start Questioning Each Other
What has gone viral are the news that exposed the strengths and weaknesses in individual government in different countries.
The unprecedented and unpredictable situation brings out the best and worst in crisis management of every government.
While many citizens applauded the swift lockdown decision made by New Zealand government, economists around the world are wondering if it is at the cost of their GDP. Yet on the opposite side of the pole, you have countries that favour economic stability over lockdown restrictions, was it at the cost of its citizens’ lives?
So how do you balance it out? As we praised some governments and booed some governments, we forgot that each country is different and every of her people will react differently. Decision making, strategy planning and forecasting in this type of magnitude is not something a single person can carry through. It takes a strong team of decisive, smart strategists to say when, how, what, why, where to execute a lockdown. I can imagine these decisions doesn’t come easily without hours and hours of meetings.
Could you have done it better if you are in their shoes? I don’t know if I could.
Our National Day
Yesterday was Singapore’s National Day. It has been 7 years since my husband and I left Singapore to pursue our careers overseas. We didn’t know how much we miss her until the pandemic strikes and suddenly we were forced to choose: stay back in Malaysia for our jobs and cats or gave up and go back Singapore to our families.
My husband’s choice was to send me and our daughter back to Singapore to stay close with our families while he stay put and forge forward in Kuala Lumpur. My choice was to stay together as a family unit wherever we are and yes, our cats are considered in the family unit too!
I won in case you didn’t read the earliest update of this post (scroll all the way down). We stayed put in Kuala Lumpur. And I’m very glad we did because we could have been separated since March lockdown until who-knows-when.
I read that many expats are still separated from their wives, husbands, children because they happened to be overseas when Malaysia decided to close her borders. Those outside couldn’t come into Malaysia and those in Malaysia couldn’t go out for the fear they cannot get back in again. One of our close friends is stuck in Germany with her husband, unable to come home to her family in Malaysia because her husband is not holding a valid spousal visa to be able to enter into Malaysia. She is stuck between choosing to stay behind with her husband in Germany or go back to Malaysia to her elderly parents.
But two major events made us wish we were back in Singapore.
One was during our National Election Day which was 10th July 2020. Voting is compulsory in Singapore but because we are located overseas, we are exempted. However, as a citizen, we feel that it is our civic duty to vote and elect our choice of leaders in a democracy.
Another event was National Day. Happy 55th Birthday, Singapore!
Now that our little girl is 3 years old, we wanted to bring her home to participate in the celebrations and remind her that she is a Singaporean. She get excited when it was Malaysia National Day because her local friends are excited. We wanted her to feel the same excitement when it is Singapore National Day too.
However, the National Day Parade is moved online instead of the usual celebration at a single location due to safe social distancing. Another new norm that we must get used to.
Be Grateful and Be Hopeful
But these are minor inconveniences (we keep reminding ourselves) in the sight of the greater good. Keeping ourselves safe, not burdening the medical system in either countries and not be an asymptomatic carrier plays a crucial part to end this virus war.
So instead of becoming bitter and frustrated, we watched and celebrated Singapore National Day over Facebook Live Broadcast via a set up projector. We sang the songs, belted out our National song and pledge proudly and go woos and ahhs over the fireworks with our daughter.
As much as we miss our families back home, we are grateful that all of us are healthy. None of our friends we know are sick. We can still keep in touch and see each other with the advanced technologies like FaceTime, FaceBook and WhatsApp.
In the end, it is our choice to look at the positive of the situation, make it work for us and forget the negativity.
Last Update: 10 June 2020
It’s been over 2 months since my last update on the pandemic situation here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I thought I should give a quick run through what my family and I are going through as a guest in a foreign country.
Restrictions Easing Up
While we are still discouraged from lingering outside, many commercial places are reopening for business. Places like shopping malls, restaurants and retail stores have stringent requirements in place.
Most places will require you to leave your contact details, take on-spot temperature, sanitise your hands and wear a mask before you are allowed to go in.
I have noted that there are some discomfort and concerns around the expatriate community that leaving contact details would mean an invasion of privacy (I believe this is not unique to Malaysia, probably around the globe).
Leaving your contact details helps in contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. If someone who is tested positive for Covid-19 happened to be in the same shop as I am at the same time, I would want to be notified immediately. This is so I can take immediate precautionary measures like self-quarantine or go a test to protect my family living under the same roof.
If the government wants to know how many times I go out to do my groceries, how long I spend in the supermarket and how much I spend, I am happy to allow them to take my data.
It is as if we are not leaving a paper trail (credit cards) and location data (GPS) daily, even way before Covid-19 was a thing.
Parents rejoice! Some schools are reopening
I’m not following the education news much in Malaysia since I’m homeschooling my three-year-old. I do know that some daycare centres for preschoolers in Kuala Lumpur started to open across the country as industries are slowly reopening to allow the economy to recover.
With effective of 2 June, Singapore schools have reopened as well even though the classes are held on a rotational schedule instead of full 5-day classes weekly.
Many parents confided to me that they are worried that their children are missing out on learning. I always tell them education is not only in books, neither is knowledge comes from blackboards.
Learning is everywhere and everything. Helping out in the kitchen means your child is learning. Taking a stroll in the park, your child is learning too. Heck, even plopping your child in front of the television, he is still learning something.
It doesn’t mean that you need to send your child to school for your child to pick up knowledge.
This is when I realised that we parents are relying heavily for our schools and educators on our next generations’ knowledge. Such heavy responsibility and burden weighing down on a teacher’s shoulder but yet we are paying them so miserably. I guess this is a subject that I should expand on a new article.
While the essential workers can now ease off their worries about who can take care of their children while they are working, there are other groups of parents who are sceptical about sending their kids this soon. Especially if their kids are preschoolers.
Although the fatality rate for those under 9 years old is very low, it always good to be careful.
Domestic Travels are Open Again
We do miss a lot of little things like going to a park together on a sunny day, a supermarket trip with my little one or having a hotpot buffet dinner outside with my family (without the aftermath of washing up) or a trip to ToysRUs for my daughter to pick a toy to reward for good behaviour or swimming and splashing in the pool on a hot sweltering afternoon, or bringing my daughter to an indoor playground in a shopping mall.
Malaysia government just announced that domestic travels are allowed again. As much as we really wish that we can travel back to Singapore to see our families (our little one really misses her grandparents), we understand the importance to keep the international border close at this point. And we appreciate for any easing restrictions that allow us to stretch our legs. Little things count the most!
Taking precautionary measures (we will be wearing surgical masks, we are going to take a baby step towards this – we are going on a road trip!
Not too far off Kuala Lumpur, about 200km or 2.5-hour drive up north, we are going to Ipoh for a day trip.
We used to do a little drive up there once in a while for dim sum – one of my comfort food (for those do not know what’s dim sum, its bite-sized food that is served warm for breakfast or tea). Yes, our intended restaurant will adhere to government’s regulation in terms of spacing the tables apart and food handling.
We may have plans to bring the little one to a secluded beach in the next few months. One of the cons of living in the city, the seaside is so far away. I am an ocean lover and my little one loves swimming. So introducing her to the sea at this age is just nice.
Hopefully, when she is 12 years old, she wants to join her mama for a scuba dive to experience a different world underwater.
We will take precautions and monitor the pandemic situation in Malaysia especially our destination.
Nothing comes first than our health and safety.
Malaysia was already in an economic downturn before the pandemic starts, no thanks to 1MDB scandal. Now in political uncertainty, we are unsure if and when the economy will ever recover to its former glory.
We are impacted in some sense where my husband is still working full time from home, only going into the office once a week. As much as it is business as usual, we can see clients holding off in any form of big expenditures.
This is very much obvious in my case as a freelance recruiter. Some of my clients are pausing recruitment activities because of uncertainty. As a freelance writer, I’m thankful for my regular clients, the stream of work are consistent. I shall update some more in this area in another post.
Despite what everyone is going through, we should remain positive and hopeful. This may just be the clean slate we need to restart living our lives right.
Start putting priority in spending quality time with our loved ones.
Start caring wholeheartedly for our environment.
Start looking into our lives deeper and questioning ourselves if this is the way we want to live for the next chapter in our lives, what legacy are we living for our next generation and how we should change it.
Even it means baby steps. Better a step than nothing at all.
Last Update: 25 March 2020
After posting a few of the Covid-19 related articles, many of you are asking after my well-being. Thank you. We are safe, all 3 of us, my husband, my 3-year-old daughter and myself.
I felt that I should share little more on the situation based on my end so you can understand what is it like for an expat like me amid the covid-19 period.
Too Much Negativity
The news is full of it. So is my Facebook feed. Reports after reports, everyone is reporting on the stats of every country’s infection status or the shelves in the supermarkets are empty or which country is banning who from travelling from. It is depressing.
So when Malaysia started reporting on the political news of Mahathir resignation and Muhyiddin Yassin becoming Malaysia‘s 8th Prime Minister, it was so refreshing to read something unrelated to Covid-19.
Not that I follow up much on Malaysia politic scene, but it’s either that or obsessing on which countries are now top 10 infected countries, what are the number of new cases today.
On top of that, we are constantly besieged by friends and family forwarding news about the Covid-19. Some of them are useful but a lot of them are fake news and quite disturbing in fact. With the numbers not letting up, it is possible that the Movement Restriction Order may continue or even restrictions be stricter.
So for MiddleMe, I will try not to write about Covid-19 that much and limit any Covid-19 related article only once a week if any. There are just too many Covid-19 articles out there jamming my inbox and my social media feeds. I need more cute kitten videos!
Our Family Situation
Both my husband and I are constantly debating every day whether should we go back to our home country, Singapore. While living in Kuala Lumpur, travelling home will mean either a 5-hour drive or a 45 mins flight home.
Singapore has implemented 14 days stay home self-quarantine on all who returned from overseas, while Malaysia has just begun 14 days of movement restriction. So in reality, it makes little difference if we were to stay put in Kuala Lumpur or to go back to Singapore.
Do we want to risk our safety to be on a flight with others even it is just 45 mins? Even if we drive, we will be staying with our family in Singapore and this means lesser social distancing and more exposure since we will be staying with my parents-in-law and sis-in-law versus us three over in Kuala Lumpur.
The cementing factor comes from our furry kids, the 3 cats. We’ll never leave them behind and 14 days away will just be too much without us around. Mostly because I’ll miss them too much.
Everything and Everywhere Closed
During this Movement Restriction Order in Malaysia, there are many similarities to a lockdown. Mainly the things that impact us are those activities we took for granted. Once again, I am humbled by this experience.
This doesn’t affect us as much as those families with school-going kids.
Many moms are grabbing their hair in frustration in trying to cope with their children’s boredom and finding learning activities to occupy them. You can’t have them glue to the television or iPad for 12 hours!
My little one and I homeschooled so we are used to having lessons and activities at home. I have plenty of ready learning materials to occupy her for weeks.
But my little one still misses her Friday sessions at her Language Playschool as well as her friends at the playschool.
Swimming Pool Closed
The weather (30 to 34 degree Celsius) is perfect for that dip in the pool. Sadly, our community pool is closed to adopt social distancing and avoid gathering at the poolside.
So one of the best outlet to let off children’s energy is out. By the way, the playground is closed too.
Food Establishments Closed
We also missed dining out during the weekends as restaurants closed and only available for takeaway or delivery. We always like picking new places to try out new dishes.
Shopping Malls Closed
My little one has missed going to the malls. She enjoys her shopping trips and eating at the sushi bars.
She loves the buzzing activities, noise and people traffic in malls. She loves windows shopping at the ToysRUs even though she knows Mommy won’t buy her anything.
She loves reading at the bookstores because she knows if she asks nicely, Mommy may buy her a book!
You Cannot Be Outside
We missed our nature walks as a family. My daughter has been asking when she can ride on her scooter again.
My husband has to sacrifice jogging and going to the gym. The only exercise he has now is to chase my little one around the house as she desperately tries to avoid being caught to put down for naps.
Even when we do groceries, only one person from a household can be appointed to go out alone to the supermarket. This is irritating because I have the expertise manipulating the different food section quickly and efficiently including eyeballing for sale items and calculating in my head the number of diapers we need, my husband has the brute strength to carry everything I bought (or overbought) and my daughter has that irresistible cute face that gets freebies (I lost count how many free lollipops and balloons she gotten from supermarket cashiers and security guards.)
Together, we are a perfect dream team. This is one regular activity we missed doing as a family.
Positivity is the only way to go
So in this crisis, what are the shining lights?
We must remember to always look at the positive side and eventually we will bounce back stronger and more resilient. It is easy to slip into depression with so much unknown. Will we still have a job in the near future? What will happen when this is over? Are we safe? What are our governments doing?
Instead of dwelling on the unknowns, I have chosen to live for the moment. Sure, the daunting factors are always at the back of my mind but it doesn’t do me much good to hold on to things I can’t control except to be vigilant and take preventative measures.
We try to live our lives like before, just with a few exclusions. Home lessons still go on, we still have pancake on Sundays and we still gather around at nights for late-night movies.
What are the positives for me as an expat?
More family bonding time
Since my husband doesn’t need to travel anymore, he has more time to bond with us. He has taken part in helping me to homeschool my little one.
Without going out, we clear our living room so that he can kickball with my little one, working up a sweat within one hour!
My husband can see what I am doing on my usual days with my little one at home.
While he has an inkling that I don’t just nap all day at home, he now helped out the household chores and put himself in my shoes where I am indoor on most days without interacting with adults and dealing with tantrums.
Time to do what we always put off
Whether it is fixing that old leaky pipe in the house or organizing the entire wardrobe by colours, we have time to do what we always been putting off.
With extra hands around, I can take up online courses that I always wanted to do but don’t have the time. Books are being read and movies are being watched. We are clearing our back up to-do list with vigour.
Learning to be Frugal
Cutting down our groceries run from twice a week to only necessary runs, we try to be as frugal as possible to maximise what we have in the fridge.
We stopped online shopping and only buy what are daily necessities. With my little one, we devised games and activities with materials we have.
Whether with local Malaysians or with the expatriate groups, it is heartwarming to read and hear stories of how people come together to help one another.
I applaud those who offer to do groceries run for those elderly and disabled in their neighbourhood. We clapped along with others on our balconies and windows at a certain scheduled time to cheer for our frontline medical team. I have reached out to some of my fellow Singaporeans in Malaysia to share stories on how we are doing and encouragement.
It is time for everyone to hang on tight as we go on this long journey and hopefully, this pandemic will end soon so we can start picking up the pieces. So stay positive, stay safe and take care, everyone.
For more Covid-19 articles, here are some that I wrote:
Covid-19: Malaysia Movement Control Order Announcement – Biggest Impact will be Workers
Covid-19: Employees asked to Take Unpaid Leave by Companies
Covid-19 Outbreak: What are Companies doing right by their employees
Best things in life are meant to be shared, start spreading MiddleMe around, after all, sharing is caring.