Out

It’s April and I’m out of work.

Or at least that’s how it seems right now as I was more or less dismissed with an “I’ll get back to you later, I’m working on something” response from the client.

My guess is nobody would want to pay a freelancer like me at this time since finances may be tightening and the prospects for future business income may seem pretty bleak at this point.

Ah well. It’s not the first time that I have been without work since I began this full time freelance venture. It’s just that I can’t recall when this last happened, or how long it lasted (usually not long).

Anyway, it’s not good to leave my writing muscles unflexed throughout this period of work inactivity, so I guess the best way to stay in shape (mentally, I mean, mostly) is to find outlets where I can continue to write in some form or another.

I’ve been contemplating starting a social media mini series. I haven’t completely decided what it will be about yet, but I’m thinking something with positive vibes or a theme of hope would be good since there is so much fear and rumour mongering and depressing news going around lately with Covid-19 still in circulation.

Another thing I’ve sort of halfheartedly done (because in the past I usually fail at it) is sign up for the April Camp Nano. I couldn’t decide what to write about there, so tentatively I’m designating it as a collection of short stories, which I will write at random. Unless of course, some sort of direction or theme emerges along the way.

Meanwhile, life at home carries on in its usual fashion.

Today is just slightly out of the norm only in the sense that both hubs and I are already awake at 6+ in the morning (it’s usually only me) and there is activity in the kitchen already. Oh, and the Eldest One was awake out of the blue too (but hopefully, drifting back to sleep soon).

A grocery run may be imminent, and I do not look forward to finding out what is left or what dire straits we may actually be in soon. Sigh.

I’ve told myself I should write something here other than always journalling about real life. But I can’t seem to grasp any useful topic at the moment. I shall try next round, my dear Reader.

May your day today be brighter than the former, and may rays of hope shine amidst the darkness of your little corner.

Dawn

It’s Saturday. There is a lack of festive weekend vibes though.

Perhaps it’s the thought that we can’t go anywhere or do anything much. Or the fact that weekdays or weekends, they kind of all feel the same right now.

It’s Day #4 of the Restricted Movement Order (RMO).

Thanks to our stubborn countrymen, apparently the army will be called in to assist the police in ensuring we behave during this period and stay home as much as possible as we should. I’m searching for official news reports to confirm this. All I have for an info source right now was an SMS announcement, seemingly sent as a broadcast to us as citizens.

Well, anyway, it makes no difference to my family, since we had already imposed it on ourselves to not go out unnecessarily since last weekend, though the RMO wasn’t yet in place then.

Where we live, sandwiched between several highways and nearby public transport systems like the LRT, I still hear cars and lorries whizzing by. And the announcement bell sound used at the LRT station closest to us. It’s not terribly eerie. Yet.

I’m doing dishes, and have paused for a break. The rest of the family is still sound asleep. I am contemplating a bath. Will my youngest one awaken the moment I set foot into the bedroom?

Daily, we continue to hear of more confirmed Covid-19 cases. It seems we have become the country with the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia. Three deaths to date. It’s sad to note that this loss of lives has begun.

I wonder when everything will be back to normal. We are not in dire straits currently. I suppose I ought to be thankful for that.

We just restocked a fridge full of food which will probably last us for some days. The kids and us are all in one place. My parents and sis, though not living under one roof with us, stay nearby and as far as I know, are alright for the moment too.

But the hubs and I don’t know yet what income sources we will have come April, which will be upon us by the time the 14 day period of this RMO is done and over with. It’s unsettling, yet I believe worrying isn’t the answer.

Perhaps today will be the day we think of some brilliant idea to change things. Or tomorrow. I hope.

We’d already started quarrelling yesterday and it’s probably due to being cooped indoors as my dear hubs rarely takes to this kind of setup well. This, and lack of decent work to keep him busy. He has been repeatedly muttering how horrid it is that people get confined indoors like this. Ever the extrovert, he is. I should forgive him.

A gust of cool morning air has just blown in. It reminds me that it is almost 7am and my baby will probably be up soon.

I hope you are well, dear Reader. Be glad for the little things today. Much love from my corner of the world to yours.

In between

Dear Reader,

How is it like in your corner of the world today?

It’s Day #3 of the Restricted Movement Order here in Malaysia.

I am up early ahead of the rest of the family. Expressing breastmilk in a silicone collector as my youngest is not awake to nurse. Next in line for list of activities would be to put the cloth diapers into the washing machine and to gather the trash for my husband to take out when he goes out to get groceries.

Unlike many other families within the Klang Valley, we did not stock up food in anticipation of the Order. We only bought enough to last us for about a week during our last grocery run, and the week is almost up. Hence, I will need to plan meals very soon (within the next hour or so), and wake my husband to get to the stores as early as possible since we don’t know what stock levels are like in our neighbourhood stores yet.

From what I heard from a friend staying in another part of our city, it was crowded at the shops within their community. I certainly hope there won’t be too much of that where we are at.

I’ve generally always thought of where we live as being one of the quieter, less noticed part of Petaling Jaya. And yet, we kept hearing of Covid-19 cases in several nearby areas, giving us the notion that the virus is literally all around us. The most disturbing was the case of a preschool teacher who got it. This preschool had been opened recently at the mall where we normally go for our grocery shopping.

My husband only started taking this Covid-19 pandemic more seriously after he visited that mall on one of the days where they were still disinfecting the preschool and screening all shoppers seeking to enter the ground floor (where the preschool was located) for any signs for fever.

Now he finally wears a mask or brings a long a small bottle of hand sanitiser while he is out. He promptly cleans his hands upon his return from a trip out, and changes his clothes. There was an occasion where he even decided to bathe right away.

For our household, things aren’t too different during this Order than they are at regular times. This is because my husband and I are both self employed at the moment. A situation at work worsened around the time our youngest was about to be born, and so he left his full time job and has been in limbo since.

At the time the Order was issued by our Prime Minister, he had already begun taking on projects for this new consultancy gig he has embarked on. There had been relatively positive signs lately, and several possible work projects have been popping up.

On my end, my freelance writing work was finally beginning to settle into a routine after the abnormal activity I had over the past few months where I was serving a new client in a temporary role that ended in February.

Now everything is more or less slowing down due to the Order. We are wondering if we will get paid on time. Or whether there will be multiple delays and even a lack of work opportunities in the near future.

I know there are families out there with an even bleaker outlook to their household income sources than we have. Some cannot even work at all right now because their jobs require them to be out, or to be meeting people. There is no Work-At-Home option for them. I wonder how they will cope.

It’s only supposed to be a 2 week exercise, but my husband and I anticipate that this Order will be extended beyond just a fortnight. As it is, with the way many Malaysians are behaving, we might even see a far greater spike in Covid-19 cases. The thought is chilling.

I think of my two very young kids and I worry. They are happy with us at home at the moment. But will we be able to keep them happy and well once our funds run too low? Can we continue to afford preschool for our eldest one?

And what sort of world will they be growing up in, given the terrible turn of events that we keep seeing both on a local as well as global scale? I sometimes wonder if it would have been kinder to have not introduced them to this cruel, cold world.

But as I tried telling my husband last night, perhaps the best thing to do at times like this is to just keep looking ahead. To just keep focussing on the very next step. Because I think that’s all we have the capacity to do right now.

It’s daybreak now and I must go. I hope things are brighter where you are, my dear Reader. Till I return, I wish you a good day.

Hope and the outcome: Post GE14 reaction

Image source: The Coverage

I am just an ordinary Malaysian, but I am certainly proud to be one at this particular point in history.

Just days ago, our entire nation went to the polls to determine who will govern our country for the next 5 years. It had been such a highly anticipated event that it feels so surreal that it is now all over.

I am not one to write about anything even remotely related to politics, but this election season was truly an emotional and exciting one. So I am not going to pass up a chance to pen down something about it, although this is more of a personal tale and nothing more.

To be honest, having grown up in Malaysia, I had kind of reached a point of disillusionment and cynicism about the ways things are in my homeland. In recent years, things have really gotten from bad to worse on so many fronts. To me, it felt like it had reached a point where it would only just continue to go downhill from here onwards.

Over the years, I saw so many people I know migrating overseas or at least attempting to do so. Not many are proud of the country nor do they see any sort of great future to be savoured by staying here. Government policies and incentives seem to favour luring Malaysians who were overseas back home to contribute to the economy. Nobody seemed to think of rewarding those who continued to stay here. To someone like me who had never left, it felt like we were being unappreciated.

Racial and religion based politics were everywhere. Although my own friends and family were never judgmental or prejudiced in their dealings with me, there was an overarching feeling of disunity that seemed to always linger in the background. Back when I was a child, it felt a whole lot more harmonious living in a multi-racial society, and it was something that we were brought up to be proud of, for the reason that it set us apart from other nations and made us diverse and adaptable as a world citizen. But the older I got as an adult, it seemed like the very foundations we had been taught as children was being undone.

Scandal after scandal was reported in the news, and it felt like the instances of corruption would never end. This not just being within government related transactions, but across all economic sectors too. So many stories, too many unhappy endings.

There was very little faith in the public education system , and most families who could afford it would rather send their children off to study in private institutions, particularly for higher education. I am among those who graduated from a private foreign university. It was insanely expensive, but my parents believed it would be better for me to study there than at a local university.

Public safety has been a growing concern, and the general perception these days is that our streets are not safe at all. You’re not safe in your car. You’re not safe outside of your car. Even when it was a reasonable distance that you could get to by walking, I’d discourage my loved ones from doing so because so much can happen while you are out on foot. We witness robberies and burglaries in the middle of the night. A neighbour of ours was once held at knife point just outside her house while I was at home next door, unaware. I recall a conversation I had with a complete stranger on a flight back to Malaysia. He was a foreigner and was surprised to hear that in Malaysia, it’s not safe to leave your bags on the front passenger seat of the car while you are driving (robbers would smash your window to grab your belongings when your vehicle is stationary at a traffic light).

Back in the days when I was a reporter, I also had to write several news features on very grim issues such as deaths in police custody, reform of the electoral process and urban poverty. It would have likely driven me to depression if it had continued long term (the publication I worked for at that time eventually closed down).

I recall a conversation I had with a senior colleague once, on the issue of gifts and bribery. Although I was never really in the line of fire (I never did newsdesk duty except on tech stories, which were mostly not as controversial or high profile as other kinds of breaking news), I was made to understand that it was such a commonplace practice and done very openly. Money would be slipped in as part of the press kit. People would often ask to vet through drafts of a story before it got published (for which I personally had several bad experiences with regards to). Impartiality was almost virtually impossible, especially in the mainstream media.

On matters closer to home, our household income is barely enough to get by every month, especially since we had a child and I quit full time employment. We are a middle income family, but yet we are not even able to have surplus to set aside for savings. The outlook for future household expenditure did not look like it would get any better in the future.

Being a Christian also, things also felt rather bleak because Christians were often the target of divisive arguments and political agenda. We are taught as believers to expect persecution in the world because of our faith, but there are days that it felt really unfair and sad to see other fellow Christians targeted for no good reason.

These are just some of the issues I had faced as a Malaysian in recent times. And the sentiments they brought about stayed with me as I braced myself to cast my vote in our country’s 14th General Elections.

In fact, just thinking of polling day itself brought anxieties of its own. So much precautionary information was being circulated online. It was helpful, of course, but it was worrying nonetheless. We were told time and again that certain parties would be up to dirty tricks, hence we had to be careful about the way events unfolded as we cast our votes.

Make sure certain polling clerks don’t have writing instruments and voice it out if they do and are seen writing things down. Pay attention to your ballot papers. Do they have smudges, marks that shouldn’t be there? Is there a stamp at the corner of the paper? Ensure that the candidate names and parties are correct. Do everything you can so yours will not become a spoiled vote. There are cheaters out there.

As my husband aptly pointed out on that day, these are not things we should have to worry about as voters. But in Malaysia, it is of concern.

So I went to vote on 9th May feeling extremely sombre and devoid of all hope. I didn’t really believe what I did would make a difference. I dared not dream of change or anything promising coming out of the elections. To be honest, I felt defeated. Like it didn’t matter what we did, because it would not alter the outcome.

But somehow, between the time that I had dropped my ballot papers into their respective boxes and the moment the final results were announced, I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the promising turn of events that followed one after another.

It was breathtaking and nothing short of a miracle. It was hilarious and strangely comforting too, seeing the Prime Minister we grew up with back at the helm. And satisfying to have that glimmer of hope again, that chance that justice will finally be served and past wrongs might actually be made right at last.

I am glad I stayed in Malaysia and grateful that I could witness this momentous occasion that will certainly be a highlight in the history books that are to be written about our beloved nation. I am also thankful for all our local warriors, who in one arena or another paved the way for the change we experienced in GE14.

Life hasn’t always been kind to us over here. But there is hope. As I once used to profess, while we live, there is yet hope.

I look forward to a better Malaysia moving forward.

Chill

People over here in the Klang Valley are going nuts over the unusually cold weather. Calling it “winter” and such. 

Yes, folks. Aren’t we a cute lot? Winter = -°C and not 23°C or thereabouts. But that’s as good as it gets here. 

We live in the tropics so it rarely gets this cold. 

This feels more like it does in the highlands, which is where you will likely find many of us when we’re holidaying locally. Hehe. 

I love rain and I love cooler climates/weather. So I’m fine with this current setup. 

But as MetMalaysia has duly noted, these chilly days are numbered. It’ll be back to being sticky, sweaty and itchy again after Sunday. 

Sigh. If only this cold spell would last forever.