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Why I’ve Stopped Embroidering

Last year during the lockdown, I found a new hobby.

It was one that surprised me, because I never envisioned myself as having the traits associated with that sort of activity; namely patience, meticulousness, and tenacity. I’m talking, of course, about embroidery.

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Even my loved ones were surprised. Embroidery is, to them, a ‘girly’ thing, and I’ve always been, well… not. But there’s just something so therapeutic about the repeated motions of poking your needle in and out of the fabric, and watching the threads fill up a blank space with colourful patterns and shapes.

Sadly, I’ve stopped embroidering consistently since August last year. And it’s not because I grew bored or anything, or that I don’t have money to buy materials.

It’s because of the COVID vaccine.

How is it related, you ask?

First and foremost, let me clarify – I am NOT an anti-vaxxer. I got my Human Papillovirus (HPV) vaccine when it was still relatively new on the market. I was also one of the first people to sign up for the COVID AstraZeneca vaccine, because I live with my elderly parents, and I wanted to keep them safe. I still hold the belief that there are vaccines that people should get in order to protect themselves from diseases.

But ever since getting my first COVID vaccine shot, my body has been showing undeniable long-term side effects, namely persistent atopic dermatitis and eczema that mainly manifests on my hands (fingers/palm) and my legs.

It’s not exaggeration to say that I’ve not had any relief since August 2021, because these tiny fluid-filled vesicles would pop up all over my hands, causing intense itching (I have on occasions, felt like it would be better to just chop my hands off – that’s how bad it can get). I would inevitably scratch them (doctors always say “don’t scratch” as if it was easy – you ever experience an itch you couldn’t scratch? It drives you insane), which would cause my skin to bleed. It would then be extremely painful, until it crusts over, and my hands would look like Chupacabra’s paws.

Even when I will myself not to scratch, my skin would still get so swollen with fluid underneath, it would literally burst open (I shall not regale you with photos because even they gross me out), and deep cuts would appear as if someone had made small incisions into the surface of my palm and fingers.

Of course, like any person who believes in science and medicine, I’ve gone to several doctors and dermatologists. Is it something I’ve been eating? Something I’ve been touching? Or perhaps, possibly, the vaccine? Because I have a history of eczema, but it has never been this severe nor long lasting, and usually resolves after a week or two. NOT an entire year, with only a few days of break in between at most before a fresh wave of vesicles start popping out again.

But in every scenario and every doctor I’ve gone to, they just wave it off and say “no, it’s not the vaccine, it’s just your immune system being hyperactive” (without telling me what would cause my immune system to be this way. It’s just “one of those things that happens”). They then prescribe me with topical steroids, and send me on my merry way. Long term use of topical steroids is known to cause side effects, but that’s Western medicine for you – treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause – and if you have another symptom resulting from that prolonged use, we’ll treat that instead!

Having vented my frustrations at friends and family, some have also told me about how they’ve had skin problems (mostly in the form of persistent rashes) since they got the vaccine – so I know mine is not an isolated case.

The thing is, unlike very SEVERE side effects from the vaccine (they always say these are ‘rare’, but who tf cares if they’re rare or not if YOU are the one suffering from them? Like hey, look! I won the unlucky lottery!), such as myocarditis or blood clotting, I would say skin problems are considered a ‘minor inconvenience’ in comparison, which is probably why a lot of it goes unreported.

I did not initially make this link – I thought that I was probably eating or doing something that was triggering the condition. So I tested cutting out dairy from my diet, then seafood, then beans, and a variety of other foods, none of which helped. I cleaned all my often-touched surfaces and resorted to wearing gloves around the house to avoid touching stuff. NONE of which worked.

Again, it’s not a life threatening thing – but it certainly is bothersome not being able to do chores involving washing, and having to live with a bothersome, irritating condition that limits your hand movements, is itchy as hell, and causes you pain. Oh, and not being able to embroider is a bummer too, just when I discovered a passion for it.

But you know what the funny thing is? My mom was having a conversation with her doctor about how I was having these symptoms after getting my vaccine, and he, like all the doctors I’ve been to, simply waved it off as “coincidence”.

See, this is the thing I hate about some of our doctors. It’s a classic example of them dismissing your pain and symptoms as being ‘all in your mind’. I’ve seen this bias in action when my mom had her eye surgery and felt like something was terribly wrong during the recovery stage, but her specialist told her “It’s like that, it’s in the recovery stage, you have to expect it”. A month of suffering later, she went back, and the doctor admitted that she was FUCKING RIGHT – there had been a problem with the surgery, and they would need to do a corrective procedure. LISTEN TO YOUR FUCKING PATIENTS WHEN THEY TELL YOU BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THEIR BODIES GODDAMIT

Wow, that turned into quite a lengthy, pointless rant, didn’t it?

Do I regret getting the vaccine? Not really. I had COVID in March this year, and I believe that if I hadn’t, the symptoms would have been much more severe. In retrospect, even with the knowledge that I might suffer these side effects, I would still do it again to protect myself and my loved ones.

But having contracted the virus and gaining natural immunity, I will NOT be getting a fourth booster. Because how many more iterations will there be? With many vaccines, they were developed after years of testing and clinical trials. I just feel that the COVID vaccine has been rushed in order to curb an onslaught of a global pandemic – and these effects, however minor they may be, may only manifest years later – with us as guinea pigs.

PS: This is me sharing my opinion/experiences, and should not be taken as fact or conclusion that vaccines = problems. Do not take this as medical advice or what not.

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Think Thailand 2022 — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, PJ

The Hubs and I recently paid a visit to Think Thailand — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival — which was held from 26 May to 6 June 2022 at Tropicana Gardens Mall in Petaling Jaya. Organized by the Thai embassy in collaboration with several major Thai companies as well as SMEs, the festival featured over 50 booths showcasing the best Thailand has to offer, from food and drinks, to products and services. There were also scheduled performances and cooking demonstrations throughout the 12-day event.

Here’s what went down during our visit!

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Live cooking demo in session
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Thailand is known for its abundance of snacks. We saw a few that looked familiar, but also many new ones.

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Sweet basil seed drinks are popular in Thailand, with purported benefits such as helping to cool the body. They come in a variety of flavours, including pomegranate, honey, grape, orange, and more. We got a few bottles to try. Maybe it’s because our taste buds are spoiled by sugary drinks, but these tasted very mild. They were refreshing though!

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Traditional Thai clothing on display. Visitors were welcome to try them on and take photos as a souvenir, for a price.
Fun fact: traditional Thai clothing is called ‘chut thai’ — literally ‘Thai outfit’.
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There was an outdoor area as well with an open-air dining area, with booths selling street food such as som tam (salad), grilled meats, and beer. The stalls were divided into halal and non-halal sections. Food was a bit pricey, but I liked the atmosphere as it reminded me of the street food vibe you get in Thailand — the smells of food from the grill, smoke from the cooking, animated conversations wafting across the warm tropical air.

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My must-get while exploring Thai night markets — iced tea! Thai milk tea has a distinctively orange colour as they use orange blossom water, which is water distilled from the essence of flowers from orange trees. Some vendors substitute it with food colouring. There was also green tea, which is different from Japanese green tea, as it is mixed with milk and sugar.
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Staff preparing somtam, or Thai papaya salad.
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Stalls selling Thai beer like Singha and Chang.
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Chicken skewers fresh from the grill
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Thailand’s iconic Tomyum Mama noodles
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Deep fried baby crabs
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We had a great time checking out the stalls, and returned with a few packets of snacks in tow: a crispy baked rice cracker snack with salted egg and chilli squid flavour, as well as a crispy enoki mushroom snack that featured very fine, deep fried strands of mushroom that served as an excellent condiment with rice.

I’m happy to see that events are being held again after two years. Hopefully this is a sign of a better economy to come!

28.3.22 – Thoughts

The term ‘brain fog’ has been—pardon the pun—on everyone’s mind lately, no thanks to COVID. Although not an official medical condition, enough patients have reported similar symptoms to warrant research, like this one by Chinese researchers which seems to show persistent impairment in sustained attention in patients that have otherwise recovered from COVID.

So what is brain fog? Popular health website Healthline describes it as:

A type of cognitive dysfunction involving memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, and the inability to focus.

Aside from a possible lingering effect of COVID, there can be many other causes to brain fog, including stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and chronic fatigue disorder.

So.

I now have a term for something that has been affecting my life for the past two years.

Even before I got COVID a couple of weeks ago (which only made it worse), I’ve been having all the aforementioned problems: I can’t seem to concentrate or focus on anything unless I force myself to do so to the point of exhaustion; and I tend to forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, especially if someone interrupts my train of thought. This from someone who’s only in her early 30s lol.

I think initially, a lot of it had to do with stress and burnout: the pandemic back then seemed never ending, the husband was stuck in the Philippines, I had to deal with family issues which brought out internalized trauma, and I was in a job with little to no progression in terms of stability and growth. It was also very isolating — I was the only employee left in the Malaysia office, my husband could only offer me emotional support through a screen, and I had no one to talk to, basically. It felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, but as someone who grew up doing almost everything on my own, this inability to take things on made me feel like a failure.

Fast forward to 2022 and things have been looking up the past couple of months. Husband finally got here to Malaysia, and I landed a new job that’s pretty challenging but with lots of room for growth. Fam shit is the same, with some added challenges thrown in, but I’m trying to work through it. And hey, 2/3 is still a pretty good deal, right?

Wrong.

I’m still feeling stressed and burned out, and now I have feelings of inadequacy thrown into the mix. Maybe it’s because I’ve been stagnant for so long, my brain now seems incapable of focusing or thinking properly. It’s like a never-ending sea of mental blocks that require monumental efforts to jump over—and it leaves me exhausted, even though I feel like I didn’t do much. Which is frustrating, because it never used to be like this and I can’t comprehend why I can’t just work through this shit.

Even blogging has lost its sparkle. I post less these days. I used to be super excited to pen down my thoughts, but for the last two years, it has been an uphill struggle to find the same joy in writing for myself — because I allocate so much of what mental capacity I have for work, I’m left with nothing at the end of the day.

I also find myself ‘calculating’ and filtering things subconsciously. Back then, I used to post whatever I felt like, because this is my personal space online, where I could truly be myself. These days, I tend to go, “Would people actually find this useful? Do they really want to read about my random thoughts? Why does this sound like an angst-filled teenage diary? Should I really post this? Would I offend anyone? People don’t find you funny or engaging, stop embarrassing yourself”. I know these are unhealthy thoughts that are a manifestation of my emotional struggles, but I can’t stop myself from having them.

Maybe what I really need with my blog right now is to go back to how it was before. Just posting my thoughts without inhibition, without feeling like I need to filter what I say, without overthinking about whether what I’m putting out is productive/useful or whether this or that content adds value to other people’s lives. Maybe that’s what I need to find pleasure again in writing. And maybe that would help with the brain fog too; act as an outlet for catharsis.

You know what the irony is? My blog traffic has actually doubled in the last year or so, because people find some reviews and guides helpful (I guess? lol). Which is great, and I’m happy that those posts are useful. I know people don’t want to read about “whiny shit”, coz everyone has their own problems, and they’re only turning to articles/blogs online to solve a problem/entertain.

But if this is what it takes to get my mojo back and help my process of healing, I guess you’ll all just have to put up with my emo sht for awhile.

Down with COVID

Two years after the pandemic began, I’m finally down with COVID. With so many cases daily and almost all sectors operating at full capacity, catching the virus is inevitable. I just wasn’t prepared for how shitty it would be.

It started with my dad feeling unwell. He went to do a PCR test, and it was confirmed positive. My mom did a self-test with the same results, while my brother’s RTK also came out positive. My husband and I went with him and our tests were initially negative (symptoms hadn’t manifested yet). Because we all live in the same house, the plan was for me to get food and groceries, while they isolated themselves in their rooms.

Lo and behold, the very next day, the hubs and I both had a sore throat, self-tested, and were both positive. The upside is that since everyone in the house now has it, we don’t need to quarantine in our rooms anymore. The downside is that nobody can leave the house, so we have to rely on Grab delivery for necessities, which is already racking up a hefty bill.

The first day I tested positive, the symptoms were pretty mild. Sore throat and lethargy, but not too bad. Day 2 was when symptoms worsened. I started feeling feverish, had a massive headache, had muscle aches all over, and a raging sore throat – it felt like scraping sandpaper everytime I swallowed. There was also a lot of phlegm caught within, and no amount of hacking or coughing could dislodge it from my chest.

It’s currently Day 3 and I think I’m a teensy bit better, but not by a long shot. The headache is less, but I’m still super tired, feverish, and the cough last night was so bad I couldn’t sleep a wink. The only good thing is that I don’t have too much difficulty breathing–I’ve actually been having that since August (I know I should go for a checkup so shush), but it hasn’t worsened so that’s a plus. Since we can’t go to the doctor anyway, we’ve just been popping flu, fever, sore throat and cough meds.

Photo via pexels

I know some people get mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, but unluckily for my fam and I, this was not the case. We’re all fully vaccinated with boosters, but still had moderate symptoms, so I can imagine how much worse it would have been without vaccination.

We reported ourselves to the health authorities via MySejahtera, where we’re required to do daily assessments, and if symptoms worsen, they’ll ask you to go to a hospital or quarantine centre. But apart from that, there isn’t much to do other than rest and wait for the body to do its thing.

Some other helpful tips:

  • Have medicines ready – for fever, cough, flu, sore throat, and phlegm.
  • Drink lots of fluid – apparently lemon water or coconut juice helps.
  • If you’re having phlegm and congestion (I think it worsens at night), try to sleep with your back propped up slightly against the pillows. It helps me breathe better
  • Eat lots of fruits
  • Get your daily dose of Vitamin C
  • Rest up!

I admit that I haven’t been as vigilant as I should have been–I’ve been going around visiting places and dining in. It’s almost impossible to coop yourself up at home for two years, and I believe at some point life has to move on. But despite the precautions: double masks, avoiding crowded spots, leaving once I’m done with my meal, showering once we get home, paying by card rather than cash to avoid touching surfaces–the inevitable happened. Thankfully my parents, who are elderly and have comorbidities, seem to be doing alright and are recovering (they’re on Day 5).

Since we’ve already gotten it, there’s nothing to it but ride it out and hope everyone gets better soon!

You Don’t HAVE to be a Social Butterfly.

Human beings are social creatures. We crave validation and acceptance from our peers; if not to be liked, then at least to feel accepted. This need for inclusion could be biologically wired from our time as hunter-gatherers, where being part of a group or a community provided protection and a higher chance of survival. 

But even though our days of wooly-mammoth hunting and huddling around fires in caves against wild animals are long over, why do we still have an innate need to belong? I mean, how many times have you been peer-pressured into doing something that you wouldn’t otherwise, simply because you didn’t want to offend a friend, or didn’t want people to think you’re a spoilsport? We force ourselves to conform to a group dynamic, because we need this sense of inclusion and the feeling of being liked.

Unfortunately, this can be a problem for those who are not naturally attuned to act in ways that groups see as the benchmark for ‘likable’. Think of a party, and describe the people who would usually be at the center of attention. Words that come to mind may include ‘open’, ‘friendly’, ‘funny’, ‘interesting’, and ‘charming’, to name a few. Now think about the people who usually hang out in the corners at the same party, and the words that pop up now are “quiet”, “shy”, and “anti-social”.

The bottomline: group 1 = good, ‘rewards’. Group 2 = bad, ‘ostracized’.

I’ve always fallen into the latter category, no matter where I’ve gone. It’s not from a lack of trying–despite social gatherings being out of my comfort zone, I genuinely try to listen to what people say and push myself to approach or talk to others, especially new people. What I’ve observed, however, is that this tends to end in failure: talk often peters out because our conversations won’t jive, or people turn to their own cliques and ignore me completely. I’m often left wondering what I’m doing wrong, and why.

The thing is, I don’t think I’m bad at communicating. I have friends who hang out with me and (I’d like to believe) enjoy my company, and I’ve never had problems vibing with colleagues, some of whom have become my friends for life. 

The problem, imo, lies in the dynamics of group behaviour. 

In social situations, we are hard wired to act or behave in certain ways, which includes how we gravitate to certain individuals within the group.

Take Obama, for example. Eloquent and confident, you feel his presence as soon as he walks into a room or goes up to a podium. Social butterflies tend to have this magnetic energy, and other members feel drawn to everything that they say and do, whether or not it has substance. 

Obama to me is an example of a naturally charismatic, likable personality. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On the other end of the spectrum you get the broody ones (like me). A colleague once told me I have resting bitch face, and that she was surprised to find that I’m actually pretty easy going once she started talking to me. (We ended up becoming close friends even after our time at the company. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding). 

With most large social gatherings, conversations tend to be superficial, and people form quick and judgy first impressions because the group is so big that they don’t want to waste time ‘chipping away’ to get to the meat of someone who seems reserved and shy. Others might feel more comfortable with familiar faces, so they form cliques–it’s also easier to talk about familiar topics with people you already know, as opposed to roping in a stranger and having to explain the group’s jokes or bring them up to speed to the clique’s collective knowledge. 

Unfortunately, aside from being polite, engaging, and showing interest in others beyond what I’m already doing, I cannot emulate the charm that comes naturally to other people, short of completely overhauling my personality. Which brings me to my next point: 

Sometimes, the solution you want might not be the one you need. 

There was a point in time where I believed the problem was mine to solve, and no one else’s. I should take the initiative to be more open and friendly, and if I felt left out, it was because I wasn’t doing enough to make others feel comfortable with my presence and personality. The flaw in this logic that I’ve recently realized is that I will never be like those people, no matter how much I try. 

  • I will never be naturally charismatic. 
  • I will never be a social butterfly. 

And if the negative effects of forcing myself to conform to these group dynamics in order to be well liked causes me more suffering and anxiety, I am better off without it. I don’t have to join stuff I don’t want to join, but I can be open to situations I’m comfortable with. It doesn’t make me a spoilsport. 

I guess the main takeaway is try your best, but if it doesn’t work, it’s okay: you don’t have to beat yourself up over it, because sometimes, the problem isn’t you. 

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Authentic Ipoh Breakfast @ Kedai Kopi Keng Nam, Kampung Jawa, Ipoh

Happy Lunar New Year, guys!

After a long period of lockdowns and movement restrictions due to COVID, it’s nice to have that festive feel again – malls are once again boasting beautiful LNY decorations, fireworks are being set off in the neighbourhood in celebration, friends are once again posting their reunion dinner pictures – all things which we have not seen over the last two years, since the pandemic began. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can be lax with our precautions – but I think people are moving on with their lives, cautiously – and that’s a good thing.

As for the fam and I, we decided to pay relatives in Ipoh a visit the week before LNY, to beat the inevitable balik kampung exodus over LNY proper. We self-tested the night before, left home early the next morning, and reached Ipoh after a 2.5 hour drive. As we approached the city, the sight of Ipoh’s signature limestone hills was a welcome sight.

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For breakfast, we headed to Kedai Kopi Keng Nam, a favourite breakfast spot for both locals and tourists alike. Tucked in a corner shoplot in Kampung Jawa, this over five-decade old kopitiam (coffee shop) houses several stalls selling Ipoh specialties, including the very elusive (in KL, at least) mushroom sauce chee cheong fun (steamed rice rolls). While chee cheong fun is easy to find in KL, the dish is often served Hong Kong style (stuffed with barbecued pork / shrimp and steamed, served with soy sauce), or with fried snacks.

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The version at Keng Nam is pretty decent – the rolls are silky smooth, and the mushroom sauce is savoury with plenty of minced pork and bits of shiitake in them. The best part is that it only costs RM3.80! That price for any noodle dish is impossible to find in KL.

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Of course, one can’t come to Keng Nam and not order their specialty; the glutinous rice with kaya, or glutinous rice with curry. Bro had the latter, and was served with a mountain of sticky rice, drenched with chicken curry and topped with a few decently sized pieces of meat. The kaya version is good too, and the kaya is homemade. Great if you like rice paired with something sweet.

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Another must have when you’re at a Malaysian kopitiam: toast bread with butter and kaya, and half boiled eggs (not pictured coz the Hubs ate it before I could even take a picture lol). It’s so simple, but there’s something very nostalgic and comforting about this typical Malaysian breakfast.

There are a few other stalls within Keng Nam, one selling curry noodles, the other Western breakfast (sausages and eggs, etc.), a yong liew (beancurd and fried goodies stuffed with fish paste) stall, as well as a prawn mee stall.

Funny incident: ordered a glass of Milo Bing (iced Milo) from the staff and she repeated it to me “You mean Milo Suet?” Which hammered to me that I was in Ipoh – there are differences between the way KL-ites and Ipoh-ites speak Cantonese. 😛

KEDAI KOPI KENG NAM

127, Jalan Raja Ekram, Kampung Jawa, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Business hours: 6AM – 11AM (daily)

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Christmas 2021 Recap: Of Food, Friends and the Spirit of Gifting

Anddddd just like that, another year has gone by.

I have much to be thankful for as I bid adieu to the old and welcome the new. Although it wasn’t a great start to 2021 – what with extended lockdowns due to the pandemic, job uncertainty and a general feeling of being stuck in limbo – things picked up towards the final quarter; the highlight being that my husband and I were finally able to reunite after almost two years apart from each other. He had to spend Christmas in quarantine, but we were able to usher in the new year together – and that for me has been the best present ever.

While waiting for the hubs to finish quarantine, I busied myself with preparations, finishing up work for my old job (I’m starting a new job tomorrow!), and catching up with old friends – which helped keep my nervous energy to a minimum. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

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November to December is typically monsoon season, and floods often occur on the east coast of West Malaysia, due to their proximity to the South China Sea. It is rare for serious floods to occur on the west coast, where I live, as we’re protected from most bad weather, thanks to the Indonesian islands. On 18 December, however, a continuous heavy downpour (it rained almost non-stop for more than 24 hours) caused by a tropical depression caused parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to be inundated by floods.

The flooding was so severe that in some cases, homes in low lying areas were completely submerged up until the second floor. In total, 50 people across the different states lost their lives. People were extremely angry with the government, as they were ill prepared and the response was slow – leaving victims to fend for themselves, and some lost their lives while waiting for help that was too slow to come. But where the government failed, it was heartening to see how ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life banded together to help each other, with volunteers risking their lives and bringing their own boats to help with search and rescue.

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My brother and I did our own little part by volunteering to pack vegetarian food, to be distributed to victims at relief centres. The activity was organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chung De Confucian Association, of which my brother’s ex-lecturer is a member – that’s how we came to know about it. We were up early to head to May Yen Vegetarian Restaurant in Kepong, KL, where we joined a group of mostly young volunteers to pack 900 packets of lunch boxes.

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The kitchen was sweltering hot, and there was little space to maneuver about. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning, but once we had coordinated the roles, things moved quickly – there was a team assigned to ladling food (tofu, mock meat, vegetables and rice) into plastic containers, another team assigned to putting garnish and sealing off the lunch boxes, and yet another in charge of packing them into plastic bags for transport. We didn’t really have much chance to mingle as everyone was focused on completing their tasks as quickly as possible, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

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As of the time of this writing, flood victims are still in need of help, so it would be good to donate either monetary assistance or in the form of goods, if you’re not able to be on-ground for relief efforts.

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That aside, I’ve been taking time to catch up with old friends. Shopped for gifts for a few close friends, and also met up with G, a high school friend of mine whom I’ve been friends with for over 18 years. We don’t always get to hangout since she’s based in Ipoh, but we managed to have a quick catchup session. I think she badly needed some alone time that didn’t involve bringing her kid along.

Motherhood is an immense sacrifice – I think a lot of mothers give so much of themselves to their child, that they lose who they are as a person. I’m not here to judge, but that shouldn’t be how it is, even though society often expects it of mothers – and it’s sad that in Malaysian society, we still have this mentality. A healthy environment should involve a mother having the proper support to raise her child, but also the freedom to stay true to her own dreams.

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Anyway, I brought her to 1Utama and we ended up at Rocku Yakiniku, a Japanese-style BBQ buffet that offers free flow of various cuts of meat and seafood, including lamb, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and squid. I’ve been here several times, including once solo for my birthday celebration (yes, I celebrated my birthday by gorging on a BBQ buffet alone. lol), and they’ve never failed to disappoint. This time was no exception, and I think we got back our money’s worth.

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We got to 1Utama pretty late, so I was starving. While waiting for the charcoal brazier to heat up, I got some quick bites – stir-fried udon, samosas, hams and fried dumplings. I know you’re not supposed to eat a lot of these at a buffet, coz they’ll fill up space in your stomach quickly, but the fried dumplings were exceptionally good.

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Two things that I recommend: the enoki mushrooms, and the scallops. They come served in small aluminium bowls that you can heat directly over the grill. The former has butter, which brings out the rich, natural sweetness of the mushrooms; the latter comes swimming in a clear, sweet broth, with sizable scallops that squirt juice forth with each bite.

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Another thing about Rocku Yakiniku: the shrimps are huge. Just eating the shrimps alone will give you your money’s worth, since shrimps of this size are usually expensive. They’re not marinated, but they’re fresh and juicy, and the grill highlights the meat’s natural sweetness.

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The meat selection is great too, especially if you eat it with fresh lettuce, which cuts through the greasiness.

Our meal for two came up to RM120, inclusive of drinks. Quite a reasonable price, given the amount we ate, the variety, and the service.

ROCKU YAKINIKU (1UTAMA)

F.355, F.356 & F.357, First Floor, Rainforest, No. 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM (Daily)

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Dropped G back at her house and took the chance to play with her cats.

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And that was how I spent my Christmas! It was a great one, all things considered.

Here’s to a great 2022 ahead!

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2021 in Pictures

In the long-standing tradition of this blog, I’m back again with another year in review!

Like most of 2020, 2021 felt like being in a perpetual limbo – a year peppered with uncertainty, and where life seemed to move neither forwards nor backwards. I missed my husband the most: due to pandemic restrictions and endless lockdowns, we were unable to make any concrete plans for him to travel to Malaysia for much of the year. But more on this later.

JANUARY

The year was off to a sluggish start, and I did not get much done other than routine work. This was when Malaysia had its second MCO (Movement Control Order), which meant that we were not allowed to be out and about for leisure, or visit family and friends in other states.

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As everyone was stuck at home, I took some time to try candle-making for the first time. It didn’t turn out bad, considering how sucky I am with artsy fartsy stuff. In a fit of boredom, I also finally succumbed to a Netflix subscription.

FEBRUARY

One of the perks of being able to work from home is flexibility. Much of February was spent ferrying my mom to the doctor for her eye surgery, as well as follow-ups. February was also Chinese New Year month, and although we weren’t able to visit relatives, we had a quiet celebration at home with lots of food.

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MARCH

Movement restrictions were eased slightly, so I took the opportunity to try out new cafes, eat out at restaurants and just grab whatever chance I could to get out of the house, while still adhering to health and safety rules.

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It’s amazing how changing your perspective a little can work wonders. I found joy in simple things like going out for a meal, or just going to a mall for groceries: I’d think of it as a ‘trip’, just like how I would for a holiday. And I’d pay attention to things that I would have completely ignored before. Take, for example, the time I drove my mom to the eye clinic. While waiting for her surgery, I walked around the CBD, and just spent a couple of hours soaking in the sights, taking videos and photos, like a tourist would. It was a refreshing feeling.

APRIL

I continued my trend of exploring local spots. One particularly memorable spot was Kedai KL, an artisanal market concept housing small businesses, from kimono stores to cafes and tattoo parlours.

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April was also when I picked up embroidery, surprising even myself. Being an INTP, I’ve never been good with my hands, prefering learning through books and pursuits of the mind. But I found embroidery to be therapeutic, especially when it involves making a pattern or filling up a space on the fabric with repeated motions. It’s a hobby that has stuck with me until the end of the year, and I’m looking forward to working on more projects, and upskilling myself.

MAY

I went to check out the newly opened Don Don Donki store, which is the first of its kind in Malaysia, at Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur. It was my first time in over a year being in KL again, so it was nice to be out and about.

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After some deliberation, I gave my old phone to my mom (because the camera wasn’t good anymore, and since I like taking photos this was a sore point), and bought a new one: the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. It was my most expensive phone to date, but half a year on I’m pretty happy with how well it works.

JUNE

Didn’t do much in June, except subscribe to a book bundle. I think at this point I was deliberating whether or not to quit my job. Work had become extremely tedious, and I felt disinterested and uninspired. It didn’t help that some of my other colleagues were also leaving the company for better prospects.

It was around this time that I felt at an all-time low. I did not feel as if I could move forward or grow anymore, but I was also worried about leaving the job and not having a stable income to support my family, especially since my parents were retired.

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JULY

Feeling dispirited at work, I spent most of my free time escaping into games as a coping mechanism. Also got my first AstraZeneca shot.

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AUGUST

Got my second dose of AstraZeneca. Around this time, I started having problems with breathing, as well as atopic dermatitis (which hasn’t resolved by the way, even as I write this in December). I wasn’t sure if it was due to my body responding to the vaccine, or whether it was stress induced from my work situation and basically being cooped up all the time. At one point, my dyspnea was so bad I thought I was suffering from COVID, as I couldn’t breathe properly and was gasping for air. The doctor, however, said it was just GERD. To this day, I’m still unsure if it is GERD, because although the medicine did not cure me ( I still have breathing difficulties), it is much better now and does not disrupt my daily life as much.

SEPTEMBER

Had a quiet birthday month. Friends weren’t able to celebrate it with me, as my parents were still afraid of COVID, so I tried not to hangout with people too much. My birthday meal was Putien, which I finally got to try after all this time.

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At work, the situation was on a downward trend. Another colleague resigned, leaving me and another colleague to shoulder what was essentially the workload of a five-man team. As the situation did not seem like it would be improving, it was around this time that I started thinking of making an exit, even without a concrete job offer. I felt like I had enough savings to last me awhile, as I was really in a bad place emotionally and mentally, and needed the break.

OCTOBER

Things suddenly started picking up in the last quarter of the year. I went for a series of interviews, and successfully landed a new job. Armed with this, I tendered my resignation. It feels sad to leave a company that I’ve spent five years in, building and honing it to what it is today, but all good times come to an end, and I feel like it wouldn’t have been beneficial to both me or the company if I continued stagnating where I was. I still had to finish up all my tasks before leaving, so I busied myself with making sure that everything was in order before I left.

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Managed to squeeze in some time for local sightseeing at Jenjarom.

Towards the end of the month, the husband and I finally decided to start making plans for him to travel here and apply for the Long Term Spouse Visa, which was long overdue. We had initially wanted to do this after our wedding ceremony in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and he got stuck in the Philippines. And then it was just one travel restriction after another. We felt like if we waited any longer, who knows what other thing the universe might throw at us – so we took the plunge.

Of course, travelling these days is no longer just about hopping onto a plane and flying to your destination. It took us months of planning and multiple rejections, running to the immigration and so on and so forth. In the end, it took us three months to have everything in place.

NOVEMBER

November passed by in a blur of work, eating out, exploring new local destinations like the World of Phalaenopsis in Ulu Yam, more work, and getting things into order for the husband’s travels in December.

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DECEMBER

And in the blink of an eye, here we are in December. The highlight of this month, and of the year, really, is that after nearly two years of separation, my husband has finally made it back to Malaysia. He will be here to apply for the LTSVP, which was delayed for so long.

It’s hard to describe in words how I feel – the sense of how much time we’ve lost in between, and the excitement that we’re finally going to make up for it, and build a life together. Of course, it’s not going to be easy, but the important thing is that we’re going to be around for each other; no longer through a screen, thousands of miles away.

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The earlier part of the month saw me visiting new places – a Thai wat, the new Don Don Donki store in PJ – and burying myself in work, so that time would pass by quicker until the day he arrived. I’ve never been a religious person, but I found myself praying to the universe that things would go smoothly, as it would be terrible for us to have our hopes up only to be dashed by another challenge being thrown our way.

But I’m happy to announce that the hubs arrived safely last week, and will be out from quarantine tomorrow. I will finally be able to see him after close to two years. I spent the last week almost in auto pilot, finishing up all my work for the current job before doing the handover, and also volunteering to help pack vegetarian food for victims of the recent flood.

The day has finally come.

So yeah. Year started off shitty, and there were more downs than ups, but all of it worked out in the end.

2022 is the year.

What about you? How was your 2021?