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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.

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.

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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?

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Malaysian Neighbourhood: A Photo Series

I’m back!

I know, I haven’t updated for close to a month now. Being cooped up at home is getting stressful, even for shut-ins like me who can go for long periods of time without human interaction lol. Even embroidering (hobby I picked up earlier this year) has lost its spark.

For some reason, I can’t seem to get out of this state of languishment. I dread having to submit work these days, despite having the luxury of working from home. Also I had a COVID scare a couple of weeks ago; tested negative and recovered from the flu, but ever since then I’ve been having trouble breathing / a feeling of tightness in the chest. The doc says it could be GERD, but it could also be anxiety.

I feel slightly better this past week, so I’ve been going for walks around the neighbourhood, just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. It’s funny how being deprived of the basic freedom of going out without worry, changes the way you see things. Every leaf seemes greener, and I notice tiny details, on shrubs and flowers and on the ground, that I would never have paid attention to before. It’s true what they say about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.

Here are some photos from my walkabouts. Enjoy!

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The park near my home is small but pretty. It hasn’t been well kept so there are a lot of leaves and branches strewn around, but it’s still a good place to go jogging. But if you’re a mosquito magnet like me, don’t go in the evenings. Alternatively slather on some repellent.
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It’s mango season. I never noticed how many houses in my neighbourhood have mango trees.
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Also papayas

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Bougainvilleas are also called ‘paper flowers’ (bunga kertas) in Malay because of their thin petals.
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There’s a house a street away from where I live that has this beautiful garden in front, and it’s always bursting with blooms.
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Ixora, known locally as bunga jenjarum (needle flower). When we were kids, my brother and I often chained the flowers together to make garlands.
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Yellow alamanda

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A neighbourhood tuxedo meow in the grass. Despite its grumpy look, it was actually very friendly and allowed me pats.
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My parents have been into gardening these days.

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Notices prohibiting people from going to the adjacent neighbourhood.

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The Malaysian national flower, Bunga Raya (hibiscus).

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Hope you enjoyed this photo series!

2021 is coming to a close; I feel like I haven’t even processed 2020 yet lol.

Hope you’re all doing okay, wherever you are.

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My COVID-19 Vaccination Experience @ IDCC Shah Alam

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic first started raging across the world. In the initial stages, many countries implemented stringent lockdowns, but with economies teetering, it was not a viable, long term solution – which is why people are now putting all of their hopes on vaccines. The rollout in Malaysia has been slow but it’s gradually picking up. We still have a long way to go, but as for my fam and I, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to secure vaccination slots for AstraZeneca.

My dad was the first to get inoculated, and had his first dose last week. I had mine a couple of days ago at IDCC Shah Alam, a convention centre that has been turned into a vaccination facility.

Honestly, it was a little nerve-wracking because I haven’t had any sort of shot for over a decade (I think the last was for HPV, when I was 18 or 19), but I didn’t have to worry – the process was very fast and efficient.

Arriving at IDCC, we were directed by traffic personnel to the 6th floor of the building. Vaccinations are done on the 7th floor, and you can park at floors 4 to 6. If you’re taking Grab, there is a drop off point on the ground floor, where you can take a lift up. Parking is free.

Video (Although I barely had time to film anything because the entire process was so fast) :

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6.45PM: After scanning my temperature and checking in on the MySejahtera app, I followed the signs up the escalator to the 7th floor. There, ushers directed me to the first waiting area outside the hall. We sat for about 10 minutes, and once the area had filled up with people, staff members gave us two forms. There was a slip clipped to the top with a number and QR code.

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These are basically consent forms; Malay in front and English at the back. You only have to fill it in the language you prefer. There are two forms; one of which you will keep later. You can fill it in now if you want, but you can only sign in front of a witness; ie a doctor, when you’re inside the hall. Pens are provided, or you can bring your own.

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7PM: We were told to enter the hall, where there were many counters. I waited for my number to be called on screen, before proceeding to the relevant counter, where a staff asked for my IC and keyed in my details.

7.05PM: I made my way to the next section, where there were more counters, but these were manned by doctors. No numbers called here; simply waited until a table freed up. My doctor was a young lady who proceeded to ask me about my medical history and explain to me the vaccine I would be getting, ie AstraZeneca. After I acknowledged everything, I was told to sign the consent forms. She kept a copy while I held on to the other.

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7:10PM: It was then on to the waiting area for jabs. The jabs are done in sequestered booths for privacy, so you won’t be able to see other people getting their shots. An usher directed me to one of the booths, where my QR code was scanned to update my MySejahtera status to “Vaccinated”. The nurse showed me the syringe and confirmed that I was taking AstraZeneca before administering the shot. It took less than two minutes!

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7.15PM: Waited at another area for my number to be called. A staff gave me my vaccination card, which I will need to bring for my next appointment. Finally, I was told to wait for 15 minutes and report to them immediately if I felt ill or dizzy; after which I was free to go.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient everything was; staff members were helpful and polite, there were clear signs everywhere, and the entire process was smooth. All in all, it took me less than an hour.

Of course, the procedure may differ from centre to centre, so you may have a different experience – but if you’re going to take your shot at IDCC, there’s nothing to worry about. I would suggest bringing a jacket because the air conditioning is super cold.

My second dose is in about 8 weeks time. Hopefully things will go as smoothly then as they did for the first dose!

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Covid-19 and Life Updates: Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine

Malaysia has come a long way from last year – and I don’t mean that in a good way. From being lauded as a ‘model’ for other Southeast Asian countries for its quick response to curbing the coronavirus pandemic, we now have the highest cases of coronavirus per million people, at 205.1 cases (at the time of this writing) – higher than that of India.

How did it go so wrong?

Well, if you ask me, it’s a combination of many factors: poor governance, weak leadership, a lackadaisical attitude and a lack of discipline among the public, poor enforcement, double standards… the list goes on. Malaysians are also notorious for being super invested and enthusiastic at starting things, but are terrible at sustaining them. Sure, in the beginning, it seemed like we had our shit together. Everyone cooperated, and there was a sense of solidarity that we’d all get through this together. But as time went on, people either got tired of keeping up appearances, or simply did not care anymore. There are some who have no choice but to be out and about, due to economic reasons. But there are also plenty who are contributing to this current wave because of a “it won’t happen to me” attitude. And frankly, as someone with two elderly parents in the vulnerable category, I find this behaviour disgusting, and I cannot fathom how anyone can be this reckless and selfish.

There was a viral post by a local doctor recently on how she had to perform an emergency surgery for a pregnant woman who was diagnosed with COVID, and yet STILL went to visit relatives over the holiday season, KNOWING FULL WELL she was putting everyone’s lives at risk, including that of herself and her unborn baby. It’s time like these that I wonder if there could be a waver of some kind; like if we know you’re going to contract COVID because you’re being a stupid idiot, doctors can refuse to treat your stubborn, selfish ass.

But we can all talk about my lack of faith in the human race until the cows come home; it doesn’t change the fact that we are in a serious situation. I’m not trying to be a doomsayer, but our front liners are exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown, many people have lost their jobs, our hospitals are bursting, and our vaccine rollout is super slow.

Which is why I signed up for the voluntary AstraZeneca vaccine programme recently. And I was very VERY lucky to be among those who managed to grab a slot, because thousands of others did not make the cut and will have to wait for whenever the next one, whichever brand it is, becomes available. Of course, AZ was not my first choice, but with how things are going, I think it’s the ONLY choice for many people to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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To give you a bit of a background, Malaysia is supposed to get a bunch of vaccines from different countries. The three main ones are AstraZeneca (12.8 million doses), Pfizer (32 million) and Sinovac (12 million), and we’ve also placed orders for Sputnik V from Russia, and CanSino Biologics, from China. That sounds plenty for our population of 32 million. The problem, however, is that only a sliver of these orders have arrived in Malaysia, and our government is extremely slow at administering the vaccine to the population (you can read a more detailed report about the reasons why in this article). So it is that while neighbouring Singapore has already vaccinated 25% of their people, and even Indonesia with its large population has done 4%, Malaysia is lagging behind at an abysmal 3%.

In the early days, the government announced that vaccination would be done in stages: frontliners first, followed by seniors and those with comorbidities (since they are most at risk), followed by everyone else. Being a relatively healthy 30-year-old, I fell into the LAST category, which meant that if everything went according to plan, I’d be inoculated sometime at the end of the year, or early 2022. Seniors, like my parents, were supposed to start their vaccination in April.

Malaysia being Malaysia, April came and went, and my parents (and many other seniors) were still waiting for an appointment. The government seemed to be dragging their feet, and the lack of info further added to public frustration. Now I’m not blaming our medical system. I know our front liners are working crazy hard. But I think they are limited by many things (like manpower and availability of vaccines and facilities), and the poor way the programme is coordinated isn’t helping at all.

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The vaccines that arrived earliest were small batches of Pfizer, which were given to our frontliners. Then came the AstraZeneca shots, and many were reluctant to sign up because of the blood clots scare. This was a couple of months ago when cases weren’t that high, so a lot of people adopted a “wait and see first” attitude. The take-up was so bad that the government opened it up for volunteers, even if they weren’t from the Phase 2 (seniors/comorbidities) category. I initially wanted to register for this, but my mom cautioned me strongly (I’m being polite here) because she was worried, despite me explaining that it was all rumour-mongering and that the percentage of blood clots happening is really low. Like 8 per 1 million. To set her mind at ease, I decided not to volunteer. Cases weren’t that high at the time, and I thought as long as the seniors were vaccinated first, then I could always wait, since I didn’t get out much anyway.

But then May came and there was the Raya holiday. Despite being warned that there would be fines and possible jail time for travelling interstate or visiting friends and family, thousands still slipped through the cracks and risked their lives and health to go see their loved ones. I know it’s difficult to be away from family. Heck, I haven’t seen my husband since we had our wedding ceremony in February 2020. But that isn’t license to do whatever the hell you want. Sacrifices are necessary – we are essentially at war with an invisible enemy. The worst thing would be to infect a loved one and watch them die because YOU can’t fucking stay at home. Well, maybe you wouldn’t feel the guilt, because if you did – if you had even a shred of responsibility in your being – you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

So here we are, at 8,290 cases as of May 28.

Now, seeing that shit has hit the fan, people started to go into panic mode. My mom, who was initially so against getting AstraZeneca, finally asked if I could register for her on the MySejahtera app, when the second phase of the voluntary programme opened for seniors aged 60 and above.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Well, I called your cousin and he was talking about how your aunt and uncle are getting it. And it seems like the chances of blood clots are low.”

“That’s literally what I’ve been telling you since Day 1, and you didn’t believe me.”

“Yeah, well… the cases weren’t that high before. And our rollout is so slow. Even seniors haven’t been vaccinated yet. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait?”

I would have very much liked to say “I told you so,” but I didn’t want another fight so I just did what she asked. And as long as my parents are getting vaccinated, I guess it doesn’t matter if it took an outsider to convince her lol. “You and Cyrus (my brother) should take it too,” she said. “You’re both in the last category, and we’re not even sure if you’ll get it next year, at the rate this is going,”

From naysayer to advocate! I thought.

Unfortunately, the time for being able to leisurely sign up was over. EVERYONE was thinking the same thing. On Wednesday, when the government opened registration for below 60s, it was pandemonium. If you’ve ever tried buying concert tickets for a popular band online, it was exactly like that.

I knew it was going to happen, and that the website would probably crash due to traffic, so my brother and I had our laptops and our phone at the ready at 12pm. The registration got delayed until 12.15pm. Once the button appeared, we were both clicking furiously on both sides: I had one hand on my mouse and the other hovering over the refresh button on my Samsung. True enough, the website kept crashing. At one point, I managed to get to the registration page – but it wouldn’t allow me to select the state I was in. At another, I got past that stage, but it wouldn’t allow me to set the date, even though the slot showed it was still available. Then, of course, the dreaded “I am not a robot”, and having to pick out the frames with bicycles or highways, only to have it crash and repeat everything all over again.

By sheer luck or force of will, I finally managed to submit my details after 40 minutes, and my brother got his shortly after. Registrations were closed after just over an hour, in which over 1 million slots were snapped up.

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You won’t believe the relief I felt when I saw this screen lol. Like I can finally give my fingers a break.

I was one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends expressed frustration, not only because they didn’t get it, but also because the entire experience with the website was such a shitty one. There were memes about how many laptop mice and phone screens must have been damaged that day.

Surprisingly, there were people who appeared not to have gotten through, but received a notification the next day that their application went through. My notification came almost 48 hours later. The earliest available date when I clicked was on 4 July. So July it is. My parents are getting theirs in late June, and my brother in late July.

Honestly, I just feel like it’s a load off my back. I’m not really worried about myself, because I feel I’m fairly healthy and strong – but I’m worried about catching it and spreading it to my parents, who both have comorbidities. Beyond the physical aspect, I also think getting the vaccine is a good thing for my mom’s mental health – at least she would feel a little safer knowing that we have some form of protection. My mom has always been an excessive worrier, and this pandemic has just exacerbated the condition, to the point that it makes things difficult for everyone else living under the same roof. Not that it’s her fault, of course – that’s just how some moms are, and I know that despite her demeanour, she wants what’s best for us.

Life feels like it has been on hold for the past 1.5 years. Can’t wait for things to resume some semblance of normalcy again – or at least normal enough that it’ll be safe for us to go out again (and for the hubs to travel here!).

It will be a long and hard road, but I’m hopeful the day will come. Until then, all we can do is keep ourselves, and our loved ones, as safe as we can.

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PS: Update – The government has just announced a full lockdown from June 1 to June 14, whereby only essential services will be allowed to operate. This will be similar to the first lockdown we had back in March 2020. Dunno, just feel it’s a bit too little too late seeing as how people have been calling for one for the longest time.. rather than allowing leniency and just letting things drag on until it got to this point – but hey. I’m not a policy maker, nor am I an economist, so what do I know?

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Why It Can Be Hard To “KonMari” Your Stuff

This month has been pretty bad for blogging – it’s already the 17th and I’ve only made two posts. Partly it’s because Malaysia is currently undergoing another ‘lockdown’ due to the rising number of cases (and deaths, which is worrying), so I haven’t been able to go out much; but it’s also because I’m in a writing slump again.

We had a four-day weekend for Hari Raya, but celebrations have been subdued as people have not been able to go home to visit their loved ones, some for the second year in a row. As for my fam and I, we took the time to rest. My mom has been very worried throughout this entire pandemic, and with cases on the rise, she won’t even let us go out to buy food unless it’s absolutely necessary, preferring to cook all of our meals instead.

But enough gloom and doom – I did something productive over the break, ie cleaned my workspace!

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I am currently working from home full-time, so having a proper workspace is important. But I’m also not the most organised person in the world and my workspaces (even when I had an office) tend to get messy with bits of paper and notes. To tidy up, I took some of my books to the shelf outside so there’d be more space, wiped down the dust, and put away smaller accessories that were contributing to the clutter. Also gave away two Apple mouse units that I’ve been keeping for the office (company told me to get rid of them coz they didn’t want to ship it to Singapore, but I didn’t want to throw them).

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While cleaning up, I sorted out my accessories and trinkets, thinking to throw away the older ones that I no longer use.

I ended up keeping everything lol.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype over the KonMari method, attributed to Japanese consultant Marie Kondo. In her approach, Kondo advised people to keep only the things that ‘spark joy’, and let everything else go.

The thing is, all of these things have sparked joy to me at one point in my life, and in some small way, they still do. I still feel nostalgic and happy when I look at them and think back on the memories associated with each object. I know some people would call it silly and sentimental, and maybe it is, but it’s also vulnerably human.

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Some people enjoy collecting fridge magnets or keychains as souvenirs from the places they’ve traveled to. For me – and I did not realise this until I looked over my ‘collection’ – I apparently enjoyed collecting accessories. Some of these were given as gifts, which makes them even more meaningful.

On the left is a bead necklace that was gifted to me by my hosts on a trip to Siniawan, aka the Cowboy Town of Borneo. The ‘town’ is really not more than a dozen traditional wooden shoplots along a main street, a town hall and a nearby temple – but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. I got to ride a sampan across the river (which has crocodiles, by the way!), experience a Gawai festival with the local Bidayuh community, eat amazing kolo mee that was just RM3 ffs, and take in the sight of a gorgeous pink sunset for a few nights in a row.

On the right is also a bead necklace, which I bought from Auntie Sina Rang at the Bario longhouse where I was staying. This trip was an unforgettable one because I got stuck on a hike for 11 hours in the Borneo rainforest, and the longhouse residents were so worried they sent a search and rescue team because it was already dark and we were supposed to have been back like 6 hours ago lol. You can read about it here.

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Me and my fellow members of the media before everything went to hell (for me).
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Hardcore hiking
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Siniawan, the Cowboy Town of Borneo.
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Also from the Bario trip: woven bracelets which I bought from a visiting Penan tribe. They are nomadic and only come to the longhouse occasionally so it was fortunate timing!
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Coconut shell bracelet from a 2014 Bali trip. It was my first time visiting Indonesia. Since then I’ve been to Bandung and Yogyakarta. Can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so I can travel, to different parts this time.

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Decorative necklaces from Venice, from my 2012 graduation trip to Europe. Venice was gorgeous in is own way, but it was also extremely crowded with tourists, and the canals smelled. Still glad I got to see it in my lifetime, before the city sinks.
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A brooch from Fuhu, Genting. Also a Sarubobo doll from Japan, which Japanese grandmothers make for their grandchildren for their safety and wellbeing. On a trip to Tokyo, I got to write my own well wishes for the sarubobo’s clothing and pin it onto the doll.
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A Catholic necklace with wooden crosses and a carving of Jesus, which I got from a shop outside Antipolo Church in the Philippines. I was there with my ex on Ash Wednesday, and it was interesting to see the rituals and sit in on mass. I didn’t get the necklace because of religious reasons, but because one of the ladies manning the shops insisted we buy something, I didn’t know how to say no lol.

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A necklace inspired by Aboriginal art. Got this from the shop at Tower Hill Reserve in Victoria, where we saw a bunch of koalas hiding in trees, and encountered a rogue emu blocking the van that we were travelling in.
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Of course, travel memories aren’t the only things that makes it difficult for me to throw stuff away. I also have a lot of random accessories that I have fond feelings for – like these wooden bracelets. One of them is falling apart, but I can’t find it in me to just dump it because it was my favourite bracelet to wear in college and through the early years of my adult life (back when lots of accessories were a thing).

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The evolution of my earrings – from a sharp, rebellious-looking stud in my college days, to the ‘elegant’ ones that I wear for social outings today. By today I mean like two years ago, when we could still go out for gatherings. lol
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And other, assorted bracelets.

So you see, it’s not easy to KonMari your stuff, when there is so much to reminisce on each time you look at them. I think this is also why people find it difficult to let go or throw things away. They are all reminders of a happier time, and form a part of your life’s story.

I guess I’ll be holding on to some of these things for a bit longer.

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Picking Up A New Hobby: Embroidery

I think I’ve mentioned this many times before on my blog, but i’m not exactly good with my hands. There are people out there who have a natural affinity for this sort of thing (painting, pottery, fixing lightbulbs, cooking, etc.) — I, sadly, am not one of them.

As a kid, I always had my nose in a book, and while I could spout obscure trivia about ancient Egyptian religions, theories on evolution and how dinosaurs could have gone extinct, I couldn’t make or fix anything to save my life. I also sucked at sports. In short, I was (and still am), a big nerd. In an RPG, I’d probably be the wizard or some sort of priestess; all brains and no brawn. INT5, AGI, STR and DEX 0.

The hobbies I enjoy (and can stick to) tend to involve pursuits of the mind, like reading and blogging. Also, being an INTP with the attention span of a goldfish, I tend to flit from one hobby to another — usually whatever catches my fancy at the moment (I dabbled in drawing comics, making figurines, soap making, candle making). My interest usually fizzles out if:

a) I don’t get the hang of it within 2 sessions, or

b) I find that it’s actually pretty easy, and I get bored lol (I do sound like a fickle and hard-to-please person, don’t I?)

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So when I ordered an embroidery kit a couple of months ago, I surprised even myself. The idea of repeatedly poking a needle and thread through a piece of cloth didn’t exactly scream excitement, but I was bored of being stuck at home (thanks, COVID!) and wanted to do something different.

A couple of weeks prior, I had ordered some air-dried clay in a horribly misguided attempt at making polymer clay jewellery. After the first few pieces ended up looking like they came out of Satan’s butthole, I promptly gave up. My embroidery kit seemed set to end up in the same place; at the bottom of a box in a corner, together with the rest of my failed ‘projects’.

But then…

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I actually found stitching to be… oddly satisfying. And it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, even for my sausage fingers. Sure, I couldn’t pull off dainty, tiny stitches, but the ones I made seemed good enough for ‘everyday use’, so to speak. It was challenging enough to keep my interest, but not difficult to the point where I’d give up.

One of my biggest weaknesses is wanting fast and easy results — if I don’t pick up something immediately (or within a few tries), I tend to get discouraged and lose interest. To prevent this from happening, I chose a piece with an easy pattern: one that used basic, easy stitches even beginners could follow, but would still look nice enough for display.

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The first piece came together nicely, and although I messed up some parts, it still looked pretty good. Knowing how bad I am usually with handicrafts, and seeing that it was my first time, I felt a tiny surge of pride at the results.

Which prompted me to order another kit. And another.

At the time of this writing, I have completed three pieces, with three more to go. Not counting all the equipment and thread I bought separately.

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My second piece had a bit more colour, and I learned a few different stitching techniques.

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While I enjoy embroidery as an activity for relaxation – there are a couple of takeaways from this new hobby of mine, which I think are good to reflect on.

It’s okay not to be perfect

I am a perfectionist, and I often think that whatever I make doesn’t match up to the standards that I have in mind (A lifetime of being told you’re not good enough will do that to you). As a result, I often miss opportunities to showcase what I have, because of my pervasive fear of rejection and failure. That, and I refuse to present anything short of (what I think is) perfection. I miss out on a lot of things because my lack of self confidence holds me back; even if I have a great idea, I overthink things and end up not voicing them out at all. It’s true what they say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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That’s just it though – in the real world, perfection rarely exists. Even when I was posting my second embroidery piece, I kept criticising my own stitching, despite other people telling me that it looked okay. It’s a bad habit, but being more aware of it means that I can actively take steps to prevent myself from getting into that head space. So yeah, it’s okay for that stitch to not be completely straight; I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. If anything, it adds character to the piece and shows that it’s made by a human, not a machine.

Practice

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As mentioned earlier, I have a short attention span and little patience. Unlike people who feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach a milestone after months (or even years) of hard work, the same concept when applied to me would just make me feel stupid and incompetent. I like to be able to grasp something quickly – which is why many of my projects have a great head start but run out of steam eventually. The reality is, many things require practice – Rome wasn’t built in a day. I have to constantly remind myself that it took years for masters to reach the pinnacle of their art, if ever.

You do You

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I follow many artists on Instagram, and it can be daunting to see how amazingly talented some people are. It can also feel like no matter how hard I work, or what I do (channeling some Rock Lee from Naruto here), I’ll never catch up to their level of genius – so why bother? This kind of apathy can be dangerous and soul crushing for aspiring creatives. Again, I have to constantly remind myself that I, too, can make good art and contribute useful ideas. Art is subjective, really – and there’s beauty in just the act of creating. Even if you’re the only person who admires your own art, as long as you’re working to create something and improving on your skills, then there is no such thing as ‘wasted’ effort. And that applies for things besides art. Like life, in general.

Currently, I’m looking to work on more pieces and if I’m comfortable enough, open up for commissions. Embroidery is a pretty expensive hobby when you count in the cost of materials and time, so I’m hoping that by doing so I can offset some of the costs. And who knows? Maybe this’ll be one of those things that will keep my interest as long as blogging has.

What are some of the projects that you’re currently working on? Have you picked up a new hobby during the pandemic? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.

And if you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website by buying me a cup of coffee through Paypal. This will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. You can also support me on Patreon. Thanks for stopping by!