Pamper Dad with These Father’s Day Gifts from Lush Malaysia

With Father’s Day just around the corner (June 21), ditch the usual ties and socks and get something a little special for dad this year. Men deserve a spot of pampering as well, and Lush has a come up with an exclusive selection for Father’s Day, so you can gift them to dads, dads-in-law, grandpas or just anyone whom you feel deserves it ! The new range will launch on lush.my in the 1st week of June 2020.

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DIRTY BATH BOMB
It’s time to get cool with invigorating spearmint, tarragon and sandalwood.Turn the bath into a
refreshing lagoon of crisp, muscle -soothing mint and soak away all your worries.

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DIRTY SHOWER SCRUB
For soft and tingly freshness, use this naked (packaging-free) body scrub in the shower. Spearmint and menthol crystals cools skin, leaving you feeling fresh and clean.

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SUPERDAD BATH BOMB
From deep, blue waters emerge the sweet and smoky powers of guaiacwood and sandalwood. Superdad is here to save the day!

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DIRTY DEODORANT POWDER
A quick pit stop with this deodorant powder will have you feeling as fresh as a daisy. Pop some of this
powder under the arms and breathe in the crisp, clean scent to keep them feeling in mint condition.

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DIRTY SHAMPOO BAR
Perfect for scalps that need a little stimulation, and hair that needs a deep clean, pick up this reusable solid shampoo bar for a refreshing, invigorating wash.

 

Photos courtesy of Lush PR Malaysia 

Are Shops Actually Observing SOPs? – An Ordinary Malaysian’s Observations

On May 4, after close to two months under a strict movement control order, the Malaysian government started lifting restrictions, allowing for most businesses to resume their operations –provided they follow strict ‘SOPs’ (standard operating procedures). They’ve also called for people to observe social distancing and practice good hygiene.

Some parties (and medical experts) have decried the move as premature, since the number of daily cases are still at the time of this writing in the double digits. With the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations, there is fear of a second wave of infections, which might be worse than the last.

This has not been helped by the indecisive policies and often rushed announcements that are clearly not thought through, as well as conflicting statements from different ministries – which has caused even more confusion among businesses and the public.

For example, our health DG has asked everyone to wear face masks to reduce the probability of transmitting/contracting the disease. On the other hand, our Senior Minister has said that businesses are not allowed to turn customers away if they choose not to wear face masks . Also, interstate travel isn’t allowed to avoid people travelling back to their hometowns during the festive season, BUT up to 20 people are allowed to visit relatives on the first day of Hari Raya (provided they don’t travel between states). Idk about you, but 20 people still sounds like a mass gathering to me – and a comment on FB sums it up best:  “Apparently the virus needs to take a holiday too so they’ll be like ‘oh it’s the first day of Raya, let’s take a break from infecting people'”.

The constant call from the gov is to ‘adhere to SOPs’, but nothing much has been put into place to ensure this is enforced. To put it more accurately, it is IMPOSSIBLE to enforce due to the lack of manpower. People are inherently undisciplined (just look at the United States) and without strict enforcement, you cannot rely on them to police themselves. Already, over 1,000 vehicles tried their luck at travelling interstate to ‘go back to their hometowns’ despite knowing it was a clear violation and were turned back at the border. And these are just the ones the police managed to stop. How many more slipped through the cracks, we’ll never know.

But hey, I’m just an ordinary person going about my daily life – so let’s see how many places are actually adhering to the ‘SOPs’.

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Task: Buy lunch

Venue: Soon Lok, Bandar Puteri Puchong

To avoid going out and to minimise the risk of outside contact, the fam and I have been cooking most of our meals at home – but in the last two weeks we’ve gone out once or twice for takeaway. Went to Soon Lok, which has always been my preferred place for roasties (roast duck, chicken and pork). They’ve expanded some of their offerings to include convenient ready-packed meals, kuih and drinks. The resto is not yet open for dine-in, and there weren’t many customers during my visit.

  • Red strips of tape outside the shop indicated where customers are supposed to queue.
  • Most customers followed the rules and waited for their turn.
  • Staff followed good hygienic practices and wore face masks and gloves.
  • After placing an order, the staff gave me a number placard and I collected the order when the number was called.
  • The display area can be a bit problematic, as some customers move to the front to see what’s on display and ignore the line. When calling out an uncle for not lining up, he said “I’m just looking” but he was clearly too close for comfort.

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Task: Buy vegetables and groceries

Venue: 3 Onions, Bandar Puteri Puchong

3 Onions is a fresh grocer / convenience store that sells vegetables and daily goods. I took the mom out for our weekly grocery run, and she popped in while I waited in the car. While I didn’t go in, I could clearly see from the outside that NO SOPs were followed.

  • ‘Desk’ at front where customers are supposed to leave their names and phone numbers for tracking purposes was completely ignored by everyone who went in because it was hard to see. Even the Mom went in straight. I asked her later if she saw the table and she said she didn’t. Most other shops have an attendant to ensure that you fill in the details, this shop didn’t.
  • No crowd control. Customers waltzed in and out freely.
  • No temperatures were taken.
  • Mom reported that the shop was packed, and there was no social distancing whatsoever.

We were supposed to go to another store to buy groceries, but the line stretched almost the whole block so we went to 3 Onions instead. In retrospect, if you aren’t rushed for time, then go to a shop with better crowd control, even if you have to wait in line.

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Task: Buy bread for breakfast

Venue: Berry’s Cake House, Puchong Batu 14

This is the closest decent bakery near my place, so we usually come here for bread and pastries.

  • Excellent crowd control. Staff is stationed at the entrance to ensure that only five customers are allowed into the shop at any time.
  • Temperature is taken at the front door and the staff ensures you sanitise your hands.
  • Clear demarcation where you’re supposed to line up. Good flow despite the small space.
  • Customers write down their name and phone number at the counter during check out. Although they don’t seem to have the SeLANGKAH QR Code so everything has to be written down manually.

So out of the three places I visited, one adhered strictly to SOPs, one could do with improvement, and one did not follow the SOPs at all.

I understand that it’s going to be difficult for the authorities to investigate all complaints and enforce the rules – which is why it’s imperative for us to be smart consumers and protect ourselves. Here are some things my fam and I adopt that I think can be helpful:

A) Shop on Weekdays

If you’re working from home or don’t have to go to the office every day, try to do your grocery runs on weekdays. Since many companies are now up and running again, people have gone back to doing their marketing on weekends, resulting in massive traffic (and human) congestion. I currently go to work on a rotational basis (2 days in the office, 3 working from home), so this has given me the flexibility to go out grocery shopping on weekdays. But for those who don’t have that option:

B) Shop Online 

With many people opting for delivery services, getting a delivery slot might prove difficult – so self pickup may be an option. Some major supermarkets such as AEON Big offer ‘drive-through’ services whereby you place an order and they’ll have your things ready at a specific time; all you need to do is pick it up.

C) Go to Supermarkets 

Some people prefer going to wet markets because produce is apparently fresher and cheaper – but many wet markets have poor control and poor hygiene (case in point: The PJ Old Town Wet Market and the Selayang Market were both fenced off after they were identify as coronavirus infection hubs). Major supermarkets have better crowd control and also better hygiene, so if you’re really concerned about safety and health then you might have to consider sacrificing ‘freshness and variety’. Personal opinion: I also think that the crowd is less rowdy in supermarkets – have you tried jostling with loud-mouthed aunties trying to snatch up the best shrimp (pre-coronavirus)? Well, these same aunties have NOT adapted to a new normal, lol.

D) If they won’t distance themselves, distance YOURSELF 

People cutting queues is a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately, we have a lot of uncouth peasants running around who don’t know what queueing up is, and they will attempt to jostle to the front in a bid to get what they want faster than everyone else. Depending on the situation, I will usually tell them (politely first, of course!) queue up, or advise them that even if they’re ‘just looking’, they need to observe social distancing.

BUT I’ve also met people who get really defensive and rude when you tell them nicely, so if you don’t want to cause a scene, then distance yourself and let them rejoice in their hollow victory.

How are social distancing measures being adopted in your area? Are people following SOPs? Let me know in the comments section below. Til then, stay safe !

5 Workout Songs To Get You Going

One good thing about being stuck at home for close to two months?I have much more time and energy to work out (coz I don’t have to be stuck in traffic for three hours every day)! I’ve been doing it quite consistently since the start of the quarantine, and although things kicked off slow, there have been some encouraging results (which I will document in another blog post! :))

Copyright-free photo via Eduardo, Pexels

Most people listen to music while exercising, as it not only helps to relieve boredom, but also enables us to improve on the quality of our workouts. It provides good distraction (if you’ve ever had to plank for over a minute with no music, you’ll notice that it gets considerably more difficult lol) and good beats can help us to maintain a regular pace. Research has also shown that high-groove beats make us want to move our bodies, so that’s definitely a plus.

Some people prefer relaxing music as they do yoga or Pilates; others like the heavy, aggressive chords of rock music, or the upbeat sounds of a pop track for running or aerobics. As for myself, I find that I work out best with EDM and rap, which gets my heart pumping and my body moving. Enjoy!

 

Calvin Harris & Alesso – Under Control ft. Hurts

Starts off light then builds up to a heart pumping chorus.

There’s a reason why Eminem’s “Till I Collapse” has been used multiple times at various sporting events: it’s just catchy, adrenaline-pumping and makes you feel like you can push through anything. Boxers such as Shane Mosley and Shane Carwin used this song as their entrance theme during matches, as did Major League Baseball pitcher Jesse Litsch. It was also the official soundtrack for the bot-fighting film Real Steel.

Funny video of twerking bot butts aside, the beat from Basement Jaxx’s Never Say Never is great for working out.

Another song that provides excellent motivation, with uplifting lyrics and a catchy beat.

I am a giant (ooh)
Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see
‘Cause I am a giant (ooh)
We’ll be breaking boulders, underneath our feet

Something a little softer – Tokio Hotel’s Phantom Rider. I like to listen to this while running. The ethereal, breathy vocals and melancholic melody take me to another place, and nothing else seems to matter except my breathing, the pavement underneath my feet and the pounding of my heart.

How A Malaysian Resort Company Is Weathering The Coronavirus Pandemic

What with travel and movement restrictions worldwide by the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality and travel industry is undoubtedly one of the most impacted. But while many hotels struggle to stay afloat and running despite empty rooms and cancelled reservations, one company in Sabah is proving that it pays to diversify.

Formed in 2007 in Kota Kinabalu, Echo Resorts – a family business which owns Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort –  is keeping busy amidst the worldwide pandemic. Founded on the principles of family and community values, it has a wide range of interests covering hospitality, environmental conservation and wellness – and while its hotel division is not operating due to global travel restrictions and the Movement Control Order in Malaysia, it’s business as usual for the other divisions.

Organic Food Supply

Its Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn Bhd and Green-Os organic vegetable farm has seen a rise in orders from consumers and restaurants since the pandemic began. The fish farm rears an assortment of fish and prawns, including the Backcross Grouper Fish and the Echo Grouper, a hybrid produced by back-cross of a male giant grouper and a female hybrid grouper. The farm adopts environmentally friendly practices, including chemical and antibiotic-free organic feed, to ensure product quality and safety.

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Green-Os organic vegetables, locally farmed without the use of pesticides or chemicals, is popular for its variety of organic vegetables grown in healthy, fertile soil created by quality compost and organic fertilizer.

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“As a result of the Movement Control Order and a conscious desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing increasing delivery orders from the public. We are pleased that the public are recognizing the benefits of consuming natural, wholesome produce,” says Gillian Tan, Echo Resorts’ owner representative.

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The supplies are also delivered to Alu Alu Kitchen, the group’s restaurant located in the city, which was opened with a mission to serve fresh, organic seafood and vegetables from the farms. Its talented Head Chef Ah Keong creates nourishing menus inspired by Chinese and Malaysian influences to bring out the fresh tastiness of the produce untainted by chemical fertilizers and obtained from sustainable sources. According to Tan, home orders placed at Alu Alu Kitchen has also increased significantly since February, with some families placing orders for the whole lockdown period.

Alu Alu-Fresh Prawn & Vegetable dish

Marine Ecology Research Centre – Corals, clams and seahorses

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In the absence of visitors, the group’s environmental conservation arm, the award-winning Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) attached to Gayana Marine Resort, is devoting more time to research and development of its reef regeneration and giant clam propagation programmes, including caring for the Baby Giant Clam nursery. MERC’s successful efforts in the propagation of seven of the world’s giant clams found in Malaysian waters were recognized by the Malaysia Book of Records. The team has also expanded their R&D to include seahorses which have been overly harvested for supposed medicinal values. The recent births from two male seahorses have provided much excitement and encouragement into the behaviour of seahorses with the hope of increasing the seahorse population in the foreseeable future.

Health and Wellness

Reflecting the increasing current global awareness for health, Klinik Gayana and Gayana Pharma from Echo Resorts’ health and wellness division, are registering a higher demand for its supplements and medical services.

Employee Welfare

To keep employees safe and productive in this difficult time, the company has taken concerted action by providing training programmes, educational courses and encouraging voluntary work.

Tan says, “We understand it may take time for travel to return to a semi-normal state and we have decided that this is the perfect time to go back to basics and reinvest in education and training. It has always been our ethos to give back to the local staff, and this is a wonderful opportunity to take them back to school.”

With the temporary closure of Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort, 50 hotel employees are deployed to render support to Green-Os (organic vegetable farm), Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn and Alu Alu Kitchen – aimed at helping them gain a deeper insight into different areas within the group’s approach.

Besides volunteering to man the three resorts during this lockdown period which meant sacrificing time away from their families, employees are also putting their time to good use by making 800 reusable masks for all ECHO staff.

Tan adds,” Employee welfare and wellbeing remain the very core of our business. No employee has been made redundant. These may be trying times, but it has also revealed the tenacity of our people and it has been beautiful seeing everyone rally together to weather this storm.”

As part of its community outreach during this time, Echo Resorts has also contributed towards 2,000 food packs to affected families in need on Pulau Gaya.

 

 

Covid-19 : The Battle for Malaysia

Hey, guys! This is going to be a long post.

We’re coming to the end of the first quarter of 2020. To say that it has been a shitty year so far (for humanity as a whole) is an understatement, with thousands dying around the world, healthcare services overwhelmed, businesses shuttering and people getting laid off (I talked to a friend in Seattle a couple of days ago who told me he had just been let go from his job as a chef). It is extremely sad to read about how families in Italy have had to bury their loved ones without the chance to even say goodbye.

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On the bright side, the earth seems to be healing quite nicely without all the pollution and damage humans inflict on the environment. Although, NatGeo has debunked several viral posts about animals returning to empty cities (like swans swimming in the canals of Venice, as well as elephants in Thailand getting drunk on corn wine) – I understand that sometimes it’s nice to have a ‘feel good’ story to uplift one’s spirits, but spreading false news makes it more difficult to sift through the real ones, and can actually do more harm than good.

Tomorrow (April 1) marks stage 2 of the Restricted Movement Order here in Malaysia, which will run until April 14. The order was initially set to end on March 31, but we all know an extension was inevitable, as two weeks wouldn’t have done much anyway.

Malaysians in general are quite a laid back bunch. I don’t know if it’s a pro or con (perhaps a con in this climate where decisive and swift action should be taken). So for the first week or so, the government kept urging the public to stay at home, and for participants of the tabligh (the prayer session which was attended by thousands at the end of February – which is linked to most of the cases in Malaysia) to come forward voluntarily for testing. Of course, after pleading for two weeks, they’ve finally decided that the time for talk is now over, and have started arresting people who flout the order. Compliance is at 95%, but there is still 5% (which means a whopping 1.5 million) of the population that is not complying. I was out for a grocery run earlier (I’ve only gone out twice so far, both times for perishable goods because those can’t be kept long) and although many shops are closed, I still see quite a lot of traffic on the road.

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For those who follow Malaysian politics, you might be aware of the political shenanigans that went down just before the COVID-19 blew up here. Literal GoT. Long story short, there was a power struggle between different political parties, switched alliances –  and the party that was voted democratically by the people lost their majority due to ‘frogs’ leaping to form other parties.

All eyes are on current Prime Minister Muhiyiddin, to see what this leader whom we did not elect will do in times of crisis. While I’m not an economic expert, nor do I understand the intricacies of how an economy works, I don’t begrudge that there have been policies in place to help households, which are, all things considered, quite generous. (Where they’re going to get that money I don’t know, since they’re always talking about how empty our coffers are. Borrowing? More debt?)

The Malaysian population is divided into three sections based on income – Bottom 40 (B40), Middle 40 (M40) and Top 20 (T20). The most vulnerable group in times of crisis is, of course, the B40. I’ve detailed in a previous post how difficult it is to survive on RM2,000 if you’re staying in KL where the cost of living is high (the official national poverty line is RM980), and with some places offering barely the minimum wage (I once saw an ad hiring waiters in Puchong for just over RM1k wtf), those who fall into this category are now most vulnerable. With businesses shuttered, they are not able to work. What more those who survive on a daily wage (hawkers, etc.)

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The government’s move to help this group out is to offer financial aid in the form of cash hand outs, to help them tide over this period.

  • Singles earning RM2,000 and below – RM800 cash aid. (RM500 in April, RM300 in May). Includes single senior citizens.
  • Families with joint income below RM4,000 – RM1,600 cash aid. (RM1,000 in April, RM600 in May).

We have a large middle-class population, and SMEs are a huge part of the economy. N once said he was surprised to find the number of bustling mid-tier businesses in Malaysia, which is apparently not as common in the Philippines, where he is from. The M40 is the larger driver of the economy, so there are also initiatives to help them out:

  • Singles earning between RM2,000 and RM4,000 – RM500 cash aid (RM250 in April, Rm250 in May)
  • Families with joint income between RM4,000 – RM8,000 – RM 1,000 cash aid (RM500 in April, RM500 in May)
  • Deferment of loans from banks for six months, although interest rates still apply

To help SMEs and businesses, as well as try to prevent lay-offs, the government is also providing a subsidised wage of RM600 for three months for employees earning less than RM4,000 and employers who have experienced a 50% decrease in income since January 2020. However, this is provided they do not dismiss the employees or force them to take unpaid leave for three months. They are also not allowed to deduct an employee’s existing pay.

All in all, the government has announced a whopping RM250 billion economic stimulus package – some of which will be channeled into the aforementioned handouts, others in other sectors. I can’t fault it because it is quite a generous plan, but how it will be in the long run, nobody knows.

The biggest problem is perhaps reaching out to everyone – obviously some groups will fall through the cracks. Rather than relying on the government, some private corporations and companies have stepped in to fill the gaps. Lazada Malaysia, for example, has stepped in to do deliveries for fresh vegetables from Cameron Highlands (our main source of veggies), because the RMO meant problems with logistics and tonnes of veggies were just left to rot. There are also 3-D printing companies stepping up to create PPE equipment for front liners at hospitals, as well as various NGOs coming together to distribute food to the vulnerable such as the poor in PPR flats and the homeless. If you are not able to volunteer outside, here’s a list of verified NGOs that you can contribute to here. 

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Image from NST.

I must also commend our Director General of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. Datuk Dr Noor Hisham has proven to be a swift, decisive and effective leader who thinks ahead. He has been the face of the fight against COVID 19 since it started, and his calm and efficient manner has earned him praise among the public. He has already put into action plans such as converting the Serdang Expo Park into a temporary hospital, in case beds at hospitals nationwide run out.

COVID cases in Malaysia are expected to peak in mid-April, but even then, the good doctor has already said that this is something that requires cooperation by all – not just the government, but the people. In the meantime, for those of us who are privileged enough to just stay at home/work from home without worrying for the next couple of weeks, please. Be patient, and help by staying at home. Where you can, support local businesses, like ordering delivery from your local hawker stall if they offer it. There are people out there who are struggling to feed themselves. It’s difficult for everyone, but as the saying goes in Malay, berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul.

Stay safe and healthy, peeps!

Things To Do When You’re Stuck At Home : An Introvert’s Guide

Hello good people!

I hope you’re all keeping safe in this difficult time. Currently working from home because the Malaysian government has initiated a restricted movement order due to the COVID-19 situation – which means businesses (other than essential services) are told to close.

While it has been difficult to get things done for work (interviews and events have been cancelled, so I’m scrambling for content), there are actually several upsides.

  • No more 3-hour commute to and from work.
  • I’m quite extreme on the introvert scale and can go days without speaking to people physically, so this is a great time to recharge.
  • Spending less money. Not being able to go out means no unnecessary shopping or eating out at restos.

Before the office closed, I talked to a colleague – an extrovert – and he was lamenting on how he’d survive being stuck in the house for two weeks. “I can’t even go to my hairdresser or the gym,” he said forlornly. I was actually a little amused because extroverts are always on our case about how introverts don’t like to go out and socialise – and now they know what it’s like to be stuck in a situation that makes them uncomfortable lol.

In any case, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are actually plenty of things that you can do at home. Some might even find it a good time to do stuff they’ve been putting off for a long time, like clean the house, or play Monopoly with the kids (in your down time, of course – I’m not saying forget about work and go loaf around, lmao).

“VISIT” A MUSEUM / ART GALLERY 

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This one’s for the history nerds (like me). Many museums in tourist hotspots are closed, including in Malaysia. The British Museum (one of my favourite places – I could live there) announced its indefinite closure yesterday, and in Italy, a hub for European culture and history, museums have been closed since March 8.  While you might not be able to go physically, there are many museums offering detailed virtual tours of their premises and catalogues of their collections. On my list rn are LA’s J.Paul Getty Museum, The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, The British Museum, and The Lourve. 

Google’s Arts and Culture platform is a veritable resource for virtual tours and extensive catalogues.

READ 

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I have a bad habit of buying way more books than I have time to read – so now is the perfect time to catch up on some reading. I just finished the audiobook for Sphere by Michael Crichton and started on Lotus by Lijia Zhang, which looks pretty promising.

SPRING CLEANING 

A lot of us tend to accumulate a tonne of garbage that we don’t need, so it’s time to Marie Kondo all your sht.

COOK 

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Getting healthy, well balanced meals to boost our immune system is even more important in this critical time. For the non-cooks, this might be a good time to try out some recipes and hone your cooking skills! (My mom has been baking sponge cakes and what not, so we’re never hungry).

EXERCISE 

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I’ve never liked going to the gym (or working out for that matter, lol), but I guess it’s a good time now to, again, help boost the immune system and better prepare against infection. And a healthy body is a healthy mind, right? As unbelievable as it sounds, I do get regular light exercise about three times a week (although experts say it should be moderate) for about 20 – 30 minutes each time. I enjoy walking, so that’s what I normally do – walk on the spot. Some resources: Leslie Sansone, Lucy Wyndham-Read and HASFit. 

BINGE WATCH STUFF ON THE INTERNET 

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Not necessarily a productive activity, but it passes the time and depending on the kind of content you’re watching, you might even learn something. I have a short attention span (thanks, gadgets) so I’ve never been able to sit down and go through a series on Netflix, but I do enjoy watching travel,  culture and history shows. Some cool channels to check out: Absolute History, VICE, Life Where I’m From, PBS Eons, VSauce.

GAME

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My laptop isn’t new so I haven’t been able to play newer games. I’ve been replaying some Nintendo DS RPGs on the emulator (Fire Emblem – Shadow Dragon), and am contemplating if I should finally buy Borderlands 3 (Borderlands 2 was one of my favourite shooter games of all time) – although I’m not sure if my laptop has the capacity to run it smoothly. Another new release that’s coming up this weekend is Doom Eternal, but I guess I’ll just watch the gameplay on gaming channels.

OTHER HOBBIES 

A good time to engage in any creative pursuit – drawing, digital art, making music, writing… for me, it’s good to dust off the writing cap.  I know I usually write about food and travel, but since that isn’t possible right now, I’ve been looking at other topics instead, like this post.

And there you have it! I hope you’ve gotten some good ideas to keep yourself entertained and busy in this challenging climate. Our mental health is just as important as the physical, so I hope everyone stays safe and healthy always.

 

Humanity Is Ill-Equipped For A Pandemic

Hey good people!

I hope you’ve all been doing well, and keeping safe in this uncertain climate. Serious topic today, and the only one everyone seems to be talking about these days – the coronavirus aka COVID-19. Malaysia currently has the highest number of COVID cases in Southeast Asia (at the time of this writing, 238) – and I think it’ll get worse in the coming months.

Now a disclaimer before I get into the post: I am not a health expert, nor a policymaker of any kind. These are just my thoughts and observations, and are meant for discussion.

Coming back to the topic at hand…

As someone who likes zombie films and books, I’ve read a lot of literature on global pandemics, my favourite being World War Z by Max Brooks (it’s nothing like the film, in case you’re wondering. You can read my review here). The book is told through a series of interviews with a United Nations Postwar Commission agent, and narrates the post-events of the viral zombie outbreak and how it changed the face of the world. Eerily, the book mirrors reality: Patient Zero in the book originates from China – and despite government coverup (as in the case of Wuhan), it spreads through other means (in the book, it’s through human trafficking, refugees and the black market organ trade) – and by the time governments try to rally to curb the spread, it is already too late (sounds familiar?)

World War Z may be ‘fiction’, but it is surprisingly grounded in reality. The scenarios of which are laid out are exactly like what governments and communities are doing right now. And just like the characters, organisations and governments in the book, we are ill-equipped to handle the pandemic.

They say history is important because it is key to understanding our present. If so, then mankind has failed to learn an effective way of dealing with viruses on a global scale.

The Spanish flu of 1918 was widely regarded as one of the worst pandemics in human history. It came at a bad time, when war and poverty ravaged many parts of the world. Increased land, sea and air travel also resulted in the spread of the virus across the globe, something which would have been much harder in days before modern travel was possible. The result was a mortality between 17 to 50 million (some say as high as 100 million), as well as a devastated economy.

We are nearly 100 years from the days of the Spanish flu, with advancements in tech and medicine that many people in the early 20th century would have thought impossible. And yet, humanity and its constructs are still as vulnerable as it was before.

If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the flaws in our system. The world we live in today is a very interconnected one – businesses rely on manufacturers in other countries to supply them with materials, people travel for business and leisure, etc. Because of this, economies are especially vulnerable in such climates, because disruptions in the supply chain results in delays, shortages and panic. A very good (micro) example: the toilet paper scare in Singapore, Penang and Japan.

The immediate effect of the coronavirus might be fear of infection, but its consequences are far-reaching. It’s like a giant domino effect – topple one domino, and the rest collapse as well. Economic instability aside, the nature of our world today in which communication is instantaneous has also given rise to misinformation and conspiracy theories (looking at all of you Whatsapp aunties and uncles who love sharing unverified info). And just like in World War Z, the duality of human nature comes to light in situations of survival – shining examples of bravery, compassion and kindness (doctors who put their life on the line in service), and horrific examples of callousness, ignorance, cruelty and selfishness.

And when all this is over, we will once again bury our heads in the sand, blissfully ignoring the fact that the next pandemic, epidemic or whatever mic you might call it might be deadlier, and we will no more be prepared for it than we were before. Unless. We. Learn. From. This. It’s amazing how we have all these plans in case of war, invasion and terrorism, but have no effective action plans in case of a pandemic.

That being said, I don’t have answers as to what governments should do. This isn’t a sci-fi novel where the protagonist has an idea and gets plucked out of a suburban neighbourhood and involved in some ultra-secret government project to save mankind lol. But common sense (which is unusually uncommon these days) should prevail. Avoid big gatherings. Avoid travel unless absolutely necessary. Work from home if you can. Sanitise and wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And for God’s sake, stop buying up all the damned toilet paper. why tf do y’all need that much toilet paper? I don’t get how it correlates. 

Stay safe, peeps.