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Pandemic Tales: Celebrating Our First-Year Wedding Anniversary Apart

2020 was supposed to be THE year. 

N and I had our marriage registered in Nov 2019 after months of groundwork (flying back and forth to get documents and approval from the respective departments, etc), and we finally had our wedding ceremony in February – before he flew back to the Philippines to wait out the six-month cooling off period (Malaysia has this law to avoid fake marriages). The plan was for him to apply for the Long-Term Spouse Visa at the soonest possible time (May), so that we can start building our life together here. 

But then the pandemic happened. The Malaysian government imposed a ban on travelers from the Philippines (indefinitely), even for spouses. While it sucks tremendously, we understand this is for safety, and we don’t want to risk any air travel right now (plus the insane costs of quarantine which is like RM5,000+ for foreigners). 

So it is that we’re going to celebrate our first year as husband and wife 2,490 kilometres apart. 

Murphy’s Law is a bitch. 

But if there’s one thing that our four-year-long LDR has taught us, it is resilience. The whole point of us getting married is so that we can physically be together – but now that a wrench has been thrown into our plans, I think we’re better able to weather the storm compared to people who have never had LDR experience, because of our prior ‘training’ (not that it’s a ‘good’ thing, lmao. We’d much prefer being able to be together!). To all the LDR couples out there, whether you’ve been in an LDR for a long time or just forced into one because of the pandemic situation – stay strong. 

A friend once asked if I find it difficult to be apart from N, since we’re newlyweds and this is supposed to be our lovey-dovey honeymoon phase. 

Thing is, it has always been a lovey-dovey honeymoon phase, as much as you might feel like puking from reading this lol. And while it is difficult to be apart, I find strength in knowing that he’ll still be with me when this is all over. Hopefully for good this time. 

Like many couples, there are occasional disagreements and I’ve often felt like wringing his stubborn neck (I’m sure he feels the same way about me, lol) – but I think at the end of the day, we’re just two imperfect people trying to do the best for each other. I love the fact that we’re like an old married couple at times, but also giggly, immature teenagers who can laugh at silly things and act like kids. Coming from a household where my parents are the complete antithesis of what I have in my relationship right now, all I can say is I’ve been extremely blessed to find someone who vibes with me as much as he does, and who tries to understand and accept me for who I am. 

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@RIUH Kuala Lumpur, 2018

Still, it’s surreal to think that we’ve been married for a year now. We’ve come a long way since our first date at a Jollibee’s in Robinsons Place, stuffing our faces with fried chicken. It was also crazy because I recklessly flew to Manila without telling anyone and it would have been extremely bad if he turned out to be an evil person (don’t try this at home, kids – not all stories have a happy ending). 

This might sound cliche, but my husband is my best friend. We’re both people who love experiences, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to share them with. Who else is going to spend six hours in a museum with me fawning over ancient weaponry? 

Outside the Museum of Natural History in Manila. It was memorable because we got stuck in one of Manila’s infamous flash floods and only got back to our hotel at midnight. We also had to slog through calf-high flood water to get to a bus stop and N’s mysophobia meant he had nightmares for the rest of the week lol

There is nothing that I can really ‘do’ for him this year because of the distance, aside from penning down these thoughts. We’ve both agreed that we’re not going to send each other stuff, but we’re going to have a virtual date where we’ll order our favourite food (he’s getting Jollibee and I’m probably going to get A&W), dress up and Skype each other. Since it’s a special occasion I might even get some boba, ha 

The way things are going right now, we’re not even sure we’ll be able to see each other in 2021. It would be a funny story to tell our cats in the future though, “Hey, mom and dad were separated for two whole years after we got married. Isn’t that crazy?” 

Happy Anniversary, mahal ko. 

Mid-October Update

Hey guys!

It’s 12/10 and the gov just announced that we’re having another CMCO (for the benefit of my foreign readers, that’s a Conditional Movement Control Order – kinda like a ‘loose’ quarantine but not a total lockdown) in my area: which means no interstate travel allowed, plus restrictions on the operating hours of some businesses, for two weeks. Schools will be closed, as well as parks and entertainment centres. Only two people from each household are allowed out for essentials, and if you have to work across the border (in my case, Puchong – KL) you’ll need a letter from your employer – similar to how it was back in March/April when the whole nation was under lockdown.

I’m not gonna go into deets (because it’ll become a rant lol) on why we’re having a third wave when we were doing pretty okay. let’s just say politicians are shit and they only care about power – as they always do anywhere else in the world. Funny how we ‘learn’ about history and yet take no lessons from them.

Since this blog is mostly about food and travel experiences, I guess I’ll just have to write about other things again for awhile – that is, if I can find the time. As much as I’d like to post and write more often, there’s a crazy amount of work to do on a daily basis. What with pay cuts and staff layoffs left and right, many people who still have a job are forced to take on additional work loads, myself included. It hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I’m trying to power through because I understand that times are hard and no company is a charity case. I might whine about my problems online because it’s the only outlet I have – but at the end of the day, I guess it’s still about getting things done.

I hope everyone is doing safe and well, wherever you are!

Too bad we don’t have autumn in Malaysia lol

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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 !

Money Matters : Recouping My Finances

Hey guys! 

Been a little busier than usual. Hustling two side jobs on top of my regular job, which is currently undergoing a transition/change of management. Not sure if it’s a good thing, but there are a lot of teething pains atm that I have to keep track of.

Anyway, I blew a big chunk in my savings recently (about RM8k – or USD2000). It wasn’t entirely necessary, but the money was spent and there’s nothing we can do about it now lol.

While I still have savings, they aren’t at a level I’m comfortable with, especially since I’ve been in the workforce for over six years. And with the economy now in a slump (I work in the media/travel industry), the future of my career seems pretty uncertain. I am of course worried about how I’ll be able to tide this over if things go tits up.

To recenter my thoughts, I’ve listed down a cost breakdown of necessities I spend on each month:

  • RM500 – ‘Rent’. I still live with my parents because it’s more cost saving, but I make it a point to pay them this amount every month as ‘rent’. Living with your nuclear family is still a common thing in Asian societies, and I get home cooked meals – but my mom drives me nuts sometimes. Also, I can’t have cats at home. I will talk about the struggles of owning a house in a separate post, probably.
  • RM120 – Phone/internet bill, for the Mom and I
  • RM100 – Internet bill (home)
  • RM100 – Parking at work
  • RM200 – Gas (to and from work). About RM50 each week (my car is small and doesn’t consume much).
  • RM100 – Toll. Because tolls are inescapable in the Klang Valley. The path I take to work has a mandatory toll booth. The other path is free but the distance is further so the expenses come to almost the same amount anyway.
  • RM200 – Unit trust fund investment, deducted monthly.
  • RM50 – Donations to UNICEF.

Total: RM 1,370. 

I haven’t included food because this is where I have no self control. I love food, and I don’t mind paying for a nice lunch. The problem is when I keep paying for nice lunches and dinners – sometimes I can spend up to RM1000 a month on food (don’t judge lol).  This is an area I need to seriously improve on.

Even if I’m not going to cafes and whatnot, an average meal (no frills, hawker stall, no air conditioning, no drinks) in the Klang Valley would cost around RM7 – RM10. So say you’re only eating out for lunch, that’s still about RM300 per month, not inclusive of the cost for home cooked meals that one can make for breakfast and dinner.

Usually at the beginning of the month, I force myself to save a chunk (Anywhere from RM500 – RM1,000) in my separate savings account, which I do not touch. These are the funds I withdraw from for holidays, emergencies, car breakdowns, insurance payouts at the end of the year (health + car = RM1,500 per annum wtf. btw my car insurance > my life insurance so y’all know how much my life is worth lol). I also pay to run this blog (about RM600 per annum for storage, domain, etc.) because it’s a passion of mine. I earn zilch from it.

Other than that, I don’t spend on anything else, aside from the occasional books (I shop at Book Xcess to save money). I don’t buy makeup, I don’t buy clothes unless it’s the Lunar New Year, I don’t have a Netflix / Spotify account or subscribe to any entertainment of any kind (Youtube ftw) and I’ve worn the same pair of shoes for over a year. I also haven’t watched a movie in the theatre since Avengers: Endgame, not just because of the Coronavirus scare, but also because there hasn’t been anything that piqued my interest. If I’m in dire need of entertainment, I usually watch Youtube, read, go to museums or bookstores.

I know there are aspects that I can improve on, namely the food part. Some people might also argue that I can forgo driving and take a public commute instead, but I think that’s only an option if I’m desperate due to time concerns.

For the next couple of months, here are my plans to recoup my finances:

Continue my side hustle(s). I took a break from it for awhile because having to use my brain for like 16 hours a day was taking a toll on my wellbeing. I work from 10AM – 6.30PM, a large chunk of which is spent writing, then I go home and work for an hour or two on my writing side hustles. On weekends, I write for a full 8 – 10 hours as well. That’s not to mention running this blog, because as funny as it sounds, I need a space where I can write in my own voice, to retain some measure of sanity. The money from these side projects is actually peanuts compared to the workload, but they’re something to fall back on in case I lose my regular job.

Eat out less.  I’m setting a goal to only eat out once or twice (sometimes I skip breakfast because I can’t get up early – then I’d usually buy a sandwich from the grocery, and those are expenses). And I want to try not to use more than RM20 per day for food. That’ll still be RM600, minus weekends.

Reduce stress levels. This is another thing which I think will be very challenging, because I get stressed easily. I have anxiety, and the women of my family (my grandma, my aunts, my mom) have a history of mental illnesses related to neuroticism, like depression and anxiety. I tend to eat for comfort as a coping mechanism. Which creates this vicious cycle of stress – eat – stress – eat. Not only is it not good for the waistline, but also my health and finances.  It’s easy to tell someone not to be stressed, but it’s damn hard to practice it. I’m just going to try practicing mindfulness, and channel my stress into something else such as exercise or reading, rather than eating. 

Keep a record of expenditure (and stick to it). I have a bad habit of starting a journal to track stuff, whether it’s food or expenditure – filling up a couple of pages, and then abandoning it. I’m also not much of an apps person, which is why I prefer writing things down physically. I think having a financial diary is important because you can really see in black and white where tf your money has gone for the month.

And that’s about it. I’ll check back in a month and share how it goes.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear if anyone has tips on saving up and managing their finances – your input is much appreciated! 🙂

 

 

Why I Hate Contact Lenses

I hate contact lenses.

I hate them with the intensity of a thousand suns, and while I understand why people wear them, that doesn’t make me hate them any less. If hell exists, one of its punishments should be having people put them on and off, every minute, every day, for the rest of eternity.  I can’t imagine a worse fate for my enemies.

In my 27 years of wearing glasses (I was born with astigmatism, so I started wearing them when I was 3. Big metal ones), I’ve only tried wearing contacts once, back in 2013, out of curiosity. The experience was unpleasant enough to put me off wearing them – that is, until recently.

Eris circa 1994. Nothing much has changed.

So I’m having my wedding ceremony in a couple of days, and it completely did not cross my mind until I went for my trial makeup session and my makeup artist asked me if I had gotten my contacts yet.

Me: What ?

Stacey (my makeup artist): Your contacts?

Me: *stunned* Oh, that.

*Uncomfortable pause.*

Me: ….Can I wear my glasses? lol

I could sense Stacey stifling her laughter although she answered me with a straight face that it would be better if I wore contacts, since she’d have to put falsies on for me and all that other shit (I don’t like wearing makeup. ie I’m too lazy). I grudgingly nodded, my mind already reliving that one traumatic episode from back in 2013, when I wore contacts for the first time, in which it took me hours to get the freaking contact lenses out of my eyeballs.

Image via pixabay

Anyway, I ended up at the optometrist near my office. Some eye tests later, they gave me a set of trial lenses and told me to try them on for a couple of days, in increasing hours each time, so that my eyes could get used to it. The optometrist demonstrated to me on how to put on the accursed things. I wasn’t very good at it (sausage fingers), and spent a good 45 minutes trying to get them on and off (the optometrist wouldn’t let me leave until I successfully did it 3 times idk if I should applaud her for being thorough, or call her a devil).

And for the first couple of days, I tried. I really did. I’d bring the trial lenses to the office and try to put them on in the bathroom. The thing is, I’m fucking blind as a bat without my glasses (I can make out shapes but everything looks like they have a bokeh effect on them if I don’t lean in within 10cm of something, I kid you not) so the optometrist’s advice of ‘use your other eye to see how your contacts are going in’ might as well have been her telling me to use my naked eyes to look at Pluto. After a couple of tries, I managed to get them in and they were actually okay for like four hours.

Who needs bokeh when you can just take off your glasses – every person with severe astigmatism

Then it was time to take them out again and boy oh boy why did I lull myself into believing it would get better? Agony. Pure agony. I couldn’t see where the lenses were and could only guess its position. I ended up pinching my eyeball which was excruciating – I would rather go through an 11-hour hike through the Bario jungle again than do this on a daily basis.

Everyone tells me that contacts are not as clear because they move around slightly + the power is not as specific as what can be achieved with glasses. Which makes zero sense to me. Suffer through the agony of putting them on and taking them off everyday just to enjoy ‘okay’ vision? Like I said, I understand people wear them for different reasons (eg sports people, etc.) but if it’s for beauty .. like, why ?

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I gave up trying to ‘get used to it’ after a couple of days, because the experience just wasn’t getting better. Maybe I’m just dumb and I can’t pick up the correct way of wearing them; maybe I’ve developed a phobia (you know how animals learn how not to go near an electric fence after they’ve been shocked a couple of times because = pain?). The trial lenses have been sitting around for two weeks (I change the solution every 2-3 days, coz they’re monthly ones), and I think I’m only going to wear them on my wedding day. I mean I’m already going to be uncomfortable with all the makeup caked on and the falsies and the girdle and the high heels and the tight dress so what’s a little more ?

In all seriousness… I’m never. wearing. contacts. again. after. this. EVER. I actually like a little pain, but even masochists can’t enjoy this shit. People might go ‘aww but you didn’t give it enough time!’. Nope. Pretty sure I wouldn’t like it even if I tried wearing them for a couple of months. You know how sometimes you just don’t like eating something and you can’t force yourself to like it no matter how you try? Yeah.

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Admittedly they do make my eyes look bigger (me being chinky and all), but it’s just not worth it.  Also it looks weird. Like some sort of dysmorphia.

PS:  Me hating on contacts has nothing to do with how I feel about other people wearing contacts. If you’re happy /comfortable wearing contacts and they make you feel good about yourself, by all means! They’re just not for me. I love wearing glasses, actually. An ex once told me it’s like having two girlfriends when I take them off; wink wink.

Video Diary 2# : House Tour – Newly Painted !

Hey guys!

I mentioned earlier this year that I’d like to do more video logs – so here’s the second one! We had the interiors of our house painted, which we’ve never done since moving in (back in 2006). It had a pink and beige colour scheme before, with much warmer overtones – but we’ve changed them to pastel, cooler colours.

Welcome to my cosy abode!

 

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The living area. Funny how the TV was showing 2020 at the exact moment I took a picture 😀

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Dining area. Yes that’s a printer sitting on the chair; because the guys were still painting the back room where we usually keep it lol

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Mint green for the dry/wet kitchen area.

Overall it was a nice makeover – I’m not particularly fussy about how the house looks like as long as it’s cosy and safe – but I guess it was important for the Moo to spruce up the home. She likes the house to be pretty. We once moved out of our old house because the renovators did a shitty job extending the kitchen. There was no way of undoing the renovation, and she lost the mood to stay there because ‘they ruined everything’. We moved into a rented home for two years before moving into this current house, all because of that. I shit you not.

 

I Did A Vlog! New Haircut For The New Year, CNY Deco and Makeup Haul

A new thing for 2020? We’ll see how long it lasts.

sabotaging self before it even begins; gotta stop doing this to myself lmao

 

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2019 In Pictures

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s time to do a recap of the year again (feels like I just did 2018’s!).

It feels rather wistful to be saying goodbye to 2019, not only because it’s the end of the year, but also of the decade. The 20s have been extraordinary. I wonder what’s in store for my 30s?

JANUARY 

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2019 wasn’t off to a good start. My company took on another client but without hiring additional staff, everyone’s tasks and responsibilities doubled. The physical and emotional repercussions of pulling late nights and always feeling like there’s never enough time to finish everything took its toll, and for the first time in my career, I broke down at work. It was embarrassing.  My inability to pull off tasks given perfectly made me feel incompetent and worthless. In hindsight, I should have known where to drawn the line, but not wanting to disappoint a good boss and her faith in me, stressed myself out to breaking point. It’s something that I need to learn to handle more adequately.

I went to a cat cafe to destress. Watching and being near cats calms me. They’re my favourite creatures, although circumstances at home means I can’t keep any yet. Perhaps in 2020?

FEBRUARY

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Not everything was doom and gloom, however. While my job can be stressful at times, I’m also thankful for the opportunities it has afforded me. After a rough January, February saw me flying to Melbourne to watch the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, which was phenomenal. I grew up reading the Harry Potter books, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a new story brought to life on stage.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Melbourne. The most memorable moments include visiting the Lyon Housemuseum, a private house-museum that blends an art gallery with a living space, exploring the laneways of Melbourne on foot, riding a helicopter (for the first time!) to see the 12 Apostles, and spotting real-life koalas and an emu upclose.

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MARCH

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Got to experience Malaysia’s first private onsen bath!

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Did a story on unusual libraries in the Klang Valley, such as the Little Giraffe Book Club, housed in a refurbished old kampung house, the curated Rumah Attap at Zhongshan, and the Japan Foundation Library, dedicated to all things Japanese and more.

APRIL

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N came to visit from Manila, and we went on many little adventures, like watching a drum performance and visiting Cameron Highlands.

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Went for a short work trip to Singapore, and managed to squeeze in some time for sightseeing with a high school close friend of mine.

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Brought N for a work-cum-holiday trip to sunny, beautiful Phuket. It was my second visit and the crystal clear oceans and sandy beaches were just as breathtaking as the first time. But what made it even more memorable was time spent with a loved one. ❤

MAY

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A work trip brought me to Siniawan in Sarawak, also called the ‘Cowboy Town of Borneo’. The place has an extraordinary back story, the people are warm and hospitable, and the pace of life is just so different from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. KL-ites are often so absorbed with life in the city that we fail to realise that there is so much more to Malaysia than our little bubble.

JUNE

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Went to watch The Phantom of the Opera with the editor. It was my first time watching a musical, and the performances blew me away.

JULY

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Got to see digital reproductions of Da Vinci’s works at the National Visual Arts Gallery. Considering that such exhibitions don’t come to Malaysia very often, I think it was a great effort by the local government and arts and culture organisations to bring this to the country.

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Had a lot of fun doing a story on unique cafes, such as this one which has a 2D concept.

AUGUST

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Had an interview with Hong Kong celebrity chef Alvin Leung for the opening of Fuhu at Genting.  I was nervous af because he seemed like one of those chefs with a fiery temper. It turned out okay, but the interview never made it to light because it got axed at the last minute, which was a shame.

SEPTEMBER

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N came to visit again. We were planning to get our marriage registered in Malaysia, then change his tourist visa into a spouse visa, which would allow him to stay for another six months. Unfortunately, we were thrown into a loop when the marriage registration date got pushed to November instead – so he had to exit the country in October and come back in November again. A lot of time was wasted in the process, but we did get to spend more time together and explore new places.

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Another work trip – this time to Japan, to cover the Toyosu Fish Market. It wasn’t exactly a ‘glamorous’ assignment, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable assignments of the year, apart from Melbourne. It was fascinating to be offered an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the world’s largest seafood market, and in our spare time I got to explore parts of Tokyo as well.

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OCTOBER

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Brought N to Sekinchan so he could see the green paddy fields.

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Had a Masterclass with Chef Nobu of Nobu fame.

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Won a social media contest for Tapas Club, where we got to sample some of their excellent wines and small eats. I am now an addict of their garlic shrimp.

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Finally went to Bangkok! Almost everyone I know has gone to Bangkok, and they gasp every time I tell them I haven’t, since it seems like I’ve been to many places but not this one so close to home. N and I took it easy rather than rushing to different places, which I think made it more enjoyable. The museum alone was worth the trip (the history nerds that we were, we spent six hours in the place). N departed for Manila from Bangkok, while I made a lonely trip back to Kuala Lumpur.

NOVEMBER

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N came back for our civil marriage registration. We went to the immigration department to inquire about applying for a spouse visa, but was disappointed yet again when told there was a cooling period of six months, and that he wouldn’t be able to apply until May 2020. Which meant he wouldn’t be able to extend his visa, and would have to fly back to Manila (again).

It gets harder to separate each time, but this is a path we both committed to taking, and no damn bureaucracy is going to dampen our spirits. We maximised our time together by taking some pre-wedding photos in Ipoh, which we did on our own to save on a photographer.

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Brought him for a work trip to Seremban, where he rode an ostrich for the first time.

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DECEMBER

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Went with N to Melaka. It was nice to bring him to places and play tourist in my own country. We slept in a capsule hotel for the first time; an experience I’m not likely to repeat anytime soon.

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Our annual office Christmas party was tinged with a hint of sadness this year, as it was the last one we were having as a complete team. The media industry isn’t doing so well right now, and my company did not escape unscathed. At the beginning of the year, we were up to our necks with work; at the end of it, having lost a major client, half of the team would be let go. I was one of the lucky ones to be retained, but without the support and guidance of my editor, whom I also consider a mentor, I think it will be a very challenging year in 2020. I suppose I should be thankful for still having a job, but I believe the media industry is in a serious rut right now. For the next year, my goal will be to try and upscale my skills and diversify my portfolio. It’s a do or die world, and I’m not getting any younger.

Well there you have it! 2019 all wrapped. It’s the night of New Year’s Eve as I write this, snugly wrapped in my blankets with a fresh face mask and scented candles in the room. Gone are the days of going out for fireworks and partying the night away, but that doesn’t mean I’m not celebrating it in my own little way.

Happy New Year!