Third year in Penang

What a weird year. Our academic year runs from August to July so luckily there’s some positive aspects to third year in Penang from the second half of 2019! As we are all well aware, coronavirus has taken over EVERYTHING about our lives in 2020 so far. For me, the worst part about this is that I now can’t go home and visit my family and friends this summer. This is really tough to accept because part of the deal of living overseas is you know you can go home any time. Now that we can’t do that it seems very far away. That’s been very difficult to process.

There have been lots of positive things happening which I feel it’s really important to remember now more than ever. Several beautiful babies born, the first day of zero new cases in Malaysia today (1 imported case from overseas) and the fact that everyone I love and care about hasn’t been affected by this virus.

Prior to March I had several amazing trips. Singapore, Hong Kong, Maldives Langkawi and Japan. Can’t really complain about that! Lost out on some travel plans in 2020 but who hasn’t… I timed the rest of it very well.

We had lots of celebrations this year (love a celebration). In true international style I just celebrate everything and anything especially if you get to dress up. The celebrations in Malaysia continue to be colourful, fun and full of food. Plus I went home at Christmas and had the best time. We also got a new family member.

Asraf and I got married. That was impeccable timing considering and the best celebration of the year! I feel really sad for everyone who has had to put their weddings on hold this year and that makes me appreciate ours even more.

I turned 30 in May and was very lucky as the Malaysian lockdown loosened slightly on the 18th meaning I could actually go outside for the first time since March other than to go to the supermarket. It was a really special day with some incredible efforts from my friends and I finally received my card from my dad the other day, thank you Malaysian post.

All these pics are in my house but we did actually go outside for a much awaited cocktail where we all had to sit 2m apart in a huge circle.

We managed four visitors this year before no one was allowed to leave their homes so I’m happy and grateful about that. Who knows when I will see my sister or anyone in my family again?! Tom we miss you always and we kinda wish you’d got stranded here and never went back to Hong Kong. Jen and Andi you’re our best hope as you’re only in Singapore! We would love to welcome people ASAP and we hope that happens in the next few months.

It was a really confusing and intense decision of whether to leave Penang this year which culminated in me bursting into tears to Asraf because of the stress of trying to work out what we were trying to achieve and what we wanted. Given what happened to the world a few months later I’m happy that we decided to stay another year, continue with our current stability and wait out this madness to see what happens next. Penang is a really, really great and easy place to live a laid back life style. I definitely feel very lucky to live here in many ways and now that the pool has opened today (yay) life has definitely gone back to “normal”. We’re outside again, we can hike and see our friends and I finally got to hang out with my favourite IVF baby who I’ve been invested in since the petri dish.

There are things that I have really struggled with this year. I’m a stickler for a plan, I have to be organised, I like to be in control of myself and my choices. 2020 is not the one for that. I love my family very much and I’m extremely close to them. Not being in control of when I can see them is really not a good feeling. I’m missing an entire year (assuming by Christmas I can go home) of my niece and nephew growing up. I should be flying home in 3 days to spend 6 weeks with them and now I am not so that sucks.

I, like teachers around the world, have spent since March out of the classroom teaching online and that has been pretty uninspiring. It’s been a whole new way of teaching and has taken a lot of adaptability and self motivation. I do not understand how people work at home all the time. We still don’t know when school will open or what it will look like so that’s another aspect of having no idea what’s going on from day to day. There have been a lot of lessons learnt from teaching solely through a computer but I do not rate it. Bring back the classroom soon please.

So what can I conclude about my third year in Penang? I still love this island despite being trapped on it until very recently. I spent the first 5 months of my marriage trapped in an apartment with my husband. I continue to know that I have the greatest friends anyone could ever ask for. I do not do well when not able to go outside and I spent most days in lockdown crying at least once. I know everything there is to know about my cats now. I have even more appreciation for outdoor space and the sky. I love my friends and family back home more than ever if that’s even possible. I’ve become really reminiscent about parts of my life because I’ve had very little to do and that’s been interesting. Even when stuck in the house I will still struggle to do any form of real “work out” style exercise. I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve played a lot of games of scrabble. I learnt how to play 3 songs on the guitar. I’ve confirmed with myself that I really like having my nails done. I’ve learnt a lot about myself.

Summer holidays are now here which means a staycay in Malaysia but hey, there are worse places to be right now! Love to all who are stranded away from their families this summer. Fingers crossed for a more “normal” fourth year in Penang and everywhere in the world.

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