Where to start with 2020… A year like no other. With Covid 19 getting in the way of everyone’s lives it’s been a pretty underwhelming year for most people. It’s been a whole year since I saw my family or any friends back home and my first Christmas away from home. It’s been the first year I’ve had so many rules pushed onto me, where I can go, who I can see, whether I can go to work or not… It’s been tedious. It’s also been my first wedding anniversary, the arrival of new babies and my 30th birthday. I’ve missed a lot of important dates and I’ve missed a lot of travel opportunities. I’ve learnt a lot this year.
2020 started wonderfully. I had an amazing Christmas, got married and was in the Lake District oblivious to what was about to happen. If I had known I probably wouldn’t have been able to get on the plane back to Malaysia.
January and February were good months. We heard about the virus in China, we laughed at people wearing masks in the airport. We teased Tom by saying he had brought the virus from Hong Kong when he came to visit. We didn’t understand what was about to hit us. We saw friends, my sister came to visit, we travelled. It was a great time. Oh how long ago it seems.
Then we made the mistake of ever coming back from Japan. That was when things got rough. Alice and I faced some very unpleasant messages and emails. We stayed off school. We felt confused and quite angry. I was incredibly anxious because I was still very unsure about what all the fuss was about. Then we went into lockdown. School closed and we didn’t go back that academic year. What a bizarre situation. We faced our long lockdown where we weren’t allowed to leave our house even for exercise. The only time I went out was once a week to go to the supermarket. Life got really weird. Then we started to worry about the summer. Would we be able to fly? Surely we can always go home? What about our families? 3 days before my birthday the lockdown was lifted and I turned 30.
Life was still very weird. The summer came and we couldn’t go home. We were all really sad. I cried a lot over that summer holiday and although we are very lucky, we missed our families so much. We thought to ourselves that there’s no way this can still be going on at Christmas. No one can take Christmas at home away from us. We visited lots of beautiful places in Malaysia and we really did make the best of our situation.
At home in the UK, things seemed to be going to shit as soon as summer was over. In August we found out that the border was closed until December 31st. Yesterday we found out it’s closed until March 31st. Will we ever leave this country?
After the summer we went back to school for the first time in 6 months. That was really odd. Becca joined us and I thought she was mental for moving here in the middle of this but turns out she’s become vital to my support network in just a few months so I’m glad she’s a bit cray. We muddled through the first term, went back to Tioman and then went into another lockdown. School was closed again. It was tedious repetition.
Nova had her 3rd birthday and that was the real highlight of the “Autumn” months.
After that, Christmas fear, sadness and anger got real. We weren’t making it back. We were looking at 18 months away from home. To this day I only know one person who has had corona virus. I know people who are friends of friends or their family but personally I’m incredibly lucky. This does make it even more weird for me. It’s bizarre to think that a year ago we knew nothing about social distancing and now you can’t buy milk without a mask and a QR code scanner.
It’s been a really tough year for everyone in different ways. Most people now unsurprisingly have mental health issues of differing degrees. People have lost their jobs, their plans and nothing has gone the way anyone wanted. Sometimes when I’m feeling annoyed I think I’ve wasted a year of my life but actually I’ve done a lot considering the situation. Over here we’ve been very lucky and we’ve had a fairly normal existence for most of the year aside from work. Christmas has been tough and sometimes I get this really horrible feeling that I am totally alone even though I’m obviously not. It’s really strange not to see your family for so long and to live a separate life from most of the people you love. It hasn’t been a good year for expats but it hasn’t been a good year for anyone.
I have to say that we’ve all done a very good job over here of replicating Christmas, distracting ourselves and making the most of the life we do have during all this. Christmas has been fun, full of laughter and definitely one to remember forever. We made the best Christmas music video you’ll ever see, sang all the carols, ate all the food and enjoyed the tropical climate.
All in all, many lessons of patience, adaptability and strength this year. Friendships have become even more vital in the absence of family and the important things have become clearer. Many babies have been born in my friendship group (the most of any year so far) and I hope to meet all these children before they start school… In the midst of all of this, I got a new job in Kazakhstan starting August so Asraf and I will be leaving Penang. We’re excited for an adventure and a plan! Here’s hoping that 2021 is the year I can see my family again and all my friends at home and around the world. Happy one year wedding anniversary to Asraf and I, what a crazy year for a first year of marriage. 2020 hasn’t been my worst year at all, it’s been a very different year but I’m coming out of it incredibly lucky.
Leaving you with pictures of my babies who are the only ones I can’t really communicate properly with through technology and who I miss so very much. Oh and our Christmas video. Happy New Year everyone!