Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 - A Pandemic Year of Challenges

This will probably be the shortest look back post I've written in this blog as I didn't travel much in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

Ronan Keating Concert at Arena of Stars, Resorts World Genting - 14 February 2020
An acquaintance from church had given me 2 tics for the concert in return for a ride up to Resorts World Genting and coffee money. I happily agreed on the barter trade and brought a friend to accompany me to the concert. 

Although we sang our hearts out at Ronan's hits like When You Say Nothing At All and If Tomorrow Never Comes, I felt that the concert which lasted around 1.5 hours was a tad too short for the price of the tic. Thankfully I didn't pay for the tics or else I would have asked for a refund.

Mr Keating rocking the crowd at the concert. 


Participated in Kuala Lumpur City Day Half Marathon - 8 March 2020
This was the first and last run I had participated in before the Movement Control Order (MCO) kicked in on 18 March 2020. 

Because COVID-19 was spreading rapidly at that time, many participants didn't turn up and this gave ample room for those who participated to practise physical distancing throughout the run.

COVID-19 pandemic
What can I say but the pandemic has turned our lives upside down. It had indeed been a challenge and perhaps even a blessing to some extend. I captured my experiences during the initial part of the MCO here.

The things that I had learned during the pandemic warrants another blog post on its own.

Started volunteering at Samaritan Hope Home (SHH)
SHH is a centre for the homeless located in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. The homeless could go to SHH for a meal 6 days a week. However when the MCO was enforced on 18 March 2020, SHH had changed its modus operandi to packing food for distribution to the homeless instead. 

This is the food that we packed daily during the MCO:



Getting sufficient manpower to pack the food was a challenge as many volunteers were fearful of stepping out of their homes, let alone volunteer at SHH. 

In the end we only had around 8 volunteers to pack the food and clean up after. We started at 8.00am and finished around 2.00pm daily, 7 days a week. Back breaking work indeed, but the rewards were immeasurable. 

Visited Perhentian Island in August
This was a long awaited trip after not being able to go anywhere since 18 March 2020. 

We drove to Kuala Besut, stayed overnight at a small motel beside the bus station, and took the ferry to the island the next day. Along the way we stuffed ourselves silly with nasi kerabu and keropok.

After seeing the beauty of Perhentian Island, I kept asking myself how come I didn't visit this island before. 

Perhentian Island is indeed paradise on earth and I'm planning to make a trip there again once the monsoon season is over.


The drive from KL to Kuala Besut was an 8-hour journey which was too long for me. By the time I reached home, my feet had become swollen due to water retention. I had to get a feet massage and went for a short 5km run to get my blood circulating. So no more driving to the East Coast. Instead, I'll fly to Kota Bahru and travel by road to the jetty.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the coming year I hope we'll be able to travel more and that marathons (HM & FM) will be allowed too. 

Eventhough I like to travel out of Malaysia, perhaps 2021 is the year I do my part as a citizen by travelling more within Malaysia to help revive the economy.

However the end of the pandemic is not in sight yet. As I type this, a new strain of virus have been found, and eventhough vaccines are being distributed around the world, we do not know whether it'll be effective at all.

So in the meantime, we must take care of our health, watch out for each other, and trust in the Lord that everything will be alright.

Here's to a hopeful 2021.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Life in a time of COVID-19

The Movement Control Order (MCO) has been in effect since 18 March 2020 and will go on till 14 April 2020.

The aim of the MCO is for people to stay home and to practise social distancing. We're also told to wash our hands frequently using soap and water and to use hand sanitisers.

During this time only essential businesses are allowed to operate. Supermarkets and convenient stores can only operate between 8.00am - 8.00pm. However only the head of the family is allowed to go get groceries. Customers are not allowed to dine-in at eateries but take-away and food delivery are allowed. Public transportation such as MRT and e-hailing services have limited operating hours.

The Malaysian Government is very strict on this and many who have flouted the law have been arrested. Yesterday 24 seminarians from College General were arrested for playing football in the college field. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three hours of community service on weekdays for three months.

The World Health Organisation has said today that they expect Malaysia's COVID-19 cases to peak in mid-April. So there's a possibility that the MCO may be extended. I tell you ... if that happens, there'll be more people suffering from psychological problems compared to coronavirus.

'Work from Home'

I've been 'working from home' since 23 March 2020 after the Central Bank of Malaysia asked all banks to reduce their staff working in the office to 50%. The thing is ... my bank does not provide laptops for staff due to security issue. Therefore I can only 'work from home' via phone calls and WhatsApp messages. I feel helpless at times but there's no other way. 

More Time

Now that I have alot of time on my hands, I'm maximising it by doing all the things that I didn't have time to do before, e.g. catching up on my reading, blogging (already completed 2 blog posts in a week!), Netflix (finished Season 1 of Mindhunter), etc. It would be a shame if I didn't accomplish anything by the time the MCO ends on 14 April 2020. 

Routine

On weekdays I've established a daily routine like waking up the same time as on a typical day to the office. I need to report to my Head of Department every morning via WhatsApp about my health condition, i.e. whether I'm having a fever, whether I'm not feeling well, etc.

After showering and taking my breakfast I'll read the news and do some writing or fiddle around on social media.

Since the laundromat is closed during the MCO, I now have to hand wash my clothing which I do twice a week. Thank heavens that the usage of clothing is minimal when one is staying home. And thank heavens for dry-fit t-shirts which dries quickly. 

Food

I go out to get groceries about once a week and I wear a face mask each time I go out. 

I'm blessed to be living right smack in the middle of the city where there're many supermarkets and convenient stores within walking distance from my flat. 

I'm careful whenever I go out as there have been reports of people getting robbed on their way back from grocery shopping. People are getting desparate these days and some are resorting to robbery and thef.

When I went to get groceries during the initial stages of MCO, I bumped into three youth dressed in black jacket and black jeans in one of the lanes. Their menacing way of walking told me they were up to no good and I quickly walked away as fast as I could. 

During the early stages of the MCO, I had ordered vegan burgers and sausages online and that has lasted me till now. Today I ordered salad in support of local businesses. I made sure I ordered two salads to maximise the delivery charges.

Influx of Nonsensical Information and Fake News

Now with the MCO is in full force and many of us are staying home, people use their free time to forward anything they receive via WhatsApp without verifying the info first. Most of the time the info turns out to be nonsensical information or fake news. I've muted many chat groups and individuals because there's just too much of these being sent around.

What irritates me most is when two people in the same chat group sends the same shit one after the other to the same chat group. Clearly shows that people don't read their messages.

Chartered Banker Examination

My Chartered Banker examination which was scheduled at the end of March 2020 has been postponed to July 2020. 

Part of me was rejoicing when AICB called to inform that my exam had been postponed. When it finally sank in, the other half of me was loathing the thought of having to sit for two papers in July. Well, I'll just have to wing it.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

5 Things to See on Suomenlinna

(This is a throwback post to September 2018)

Suomenlinna is a bastion fortress situated on the islands off the coast of Helsinki in Finland.

Its irregular shape and unique history in serving the defence of three sovereign entities, i.e. Sweden, Russia and Finland makes it a top tourist attraction in Finland.

Contruction of Suomenlinna first began in the mid-18th Century when Finland was still part of Sweden.

The fortress was inducted as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991 for its unique military architecture of its era.

If you get a chance to visit Suomenlinna, you'll need to visit these five attractions:

1) Suomenlinna Church

The Suomenlinna Church was built as a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854. As Finland took cotrol of the island in the 1920s, it was converted into a Lutheran place of worship. A lighthouse, serving both air and sea traffic still operates in the steeple.



2) Great Courtyard

Designed by the fortress' founder Augustin Ehrensvard, the Great Courtyad was completed in the 1760s and served as the main square. It was badly damaged in the Crimean War in 1855. The square contains an impressive memorial to Augustin Ehrensvard, the architect of the Suomenlinna fortress.



3) Dry Dock

Suomenlinna's dry dock is one of Europe's oldest operational dry docks. In the 1760s, ships for the Swedish naval fleet were built here, under the supervision of naval architect, F.H. af Chapman. Nowadays the dry dock is used for renovating old sailing boats.



Here's more info about the Dry Dock:





4) Kustaanmiekka

Kustaanmiekka is home to Suomenlinna's original bastion and a late 19th Century Russian defence line, complete with sand enbankments and artillery points. The Kustaanmiekka bastion area provides stunning seascapes all the way to the mainland.




5) King's Gate

The monumental King's Gate is the iconic symbol of Suomenlinna. It was built between 1753 and 1754 as a ceremonial gateway to the fortress. The gate was built on the site where a ship carrying the fortress' founder, King Adolf Frederick of Sweden, was anchored while he inspected the construction of the fortress.



Getting to Suomenlinna

The most convenient way to get to Suomenlinna is to take the ferry operated by the Helsinki Region Transport Authority (HSL). The ferry departs from the Market Square (Kauppatori in Finnish) in Helsinki:

The Presidential Palace (right side of pic) overlooks the Kauppatori. Operators set up stalls at the harbour selling local food and handicraft.

This is the HSL ferry:



A return ticket (adult) from the ticket machine costs 5.00 Euro:


I opted to use the HSL app to purchase tickets using credit card. It's convenient and you don't have to deal with small change which can be a hassle at times. The app is really useful and I recommend you use it if you're visiting Helsinki.

When I was in Helsinki in September 2018, a one-way ticket to Suomenlinna was 2.20 Euro. After checking the current price for this post, I discovered that the price has increased to 2.80 Euro.


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