The New Normal in Melaka

By Farid Rahman

The clock is showing 1:02am.

Today, 9th June, marks the 94th day of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order or MCO that started 18th March 2020. This also marks the last day of CMCO or Controlled Movement Control Order. The next phase called Recovery Movement Control Order or RMCO will start tomorrow, 10th June.

These abbreviations, or what most Malaysians call “short-form,” can be confusing especially when these terms can just be called simply as a lockdown. The term “new normal” is no longer a stranger to me and I guess, to everybody else as well.

Governments all around have emphasized the practice of “new normal” to break the spread of COVID-19. That means social distancing, wearing face masks, and abiding by the rules laid down by the government. Disobeying any of these practices could result to being fined or imprisonment – at least that’s how it is here in Malaysia.

How did I cope with the life under this new normal? Well to start, I haven’t had a haircut since 21st February!

Since all shops and working premises are closed, I have been working from home and taking benefit of the advanced technology like Zoom to keep in touch with colleagues and conducting training for refugees whom I work with.

My apartment has been my ‘gym’, my ‘restaurant’, my ‘movie theatre’, and many more. It was entertaining to see other people experiencing the same such as sharing cooking videos and motivational speeches over the Internet. And not to forget, Netflix where I spend a lot of time binge-watching anything I find interesting. It has made my time during the MCO not that hard.

However, things started to be a little ‘boring’ as days went by. Despite having the chance to cook at home, I had been cooking the same dish all over again – to the extent that I know what I will cook on a particular day. Going to the market, at that time, was only allowed for one person per family. Having only me and my wife in the historical city of Melaka, I was the one who had to do the grocery shopping.

My goodness, I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to look for food ingredients!

What made it difficult was that living in Malaysia, I am only familiar with the vegetables in Malay terms. So, having to buy them with a note written in English by my wife, who is an Egyptian, I had to rely on Google Translate. Some of the terms were accurately translated, some were not. Luckily, since I was the one cooking at home, I told my wife that I will buy the vegetables according to what I will cook. I guess that was why the food that I cook never change throughout this lockdown.

From MCO that ended on 3rd May, to CMCO (4th May – 9th June), the government was confident that Malaysia is on the right track to win the battle against COVID-19. With various government initiatives to bring back the economy and save businesses, I guess it seemed to be the right move to do so at this time.

However, inter-state travels are not yet allowed, nor international travels – and I, with this natural Beatles haircut, remained at home with my beloved wife. I was more worried about my wife as she is here while worrying about her family’s situation back in Egypt. The situation in Egypt is worse than in Malaysia, and having my in-law working at a child cancer hospital, makes us both worried about her well-being. It became a sad day for us when one of our friends there was infected by the virus and died days later.

Beginning 10th June, the government has allowed for a number of activities to be resumed under the RMCO protocol, however the public should always comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that aims to continue breaking the chain of the virus.

The good news about this is inter-state travel is now permitted. I can see a lot of us applying for leave and returning back to their kampong, a Malay word for village, for Eid celebration since they were not allowed to do so during MCO and CMCO.

The other news is there will be no parties, night clubs are still closed, no karaoke, no contact sports such as rugby, which is my favorite, no football, nor basketball. But honestly, I felt relieved because I get to return back to Kuala Lumpur (KL).

I’m returning to begin a new life with a new job while close to my family and friends. But over and over, whenever I think about these experience, it seems to me that 2020 is not yet “cancelled.” We can say that we have sort of “wasted” three months of the year doing nothing and only staying at home.

But I think the year 2020 somehow changed our life for the better because of our sudden awareness on good hygiene and more initiatives to keep our world clean and healthy. In work aspects, it also led to more initiatives in improving work-life balance since most of us were able to work from home.

Nonetheless, I wonder if our education system here will include this year’s pandemic into their history syllabus. I can imagine Malaysian students in high school being asked the following questions:

Define and describe the following abbreviations:
a) MCO
d) EMCO (which means Enhanced Movement Control Order and is applied to certain locations where there is a cluster of COVID-19 cases identified)

To end this, I wish to say that I see positivity in this experience. Younger generations should always view this as a starting point to develop something bigger that can bring positive impact to the world. As for governments, they should always put the health and well-being of the people as top priority in their policy makings.

As for me, I can’t wait to be a father. ∎

Author’s Bio

circle-cropped (9)Farid Rahman currently works at the United Nations Refugee Agency in Malaysia. He was a graduate in Master of Strategic and Defence Studies from the University of Malaya and was a participant of ASEFEdu’s 8th Model ASEM 2017 held in Myanmar.

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