So, it’s been a minute! Last year, I made the executive decision to take a bit of a “pause” on my blog for a number of personal reasons. Truly, my mental health was not top-notch. I can blame it on the pandemic, but that wouldn’t be completely honest. Either way, I’m doing much better and excited for the upcoming changes I foresee 2021 bringing.
A Little Background
Despite my somewhat difficult personal reckoning, I really did come to love Malaysia. For anyone keeping up with me over the years, I actually was living in China and came to Malaysia on a whim in 2020 for a vacation. Then…well, you know the drill. Covid in China. Covid in the US. Covid everywhere. Panic, panic, panic. The world locked down.
The silver lining of all this was I had known for a long time that China was not the place for me. I was staying because I had just set up a comfortable routine and I liked my friends, but I knew it my heart it was not “my place.”
Malaysia felt like a different story. I fell in love immediately. And about a month before my tourist visa was about to expire, the Malaysian government offered blanket amnesty to everyone on a “social visit pass” (like a tourist visa–this is what I had). Then after a few months they extended our amnesty. Then they extended it again. And again. And again.
So I kept staying. I kept taking advantage of a bad situation.
Why I Left
In April, the Malaysian government decided all us pandemic amnesty kids had had our fun. It was time to kick us all out. I wasn’t particularly pleased about this because I didn’t really want to leave Malaysia. I had been there a year and a half. I had an apartment. I had a gym. I had friends. I was dating. Plus, I was finally healing and enjoying myself. I was afraid of coming back to the U.S. and “getting stuck.”
But, alas, I think leaving was a good thing. Malaysia had actually done quite well in the first lockdown. I remember on my birthday last year (June 4th 2020), there were no reported local transmissions. By August 2020, Western Malaysia was essentially normal. We were going out all summer. We were happy and enjoying ourselves.
But by fall, cases started rising again. There was another strict lockdown in January 2021. Then things eased up again. But, currently, Malaysia is in a full lockdown. They are sort of rolling out vaccines. But not with the speed and ease that the U.S. is.
And I’m really not sad I am missing all that.
So while I wasn’t thrilled to be leaving my new adopted home, I feel like I, once again, dodged a bullet.
For the time being, I am back in North Carolina. It had been two years since I was here, so it was due time for a visit. It’s always nice to come here and visit my parents and my friends. However, there are some other (more practical, less sentimental) reasons I came back to the U.S.
- The Vaccine: I got my first dose only a few days after I got off the plane. Malaysia has offered some vaccines recently but the whole process seems a bit more chaotic from the reports I am getting from friends and there is a three-month wait between Astrozenca injections (the one being given out in Malaysia predominately among people from my age group). Pzifer I only have to wait three weeks.
- Not Playing Quarantine Roulette: I considered going elsewhere when Malaysia kicked me out, but a lot of countries in Asia still are not allowing in tourists. One of my friends managed to get to Thailand but this was not like in the old days when you got a flight and showed up with your passport at the border. He had to get a two-month visa in advance with the embassy, submit a bunch of paperwork, book a pricy quarantine stay in Bangkok, and this is all just for a 2-month visa. I just felt I was a bit burnt out and decided it was cheaper and easier just to go back to the U.S.
One weird thing about being in the U.S. is that it is such a bubble of information here. A lot of Americans don’t seem to realize that essentially every country in Asia is still closed to tourism of any kind.
- Getting a new visa: My ultimate goal is to get back to Malaysia, but this is involving quite a complex (somewhat crazy plan). I think it is possible, but there are a lot of moving parts. If I am successful, I still need to apply for a visa from my home country. So it made sense to come back to the US and start working on the process. Everything is in motion; I’m just waiting for good news.
I’m really enjoying being home. My teaching schedule is very strange now but it is only a few days a week. Otherwise, I wake up early and walk on a very relaxing nature walk by the river to my new CrossFit gym. I do my editing work on my mom’s porch in the mornings and afternoons. The library is open so I am catching up on a lot of reading and putting a lot of my energy into revamping this blog and starting a new book club blog (coming soon!)
I plan to write more about my experience in Malaysia last year, what it is like being back in the US after so long, and my future plans for travel. Stay tuned! Gwen Gets Global is back in action!