Reporting from Kuala Lumpur, life in exile is pretty great.

There are only 21 cases of the coronavirus reported here but Malaysia is still being vigilant. Taxi drivers are wearing masks. The KL airport looked like a hospital the other day; everyone was in masks and gloves. They even started doing temperature checks in the building where my gym is.

As for me, I wake up around 7 am every morning, go to the same café where I do my creative work for a few hours. [Today I walked in to the workers all greeting me and showing me to “my” table and already prepared to bring me my cold brew].

Writing in Cafes

I go to F45 every day either before or after doing my “real” work.

I’ve made a few friends in the city and met a few other foreigners residing in China who have fled to Malaysia to wait out the craziness.

I’m quite comfortable here; I’m getting a lot done. People are friendly and I have a good routine. Plus, did I mention there is an F45 here?

F45 Kuala Lumpur

I cannot complain about my situation right now. As a transient person who has lived most of my 20s never knowing where I’ll be in a few months, this type of lifestyle is not new to me.

But it’s weird. No complaints, but I’ll say things just feel ‘weird’ right now. Not good, not bad, but weird.

Well, actually a little good.

I’m good, but it’s weird.

Survivor’s Guilt

I feel a little strange that I’ve essentially fled. I know my friends in Beijing aren’t complaining about much more than boredom (Beijing only has about 400 cases out of a staggering population of 20 million people), but it does feel a bit strange when your community is going through something and you aren’t there going through it with them.

I’m quite literally a fair-weathered friend.

Kuala Lumpur


But then again, my friends are mentally stronger than me. I don’t do well with staying inside for long periods of time. Access to a gym and a good working café are my crutches for keeping it together as a functional adult. As I like to joke, I’m about 3 missed workouts away from a complete mental breakdown.

So there’s not that much guilt. If I were in Beijing I’m be complaining constantly. They’d probably deport me from all my complaining. After all, there’s no open gym in Beijing.

The Negatives

The downside of all this is that I am paying quite a lot in rent for my apartment despite not using it. I’m also paying for places in Kuala Lumpur; it’s adding up. All my stuff is in Beijing minus a single backpack of clothes.

KL is not super expensive, but paying for housing in the short term is always pricier. If I could commit to a place for even 2 months, I could get a better deal but I don’t know how much longer this will take. In January I was thinking mid-February. Now I’m thinking mid-March at best and April more practically. All the uncertainty just makes it hard for me to plan.

I miss my friends and the communities I’ve built in Beijing and it’s hard to put in the effort to build to same in Malaysia knowing its temporary.

Then there are small things. Moving around every week means I can’t really cook. My last place didn’t have a washing machine and I only brought 3 sports bras with me. Math isn’t my forte but 3 sports bras, no washer, and a strict 6 day/week gym routine does not add up to good hygiene.

Is Going Back to China an Option?

Yesterday I got a notice that anyone returning to Beijing is subject to a 14-day quarantine in their place of residence.

This means that anyone returning to Beijing from anywhere (from a neighboring city in China to Azerbaijan) is required by law to undergo a 2-week quarantine.

I’m sure I’ll get more news as to what this looks like as it is implemented, but the Beijing authorities have left this to housing communities to enforce.

As of now, a strict version of this means you are to stay in your apartment for two weeks and cannot use the hallways, elevators, or even step outside to dispose of trash. The employees of your building will work with you to help you get groceries and food delivered to you.

Beijing Quarantine
14 Day Quarantine Notice

While I suppose some housing communities are more lax, I already know mine is not. So if I return, two weeks not leaving my apartment.

Is it silly that someone returning from a country with no cases of coronavirus to China has to undergo a quarantine? Yes. But this is China. And it’s a state of emergency. The law makes sense in 99% of cases (i.e. people moving around China). And for the other 1%? You still have to deal with it. I’m not going back, nor do I want to, so I’ll keep my long-winded opinions to myself.

Even before that update, I already wrote that so many countries had closed their borders to anyone who had been in China for the previous two weeks. I didn’t want to go back because I saw myself getting stuck in China and unable to leave.

The Positives

Langkawi Island
A private beach day on Langkawi Island

Honestly, this has been a great introduction to Kuala Lumpur and a reminder of how happy I am living in places that aren’t China. I’ve been on the fence as to how much longer I want to stay in Beijing and when I want to move on. I was considering relocating to Kuala Lumpur in September so this has been a nice trial period.

If nothing else, this situation seems to be a reflection of how most of my life is going.

Everything is good, albeit weird, and I have no idea what is going to happen a month from now.

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  1. linda Smith-Christmas

    Good Luck!!!

  2. KL sounds like a good place and it has your favorite gym although I think NC has a nice ring to it!!

  3. Love your perspective on this and glad you’re hanging in there despite all the uncertainty!

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      Thank you! Every day I’m liking Malaysia more and more and feeling at home. It’s definitely making me reconsider going back to China

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