By Anthony Dylan

It has been awhile. I cannot remember the longest time I have been away from the place I was born since university. My last trip back to Kuching was in December 2019. I was not able to go home for a year and missed my mid-year trip as well as the Christmas celebrations. I was lucky that we could go back to my in-laws place for Chinese New Year in Kuantan in 2020. I was able to make two additional drive back trips last year when inter-state travel was allowed.

However, going home to my birth place has taken a while. The Sarawak Government’s requirements of entry would include the obtaining of e-approval and a mandatory quarantine for 14 days. All related costs for Sarawakians and their spouse would be borne by the Sarawak Government. This would include a swab test on the 2nd and 10th day.

This means that if we were to travel back home to Kuching, we would have to take close to a month’s leave. 2 weeks would be in quarantine and another 2 weeks for the visit. The least would be for 3 weeks with 1 week of stay. Would any company allow you such a long time off? Maybe without pay, they would. Or maybe, they would take the opportunity to ask you to take a separation scheme.

It has not been easy but we can understand why the Sarawak Government is doing this. Trying to protect your home is not easy. Even with that, there had been cases increasing in Sarawak which could have passed even the 14 days. No one really knows if the 14 days is sufficient but we all try to follow the best practices. Hence, it is important to know that though passed, we still must be careful with the required simple 3Cs and 3Ws.

My parents thankfully have their siblings there. At least they are not entirely alone. However, it still pains you when you are unable to go home as easily as before. We are also awaiting our own vaccination turn, of which we hope would be soon before Christmas. It is a target we try to keep our hopes up with. A proper Christmas with the family after 2 years. You can imagine not being able to help not just them but also the other elderly aunts and uncles. All you can look forward to are the long distance calls to them asking how they have been doing and coping. They are in good spirits but I am sure they yearn to see us just as much as us seeing them. We can only pray that there would be an opportune possibility.

My father has got his first dose and is scheduled for his second dose on the 3rd of June. My mother is still awaiting her appointment. I truly do not understand why they cannot have both husband and wife take the vaccination at the same time. This is something which would need serious improvement.

I also have cousins here who have not been able to go back too. Missing the Harvest Festival or Gawai twice and Christmas once so far are already painful enough. Some have also missed Hari Raya twice and some, Chinese New Year.

Why did we end up like this? In my own opinion I would think that the lack of decisiveness created this. Once you are indecisive and tend to wait for others, you would create a public perception of a lackadaisical attitude. This leads into a lack of discipline in following SOPs. More so, if some seemed to wantonly break them and get away easier than the rest and pay the fine which would not hurt their pocket. Who am I talking about? The Government, the privileged and the stubborn fellows.

The recent poor showing of the vaccination offer of the Astra Zeneca to those above 60 years old should have been better planned. How many people would really understand how to use their MySejahtera app or even check regularly? Would you really believe that someone would call you to remind you?

I believe that people should start thinking like marketing people for this purpose. Create a campaign on the benefits which is easy to understand. What is it so difficult when you could easily tell them even babies have to go through so many vaccinations and they did not turn out like a mutated zombie. There is also a real need to target those in need first. Either those in the high risk areas or those who have lesser risks. This is an equal argument but a decision is needed. As it is now, many are quite worried as to when they would get their turn.

I miss my Sarawak Laksa and my Belachan Bee Hoon. I miss driving around my little city where the hustle and bustle of the Klang Valley does not exist. I miss the Open Air Market for the Ang Tau Cendut and Sio Bee. Or the dabai fried rice or lei cha mee sua at the Fig Tree next to the Marian. I miss goading my father and listening to my mother’s rant. I miss the family breakfast and dinner with them. I miss the stories.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel many say. But, the tunnel seemed deceptive. We can only head to the light and with it the celebration of life. We need a reset but the button cannot be found as yet. You can only look forward to the light. Much as dawn breaks into day, dusk covers you with night; the only certainty is your own belief in getting there.