A Malaysian’s Covid-19 Situation Experience from Los Angeles, Entry #1

Los Angeles, California.

It’s been 5 days since I landed in Los Angeles, California with my husband who’s a US citizen. We live in Kuala Lumpur, and this is actually my very first visit to the States.

So much has changed in just five days.

WHY ARE WE TRAVELING AT THIS TIME?

Good question.

This trip was planned around my mother-in-law’s surgery initially scheduled for late March, before Covid-19 had even emerged. As countries started to close their borders and impose travel restrictions, we moved our flights up by a week just so we could be here in time to see her through the surgery. We also changed our flights from ANA to Emirates, just so we could avoid flying through Japan when cases were surging there.

HOW THINGS CHANGED IN A WEEK

Arrival in LA was chaotic, as millions of citizens across the country were frantically trying to get back home. We made it out after close to 45 minutes in the immigration hall.

Hardly two days later, Malaysia closed its borders to all countries, and imposed a Movement Restriction Order for two weeks across the nation. California starts to impose ‘shelter-in-place’ orders, and different counties start closing schools, restaurants, bars and other non-essential services, urging citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing.

My mother-in-law’s surgery is cancelled indefinitely, as hospitals gear up for a surge in cases.

In 5 days, the number of cases in California has risen at an alarming rate. When we arrived on Saturday, there were 157 cases. As of today, there are more than 800 cases reported. 190 of these are in Los Angeles, and this number is expected to steadily increase.

Yet, Americans and Malaysians alike are taking it easy, still going out and about, socialising and behaving as if absolutely nothing is wrong.

I have personally seen people socialising and enjoying the evening at the beach, as we drove past some stretches on the way back from quick grocery errands. I can’t for the life of me understand WHY, and WHAT people are thinking.

The next few weeks are going to be difficult, and testing. These are trying times, as we as a collective human race navigate a territory we have never been to before with this coronavirus. I struggle on a daily basis to keep up with news in both Malaysia and the States, while I check on my parents back home and in-laws here.

We have struggled to explain the magnitude of this virus to our parents, and they are all just starting to realise how serious this is. And how bad it is going to get. There is no if anymore…it is when.

With threats of a recession, and continued rise in cases, we worry about friends and family, and for our own health and well-being. We try to do what we can by staying put in one place, doing everything we can to continue the day as it is.

THE NEXT FEW WEEKS HERE

I have another 5 weeks in this country, as our return tickets are only booked for the 22nd of April. While surgery may be cancelled, there is an added responsibility and duty now to ensure the elders in the family are kept safe and protected as far as possible.

The husband and I are also still working remotely, with me working KL time in the evenings in LA. We’re both still jetlagged and tired, yet trying the best we can to handle all the chores and errands while keeping everything else going as well.

There are so many questions, so many worries, and so many possible scenarios that have played out incessantly in my mind. Will this get worse before it gets better? Will anyone we know fall sick? Will anyone we know die? Will there be a global recession? Will we get back to KL safe and sound? Will borders remain closed?

Sigh.

The most important question of all — how can I maintain my sanity, peace and tranquility amidst all of this chaotic noise?

That’s the question I am going to continue to focus on. Writing my thoughts here will help with coping with the situation and stress. Hopefully, I’ll have enough energy to write everyday moving forward.

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Darshana Balakumaran

Darshana Balakumaran

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Strategy director of Illuminairre, writer and spiritual seeker. Communications professional by day, creative artist by night.