Advisers Voices & Feedbacks


“Gift of Time”

Choo Min Fong

Freelance Interpreter / Translator

Throwback to TYCA Vol.4 in December 2017. “What is your world in 2040 ?” That was the kind of visioning that took place among the 15 high school students from ASEAN & Japan, towards a sustainable society. None of us then imagined that a pandemic of this scale would get in the way, or maybe even accelerated it.

Thanks to this web project, I am relieved to learn from the Malaysian group that they had been adapting well and growing in their own way despite the disruption. I hope to hear the same from all of our other friends in the TYCA alumni.

Although negative news filled most of the year of 2020 with Covid-19, I would like to share a few inspiring stories in our local news of how some Malaysian youths took it in their stride during this pandemic.

One of them was about an 18 year old university student, who returned to her remote village in Eastern Sabah, after her university had to close, and exams had to be held via online. With poor access to telecommunication services from her remote village, she set out a challenge to climb up a tree on a hill seeking better connection to sit for her online exams and even went on to spend the night on the treetop, making a 24-hour challenge video. I was intrigued that not only was she resourceful, she managed to turn a situation that would typically stress most students out, compounded in an unfavourable environment into an adventure and thankfully it worked.        

Another was about a fresh graduate in Mechanical Engineering who could not find a job befitting his qualification due to the poor employment scene during this period. As one who loved drinking Masala tea, he tried out the idea of selling the tea, brewed with spices, plying his trade on a bicycle. Surprisingly, his special tea received good response and he ended up roping in another friend to expand the business. It brought a glimmer of hope, to tide over till normalcy returns.

As I read about them, I admire their attitude and resilience to just go and make the most out of an unfavourable situation. And at the same time, having fun doing it.

Disruption in our lives, happens all the time. In this Covid-19 pandemic, I am sure many of us were pushed to relook at our priorities as we make adjustments to our lives. How do we make the most out of the situation while waiting for things to return to normalcy, which remains an uncertainty.

No doubt, Covid-19 had brought tremendous negative impact to our lives socially, economically and physically. But on the other hand, as most activities faced a slowdown if not entirely halted, I realized it had also gifted us time to pause and think.   

These days, as I looked at the park in my neighbourhood, I saw a different crowd of people coming out to enjoy. Thanks to work-from-home policy, more and more young families were able to spare some time bringing their children out to the park in the evening. I also noticed a group of retirees gathering into a circle having a fun game of “sepak takraw” (a national sport of kicking a rattan weaved-ball), a scene never seen before for as long as I had lived there. A middle-aged husband and wife couple sparring badminton regularly in the morning, another first in the many years they were living here. Many were merely out to enjoy breathing fresh air without a mask on, as sports and outdoor activities in open environment are exempted from the mask-on regulation. Some just wanted to immerse in greenery to clear the head after being cooped up at home for too long. More conversations seemed to flow between the regulars and new faces while on the walking path. These are voices of showing care and it warms the heart.

New skills like cooking, grocery shopping and hair-cutting emerged too. Many Malaysians who prefer eating out, which is a national favourite pastime, probably made some discoveries that cooking could be fun and satisfying too, thanks to online DIY videos. At one stage only 1 person from a household was allowed to go out to shop for groceries, so it was an eye-opener seeing husbands dominating the supermarket floor, learning names of vegetables and spices while video-calling their wives. On the road, getting to a destination by car these days was much faster with less traffic, and less stress.

So as I run through the list, it didn’t seem all bad after all. People had adjusted to a more relaxed and balanced pace, I noticed.

For me, my work as an interpreter took a backseat the very moment cross-border travelling came to a halt. The Korean language classes which I signed up for, too switched to online mode. With more time in my hands, I continued self-learning, to see how far I can go to prepare for TOPIK1 in 2021. I also got to amuse myself a little, as I diligently twist and gyrate to Youtube exercise videos, hoping to earn a flat tummy at the end of this pandemic. I made efforts to add new recipes to have the family excited about eating at home. And recently work is resuming slowly with interpreting jobs made possible via remote video interpreting. My take from this pandemic is that other than being disruptive, it gave us a chance to be appreciative, and not to take things for granted. The opportunity to stop for a moment and appreciate the people that matter to us, to stop and smell the roses. The opportunity to reconnect with simple joys and learn basic skills. I hope everyone gains something out of this situation, in maturity and strength. I hope the day will come soon when all of us can resume travelling in peace, whether to meet friends, visit places or restart shelved plans. Till then, let’s do our best to presevere and make the most out of the situation as we ride out the storm together. Even when things do return to normalcy, I hope we all find a new balance that could work better for all of us, post Covid-19. Do not despair, take a step at a time. Gambarimasho !














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