Living on borrowed time, looking forward to another ordinary day

By YS Chan


A TYPICAL day for me starts early by waking up before 5am and do stretching exercises in bed. After emptying the bladder, I would drink two mugs of water and then cycle on the well-lit perimeter road of my condominium wearing a headlamp for added safety.

I could cover 18, 21 or even 24 rounds in an hour, depending on whether I was pedalling at a leisurely, fast or furious pace. I do not change gears while cycling, although there are 18 to choose from. I only use the gear that produces the fastest speed but requires the highest torque for take-off.

To warm down, I swing, stretch, bend or rotate various parts of my body including the hands, spine, neck and knees and end up with rapid punches. While fully relaxed with my hands down, I can suddenly throw a left jab followed by a right punch in the blink of an eye.

If I felt like having breakfast at the condominium’s cafeteria, I usually have steaming hot nasi lemak for RM1.50 a pack or crispy roti canai straight from the griddle at RM1.20 apiece. When bananas are available, I will have one or two but no drinks until I returned to my apartment.

Upon reaching home, I would have a mug of water and shower. Then, I would soak two kampung chicken eggs in boiling hot water for 10 minutes and consume them half-boiled with my medication. Later, I will get to enjoy the best English tea made by my wife, with evaporated milk for flavour and a little condensed milk as sweetener.

I would then settle down to read phone messages and news, and later use the laptop to browse the websites of 36 local and international newspapers and news portals. Reports and articles that are relevant may be forwarded to contacts that usually find them useful.

Those that really bother me are downloaded and reread before stating my views in writing and forwarded to the media for publication. Usually, my letters are published by more than one newspaper or news portal, on the same or different days.

Before the pandemic, I was often engaged by businesses, trade associations and government agencies to write on piecemeal or contract basis, with some extended year after year. I also had stints as a magazine and newspaper columnist, and editor for an international golf magazine.

Like most gig workers, my writing, training and consulting jobs have been obliterated by the pandemic, which has steamrolled most businesses and activities in its path. This year, I had no writing or consulting engagements. The only training that I have conducted was over Zoom.

They were compulsory courses for participants to attend to obtain their new travel and tour business licences after successfully applying for them, or for existing travel and tour companies to renew their business licences with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

However, when participants are eager to pick up relevant knowledge and learn new skills, they would opt for face-to-face training. Webinars may allow discussions and convenient for the participants, but grossly ineffective for proper understanding or skills training.

For lunch, my wife and I prefer driving to nearby townships to patronise coffeeshops with a food operator that offers 20 or more dishes spread buffet style for customers to choose from. I would request for half a plate of rice and then head towards a green leafy vegetable dish.

The huge portion of vegetable would be pressed down and compressed to one side of the plate. If loosely spread, it can cover the whole plate. Next, I will look for another type of vegetable, such as pumpkin, bitter gourd, cauliflower or broccoli, but in smaller portion.

Last will be meat and the honey sauced fried chicken at one of the food operators is simply divine, more to restaurant standard. And all these freshly cooked food cost either RM6 or RM7. It may not be buffet lunch, but I get to eat all I can, with no room left for any drinks.

Before driving to lunch, I would have a mug of water. After a heavy lunch, I will take a short rest at home before taking an afternoon nap. Upon waking up, I will have a mug of diluted coffee or small pot of Chinese tea. I always finish my coffee or tea while they are still very hot.

In the afternoon, I would have completed and edited my letter, ready to send off anytime or the next morning. My wife would start cooking at 4pm and by 530pm would have delivered some food to her brother staying nearby. Before that, I would have another mug of water.

There are two dishes and soup for our homecooked dinner, one vegetable and the other meat, usually fish, plus a huge bowl of nourishing soup. There is no need or room for rice. By the time I finishes dinner with two bowls of hot soup, my stomach would be almost bursting.

After cooling down in front of a table fan reading news or watching videos, I would have my last shower for the day. Whenever feeling uncomfortably hot after lunch, I will also shower. Seated in front of my laptop, the ceiling fan and a table fan placed on the floor will be running.

I am comfortable and without physical pain or mental stress, even though I am a heart patient with borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I eat, rest and exercise as much as I could and try to sleep by 9pm after having my last mug of water with medication.

I agree it is an ordinary life and certainly boring to many, but for someone my age and condition, I look forward to it every day. This is because I have lived past 70 and had many close brushes with death and is actually living on borrowed time.

On weekends and public holidays, dinners are celebrated with a meal in one of the popular restaurants or food outlets. It need not be expensive, such as fried noodles, or just two side dishes with rice, but they all taste great when freshly cooked and piping hot.

With my children, grandchild and son-in-law leading successful lives in Australia and Singapore, my wife and I are contented, grateful and at peace while the world is devastated by the pandemic.

Sadly, everyone is yearning for pre-pandemic days, and few are adjusting well to the new normal, which will be with us for the next few years. Vaccinations will not stop the spread of COVID-19, only slowing it down. It is imperative that we continue to stay safe and be happy. – Feb 24, 2021



YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia (both programmes under Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture). He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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