• Hannah

Stranded in Penang- Part 15

Updated: Oct 30, 2020


The day following our entry into quarantine, one of Mike's school staff got wind of the fact that we had been sealed in despite it not being a legal requirement. She had made numerous phone calls to the education bureau on our behalf, submitting all the evidence such as the daily survey Mike had completed in Malaysia, showing that he and family were symptom free for the past few weeks. On Friday evening we received a phone call of great news, we could have the seal removed! We were asked to sign a letter of engagement, that we would only go out for essential trips for the next 14 days, in the understanding that if we engaged with the self quarantine, the compound would provide the letter of approval for work re-entry upon completion.


We were so overjoyed not to have to be in total confinement, that we 'celebrated' by putting on our masks to go and pick up our takeaway. The fresh-rain-cleared night air felt wonderful even after just 36 hours of confinement. This ten minutes included a desperate tribute to exercise, I encouraged the kids to do star jumps. We spent a total of about 10 minutes outside. It was ten minutes we would live to deeply regret. Another resident almost tripped over Emily. About half and hour later, we had messages and phone calls from our agent and the compound staff saying that the other residents and our neighbour had called emergency services, had been complaining significantly about our family, that we should be put into confinement. The sense of unofficial pressure from the community to lock ourselves away was fascinatingly stifling. Although we hadn't 'done anything wrong' (well, we should have been significantly more discreet about self quarantine and taken one child out at a time and been a bit quieter), although we were in the clear with green stickers of approval, it did not stand up to the fear and anxiety enshrouding the compound community. The compound staff reacted to the complaints and strongly advised we accept the seal. We submitted, cross with ourselves for not being more discreet. We'll know for next time!


The compound staff have been amazing in trying to bring up our deliveries and ensuring everyone is abiding by the rules. Despite the inklings of personal injustice, (over things like it probably being a breech of human rights to lock small children up for 14 days), it's been a difficult lesson in trying to comprehend how fear can heighten anxiety and cause people to act quite irrationally. It's also been an interesting nudge at my probably intrinsic British arrogance. For the greater good, for the betterment of our community and the country, we've had to submit to authority that we didn't by law have to submit to, we've had to push aside our personal freedom for the overall improvement of our neighbourhood's safety and health. And now China is supposedly almost Covid-19- free, with only imported cases being a threat. China has to be applauded for its phenomenal effort. After our 40 days in Penang, Malaysia announced yesterday that they are closing their borders. Unbeknown to us, we had left before being actually stranded. Another reason to be thankful.