I Survived AH1N1 (Part 2)

A woman wearing a white tudong took my temperature. She made me drink a glass of water, and then she took my temperature for a second time. An auntie was going through the same process. "My legs are really swollen," she kept complaining. They let her go.

I thought that they would let me go, too. But then the airport nurse approached me and broke the news. "I'm sorry, miss. It seems you may be infected with AH1N1. But we're not sure yet. We have to take you to the hospital to get you tested. If the results are negative, then you can go. But if they're positive, you'll have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days until your treatment is finished."

"But, miss... My bags... my friends... Could you please call this number and tell them what you told me just now?" I had a phone but no Malaysian nor roaming sim card. Thankfully, the nurse was gracious enough to call the number up. They exchanged some words in Bahasa Melayu. Then she hung up. "Okay, Miss Mari, please come and follow me."

I though they were going to take me to a van full of other AH1N1 detainees. I mean, there were probably others who needed to be tested, too, right?

Wrong. I was the van's only passenger. Though I did have two escorts, I think. And of course, there was the driver.

Off we drove out of Sepang, out of the LCCT. One of the escorts attached a siren to the top of the van.

Yep. I was being welcomed to Malaysia in style.

(to be continued)

I Survived AH1N1 (Part 1)

I have found a happy place. It took me forever to get here, yes. The GPS had failed me on my first try. But I'm here.

The place is really pretty. It's coffee shop. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of coffee. And cake. Definitely cake. I'm sipping a warm mug of "sweet dreams" and munching on a slice of cheesecake as I write all these down.

Now I know this doesn't read like a very Malaysian-flavored introduction. I'm supposed to be writing about teh tarik and nasi lemak. Don't worry, I'll get to that soon. But for now, let's bask in the cozy atmosphere of my new-found happy nook.

I passed by the Sungai Buloh Restoran Jejantas on my way here. I told you the GPS failed me. I was supposed to be heading off to Petaling Jaya, but lo and behold - after a few missed turns, I found myself on that memorable highway to Sungai Buloh.

Sungai Buloh will always be memorable to me. Before I set foot on our house in Kajang, before I made myself comfortable in my dormitory in Bangi, I first had to spend a few nights in the infamous Hospital SB.

Why? I had AH1N1, you see.

* * *

I was feverish a day before my Manila to Kuala Lumpur flight on June 2009. I blamed it on stress and all the hassle I had to go through to get a special pass. I didn't think much about it - the fever, I mean- although there was already news of people catching that year's pandemic buzzing about.

The morning of my much awaited flight, I first had to go to the Malaysian Embassy in Makati to collect my passport and special pass. My former roommate, Melody accompanied me. We then killed time and grabbed a goodbye coffee with creatives Edward and Adrian (my super crush at the time) before we taxi-d our way off to NAIA3. But there was still a couple of hours to go before the check in counters opened.

And I was still feeling hot and stuffy.

Ate Grace, my travel buddy, arrived later with my bags and our send-off party.

My overweight bag caused Ate Grace and me to sit in different rows. She knew I wasn't feeling well, though. But I slept it all off.

"Are you feeling better? How is your temperature?" She asked me when we deplaned.

"I think I'm okay," I answered. I looked at the immigration card in my hands. There were several checkboxes asking me the same. "Have you had fever during the past n days?" How was I supposed to answer that question? I ticked "no". I didn't want to cause so much hassle that early in the morning. Our plane landed past midnight and Kuya Brian, our welcome party, was waiting at the arrival area, ready to take us home.

Let me give you one travel advice. Never lie to (or through) an immigration arrival card. They will catch you anyway. There I was, tagging behind Ate Grace the experienced traveler, when a woman in uniform asked me to stop. She said I made the body heat detector light up. They had to check if I was sick enough to be quarantined or not.

I didn't have a choice. They didn't even look at my untruthful arrival card.

What was going to happen to me?

Ready to fly: June 23, 2009. But I don't look sick!
(to be continued)

Breaking the Silence

Things have been hushed here for the past month. I've been caught up with the Once Upon a Time series, for one thing. And I think I just didn't have the drive to write.

That's all going to change. Err, minus the Once Upon a Time part - September can't get here fast enough! But I will get back to writing. And I have a lineup of stories I'm really excited to write about. I'll be writing about events and memories that took place during my five years here in Malaysia. I'll be writing about the lessons that accompanied them. I'll be writing as honestly and as transparently as I could. I'll be baring my soul through the blog entries that will follow, knowing full well that the past years did not go to waste.

So that's all for the announcement-slash-teaser. In the meantime, here's a cat picture for you all. Meow.