My 2020 in Reflection: The Good and the Bad

As I’m typing this entry right now, my house is in a disastrous state with paint and cement dust all over the place and all my stuff cramped in the living room.

I’m finally giving my apartment a facelift and some minor renovation after contemplating for over a year since relocating back here. It’s time to give the crib a fresh paint job after almost 10 years of owning it!

I have initially set aside some budget to hire somebody to do it for me, but changed my mind three days before the new year. And now I’m doing everything myself with the help of my better half. That’s how to torture myself on top of a number of other tasks I have yet to get done!

I just got back from a dinner with my better half after a whole day of wall painting (such a physically-demanding job!) and had some time to quickly reflect upon how the year of COVID-19 has treated me.

This marks the first time in the last five years that I am not spending the year end and New Year in Thailand, but in the comfort of my own home.

2020, to me, has been a year of work, work and work. While this has been the case for me ever since I was with my previous company, I have probably outdone myself yet again this year with very little break for myself, always working late into the night and even on most weekends. It has been very productive nevertheless.

Below I will list down the achievements I have done in 2020 and what should have been improved in the near future.

The Good

  • I’ve had some steady progress with my PhD – passed my proposal defense and now I can embark on the research work.
  • Took on four other research projects with some still on-going, and got to lead some students to Johore and my home state of Sarawak to conduct two of those.
  • One of the projects has seen some amazing outputs – a talk, a published paper with two others in press – hoping for them to come out in early 2021.
  • Gone on a vacation cum research road trip across various states, including Ipoh, Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang.
  • Home makeover.

The Bad

  • A paper I wrote with a partner from an Indonesian university failed to make it.
  • My taking on too much work has taken a toll on my health. I may not have fallen ill frequently, but I feel my body and my energy level have plummeted.
  • The quality of my sleep has also been affected. While I reckon that the stress I have is good stress as I feel more excited than stressed about the tasks at hand, sometimes sleeping late has disrupted my circadian rhythm, leading to insomnia.
  • I haven’t spent enough time with the better half, even though three-quarter of my time this year is spent at home due to COVID-19.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, as well as its disruption to many industries and our way of life, the year 2020 is obviously not the best year we have been blessed with. Despite this, I believe there is a window of opportunities that comes along with it.

In the coming 2021, while I hope I can keep this momentum going and remain productive, I’m also hoping to improve on the bad.

Hoping for a better 2021. I wish you a blessed New Year ahead!

Framing Jawi-Khat Move: A Comparative Analysis of Chinese, English and Malay-language Newspapers in Malaysia

In a year of COVID-19 where many industries have been disrupted, borders remain closed and where a lot of time is spent staying at home, what else to do than focus on work and write some papers, right? Hahaha! I apologise for the lack of the usual content on this blog – when things get back to normal, I promise to write more on leisure- and Thailand-related entries.

Anyway, an academic article I have been working on for sometime, related to Malaysia’s controversial move to introduce the Jawi calligraphy (or Khat) in the vernacular schools, finally came out today in UKM’s Jurnal Komunikasi: Malaysian Journal of Communication. I’m putting it up here just in case you’re keen to read it.


The Malaysian government’s move to introduce Jawi-Khat in the Malay-language curriculum in Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools has been fraught with tension and opposition, especially among the Chinese Malaysian community. Being the second-largest ethnic group in Malaysia, the Chinese’s negative response to the initiative has generated some implications for the country’s socio-political order. Sin Chew Daily, the first newspaper to break the news, was accused by then Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng of stirring fears among the Chinese community. Lim’s condemnation of the Chinese daily and the manner in which the whole Jawi-Khat episode played out have raised questions over the roles of Chinese newspapers vis-à-vis their counterparts of other languages in the reportage of the Jawi-Khat move. Thus, a study on the ways three top vernacular-language newspapers in Malaysia, namely, Sin Chew DailyThe Star and Harian Metro, covered this issue, was conducted. The extent of news coverage, news sources, news frames and valence of the reports were analysed. The research findings reveal that each of the newspapers framed the Jawi-Khat controversy differently. Sin Chew remains a classic ethnic newspaper, having reported extensively on the issue and actively pursued the voice of opposition of various stakeholder groups towards a policy that impacts on Chinese education, a key area vital to the Chinese community. Otherwise, the three newspapers have, to varying degrees, performed the interpretive function within a controlled media landscape and attempted to de-escalate conflicts and misunderstanding arising from the Jawi-Khat move.

Keywords: Jawi-Khat, media framing, vernacular newspapers, newspaper roles, ethnic relations.

Full article (.pdf)

Feature image credit: The Star

I’m Ken, a passionate traveller from Sarawak on the exotic island of Borneo. Currently a teacher in a rural town in Southern Thailand, from time to time I share on this blog my experiences teaching the kids and living a laid-back lifestyle here. With its focus on all things Thailand, also features a handful of stories about my travel adventures in other Asian countries.