From tour guide to lawnmower man

Hard at work: Hans grass cutting at one of his client’s house. He now has two friends who help him with his business.

KOTA KINABALU: Getting stung by bees and going home with red ants still stuck to his body has now become a part of grasscutter Hans Ambrose Angkangon’s (pic) daily life.

But life wasn’t like this before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Hans used to have a comfortable job as a part-time tour guide and representative of a tour company.

The switch from being always in an air-conditioned and sleek environment to sweating it out for money has not been easy.

“This venture came unexpectedly when I was out of a job due to the pandemic and movement control order imposed in March last year, ” said the 34-year-old father of one.

Hans said he was at home thinking about how he could put meals on the table to feed his family and pay the rent, when things started to get worse, due to the pandemic and borders being closed.

“There were no tours, no visitors and the worse thing was, my employer had to let us go – but my rent still had to be paid, ” he said adding that it was lucky that the government helped by providing financial assistance and the moratorium on loan repayments.

Last May, he started selling chicken and vegetables that he would get from Tambunan district, which is about a two-hour drive from here, but had to stop soon after as his earnings barely covered the transport and maintenance fees.

But one day, when Hans was cutting grass outside his house, his neighbour asked whether he would cut theirs too for a fee, and that was how he got his first customer.

As the days went by, other neighbours also started asking him to mow their lawns, while spreading the word to their friends and relatives about his services.

“Seeing that this is something I enjoy doing and at the same time, a way to earn decent money, I decided to find a partner and invest a little to get another grasscutter unit and other equipment to help me go further, ” he said.

Now, Hans has two friends who help him with his small business, which sees him earning an average of about RM3,000 per month.

The three have also started cutting trees to expand their business.

“When we cut grass or chop down trees using chainsaws, there are times when we need to climb up bee- or ant-infested trees, so getting stung by bees or having red ants stuck to our flesh is normal – painful but normal, ” he said.

They also have to be careful when trimming or cutting down trees that are near electric poles, he said.

Han’s wife, who was apprehensive about him venturing into this new field, is now happy and at peace with his choice although the pay is not as high as what he used to earn as a tour guide.

He said she helps out by baking pineapple tarts and selling them to customers via social media platforms.

“Our three-year-old daughter loves helping out in the kitchen as well, so overall we are happy with what we are doing and are thankful for all the clients we have, ” said Hans.

He encourages those who have yet to recover from the movement control order to stay strong, not give up and to try their hands at anything that can help to earn extra income legally.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things (and) don’t be ashamed of whatever you do because in the end, you have yourself and your family to take care of, ” he said.

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