Malaysians finally home for reunion dinner

Hands full: Cheong with her children on the flight to Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Malaysians can finally return home to celebrate Chinese New Year this year.

Cheong Wee Leng, 32, who lives in California, United States, has been absent from family reunion dinners for three years. This year, she can finally be with them.

She flew from California to Kuala Lumpur with her children, a two-year-old daughter and a six-month-old boy. Her husband will join them for a reunion dinner later.

“I miss my family so much. My mother visited me in the US but my father has not met his two grandchildren,” she said.

Last year, she decided not to return because Malaysia still required quarantine for travellers.

“It’s a long journey with a 22-hour flight and an hour layover in Japan.

“I wanted to come back on Jan 2. Unfortunately, my children tested positive, so I had to postpone the trip,” she said.

Cheong worked as a global strategic sourcing specialist after completing her studies in the US.

Every year, she makes a trip back to Malaysia. She said the flight home cost her US$8,000 (RM34,500) for the three of them but it was worth it after a long time away.

Another Malaysian, Ben Loh, 49, from Texas, United States, returned on Tuesday.

It has been three years since his return to Malaysia as he usually comes home every year to Batu Pahat, Johor.

He is coming back alone this year because his wife and daughter had to stay back in the US as schools there were not on holiday now.

“I wanted to come home last year when Malaysia reopened the borders but I did not want to quarantine in a hotel.

“This year, I finally came home to celebrate with my family,” he said.

Loh has an extended family and made reservation for 50 people in the restaurant on the second day of Chinese New Year.

“Some family members will have their reunion dinner at home, so we will meet on the first and second day of the Chinese New Year.

“I miss my two younger siblings. Even though I lived in the US for more than 30 years, I still follow the traditional Chinese culture of returning to the temple to pay my respects on the first day,” he said.

Datuk Chua Huai Gen, 50, who lives in Petaling Jaya, also did not return to Batu Pahat to celebrate Chinese New Year for the past two years.

“It was the first time since I moved to Petaling Jaya and cannot go back home to visit my mother in 26 years. This year, the whole family decided to meet on the first day,” he said.

Chua said every Chinese New Year’s eve, after the reunion dinner, the family would celebrate the “beginning of the lunar new year” by going to the Chinese temple to “sit out the year”.

“Nothing is more precious than a family coming together,” he said.

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