July 2020 Unpacked

LIFE started to resume in Singapore in July.

Businesses are slowing re-opening. People are heading back into the cinemas. The government held its 2020 elections. Millions of good mosquitoes are being set free in Tampines to fight dengue. I saw my own office for the first time. I got my work pass issued. I jogged several times. I danced several times.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from July 2020.


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CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THIS. Probably one reason I’ve been very active in jogging the past two months. This is the view at Bedok Reservoir at sunset.

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BUILDING MY OWN CITY. My credit card points were about to expire in bulk. I used it to give me a good discount on a 7th generation iPad. I thought I’d use it to look at newspapers and magazines using Magzter. Instead, I’m using it more for building a city.

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CHEESY BIRTHDAY PIZZA. Look at that cheese! Celebrated my birthday this month at Wawawa in Bedok Reservoir. I had a date with my partner. This pizza = everything.

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AWFULLY CHOCOLATE CAKE. My partner knows me too well… one of my favorite Singapore brands is Awfully Chocolate. This cake was decadent!

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MORE BEDOK RESERVOIR. What do we have here? Another vantage point.

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MASKS AS THE NEW CURRENCY. Our housemates invited friends over. And we all got these cloth masks as gifts. Cute right!

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E-NUMANS. This was with two friends from my ABS-CBN days. The world is in lockdown. ABS-CBN has been shut down by the government. Let’s just drink.

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WAFFLES IN BEDOK. A friend from NBCUniversal asked me out for waffles on the day of Singapore’s 2020 elections. He had just voted that day. This was my first dine-in at a restaurant since the circuit breaker ended. The waffles were damn good.

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HELLO 35. What do I gift myself? A backjoy!

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TREND ALERT: DINING IN. After my first visit to the CBD in months… I wanted to have some alone time to enjoy a glass of wine and a plate… of… fries… and a CHEESEBURGER. SOOOOO GOOD.

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BEDOK RESERVOIR WITH J. Technically we’re in neighboring towns (Bedok and Tampines). Jogging around the reservoir with my ex-colleague from LinkedIn. J is quite a passionate storyteller. So much chika.

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REVISITING MARINA BAY. In an earlier blog post, I shared a video from this exact spot where I was reflecting by the bay. Yes, reflecting. REFLECTING. I had a view of my old building (Marina Bay Financial Centre) and I was a little emotional. The pandemic forced many of us to work from home. With my previous job ending right in the middle of it… I never got to see my old office. My belongings are still at my table. Running shoes, jackets, even a picture frame of me and my partner. The LinkedIn office is like a time capsule. I’m asking my ex-colleagues to help me pack my things when they’re able to return one day. Also: so many people were IMPACTED by the pandemic and are leaving LinkedIn. 😦

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RELOCATING AGAIN, SOON. Yes, I’m jogging a lot at Bedok Reservoir. Because we’ll be moving soon. At the end of July, my housemates and I have been looking for a new house to stay. There’s a 90% chance we’ll still be in Tampines. But there’s a less chance we’ll find a place along Tampines Avenue 1 which is lucrative because of its proximity to this beautiful reservoir and one of Singapore’s top schools.

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ADOBONG PUTI. My first take on adobong puti because of SIMPOL with Chef Tatung. All these years I’ve been describing that my favorite type of adobo is the oily type… I had no idea I was describing adobong puti. My first batch was AMAZING. My second batch was… I couldn’t repeat my first batch.

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DELIVERIES ARE BACK TO NORMAL. When the pandemic started and Singapore started to buckle down for circuit breaker… getting a delivery slot only happened if you prayed to at least three gods. But happily, Lazada-RedMart and the other grocery delivery services have returned to normal.

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OH I DISCOVERED THE NORMAL PATH AT BEDOK RESERVOIR. It’s not all gravel apparently. There’s this and it reminds me of Hyde Park. Except with humidity.

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BAKING IS A THING NOW. My partner and I have discovered the wonders of easy-cooking through baking. Baked salmon. Baked chicken. Baked potatoes. Baked carrots.

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THAT SAID, THERE’S MCDONALDS. I have cut down on carbs significantly this past month. I feel great and energetic. I feel my tummy is smaller and I’m on the path to a slimmer body. Yadda yada yada. We still order in McDonalds from time to time.

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THE EMPHASIS IS CLEAR. I love this neighborhood. More jogging while holding onto my mask.

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DONKEY KONG: TROPICAL FREEZE. While assembling these 40 images for July unpacked, I realised not a single one captures my Just Dance 2020 obsession. I’ll share another game I’m playing which is Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Yes, I am allowed to play games. I am allowed to save on “partying outside” and “drinking at bars” by staying at home and playing this stressful game.

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MY NEW OFFICE. Omg, an address I never imagined I would ever have for an office. This 1930s building in the CBD really stands out next to the tall buildings that surround it. I’ve been intrigued all these years by the Quadrant. And now… it’s where my office is. When I visited in July… I couldn’t help but feel emotional. YAS. When your previous work contract ends in the middle of a pandemic… when you’re living in a country that can eject you if you don’t have a valid work pass… seeing any semblance of normal… like an office building = gratitude. Like in most roles that we start in… I’m on new joiners probation. But still, I had my moment. Thank you. πŸ™‚

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VISITING THE CBD = EATING CBD FOOD. What can be more CBD than a bowl of poke. For months… eating home-cooked food… this $12.50 bowl of raw fish was an experience.

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DENGUE IN THE HOOD. Dengue doesn’t give a shit about a pandemic. The country is seeing record levels of dengue fever. Like seriously. I’ve befriended a couple of Wolbachia mosquitos… since there are millions being set free here in Tampines to fight the bad mosquitos. I can’t pronounce wolbachia. It’s like worcestershire. Wol-ba-chia. Wol-BA-chia. “Hi everyone, my name is Wolba Chia, I’m 35… and I’m the first to enter the work room.”

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IMMORTALIZING THIS VIEW. This is what you see if you look out the window from our room or our living room. It’s a view of Temasek Poly and in the distance… Singapore’s CBD. Why is it significant? Because this was my view during Singapore’s circuit breaker and lockdown. Even if I’m at home… I can still see the city. We’ll be leaving from this house soon.

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DIMBULAH COFFEE. It so happens that my new officemate’s favorite coffee place is Dimbulah. Highlighting this because Dimbulah Coffee at Marina Bay Financial Centre was our go-to for coffee outside the LinkedIn office. I mean at 35 I should cut the sentimentality. But I welcome the transition between two roles, same coffee shop.

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STEAK AND FRIES FOR $13.50. We’ve discovered a Grab food delivery gem here in Tampines West called “Amigo’s”. They serve pretty decent pastas for a good price. Plus, they serve decent steak and fries as well. Delivery is life… on a busy “working from home” day.

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MOBILITY. I’ve been trying yoga in the past few weeks. As usual, my mobility is a problem. I can’t seem to stretch or bend far enough. I got this on Lazada for a few dollars.

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WINGS. This was part of my birthday lunch. My birthday was on a weekday this year. This delivery came from the Wingstop in Bedok.

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CRAVE NASI LEMAK PACKAGING. This is cute. I wish Singapore had binalot.

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RAWR. Rion Ishida is my favorite YouTuber right now. He has been a companion during this pandemic. He releases videos weekly… sometimes twice a week. Here’s us enjoying his video while we have lunch by the window.

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OUR 2ND FAVORITE FRIED CHICKEN. Arnold’s. It’s a staple in these times.

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PICNIC AT EAST COAST. Our buddy C is leaving Singapore for Canada. We wanted to have a picnic at the park recently. The park was crowded. We wore masks… but we can remove them while we’re munching down cupcakes and chicarons.

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MERE MORTALS IN MARINE PARADE. I had to send this to my partner.

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CATCH-UP WITH EX-COLLEAGUES. Thanks for inviting me out for sushi!

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SUSHI ROLL. For evidence. This was in Tampines. πŸ™‚

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CATCH-UP WITH COLLEGE FRIENDS IN SG. It had been about four months since. We had dinner in an empty Chinatown and drinks at a half-empty Maxwell hawker.

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WEEKEND VIRTUAL BRUNCH WITH FAMILY. This is a new tradition we’ve started. Thanks to my brother for organising these. We should have more.

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YOGA WITH THESE PADDLERS. Led by our former women’s captain (or wait, is she women’s captain again this year?) — yoga on Tuesdays! I need to work on my chaturanga.

And we’ve reached the last two out of 40 images for my July unpacked…

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FAMILY. I am grateful they are safe and healthy at home in Cavite. They are quarantined safely and avoid going out even with numerous types of community quarantines being imposed in the Philippines due to the pandemic. They appear lively and happy… even 3 or 4 months into this pandemic. I am a man who doesn’t go to church… but I do pray. And I pray for strong health for my brother, my parents, my partner, and all my loved ones.

TURNING 35. This month I turned a year older. I’m halfway to 40. My greatest lesson in recent weeks is the ability to edit out what’s unnecessary. Why? Read on.

Just because we’re surrounded by friends, family, and people… does not mean we have to keep people around “for the sake of it”. Evaluate your surroundings. Evaluate the people you converse with. I wouldn’t suggest surrounding yourself only with people that you agree with. I suggest you give yourself the power to choose who or what you want in your circle. There’s no need to force things or force situations. You have the power to do what you want. You can be an asshole. You can be someone’s blessing. Don’t be afraid to edit things in your surroundings. Don’t keep things around “just for the sake of it”.

Ending the month with one of my most played songs on Spotify. Take care.

Other matters (very important matters, putting it here for documentation)

  • SINGAPORE COVID-19 CASES: 52,205 cases, 27 deaths (businesses have reopened, Singapore held elections, malls and businesses require SafeEntry, active contact tracing)
  • PHILIPPINES COVID-19 CASES: 85,486 cases, 1,962 deaths (Philippines overtook Singapore in July, and is now 2nd in SE Asia for total cases. Indonesia is on top.)
  • UNITED STATES COVID-19 CASES: 4.59 million cases, 155,000 deaths (the United States is world no. 1 in Covid-19 cases)
  • PHILIPPINE CONGRESS DENIES ABS-CBN FRANCHISE TO OPERATE (affecting 11,000 workers including many of my friends)
  • LINKEDIN LAYS OFF 950 EMPLOYEES (mostly in sales and talent acquisition)
  • NUMEROUS COUNTRIES ARE SEEING 2ND AND 3RD WAVE OF INFECTIONS

In the kitchen, more

What’s a subtle benefit of staying at home and avoiding restaurants? I’ve never cooked this much in my life. My partner and I created a meal plan which I document using a Google sheet. Recently I’ve learned how to bake salmon (which is fairly simple). I’ve also improved the time it takes to make cheesy tuna pasta. I’ve made improvised tacos. Simple really. We placed some pita bread in the oven since our preferred grocery store nearby doesn’t seem to have taco shells in stock.

Am I proud? Of course I am. I’m graduating from Singapore’s circuit breaker and phase 1 knowing that I can also cook a Filipino staple like sinigang. I’ve never baked fish in my life until now. I can even chop garlic cloves faster. My brother is doing more cooking as well. He shares photos in our WhatsApp family chat group.

We count the things we’re thankful for.

What have you cooked recently?

Freedom should never be taken for granted

June 12 is Philippine Independence Day. It’s when the Philippines declared itself independent from Spain in 1898. It’s taken different meanings through the decades. In 2020, it’s a potent reminder to never take the freedoms we enjoy for granted. We can’t afford to be silent if we see injustices happening. Speak up. The Philippines is not for sale to those more powerful. We are our own country.

It’s mid-June in the year of the coronavirus. Four and a half months later, Singapore leads Southeast Asia in total pandemic cases which is short of 40,000. Neighbouring Indonesia is past 36,000 with daily increases reaching new highs. Singapore’s circuit breaker and phase 1 have seen cases that reveal a gradual drop in cases. It used to be in the 800-1,000 a few weeks ago. We’re now seeing 400-500. The country is observing community transmission since circuit breaker ended on June 1. The Philippines is seeing 25,000 and that number is increasing too – with protests happening on Philippine Independence Day and quarantine measures being lifted by the government.

I’ve started my new job working for a media intelligence company. I’ve completed my first training week. I’m eager to quickly learn the ropes. I have an affinity towards media professionals and journalists. I studied broadcast journalism in university and I’d jump on any opportunity to provide support to media professionals and journalists back home.

Weather in Singapore has been a mix of humid afternoons and fierce thunderstorms. You can spot the tops of buildings across the length of Bedok Reservoir from our living room window in Tampines. In the distance, you can see the Singapore skyline. This includes Singapore’s tallest buildings like Guoco Tower, One Raffles Place, and the UOB Building. I’ve sat in the living room long enough to notice when the sunlight reflects off some of the downtown buildings or when the water at Marina Bay bounces light onto one of the hotels there. Wild.

I try to jog at least three times a week. On alternate days, I’m exercising at home with the help of these videos and Just Dance 2020. I’ve noticed I’m getting larger in the belly area — likely due to being stationary at home the past three months. The new job I have means I’ll potentially be client-facing. I want to ensure I look sharp. πŸ™‚

Music I’m listening to…

Lady Gaga’s Chromatica album is a blessing for 2020. Every song is a hit. I love Free Woman, Plastic Doll, and Sour Candy (her collab with Blackpink). Since 2018, I’ve been listening to more K-pop. It’s bubbly, upbeat, and well-produced. I’m obsessed with SUNMI – who drops music like tap water that was switched off 10 minutes ago. TWICE, I thought was a duo. BTS, an explosion of creativity and inspiration (really, if you haven’t caught up with BTS, listen to their music… there’s so much heart in it and in their performances). Then there’s ITZY, adding color to the monsoon season.

Shows I’m watching…

PJ and I completed The Good Fight — meaning we’re CURRENT. Legit we subscribed to Amazon Prime to watch The Good Fight but the fourth season wasn’t available so we had get creative. I completed Westworld season 3, which has numerous scenes filmed in Singapore. The season’s rehoboam supercomputer sits in Marina One which was next to my old office. Marina One houses the offices of Facebook and Netflix in Singapore.

Speaking of Westworld, I’m confused by it lol. But I keep watching. Weird.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 was a highlight of the past two months. The season is lighthearted and the stories are inspiring. It’s different from some of the drama of past seasons. I understand some fans live for that drama. But with the coronavirus, we needed a season that doesn’t feel too petty.

We’ve moved onto RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 5 which brings us back to some drama. Derrick Berry, who I thought was a questionable addition to RPDR All Stars 5 initially… is gold. Absolutely proven wrong. He brings reality drama back to the show. Spoiler alert coming up. He is the first to be eliminated from All Stars 5.

I’m taking two online writing courses on Udemy. I’m hoping to finally complete at least one of them today.

I’m working on launching a website called Singapore Kuya. It’s a resource for Filipinos living and working in Singapore. Do visit and follow. πŸ™‚

We made it to the end of the circuit breaker

In about 30 minutes, Singapore’s circuit breaker is coming to an end. Hoping that the next few days and weeks the country won’t see a spike in cases. Realistically, I think there will still be cases. But I’m hoping it’s manageable and that the cases count in the migrant worker dormitories will continue to decline.

The idea of staying home for almost two months sounds like a vacation. Honestly, the anxiety and the isolation isn’t good. I’m one of the fortunate ones who could work from home. But my heart pours out to the frontliners from the hospitals to the delivery folks. Those who worked in essential services like my partner. Those who are in supermarkets and clinics. Those in hawkers. Those who lost their jobs in the travel industry.

With the end of the circuit breaker comes a new role I’m starting in. I’ve had to offboard from my previous company, remotely. Now, I’m going to onboard remotely. It’s bizarre but this is the time we live in. I’ll have to make the most of it. I’m thrilled at the possibilities. I’m letting go of the worries. I’ve taken new learning courses. I’ve increased my professional network by 82% in the past two months. I’ve assembled an emergency fund and will continue to add into it in the weeks and months to come.

From Today Online

Let’s see what happens tomorrow when Singapore re-opens with Phase 1. πŸ™‚

Running Route: Tampines Avenue 1 and Bedok Reservoir

I feel a little bit of accomplishment. LOL

I’ve nailed a new 5km route from my new rental flat in Tampines. It’s about half sidewalk (Tampines Avenue 1) and half park (Bedok Reservoir Park) along its northeastern stretch.

Basically, I start off right in front of the main entrance of Temasek Polytechnic (TP). I take this footbridge to cross to the other side so there are fewer people (since we are practising physical distancing right now).

It’s an easy warm-up jog on the sidewalk in front of TP. You’ll reach a series of condos that sit on the edge of Tampines which is also where one of the major roads spill onto. You’ll notice the sidewalk signs indicate you’re on the Park Connector Network (PCN). Follow this along the edge of the condo wall and it brings you to the northern part of Bedok Reservoir Park. Here, you’ll enter the park through Bedok Reservoir Carpark B.

Because it’s circuit breaker, the park is only open to joggers who need to get some fresh air and to take in the lovely scenery. I mean, fine, it’s man-made. But I’ll take it over running in tiny circles near my HDB block.

Bedok Reservoir Park includes a jogging path that is made of gravel. This is one of the unique features of this park. If I understand correctly, the gravel path is unbroken around the entirety of the reservoir lake.

However, I didn’t realise there was a non-gravel path available as well if you don’t want to dirty your shoes. This wider path is the standard in Singapore and it is shared with bikers, dog walkers, and people on rollerblades.

I noticed the park had a reasonable amount of activity-goers (the “approved activities”) this early evening. It’s nice that the government even has the technology to detect if a park is crowded or not.

I did both the non-gravel and gravel path. When you reach the Forest Adventure attraction (ziplines), it’s obviously closed. But they’ve also closed the gravel path for a certain stretch due to redevelopment of some sort. This is also where the dragon boats are at Bedok Reservoir.

Back onto the non-gravel path, it leads toward the “main entrance” of the park which has Wawawa (the nice restaurant at this location which I can’t wait to open again for cocktails and pizza). This is also where Carpark A is. Mindful I wasn’t going to hit my 5km goal if I headed back to Tampines Avenue 1… I circled the main park area a few times while taking in the purple sunset. YES. A purple sunset this evening. Like a painting.

Exit through Bedok Reservoir Carpark A and make a hard left back towards Tampines town. A large construction site is there which is the future site of Tampines GreenGem. An exciting new HDB development that will have a view of the reservoir.

This would be around the 4km to the 4.5km mark. Great to spot the Tampines West MRT station at the intersection. This is also where “Tampines town” begins. I make a hard left on the side of TP to finish the loop at 5km right in front of the main entrance of TP.

I noticed my energy levels and pace reach optimum around the 4km mark. I enjoyed getting into my stride again. I try to run 3-5km at least three times a week. I used to do this at Marina Barrage. I’m happy I’ve found an easy route right outside my rental in Tampines.

I’m planning to tweak this route into a 5.5-km or 6-km if I do one loop around Bedok Reservoir Park (the actual body of water) + TP. I’ll update again in a future post.

For those reading from outside Singapore: What is Circuit Breaker?

NOTE: Circuit breaker encourages the public to stay at home at all times. We are only allowed to go out to buy essentials (groceries, takeout food) and to do some exercise which is what I did. Wearing of masks is mandatory unless you’re running, biking, or doing some form of solo streneous activity while outdoors. I had my mask with me the whole time and I would wear it once I started walking.

Where’s your favourite running route?

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Tampines West during circuit breaker

I took these photos during my first walk around the neighborhood after 17 days non-stop at home. I took a walk around 6:30 PM when some residents were going out to dapao (takeout) food from the hawker and coffee shops nearby. There were a few joggers.

In my eight years in Singapore, the mood outside has never been this silent. I’m sure everyone is trying to do their best right now. What’s happening right now from a practical POV:

  • Barber shops are closed. This was removed from the essential services for two or three weeks. I think they might re-open on May 12 since the community cases have dwindled lately.
  • Bubble tea shops are closed too. This might seem pretty trivial compared to the greater scheme of things. But it’s symbolic of some of the modern pleasures that have to be put on hold. Bubble tea shops were part of the reduced essential services. Originally they fell under “food and beverage” which was to remain open. But they clamped down on some of the F&Bs.
  • McDonalds remains closed in Singapore. A few Covid-19 cases were from McDonalds employees a few weeks back. McDonalds announced it will be closing all of its stores in Singapore. I think they can re-open when some of the circuit breaker measures are slowly lifted soon… but they announced that they will remain closed for a while. I probably eat McDonalds twice a week.
  • You cannot jog together with housemates. Even people staying in the same household cannot jog or exercise outside together. People are encouraged to exercise alone.
  • It’s mandatory to wear a mask when outdoors in public. You can only remove the mask if you are jogging or doing some type of streneous exercise. But you have to put it back on as soon as you’re done with your exercise.
  • Social distancing continues. With non-essential businesses closed, the essential ones like grocery stores and hawker centres have queuing markers to help with social distancing. People are encouraged to stay a meter apart from others. However, at a grocery store, sometimes people gather at one area briefly. What I do is I make sure there’s an opening… go in… and grab what I need (like frozen pork).

Generally, I don’t want to be outside of my house. I would only leave for groceries (meats) and to jog. Even with circuit breaker being lifted in a few weeks… I’d likely reduce interactions with people. Some of the things I’d probably try doing:

  • Playing video games. Final Fantasy VII Remake and Animal Crossing are on my list. I’d also like to learn some steps with Just Dance.
  • Taking online courses. There are numerous courses that I’m currently taking like digital marketing and events management.
  • Organising my digital files. I’m behind on this (with the deluge of media). I’d like to organise this with my cloud and my hard drives.
  • Cooking a new recipe each week. I have yakisoba and kimchi pork on my list.
  • Exercise at home. Body weights, HIIT, etc.
  • Learn a new language. Japanese?

Stay safe and take care, everyone.

How are you coping with the pandemic?

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