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. 🙂

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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May you treat yourself better

To be business as usual in the middle of a pandemic is stupid.

Instead, do what you can but don’t exert too much pressure on yourself to deliver value or ruthless productivity at the expense of your mental health. I’m not saying live in your ivory tower and play Mario Kart all day. What I repeat is this: do what you can but don’t cry over the things you can’t do.

The situation varies. My partner is a breadwinner and I understand he doesn’t have some of the liberties I enjoy. He has tuitions to pay for. He needs to provide for his family. He has to be productive, yes. But I’ve noticed, thankfully, that his company supports working from home. His company enables him to work from home. It’s win-win.

Others out there have lost their jobs. In Singapore Q1 this year, total employment has plunged according to Channel NewsAsia. The travel industry is crippled. Blue-collar workers are without work. They say that the pandemic is the first wave. The economy is the next to suffer. It’s not looking good.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. This is where attention needs to grow. First, society looks at containing and mitigating the pandemic. Next, how are we caring for the mental health of those affected (which is virtually every person out there except perhaps the Sentinelese). In Singapore, an Indian national who had Covid-19 was found dead at the foot of a hospital stairwell. Dead by unnatural causes. What made him end his life?

The situation in the foreign worker’s dormitories in Singapore is SAD.  I’ve refused to write about anything that might seem politically-charged (I mean, my blog is really personal and about gadgets, and food). But I hope this pandemic has placed the magnifying glass on Singapore’s migrant population. They are heroes. They build Singapore: MRT stations, buildings that house Fortune 500s, condos, roads, and parks. I hold faith in Singapore’s efficiency. I hope those companies that neglect worker’s rights and promote sub-standard living conditions are punished.

Wheew. What a mouthful. Probably because we’re halfway through circuit breaker.

It’s a new month and instead of checklists of what I need to do… I’m reversing it. I’m writing down things I’ve doing each day to make it to the next. It could be as calm as answering three emails and then making myself another cup of instant coffee. It could be walking around the neighborhood with a 1.5 kilometer distance… yes, shorter than the usual 3-5km I’d enjoy running. But 1.5 km is an achievement. Even 200 meters is.

This pandemic is a middle finger to a society bent on over productivity. Do what you need to do to get something important done, absolutely. But don’t overstress it.

Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself better.

My tips on how to cope with moving houses

Home is supposed to be where we feel most comfortable.

We make it our nest. We make it feel safe for us. But there are events in our life where the house we call home must be changed. We have to leave due to budget concerns. Breaking up with someone. We have to leave because the house is going to be repossessed. Or we have to leave because the contract is ending.

I’m not a psychologist or a medical professional. But I’m sharing how I’m coping with changing residences. All the places I’ve lived in, I make it my home. Leaving a place is difficult for me. I’m happy to share these tips based on experience.

Allow yourself enough time to process change. Not everyone will have the luxury to process change quickly. But as much as possible, train yourself to accept that change is normal and that moving to another house is normal. People move houses every day. You’re not alone. Allow yourself time to mourn, to reflect, or to cry.

Watch YouTube videos on moving hacks. This is what I did. I watched a series of YouTube videos explaining techniques for moving houses. It made the idea of moving easier. Because I was watching examples of how other people were doing it. It made me feel excited to move. There are multiple resources out there and how-to guides on how you can make the move successfully.

Are you a sub-tenant? If possible, inform your main tenant or housemates as early as you comfortably can. Moving houses involves thinking about so many things like logistics and finding a new place. Remove one of the stressors by informing your landlord or main tenant that you’re moving out. Communicating this as early as possible buys all parties time to find your replacement.

Come up with an action plan and use checklists. I found this particularly helpful. I listed down and categorised all my furniture and belongings. I wrote down what I’d like to throw away, what I’d like to keep in storage, and what I’d like to take with me to my next place. I also find checklists therapeutic.

De-clutter. This is probably one of the hardest things to do. You have to de-clutter and make space for the new. Having a hard time letting go of an old side table? Pass it on to your housemates or the new guy taking your spot. Have a pair of weights that you feel you don’t need to bring to your new place? Give it away too. Or sell it.

If you can easily get it replaced in 10 minutes on a regular day, then you can trash or donate it. No need to bring the clutter (and memories associated with it) into your new space.

Your mental health matters when you move houses.

Sharing a new episode where I document my move from Bukit Merah to Tampines.

I’ve moved in with PJ! We’ve been together for almost two years and I thought what better time to move in together? There’s a pandemic and we live in the same city. We might as well move in together and take care of each other every day. We are each other’s family while in Singapore.

By moving in together, we remove the need to commute to each other (without circuit breaker). We lessen our exposure to the public. Now, we are able to share rent, consolidate expenses, and cook meals for each other. We stay in our household. We are able to work from home. We take turns going out to buy essentials. My move was an informed decision after much research about the situation in Singapore. I registered my new address with HDB quickly. Many thanks to my flatmates in Bukit Merah for helping facilitate my move out quickly. Thanks to my new flatmates in Tampines for helping me get registered with HDB quickly and seamlessly.

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My last 2 days in Bukit Merah

This quiet neighbourhood is a refuge for me. I moved here two years ago after a traumatic ghosting which put me in a very dark place. It’s here where I regained confidence again. It led to finding love and finding a cool job.

I call my room here Red Keep because of the towering view outwards. I’ve said this before, but you can spot HDBs of different shapes and sizes across the horizon. If you look beyond the concrete walls of distant buildings, you can see the trees of Mount Faber. The sunsets are extra beautiful.

It’s time to leave Bukit Merah. I need to cut costs due to my unemployment.

This means I am moving in with PJ. We’ve been together for 20 months and it makes sense for us to finally move in together. I’ll be moving to Tampines on Sunday.

***

Singapore is under a “circuit breaker” partial lockdown. It means everyone must stay home. They are only allowed to go out to buy groceries or to dapao (takeout) food. I’ve checked, moving houses is still allowed. I rushed my move to an earlier date because new restrictions might make it harder in a few weeks.

One nice thing that the government has done is to provide reusable masks for registered residents. I took my IC with me to the nearby community club to get my mask.

Singapore residents: From 5 April (Sunday) to 12 April 2020 (Sunday), residents with registered home addresses will be able to collect one (1) reusable mask at the designated CCs or RCs. Learn more at maskgowhere.sg

Wherever you are in the world… stay safe and take care.

Lucky before the “lockdown”

Non-essential businesses and workplaces are closed starting today. Tentatively scheduled to resume from May 4. These are new measures popularly known here as the “circuit breaker” that PM Lee and his ministers announced last week for the people of Singapore.

I rushed to Lucky Plaza to pick up balikbayan boxes at LBC. Apparently, they have not received instructions yet if they will shut down as they deal with logistics. Other stores at Lucky are closed and I started seeing signs posted. Jollibee, like many restaurants on the island, will remain open for takeaway or deliveries.

Mood was sad. Add to that a rare evening thunderstorm that happened over rush hour. Since I was at Lucky, I topped up on my supply of Filipino-style white vinegar and soy sauce. I haven’t cooked adobo in a while. I also added some cans of Ligo and Mega sardines. And, 900g of spaghetti noodles!

The next few weeks are crucial to contain the new wave of growing COVID-19 cases in Singapore. I’m obv staying home through this or spending it holed up at PJ’s. Gov’t says stay with family and this is the family I have here. Priorities now are to 1) ensure my kitchen shelf and PJ’s shelf are well-stocked, 2) communicate regularly with family and loved ones in isolation, and 3) continue my employment search. Keeping calm is necessary. I struggle with anxiety. I am learning to “let go” of control and to be kind.

7 Studio Ghibli films I’m watching to help me stay calm in a pandemic

Today, a record 120 new cases of COVID-19 was reported in Singapore. That’s a daily record and it’s the first time since the first case in late January where we’ve seen more than 100 cases in one day. Many of the new cases are unlinked. This means the virus is spreading without any known links to existing clusters or positive individuals.

As if we’re not already deeply concerned, today’s news seems to be another cherry on top of this situation. I learned earlier that PJ’s flat will be taken back by the owners. Which means, PJ and his flatmates will need to relocate to a new flat soon. That’s on top of me moving in with them temporarily as I’ve had to let go of my Bukit Merah flat due to tightening my finances.

Non-essential businesses are closing on Tuesday. They will remain closed for a month. This is the closest Singapore has now to a lockdown. Nobody is calling it a lockdown. But it feels like we are inching towards it day by day. I still feel Singapore is one of the safest places on Earth to ride out an outbreak. But I feel for Singapore. It needs to protect its citizens. Every measure must be put in place to “break the circuit”.

More sentiments in my previous posts here and here.

***

Because I’m mentally drained by news after news of COVID-19, my looming unemployment situation, my status in Singapore, etc… I’ve been binge-watching Studio Ghibli with PJ the past three days. We’ve covered seven films so far.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  2. The Cat Returns (2002)
  3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
  4. Ponyo (2008)
  5. The Wind Rises (2013)
  6. When Marnie was There (2014)
  7. Spirited Away (2001)

The films are an ESCAPE. It feels like entering one of those really beautiful postcard drawings. The stories are out of this world… which is fine… because everything happening in the real world feels out of this world. The characters are charming and inspired. I would recommend Studio Ghibli films for those who haven’t seen any yet. They are a welcome distraction from the bad news out there.

***

If the cases in the next few days don’t simmer down, I’m expecting even more drastic measures to be in place. Will we start seeing military on the streets? Will the buses and MRT lines be closed? Will there be a curfew?

We’re already in unprecedented territory with the closing of Singapore’s zoos, schools, and malls (except for essential services). At times like these, I miss being irritated by the simplicity of the haze.