The sooner, the better

That’s the easiest way to describe how I now feel about vaccines at this point.

Since vaccines started rolling out worldwide in recent months, I was hoping my family in the Philippines could get access to a particular vaccine that both science and the world media say has “higher efficacy” (quotes intended). But that particular vaccine isn’t available in most developing countries.

The question becomes this: Can we afford to sit and wait for a particular brand of vaccine while the pandemic infects more friends, colleagues, and people we know?

We don’t have the luxury of waiting. We know some people and some countries are able to quietly enjoy that luxury. But not in the Philippines. Many Filipinos, including many of my family and loved ones, don’t have the luxury of choosing which vaccine.

The best vaccine is the first one offered to you by your country’s health ministry. If it can prevent severe illness, it is already miles ahead of having no protection at all.

I’m happy my mom got her first jab on May 6 at the Tanza Specialists Medical Center in Cavite. She is scheduled to get her second jab in a few weeks.

Our family has agreed that all of us will aim to get fully vaccinated as soon as we can.

The bubble I’m inside of

I’ve noticed a change in this pandemic. There’s a clear difference now between early stage pandemic and current stage pandemic (I don’t know what to call it). In the early stage, it was severe lockdowns (aka CIRCUIT BREAKER). Haircuts were once-every-two-months. Only one person could leave the house to do groceries. Cases in Singapore were in the hundreds. And while at home, the only exercise I had was mastering the Just Dance 2020 steps to Bassa Sababa. I was proud though. I was getting five blue stars each time.

But months later, the setting has changed. We live in a condo instead of an HDB. Instead of a void deck, there’s a swimming pool I haven’t swam in. We have a new housemate who taught himself how to make a pretty damn good bellychon. The way the sunlight hits our house isn’t harsh. So 10AM and 4PM look the same lah – does not help with our orientation of time these days. Instead of living room dancing, I have “WOD” which is like a mix of HIIT, gymnastics, and body weights. Plus, yoga.

This is life in the bubble I’m currently in. It sounds mundane. In no way is it a complaint. I love it. It’s different and something, hopefully, I can look back at in a few years and say “that’s how you were surviving this pandemic.”. But while I’m in this bubble, my parents have only left the house twice in 11 months back in the Philippines. My brother, well… he gets to work when his job has in-person events that need coverages. Doing that also means he has to brave the challenging, crippling conditions this pandemic has put the Philippines in. It is jarring to be “safe at home” here in “Singapore” where everything seems tame and traceable… while it’s a far larger mess everywhere else. Singapore remains at below 60,000 cases while the United States has 20 million. The Philippines has almost 500,000.

Wherever you are in this pandemic, be safe.

The rest here is one big rant 🙂

Cooking. Reluctantly, it’s taken a backseat in the past few months. This is entirely on me. PJ has been cooking the bulk. When the pandemic started, we had a white board with a menu written on it. Felt like we had to strategise or ration. I prided myself in cooking Kimchi Pork, Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme, and other simple but tasty recipes. But as we settled in Pasir Ris, the distance to the grocery store has enhanced my reliance on Grab deliveries.

Final Fantasy VII Remake. My console has been sitting in an upright position since we moved to Pasir Ris last year. With it, is Cloud frozen in time at the night market. Or, actually, I don’t know. I was playing FFVII-R religiously during circuit breaker. When work started last June, I moved onto the Switch (Just Dance 2020). A part of me wants to be a 13 year-old kid again. Final Fantasy nights, Mountain Dew, and Doritos.

Working from home. My first six months into this new job has been entirely at home. I’m not complaining. It’s just… fourteen years of working in the corporate world and you would understand how used one could be with that feeling of entering an office, heading out for lunch, grabbing tea, going home (making pitstops along the way). WFH just accelerates that feeling of days blending into each other. Luckily, I’ve structured it with yoga, WOD (workout of the day, as you’ll read next)… breaking the day into half (mornings are slow, answering emails… then there’s lunch which is delivery or PJ’s cooking… afternoons are slightly faster because of coffee… and then at 7:01pm I’m pushing the living room couch to the side to make room for my gym mat). I think WFH is fine. But I am conditioning myself to prepare for anything. If there’s a split-arrangement. Working in the office (as long as it’s Phase 3, safer) on alternate weeks or once a week. It’s not about the work that needs to get done. It’s about that human interaction. Seeing your manager’s smile (or frown, hopefully not a frown lol)… having lunch with colleagues… laughing, the body language of laughter… not in a tiny Zoom square.

WOD. Workout of the day. This is probably what I’ve been most consistent with these past few months. I noticed that my right leg is stronger than my left leg. This might be related to the position of my legs when I used to paddle on a dragon boat. Our group is called IROK-ATLETICO and it was put together by R.O.X. PLAYGRND which was supposed to be a physical gym to open in 2020… but has been delayed obviously due to this pandemic.

Yoga. I try to sign up for the one with Ferdz but he is starting in-person classes again in… Paranaque? Quezon City? Gosh, I don’t know where his community fitness studio is. But when he has online classes… I like to dial in. I still like the human interaction part. He can correct your form. And you get to do yoga with other people too. If he’s not available, I’m fine with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.

Podcasting. I started writing, recording, and editing content a few months ago. I’ve commissioned the cover art and it’s complete. What’s slowing me down? I have fallen into the trap of wanting to get it perfect before getting it out. Which falls opposite to what I read would be better: consistency. I have materials good for up to six episodes already. I have contacts that can interview with me… bringing my first set of episodes to a total of ten. I’m not worried about that. But I’m worried about it being less than the standard I expect it to be. I should be able to launch this by the end of January.

Documentary-style videos. Inspired by the journalists I’m in contact with these last few months, I’ve decided to rethink my approach to producing videos. All these years, I’ve used video blogging as a creative outlet. To tell my story in Singapore. But honestly, who TF cares right. I’ve outgrown my need to document life here. Instead, I can write about it in my blog. But the effort to produce videos which involves writing and editing? I can channel my energy to telling stories and doing features. I’ve always wanted to do this since college. Why don’t I use my talent to write and produce content about people, advocacy, and current events? I started off with an episode about how it’s like to travel during this pandemic. The value-add: finding four people to share their recent travel stories and what advice they have for travellers this year. I’ve also set a personal KPI (key performance indicator – picked up from my LinkedIn marketing days) of 8-12 thoughtful, meaningful episodes in 2021. Conservatively, I’m promoting it as bi-monthly (every two months). Let’s see where this goes.

Jogging. Also last year, I was jogging actively around Bedok Reservoir “to escape the house” during lockdown. I quite miss it! I’ve been focused on yoga and WOD the past several months. Jogging is also a bit of a hassle since our new house in Pasir Ris is further out from the park connectors and running paths. Don’t get me wrong, there are scenic running paths in Pasir Ris. We have a beach here. There’s a quaint “river” (more like a well-landscaped canal). The area also has wild boars.

Sleep. This is what I’m struggling with more lately. I don’t want to rely on melatonin. My thoughts, ideas, and creativity come alive in the evening hours. I didn’t set new year’s resolutions this year because… we should still be working on the ones from the past few years. But if I had something I’d like to focus on… it would be SLEEP. To get more sleep. To prioritise rest and recharging.

Shows I’m watching. Obsessed with the Joanna Lumley travel documentaries which sprouted up within Netflix’ January line-up. She is such a great narrator and storyteller. I’m sure it’s the producers and writers behind it. But she’s so good… natural talent. There’s a Sue Perkins series of travel episodes too. British talents while travelling. Only comment is that we see these countries (Japan, China, Vietnam) through the eyes of “westerners”. So there are some odd comments in there that I just have to let slide. These aren’t bad comments… I’m just tired of hearing “they say this is the Paris of the East” that kind of shhh. But both are wonderful and well-produced. You’ll know what I mean if you watch some of these shows. I’m also watching Star Trek: Discovery season 4… which sees us in the 33rd century with a Federation crippled by “the burn” or when every ship with a warp core, exploded. I finished Brigerton and can’t believe I almost recommended my parents watch it. One episode was all sex. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have that much castle sex with a duke as handsome as he is. PJ and I finished the K-drama Start-Up… it’s the only one I felt really involved with after Crash Landing on You. In the end, we both cheered for Mr. Han instead of Nam Do-San. The two gentlemen are liars though… but I guess Mr. Han has more likability. We have the Selena series running, but more as wallpaper while we’re having dinner. RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 started last weekend… a pandemic season. The judges are really separated by acrylic glass. You can’t make this up.

Reading. I am behind on all the reading materials I’ve been gifted or sent. With exception to a friend from high school who sent me her transcript, I have to ask… why do people gift me books huhu. I mean… it’s lovely. My brother’s Becoming (Michele Obama) is still in its plastic wrapping. My friend J lended me two books about Danish secrets to happiness. My other friend J gave me a book about… it had a red cover. My friend E gave me one about poems. I appreciate it and it looks nice on my shelf. But I’m such a visual person. Subscriptions to Disney+ or HBO Go please… documentaries… I’ll read these books eventually. If I end up commuting to and from my workplace which is an hour each way.

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.