How It’s Like to Travel During This Pandemic

Sharing my new video project about people, advocacy, and current events. In this first monthly episode, I speak with four people who recently travelled overseas during this pandemic. Each person narrates their experiences at the airport, on the plane, and in quarantine at their destination. Plus, we hear how it’s like to get tested and what their travel tips are during this time.

Wherever you are in the world, be safe. 🙂

Christmas, 2020

This year’s Christmas celebration was a simple but meaningful gathering here at our home in Pasir Ris.

Our housemates prepared a noche buena spread of some classic Filipino dishes like lumpia, extra tender Bistek Tagalog, slices of Christmas ham, menudo, and juicy Bellychon (with lemongrass filling). PJ has a video demonstration of how housemate D prepared the bellychon.

There was also Biko and homemade chocolate ice cream.

Plus, the table setting was done by housemate W.

PJ and I were in-charge of the evening program. We had a traditional gift exchange (value today: SGD 50.00 minimum) as well as party games like Pinoy Henyo and Kahoot!. Like last year, we also played a little bit of 1-2 Switch.

What we’re grateful for this Christmas

On Christmas eve of 2020, you can only invite a maximum of five visitors. We celebrated noche buena with some of our friends.

Spending Christmas 2020 with my housemates in Pasir Ris

Happy holidays from all of us. ❤

Songs of this year: No Time To Die – Billie Eilish

Author’s note: This post is part of a mini-series about songs I enjoyed listening to this year. Music has played a very special part in keeping sane during this pandemic. Let me know in the comments what music helped you get through.

I remember exactly where I was when I first listened to the newest Bond theme. I was on a small boat that was speeding back to Bali island from Nusa Penida. It was in February. It was the only “holiday trip” I managed to squeeze in before the world went on lockdown.

On this boat I was wearing a surgical mask. Beneath my mask, I remember it smelled like ocean breeze and diesel. The skies were sunny that early afternoon. But the mood felt cautious. The pandemic hadn’t “struck” Bali yet. Or, it wasn’t being detected at the time. It’s likely it was already silently spreading – as Bali was a top tourist destination for many of our friends from China. At the time, the virus was still hyped as from Wuhan.

Back to Billie. I think only a few people appreciate music from the Bond films. The lyrics can come off as overdramatic if not cheesy. But I enjoy the Bond themes because it’s become a sort of cinematic tradition. As a visual content creator, music has been an inspiration when I wrote and edited promos for television.

With Adele and Sam Smith being awarded for their Bond themes in Skyfall and Spectre (“The Writing’s On The Wall”), I guess it made sense to give this opportunity to one of the youngest, most multi-awarded artists of today… Billie Eilish.

NO TIME TO DIE is the 25th film in the Bond film franchise. Aptly titled, the movie couldn’t have come at a better time: a volcano erupts near Manila, a basketball legend dies in tragic helicopter crash, a pandemic sweeps the world… one for our generation. The movie itself was to premiere in 2020 (months after the release of the song in February). But like the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, it gets pushed to next year.

But we get performances from Billie through the year. I’ll share her performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

I couldn’t help but think that there are similarities in it with Adele’s Skyfall. I also think Sam Smith could give No Time To Die a good version. But Eilish owns this song, not because of her signature hums, but her vulnerability.

You’ll never see me cry, there’s just no time to die.

I can’t wait for the theatrical Bond 25 opening credits when the movie premieres in 2021. And if you think these opening credits are still like the hyper-sexualised ones of the past, try watching some of the recent ones. You’ll be surprised that Bond can evolve with the times.

Mornings, scents

It’s 8:29 am on a Monday.

As I gently open my eyes, I hear the door close. Tired, I rest my eyelids by shutting them and then I flip the position of my head so the other side of my face is resting on the pillow. It’s warm. I shift my head to rest on PJ’s pillow. It’s higher, cooler, crisp. It makes me smile.

A few minutes more of this shouldn’t hurt.

I try to block out thoughts about emails and Slack. I have some time before 9:00 am. There’s no commute to worry about. Only getting a few more minutes. As these minutes roll on, it’s a routine of hitting snooze on that irritating iPhone alarm. I start to hear the voices of my housemates. Doors opening, closing. The doors are heavy in our apartment.

It’s 9:05 am. I sit up in bed and lift my laptop off the office table that sits right next to the bed. I flip open my seven year-old laptop which still works pleasantly fast. Pop in a few passwords and I’m in.

My work day has begun.

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It was only yesterday when I came to terms with wearing a surgical mask in public. I remember two things. Where will I get my supply of masks? Is the N95 mask overkill? I only have one N95 in my cabinet. (In 2020, #SGHaze now looks like a drop in the ocean.)

I didn’t have a supply of masks in the first few weeks of the pandemic. They were flying off the shelves at the time. It got so bad that I accepted an offer from a nurse I had dated… who had access to masks. He offered me a box. How bizarre it was to walk into a Starbucks in Sengkang so he could pass to me surgical masks. I didn’t know how to feel. Grateful? Guilty?

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Going back to the scene at home. PJ normally starts his work day before working hours. He likes to get a head start. On Friday evenings and during all of his Saturdays, he’s parked in front of his laptop screen listening to lectures in the living room. PJ started his MBA a few months ago.

I know how busy he can get. When he told me he’s working on his new passion project which is to launch his own YouTube channel, I was excited. And guess what? He made it happen.

Congrats love for launching your first video. ❤

Show him some love by subscribing to his channel!

On scents

Personally, my favourite scents are more subtle in the form of scented candles. I used to buy those from Yankee Candle. But I stopped after the air-condition cleaner said that my a/c filters had turned black (or something) probably because the smoke of the candles added more pollutants into the air. I could be wrong.

I do enjoy good scents.

Songs That Made 2020 Better: Play – CHUNG HA

I’m kicking off a short series of blog posts about music I enjoyed listening to in 2020. The year is one of the toughest and most traumatising on record for billions of people. At the surface, we’re looking at almost 70 million people having been infected by the virus with over 1.5 million deaths as of this date. Diving deeper, industries are shattered and economies will be changed. From unprecedented disruption to global travel to the vulnerable people stuck in quarantine in unsafe homes facing abuse.

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Pop music has always been my antidote through the years. K-pop uplifted my spirits when I was at my lowest in recent years. I’ve come to love BTS, SUNMI, HWA SA… and they’re the ones in the front right now. Behind them is a massive K-pop industry with “generations” of artists and fans. While I may not always agree with the ultra-glossy “perfect image” used to market the stars, I turn to the overall production. K-pop pushes that bar higher and higher.

Several of my favourite K-pop songs this year came from CHUNG HA. As you go through her playlist of releases in 2020, it’s like she had a song for each season of the year. MV after MV of lights and fairy dust, her signature hand choreography (HAND CHOREO?!?)… the dancers, men in heels. Her angle and spins like Kylie Minogue. Is she one of the best solo K-pop performers of the year?

What happens before a release are comeback teasers. Then there’s a full-blown MV. Then there’ll be a “Dance Performance” version of the MV. This means less vanity shots and more choreography. The performer then does the whole circuit of promotions: tv shows, events, awards specials. In cases like BTS, the Japanese version of their songs. It’s one well-orchestrated extravaganza.

Today, I’ll share with you the dance performance video to CHUNG HA’s “Play”. 🙂

What’s a song that made 2020 better for you?

Update: As of this writing, CHUNG HA is down with COVID-19. This is insane. Please get well!

December 1 is World AIDS Day

Stigma and discrimination are still the biggest barriers to an AIDS-free world. In the next ten years, we will advocate for anti-discrimination laws at the national and local levels to make sure that everyone gets access to lifesaving services regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. #SOGIEEqualityNow #PassADBNow #EndAIDS2030 #HeadshotClinic @TheRedWhistle @PremiereCondoms

So, we’ve reached the end of the year

The most relatable cover. (The New Yorker)

The coronavirus will not expire on 31st December. But I bet we wish it could.

I’m comfortable. I’m working from home. I can exercise from home. I can order lunch and dinner to be brought to my doorstep. I can press a few buttons to have groceries delivered. I can chat with friends and loved ones through Zoom. Movies, TV series, music, concerts… all of it can be streamed online.

I admit my privilege in this pandemic. I’m not a front-liner in a hospital who is overworked and under-equipped. I don’t work in the travel or aviation industries. I still have a job.

For the sake of mental health, I promised to myself that I won’t worry about what’s going to happen after a few months. The only thing I will let myself think about is the agenda and the intention for the day ahead. The agenda is to get work done. The intention is to be easy on myself. I’m not a scientist and I’m not going to cure the world from a pandemic.

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Intentions for December 2020

  • Keep working out and practicing yoga. Six times weekly.
  • Finish reviewing a friend’s book – I’m so bad at reading books.
  • Get started on Becoming – another book, given to me by my brother
  • Start dance classes via Steezy. Commit when possible after the WOD/yoga.
  • Launch my podcast series before the end of the year.
  • Publish at least five more video blogs.
  • Terminate subscriptions I no longer need.
  • Complete a budget plan for 2021. Listing possibilities, limitations.
  • Send out gifts to friends and family.
  • Take PJ to see snow at Jewel Changi Airport.
  • Enjoy Korean BBQ at home. With a grill.

My November 2020 Photo Recap

A pandemic continues to grip the world. This was my third month in our new house in Pasir Ris. Home is where everything is right now. Meals, workouts, and work. I have no plans to change any of that until this pandemic is over.

The past month also saw some triumphs. Biden beat Trump and is the President-elect. I published my first interview with a journalist. I completed workout sessions and yoga practices.

I’ll leave the rest in pictures.

There is hope.

iPhone 12 unboxing… while drinking soju

Gaaah. I filmed this a month ago. But I only got to editing it over the weekend. I’ve had an iPhone 7 since 2016… so getting an upgrade in 2020 is WORTH IT. Face ID? Charging without a cord? Portrait mode that WORKS? Those are no longer strange and foreign concepts for me. Lol.

Enjoy the video. It’s NOT meant to be taken seriously. 😛

Drink moderately.

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