I’m starting to see a little hope in the recovery of the pandemic and before life goes back to normal for all of us, I thought it might be nice to keep a record of all the inconveniences that we have been faced with throughout the past 5 and counting month. This is a time in history that nobody would ever like to repeat and I hope things will only (and should only) get better and better. It has been almost 2 months since Singapore has gone into ‘Phase 2’ which allows us to hang out in groups of 5 or less, even in public spaces. However, it is still compulsory for each and every one of us to wear a face mask whenever we are out of the house, with the exception of exercising.
In these two months, I’ve finally caught up with meeting most of my friends, whom I have not met in real life for close to a month. It was nice to continue the conversations beyond WhatsApp and IGDM and at the same time, I had the chance to hear each of their stories and their struggles with the COVID situation, which kind of inspired me to pen down this entry.
The six weddings I have yet to attend
One of the highlight of returning home from New Zealand for me was to attend my friends’ weddings. You might be shocked as ‘six’ (within the span of 2 months May & June) might sound like a lot of weddings and perhaps you might imagine me to be super Miss Popular with many friends but.. nope. I’m just an ordinary girl with comfortable groups of friends and it just happens that most of my friends want to get married this year. After all, the number 2020 looks good (on the marriage cert) and I guess many people feel that my age (it’s secret) is the ripe (right) age to move ahead to the next stage of their lives.
Well, right now, it is the month of August and I have attended 0 physical weddings. (I attended a video livestream wedding for a friend that I met in NZ last weekend).
It’s pretty devastating for couples to plan for their wedding one year in advance, only to be faced with uncertainties after uncertainties. Some of my friends have monetary deposits stuck with the hotels/restaurants (banquet) and most were not able to receive a full refund. At the time of my writing (Phase 2), the allowed capacity for weddings is capped at 50 people (previously 20) and most wedding receptions in Singapore range between 200 to 300 people.
Apart from the wedding banquets, planned overseas wedding photoshoots have also been affected. The flights were all canceled due to the travel ban/advisory notice and all the arrangements made for the beautiful spring flowers season for March/April (in Japan/Taiwan/Korea) had been cast aside. Some of my friends have opted for local photography options while others decide to put off their photoshoot for the time being. To add on, there were many vendors who were ‘canceled’ or postponed too – flowers and decor, same day photography and videography, photobooth, catering, solemnizer, and the list goes on..
For now, the majority of my friends have chosen to reschedule their wedding to a date in November/December and some have even chosen a 2021 date. No one can predict the future and all that’s left to do is to adapt and innovate. The next wedding I have in line is for end-September and no one knows for sure if it is happening, or perhaps be postponed again. Let’s see.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
There are three groups of people affected in this pandemic – the unemployed (job seekers), the newly unemployed (displaced workers/retrenched), and the employed.
I can identify myself strongly with the unemployed group. This had been the longest job search duration my whole life and I have been feeling the competition, even for many part-time jobs. Many people (especially the strangers on GrabHitch that I have met during this period) have asked me if I have regretted my decision to quit my job last year and go New Zealand, the answer is still a firm no. Life is too short for regrets.
To be honest, it is really tough to maintain your positivity during this period if you’re a job seeker. Every other day, you read reports of companies doing mass retrenchment exercises and you’ll be like, oh shit, here comes competition. Being somewhat in a mid-career phase makes it difficult for me to settle for an entry-level job and I am not that experienced enough for the senior positions. Initially, I did plan to keep track of the number of jobs I have applied for but my friend advised against it as it might be too depressing to ‘look at the numbers’. Oh wells.
The majority of the people stuck in this ‘job-seeker’ category are the fresh graduates of 2020 (and some leftovers from 2019). Many companies have stepped back on their hiring as an attempt to save and conserve the existing headcount and be prudent in view of a recession. While it is easy to ‘give the advice’ of asking job-seekers to settle for (a lot) lower pay, in reality, it is really not easy to accept. I always believe that there’s a reason to why everything happens. There will always be a silver lining somewhere, somehow. It may take time, it may convince you to alter your expectations, it may challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone or it may just.. happen. What’s important is that you do not lose hope and always convince yourself that the best is yet to come. I’ve learned a lot of things during this extended period of freedom (deserves another blog post of its own) but always be positive. Try everything.
The other group of people belongs to the recently displaced workers. Not many people might know but I had been displaced before a few years back but it didn’t take me too long (I think 1 month) to secure another job. In fact, I was really glad that it happened because it challenged me to put myself out in the employment market to see how valuable or relevant my skillset was. Perhaps it was my past experience that made me more prepared for this extended job search or perhaps I always believe that there’s something out there for me. On hindsight, retrenchment might be a calling for you to try something different, try something greater, and also, to take a break. Most retrenchments come with a certain amount of compensation and this money should be sufficient for you to cushion the financials for a while. I know this is a rather unfair statement as I am someone with no debt, no housing loan to pay off, no excessive commitments in my life that require large sums of money. I may not be able to understand the real stress of making ends meet but I hope to inspire you with optimism and believing that everything would work out in the end. Should money be of a concern, there are many odd jobs (like deliveries, mystery shopping, focus group, surveys) out there. I am thankful that my New Zealand experience broke down all barriers and gave me the courage to try these less popular jobs which wouldn’t exactly pay well, but it is good to earn some money while passing time.
The last category would be for the people who are still holding on to their jobs. This group appears to be the best of the three but in reality, their lives are not necessarily better. Apart from having the fear of retrenchment (especially if you’re working in the affected industries), you may have to take a pay cut, compulsory no-pay-leave and the possibility of having pay freeze and potentially low or no bonus. Furthermore, the remaining ones (assuming there are people retrenched) may have to take on additional workload without extra remuneration. I do have some friends stuck in this fate and the morale of the department/company can be really low. Although many people would tell you things like ‘You should be thankful you still have a job’, you will still feel kind of miserable inside if you’re unable to manage the increased stress and workload thrown upon you. Furthermore, the work-from-home situation may sound ideal as it reduces the commute time, most of my friends found themself working beyond their usual hours and having your work laptop with you all the time, only means that you’re kind of expected to be on standby and work whenever necessary.
My advice to everyone is to.. spread the love, spread the communication, spread the emotions. If you have a lot of time (like me), it wouldn’t hurt to check in on your friends often. Some may need a listening ear, some may need to rant their frustrations, some may just be bored and waiting for someone to talk to them.
I have a love-hate relation with masking up. Prior to COVID, I first discovered my love for masks when I last visited Japan in 2018. Back then, I had a very bad cough and in order to be socially responsible, I decided to wear a mask almost everywhere I go. In Japan, wearing a mask is very common and nobody will take a second look at you if you’re wearing one. Also, it was winter and I realized that the mask was extremely useful in keeping my face warm. It helps to regulate the heat from your mouth/nose to your face (which keeps it warm and moist). I also started masking up in plane rides as I found out that it could keep my throat less dry. As a result, I stocked up a little on the masks (Japanese ones are awesome) and brought them with me to New Zealand. I wore them on a few winter nights as it was really useful in keeping me warm.
Despite my love for wearing masks, I’m starting to dislike it now that I’m forced to wear it on a daily basis. The humidity of Singapore’s weather makes mask-wearing uncomfortable for long periods of time. As much as I hate wearing masks because of the heat and humidity, I am thankful that the masks exists because it has definitely played a part in keeping our community cases down and if that extra face accessory allows me to get out of the house for more leisure activities and to meet up with my friends outside, I’ll gladly do it, in return to have my life back. Sometimes, I find it funny and amazing how everyone is wearing a mask when they are out (well it’s kind of compulsory and required) and should anyone be not wearing a mask, they’ll be the odd one out. The mask is also a little useful in keeping out the unwanted secondhand smoke and unpleasant smells.
Also, I’ve not been putting much makeup (beyond sunscreen) whenever I’m out of my house as the makeup will end up on my mask anyway. Most of us will see our skin deteriorate with the increased trapped humidity but I hope that the lack of powder on my skin can make up for it.
As much as I hope the masking up will end someday, I am thankful that it had been rather effective in controlling the infection numbers. Yes, it is indeed a love-hate relationship.
Prolonged Stay-at-Home Family Time
For the past five months, I think I made up for all the absence in the previous nine months. The amount of time I have been spending at home (with my parents) has reached the record high level my entire life (like duh). When I first got back in March and did the 14-day self-declared Stay Home Notice, I was only expecting the ordeal to end in 2 weeks and it resulted in me doing a lot of things for that 14 days. I was a complete liability – unable to go out and purchase groceries for baking, unable to buy my own food (well, I did order my own food). I spent my time in front of my computer, watching dramas after dramas and playing PC games which i have not touched in many years. I also did quite a bit of online learning (which I don’t think I recall much) and even bought a one-month subscription of Just Dance, as an attempt to exercise at home.
Guess what was the most heated subject of discussion in my house on a daily basis?
What are we eating for lunch/dinner?
At times like this, I kind of miss the simplicity of my life in New Zealand; where the only dine-out/takeaway meal options in the town I was living in was KFC, Dominos, Subway, Indian Curry. Apart from that, I had to prepare my own meals which were simple rice dishes, pasta and bread. Life was simpler with lesser options.
However, being in Singapore where we are kind of known for our cheap and good food, the excessive options and choices make deciding what to eat for lunch/dinner is a complete headache. No one in my family like to plan in advance as you can’t really ‘predict’ cravings so we often decide after rounds of anger and opinions. The cycle repeats itself ever so often but I guess bickering is a kind of communication too. Everyday, we have to choose between cooking (actually it’s up to the parents as I don’t like cooking in SG), eating instant noodles (I’ve bought a wide variety), to ordering in (and risk paying extra money for delivery. sometimes the wait is unbearable too), ordering ahead and driving out to collect, buying something within walking distance of my house, going somewhere 10-15mins drive away for take-outs or perhaps even venturing further for our food.
Sometimes, we will bundle the food buying with grocery runs, killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
The entire ‘what to eat for lunch/dinner’ scenario has been so annoying that I can’t recall what life was like before the pandemic. Then again, lunch wasn’t a frustration cause I’ll be out at work and weekends I’m usually out half the time. Seems like this is indeed a new problem and we got to figure out how to deal with this ridiculous problem.
Thankfully, Phase 2 eased the burden of ‘home-dining’ and I can now eat with my friends outside of the house. Initially, we had to deal with a 7-day-a-week agony but now I think I dine out a few times a week. Furthermore, when I’m out of the house, we can do take-outs from the nearest available eatery and reduce the agony of having too many options.
Travel has taken a backseat
This topic is probably over-discussed and everyone is just whining about the same thing but it is still very sad to find out that your most precious hobby, something that you work hard and save up for, cease to exist for a while, and perhaps a really long while. This blog/website started because of travel and it continued because I never stopped traveling. For the past five months, I’ve tried to ‘sustain’ it by writing non-travel related content, mainly because I am bored and I wanted to continue to write. It could be a way to sustain the momentum (well, I blogged every single week for my 9 months in NZ) and also to keep this alive.
Whenever I’m out with my friends, we will be discussing on how we wish we could visit Malaysia (over the weekend) and talk about our Yogyakarta trip, the Okinawa trip which we almost bought tickets too. I’ll also think about my could-have-been escape to Germany and my escapade to Korea in July plus my hope-it-can-still-happen ski trip to Korea/Japan. I’ll continue to keep dreaming, keep hoping and remain positive that life can indeed go back to normalcy soon.
To be honest, I’m still unsure about the vaccine. Will really having a vaccine be the cure to this problem and that everyone just needs a dose of the vaccine and life can just return back to normal? As much as I am very hopeful, I am also skeptical about how the virus can stop given that it has the ability to mutate. Furthermore, there are many known diseases in the world today which does not have any vaccine despite years and years of research. While the lockdown has proven effective in some countries, but the new waves of infections time and time again just seems to extinguish whatever hope we would like to believe in. I’ll try to be positive in this aspect but.. it’s hard.
I hope I won’t be needing to write another post commemorating this pandemic because things will get better and none of this will be relevant anymore. This is just a point of history that I would like to remember because it is not often that I get to experience uncertainty, helplessness and the abundance of time; all at the same time.
Things will only (and can only) get better.
Have you been keeping your sanity in check?