Unhappy Birthday to You – COVID19!

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It’s sad to be reminded that something important is having a ‘birthday’ (or perhaps 1st year anniversary) and instead of being merry about things, there are certain things in life we would like to be bitter about – and COVID-19 is certainly one thing that falls into the basket of goods that we wish were dead.

Dear COVID-19, why are you still around? Wasn’t 1 year a duration long enough for you to disappear?

Can somebody tell us how long more must we wait for this pandemic to end. Hello? Can you hear me?

*There’s no answer*

These days, I’ve been doing a lot of #throwback moments on my Instagram as I realise that feeling nostalgic can give temporary relief of joy like “ahh, I’ve been there, I’ve done that.” Life is pretty much becoming a routine to me, and I am just getting by. The truth is I haven’t found anything to be excited about in a long while but I’m contented for now, at least that’s what I tell myself every day.

My country (Singapore) has done a relatively decent job in keeping COVID out of the country. In recent weeks, our ‘community spread’ cases have reduced to 0, but we still have single-digit worth of imported cases. We’re slowly bringing people in to Singapore, not just our own residents and permanent residents, but we’ve also open up our economy to limited business travel and tourists. Life still goes on pretty fine for me – though we’re limited to a maximum of 5 pax when we dine out plus wearing masks is compulsory (you’ll get fined for not wearing one). Furthermore, we have to record or entries to public spaces via scanning QR codes/NRIC to facilitate contact tracing (should anyone contracts COVID-19 and we need to send the close contacts for testing).

On hindsight, the government has done a pretty good job in managing the crisis (at least for now), and at times like this, it seems like being strict and a ‘fine city’ (You get fined $300+ if you do not comply to the rules of wearing a mask, keeping 1.5m safe distance (whenever possible) or illegal gatherings of more than 5). The only bummer that upsets me is that there’s still a restriction on alcohol – which can only be served up till 10:30pm – and that our KTV places (and clubs) are still not allowed to open. Those places are still regarded as high risk activities and I don’t know when our government will be willing to lift the restrictions ><

In case you’re wondering why I’m feeling so upset, I actually enjoy going to karaoke a lot. In the past, I think I go at least once every 1-2 months or at least once every quarter and when I was a student, we’ll go for a 6-hours session after examinations. But of course, I could have done the same thing in my own room right? But sadly, it just doesn’t feel right. I tried singing in my room a few times before but I’m not able to derive the same joy from being in a confined room with loud music and hearing my voice through a microphone. I sing a random selection of songs – ranging from chinese to korean to english. Even though my music library hasn’t built up in recent years (ever since I stopped listening to the radio and started on spotify), I still enjoy singing the old songs over and over again.

(Sorry for the random ramblings)

So, I was talking about my life having a routine. Let me share what that routine is about.

Currently, I work from home 95% of the time which means on average, I have only been to the office once every two weeks on average. Sadly, my department is ‘homeless’ now as the renovation works had been delayed. Working from the office means having meetings in meeting rooms or working from the pantry, without a fixed area. Oh wait, that term is called hot-desking. Whoops.

My stay at home life starts with waking up 10-30 mins before my work starts. I’m still undecided on whether I work more efficiently at home or in the office. At home, my 1-hour lunch break is often too long as my meals are usually ready for me (perks of still living with parents) and if there wasn’t food, lunch was just a simple water boiling (instant noodles) or a short drive outside to do take away, or sometimes we’ll order in when everyone is simply lazy. I also get to prepare my cold brew coffee at home and brew tea in the afternoon. As conventional as it gets, it is always morning coffee and afternoon tea for me. But of course, I don’t swear by this arrangement every day.

On the other hand (comparing it to my old office), I don’t usually get to reach the office on time (subject to the bus and traffic). After arriving, I will drop by the toilet and I’ll make my morning coffee (instant sachet) at the pantry, refilling my bottle with water for the day. Visiting the pantry is a morning routine for many and very often, we’ll all engage in a little small talk just before the start of the work day. But of course, if we’re having an early meeting for that day, the steps here could be skipped or sped up. Sighs, I do miss office life.

When I do get back to my desk and work, it would usually be about 9+ and whether I start working on my laptop vs getting distracted by someone who comes over for a conversation (be it work or non-work related). Messy start to a morning, but that was the norm back in the old norm. With the desk phone on your table, you’ll be greeted by calls, whenever. I have no idea what important things I had been doing in the past, but I know my phone rings pretty often. I recall this joke where my colleague played on me. She gave a new colleague ‘my extension number’ saying that it was IT helpdesk because most of the time I can solve the questions. It was a hilarious laugh.

Ahh, and then the clock strikes twelve (nope there isn’t any alarm) but it is kind of the official time where people start feeling hungry and think about lunch. ‘What to eat for lunch’ is my most dreaded question everyday and I hate making decisions and I usually don’t have much strong cravings. When my office was in the heartland – the answers usually lies in which coffee shop we were heading to – I’ll end up eating mixed vegetables and rice (caifan) 70% of the time. Despite the options being ever so the same, we’ll still have this discussion, sometimes at our work desk, sometimes at the lift lobby (waiting for the lift and the going toilet peeps).

Although lunchtime is stated as 1-hour according to the paper we signed before we start work, in most of the corporate environments I’ve been in, lunch time is hardly ever one hour perhaps 85% of the time. In order to only utilise 1 hour for lunch (in Singapore’s context pre-covid), you’ll have to pack your own lunch, have someone deliver lunch to you, order-in or eat alone. There’s a lot of time wastage in ‘getting lunch’ than the ‘eating process’ itself. When I signed my first contract in NZ, they stated that lunch was only 30 mins (unpaid) and I was like are you freakin’ kidding me. Due to the nature of my work of being in factories/farms, lunch is often packed. If you have a food warmer/microwave – good for you. You’ll get to enjoy warm food, but only after you finish queueing for the microwave. Oh, and the norm for lunch is leftover dinner from the night before, at least that was my norm. The more fancy and healthy people will pack salad, slice fruits, have granola and yogurt. When I was working in the fields (without microwave/warmer facilities), lunch was often onigiri (rice balls), tuna bread, caramalised onion and cheese bread. Oh gosh, how did I digress again. Anyway, the conclusion is that when in NZ, I discovered that 30 mins lunch can be a reality. I even had 20 mins break for my mussel factory work and this time includes the walking time from the processing room to the dining area. I usually just eat yogurt, cashew nuts and a warm cup of milo/coffee. Short lunch breaks are definitely possible but I guess the culture in Singapore has decide that food is cheap enough to be bought. It helps in stimulating the economy I guess.

Apart from the time waste spent on waiting for people and deciding where to eat for lunch, the next biggest time wastage is.. to look for seats. Singapore is after all a city, and there’s people everywhere. When you work at the Central Business District, the seat situation at our hawker centers can be insane and it’s a challenge to snatch up the right seat (for the right amount of people). I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this concept but in a shared free-seating area with a lot of people, we use tissue packets (sometimes umbrellas, water bottles and work passes) to ‘chope’ (aka reserve) seats, trusting that our items will still remain in tact when we return. But of course, we could park someone at the table to show ownership for the seats but this would mean that this poor person will have lesser time to queue, buy food and eat. Depending on the establishment culture, the tissue pack may or may not work. Well, if you’re dining at a food court, hawker center, the decisions doesn’t end. You’ll be greeted with rows and rows of options and cuisines – with varying queue lengths (if any). Anyway, my point for this part is that eating doesn’t takes up a lot of time. The other distractions with regards to ‘going for lunch’ eats up most of the lunch break but I guess it’s all part and parcel of the experience. My lunch satisfaction in Singapore is definitely higher in NZ. The lunch in NZ was just ‘eating to fill my stomach’ but the lunch I have in Singapore is usually a semi-bitching/gossiping session (depending on the stress level at work on that day), and perhaps a satisfaction of cravings, receiving more satisfaction and perhaps provide temporary relief of stress. Oh, and lunch doesn’t end when you’re done with the food. Often, we will queue to buy beverages for our afternoon tea.

(Sighs, how did I digress so far from talking about my routine)

Back to my discussion on work routines. The Work from Home (WFH) norm involves sending emails, attending meetings virtually via skype/teams/zoom (thankfully the culture is 90% turn off camera). Perhaps it is because I’m still new in my role, I’m not expected to work over time (for now). My work officially ends at 6pm and I think I’ve gotten off work (switch my laptop off) by 6:30pm 70% of the time. To the best of my ability, I hope to be strict about my working hours (when I still can) by starting and ending work punctually. Though in all honesty, I’m not confident in leaving work punctually when we’re back into office. In fact, leaving before 7pm was a rarity in the past and staying till 9pm (and being able to claim transport home) seems more of the norm.

I was having a discussion with my friend about how I used to sign on ‘beauty’ packages like hair treatment, manicure, massage and facial etc., when I was working previously (before NZ). The semi-realisation was that having such commitments give me an excuse to leave office on time. It’s funny how work has become the priority even during after hours, but that was the reality. I used to be able to fall asleep during my facial sessions while I was working but the past couple of facial sessions I had (when I wasn’t working), I couldn’t fall asleep – not because I had too much on my mind – but perhaps because I wasn’t tired. The satisfaction of such beauty services have somewhat been reduced compared to when I was leading a high-stress life. I know it somehow sounds weird but that has been the way for me.

Okay back to routine. I prefer meeting my friends on weekday nights because it is less crowded. The weekend crowd has been rather insane lately but I guess it’s a good sign that the economy is picking up. Once in a while, I do go out on weekends too. At this point in time, I’m getting a little bored of meeting up and it’s a weird feeling that I get pretty often. As much as I like the human interaction, I sometimes find it tiring I meet too often and the conversation topics run out. Maybe there’s a reason why I don’t seek companionship at my age. I haven’t found anyone that I could talk with forever, and don’t mind meeting often. Another thing is that in recent years, I got used to the idea of being alone; like it’s something that doesn’t scare me anymore.

Yep so that’s kind of pretty much my life routine now. Work, hanging out with friends and staying home.

At home, I bake occasionally when I get the feels for it. I do easy things like banana cake and cheesecake. Haven’t done cookies in a long while. Tried brownie a few times but they weren’t as popular as cheese and banana cake. I watch TV with my parents during dinner time and post dinner time. Though most of the time we are all in front of the TV swiping our own phones. I guess this is the kind of bonding that takes place among families these days. At night, I monitor the US stock market (a lot less active now, to be honest I’m getting a little bored) and I watch K-dramas. I try to pace out the dramas that I watch (to be ongoing live dramas) so that I won’t have the temptation to binge watch. I try to sleep by 2am. I know it’s somewhat late but oh wells.

How did I end up blabbering so much nonsense when I wanted the ‘theme’ of my post to be unhappy birthday to COVID-19.

On a side note, COVID-19 is really screwing up plans again & again. A couple of weeks ago, SG and HK had plans to launch a travel bubble where they will reduce the quarantine days for visitors, should the swab tests result be negative. Things were looking good, till this morning where the cases in HK rose slightly. There was a press release at 11:30am saying that the first flight (the next morning) will be proceeding as planed. Guess what, HK announced their case numbers in the afternoon and the rolling average surged past the initial promised ‘criteria’ and.. that’s it, the travel bubble arrangement will have to be on hold for another two weeks more >< I don’t know how to react to this absurd situation given that things can change so suddenly. Two weeks worth of travel arrangements will now be thrown out of the window and there were even photos of banners/balloons being set-up; ready for the flight tomorrow and.. whoops; everything equates down to zero.

Everything is a bummer. But let us all be contented and appreciate the things we have – I have a roof over my head, I have money in my bank account, I have a job, I have things that keep me entertained and I have people that I can talk to. I guess the biggest thing of 2020 that I can think of (in the aspect of self) is that I learned (and still learning) to be comfortable with myself. Was just telling someone who had been whining about being misunderstood and stuff like that and the advice I gave was “It is impossible to please everyone.”. Ouch but really, life is too short to live for others, living for yourself comes first.

Okay so can you predict what will be the “word of the year”? Will it be COVID-19, Corona, Pandemic or Lockdown? Not that there is a difference between all of them but this is what 2020 is all about. Oh and the only other thing I want to add will be in white font so congrats to you for reading this.. SHINee is BACK!!! Yes I’m a closet k-pop fan for SHINee and 3 members are out of army and they will be reuniting until the maknae gets enlisted. They had been my happy pills for the past one week. Their content is GOLD and they have the ability to make me so very happy. 

I hope that COVID-19 will not live to see its second birthday/anniversary and neither will its forms of mutation be around too.

I want my normal life back, life without masks and a life where I can go overseas while I’m on leave.

In case you’re looking for books to read, I’ve just finished ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knights and it is really an amazing book (slightly lengthy though). Thanks for reading, once again and let’s see when my next stay-in weekend will result in another fleeting thoughts post. Cya~

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