I often forget when I’m sat in my little bubble that our life is very different to most of the world. What feels like ‘normal’ to us and routine is actually very unique. Covid-19 has affected everyone and the impact has been felt all around the world, but those ripples have been experienced very differently.
Whilst we’ve been living out Covid-19 in comfortable Singapore, we’ve closely watched how it’s played out for our friends and family. I have, on many occasions, noticed what huge differences there have been, especially on rules and regulations. So I thought I’d share our Covid-19 journey so far, it’s basically the only ‘journey’ we’ll be taking in 2020.
For us this journey started back in January with whispers of a ‘Whu Flu’ which was taking China by storm. So we’ve been on ‘the road’ for ten months now. We started slowly with ‘wash your hands’, much the same as other countries and a drop of ‘save the masks for the professionals’. We saw shop shelves cleared off masks and hand sanitiser, luckily I had a friend visit from the UK in February who brought me a good supply. (Thanks Claire!)
It was strange having a visitor during the start of Covid-19, we avoided some of the main tourist places, for example where China Town would normally be my first stop when showing people around, we opted for Pulau Ubin instead and hung with the monkeys. Likewise I’d normally head up to the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands, to the roof top, but instead we went to Smoke and Mirrors above the National Gallery and enjoyed the views and cocktails with fewer people. We mainly wore masks in taxis and shopping malls.
Funnily, when Claire went home to the UK – her husband had to stay off work for two weeks as his bosses were concerned she may have been infected during her trip. Little did we know what was to follow. Also, we couldn’t have predicted this would be our only visitor during 2020. We’re used to having so many people to stay each year.
The next ‘phase’ was limiting groups to ten outside of the house. So we started to be extra vigilant on how many people we were mixing with, especially in our condo pool. I remember one day clearly, it was a bright blue sky, we were in the pool and when a friend walked over we were already at ten, shoot, I had to break away and save the group. It was a really strange feeling, little did I know that for the rest of the year I’d be wishing for a group of ten outside of the house.
Later the same day there was talk of what was to come, China had gone into lockdown and we would likely follow suit with our rising numbers. Our kids were playing at the side of the pool on a skateboard, which then got us thinking… on a whim we decided to live out our childhood dreams and we put in a huge collective condo order in at a local skateboard shop for longboards and skateboards. These would later offer us some respite during lockdown. My favourite lockdown quote was a friend saying – ‘I was sat on my balcony today when I saw a middle aged women go past on a skateboard’. How dare he call me middle aged, haha.
Not long after this in April a few friends were put on house arrest due to teachers in their children’s classes testing positive. Singapore didn’t and doesn’t mess around and whole year groups were quarantined as preventative measures. Around this time I started watching all the world figures and the local figures closely, you could login to the MOH (Ministry of Health) and they would tell you who had been infected with Covid-19, why and even where they had been in the days previous. They would also document so-called clusters and breakouts. Religious ceremonies, cinemas, bars and schools started to feature in these lists, so we in turn started to avoid crowded places.
I think it was around this time when we had the shelves cleared of toilet roll, for us there was a rumour that the Chinese factories that made our loo roll here were switching production to masks and that there would be a shortage of this modern day convenience. We started judging neighbours returning from the shops with more than one bag ;-). It was funny watching this trend pass on around the world as people prepared for lockdown.
We also found the shelves being cleared of tinned goods as people began ‘stocking up’. It’s well documented that Singapore has a good amount of food reserves so this didn’t make much sense to me. People were driving miles to empty the shelves, the cashier in our local store told me that he had hardly recognised anyone all week. He was also my ally during this time, putting almond milk aside for me to collect after it was delivered. But we started to notice that things which had become staples for us were no longer stocked as the supply chain from Australia was apparently struggling. We made adaptions to our diets, no big stress that we couldn’t get pre-chopped garlic or vegan mayo but no tinned tomatoes was actually mildly annoying.
For us the longest time this year had to be the ‘house arrest’ or lockdown period, I can’t tell you how many days this lasted as I chose not to count. The homeschooling was the hardest part for my mental health to cope with. My youngest really struggled with the zoom classes, too much background noise, not interactive enough, it’s really not as simple as doing normal lessons but online. The whole teaching approach needs to be adapted to keep the kids engaged.
But compared to some countries I’m appreciative that our kids’ learning continued. They both had online classes and homework to complete. They were learning for about 3-5 hours a day. Other friends here had the whole day mapped out with lessons from 9-3. I found myself getting up at 5.30 to get work done before the school day stated. And then working through their lunch-break and then into the evenings. There were tears, mainly mine to be fair!
As lockdown began we made a point of starting the day with a walk, the kids could scoot, skateboard, cycle or walk with us. We were all much happier after some fresh air. We tried to go at times when the paths were quieter. In the evenings we’d repeat this to end the day. Our best kept secret where we live was that we were allowed to use our SUP boards, the only location in Singapore. We would spend our afternoons on the water, when the weather allowed. We saw everything from barracudas to jellyfish during that time.
Just as we were getting into a routine and finding our groove it was all turned on it’s head when it was announced that we could only leave the house one at a time. We had to split the family up and take one child each, at this point we were only doing one walk a day. This was a really low point for me, I was really missing my time to chat with hubby on our walks.
Living in a condo we tried to make the most of the space we had. Literally the last day before lockdown my ‘cushion man’ made me some outdoor cushions for the chairs on our bedroom balcony (this had only sat on my to do list for two years). We also spruced up the balcony off the main living room. These spaces became our respite, our quiet time and much needed ‘away time’. I would nip out there to read or sleep during the afternoons, don’t judge, I was doing early mornings and late nights. My neighbour Jenn would often see me, glass of red in hand, reading a book whilst she was working out on her balcony.
Not that I wasn’t working out myself… pre-Covid I had really got into my swimming, I was swimming 3-4 times a week covering up to 3k on good days. So I had to switch this up during lockdown, as our pool was out of bounds. So I followed along with my local community zoom yoga, a once a week hiit session and a weekly meditation class. I loved seeing the ladies I knew during these classes and the familiar voices of my instructors. I think it’s these moments of meaningful connections that we all missed most during this time.
I love how optimistic my husband was in the early days – we had to shuffle around furniture to allocate ‘working’ spaces for each of us. I gave up my desk for my son, my daughter got our console table from our bedroom as her desk and my husband was working from a chair on the balcony. This only lasted two weeks before he ordered himself an Ikea desk, little did he know he’d still be working on it in October!
We’ve all had our birthdays this year now. My son was the only one in full lockdown. I was blown away by the support of our local friends as they dropped off gifts (socially distanced) and wishes were sent. I made a birthday crown, cake and we threw a zoom party – which actually was so much fun, the entertainer even set his hands on fire. It was shared with friends and family who would normally not be able to attend, across the world in Japan, UK, Austria and Singapore. It was precious hearing their laughter.
My daughter’s best friends live in our condo, during lockdown we had a designated swap spot… she would write letters, make craft and do book swaps. But her best part of the year was when she got to see her besties again. I think they screamed for a week.
We came out of lockdown just in time for the kids to do a few weeks at school before the summer holidays. The summer holidays were long with no travel to break them up. Schools put on extra camps to keep the kids entertained. The hard part is that groups have been and are still limited to 5, so with two kids myself and most of my friends with two kids, meets ups are only possible within the home, where we can have 5 guests at a time.
It’s still a legal obligation here to wear a mask every time you step foot outside of your home. I’ve made so many now, to the point where I’m now on mask version 5.0. With my neighbour’s help from her fancy cutting machine I think I’ve finally found the perfect shape. I treated myself to some beautiful Liberty fabric last week and look forward to upgrading my masks again. I made a nice one to go out for dinner last week, such is my life now, matching my masks to my outfits and occasion.
Our pool opened up in the summer holidays too, I was the second person back in that pool, I couldn’t wait! I was actually a bit miffed that someone beat me to first place. I did some celebratory laps with my friend. Whilst the weather has now turned a bit better, we’ve had quite a few rainy weekends, so we could only take advantage of the water in-between the showers.
We’ve sat through the summer watching our nearest and dearest back in Europe having a jolly time; camping, going on holiday, just going out and about. It’s been tough on us as we can’t travel far from home. We’ve sat on the fence of ‘should we move back now’, (which is a question on the tip of most expats’ tongues) but to be honest, potentially facing another round of home schooling in the UK fills me with dread.
We’re waiting out the pandemic in a country which takes no more than 45mins to get from one end to another. Luckily there is lots to do here, but it can feel rather small and intense at times. We knew this before we moved here, but we’re here to travel and see this part of the world and whilst we can’t do that at the moment it’s tough on us.
We are super grateful to the Singapore government on how they have and continue to handle this efficiently and with a lot of importance. We feel safe here and we are well. We are keeping our friends and family in our thoughts, we’re missing them dreadfully now. Sadly we are now getting reports of loved ones catching Covid-19 back ‘home’ in England.
Writing this has been like going to a therapy session, hope you’ve enjoyed my waffling along, its not my usual content. But I thought you’d enjoy to see how we are living through Covid-19, it’s certainly not been all rosy.
How has this year been for you? What have you done to see yourself through with sanity? Have you been lucky enough to travel? Are you wearing a mask? I hope it’s a reusable one! Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.