A Week of Quarantine as a Graduate Student in Singapore

Are homebodies thriving during this period of physical distancing? We ask one to pen her reflections over a seven-day period. Read on for the quarantine diary by a 24-year-old Linguistics graduate student, recorded during the third week of the circuit breaker.

Prior to the pandemic, I went to classes twice a week. On the remaining days, I either stay at home or head to my friends’ houses to do… nothing but bask in each other’s company. It has been two weeks since the circuit breaker started. I’m quite a homebody, so having a legitimate reason to not leave my house sounds pretty good to me for the most part. Plus, I get to spend quality time with Mimosa (*name changed to protect her identity), my adorable prick of a cat.

Monday

I woke up slightly stressed about the test I was going to have at noon. The night before, I re-watched one of the lectures and I was confident I could get through the material that I needed. Midway through the morning, I was hit by the sudden realisation that I had been revising the wrong lectures. And thus began the mad rush of cramming the relevant content into my brain. I think it all worked out in the end. I sure hope so.

My family bought ma la for lunch and I am once again very grateful for living near a coffee shop, even though the lady that takes the orders for the tze char is slightly (alright, very) intimidating.

I did all the work I could for the lesson tomorrow and exercised for around 25 minutes. I have an exercise-related bet with a friend— the winner gets to cut the loser’s hair and there was no way I was going to lose!

Today was really good, for I was productive and did not feel that little twinge of guilt that I usually do as I enjoyed Derry Girls at night. I also gave buying stocks a second try and the purchase just went through— really exciting stuff!

Tuesday

I ate a Nutella-jam sandwich for breakfast while watching an episode of Because This Is My First Life, a Korean drama series. The cute romance and the food gave me the necessary fuel I needed to start my morning well. To prepare for a literature review that I had to write, I read a book that I borrowed from the school library.

I offered to cook lunch today since the rest of the family had to work but got rejected as they would rather heat up some frozen pizza. No complaints though, the Hawaiian and kimchi vegetarian pizzas that we had were delicious.

Right after lunch, I had a meeting on Microsoft Teams for a module. Video conferences always give me a little anxiety, so I usually arrange for a buffer period to prep for them. The meeting took almost three hours. After it ended, I realized I was less stressed than I usually felt, despite the upcoming deadlines. I am so grateful to be working with a guy from computer science!

I wanted to play the piano but I felt slightly bad since my family members were working. The piano was in my brother’s room and he said it was fine, so I went ahead, playing the same pieces that I always play. Evidently, I don’t feel bad enough to not do so. I’m glad nobody complained.

After a very pleasant and hearty dinner, I had my weekly Skype session with my friend from exchange for around 2.5 hours. We talked about my dream, his video games, income inequality, and gangs. Then, we watched Final Space together. He’s now living alone in Japan away from most of his friends and family in the USA. Social distancing is pretty tough for him, so I get a little worried sometimes. I remind him to eat more fruits and vegetables regularly.

Wednesday

While brushing my teeth, I noticed that my bra matched my pyjamas. What a positive start to the day. My mum found a short video titled “Fabulous 50 workouts. I joined her for the exercise, although it was intended for those twice my age. Then, I completed a final quiz for my online module and spent the rest of the morning on other work. Unfortunately, I could not focus so I cooked lunch and prepared ramen eggs for the next day. The eggs had to be left in simmering water for 7 minutes (to ensure they cook without the yolk completely hardening) and then soaked in a soy sauce mixture that I added some rice wine (花雕酒) to.

The afternoon went by slowly. Mimosa was taking a nap and I eventually fell asleep too. Upon waking up, I spent my time drawing things based on my memories, when I hung out with friends before this all started. I sent some of them to my friends to remind them of the good times we spent together. Who knows when we’ll get the chance again. Then I decided to start on my 25-minute exercise routine for my arms, legs and core.

I had a small tub dark chocolate almond flavoured ice cream while watching the season finale of Derry Girls. Both the dessert and the episode were lovely!

Towards the end of the night, my mood took a sharp dip when I said something I regretted to a friend. Or maybe I was just having mood swings. I listened to music while staring out the window, feeling the breeze from outside.

Thursday

In an attempt to get over my gloom, I stayed away from social media and messengers for today. I woke up at half-past six to go out for a jog but was still tired and ended up going back to sleep.

The day started very slowly as the inertia to get started on two huge write-ups was too high. I had cleared up all the easier tasks days before. My remaining tasks count for the bulk of my course grades. They just felt like so huge and impossible to complete.

For lunch, my family had instant noodles with the ramen eggs I prepared. They turned out to be delicious. 😊In a bid to procrastinate but not feel completely unproductive, I practised playing the piano and added roughly ten more minutes to my exercise routine. When I washed up, finally mentally ready to start work, it was already late in the afternoon. I made up for all my procrastination and made substantial progress.

My family ordered food for dinner for the first time since the circuit breaker started, so there was less washing up and preparation to do today. I turned on Modern Family and we watched it together though my mum kept missing the jokes which was, in a way, another source of amusement (sorry, mum). After dinner, I kept up the productivity streak by working on my assignment and felt rather pleased with myself. I went to bed early in hopes of going for a morning jog the next day.

Friday

I managed to wake up at 6.30am today! The sky was beautiful and I was glad to be able to see it. Mimosa did not expect me to be up so early and did not even approach me to get her breakfast. I went down and toggled between jogging and brisk-walking along the unexpectedly populated park connector for around 25 minutes. When I reached back home, my dad had cooked what he called a “cabbage omelette”, but I’m pretty sure he made an unintended okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake. I added a generous portion of Japanese mayo to it and thoroughly devoured my share.

Then, my grandaunt called to tell my family about how she’s been following the 10am exercise routine shown everyday on Channel 8 and we teased her about her lack of motor skills. It was all in good fun, I promise! I do miss other people a little.

Afterwards, I played a game on the iPad and was unable to start on my assignment. However, armed with the fact that I actually had a morning run earlier on, I did not feel as lousy as I otherwise would have.

In the afternoon, it started to rain and the weather significantly cooled. I began to do some typing for the day. Right when I started, the laptop that I borrowed from school died on me. It could neither be turned off nor used and the screen had turned completely black. Following tips from the internet and a friend, I tried removing and reinserting the battery and then connecting it to an external screen but nothing worked. I was desperate. I emailed my professor about it and was prepared to give up when another friend told me that she restarted the laptop twice before it worked. So, I redid what I did with the battery and IT WORKED! Thank you, universe (and my friend). This entire process took a lot of time and was fraught with emotions. I realized that my Lenovo ThinkPad may be living on borrowed time and so I’ve got to start making better use of what little time we may have left together.

I was supposed to video-call my friend for some silent reading together but she lost track of time and I am currently much too obsessed with finishing my task. Today has been incredibly productive and I managed to keep up with my extended exercise routine.

Saturday

I had half an apple and a small banana with peanut butter for breakfast. No better time to be in the peak of health. Begone virus! I started doing work earlier today as I was up early. When my mum woke up, we did another 10-minute Fabulous 50 workout together to start the day. Recharged as I was, I did not have the momentum to start work so I watched Middleditch & Schwartz, an improv comedy show.

For lunch, my dad made bee hoon while my mum made porridge. It felt like Chinese New Year since this is what I eat every year on the first day. I drifted into a food-induced nap and had a dream where I was getting married (Chinese-style) with no groom and my grandaunt was officiating it. I had to hold a huge orange while I knelt and kowtowed. She told me the orange was not “aligned properly” and I had to readjust where I placed it on the floor. How bizarre.

I made some progress, work-wise, and took a break in the evening. I did my exercise and had a nice long shower afterwards. Inspired by the video of someone hugging their pets for “too long”, I hugged Mimosa for as long as she let me and got a lot of her fur stuck to the bottom of my chin.

It was time for family time after dinner and my mother rented a documentary about migrant workers from the Projector to watch, following the Singapore sing-along at 7.55 pm. The streaming service (which shall not be named) was not the best and we endured five frustrating minutes of buffer before we ended up watching Ivan Heng’s Emily of Emerald Hill, one of the Wild Rice productions which was available on Youtube just for this period. The show was well done but it made me kinda sad.

At that point, I had spent a few hours without typing any content and could feel the stress of the upcoming datelines creeping up on me. The rest of the night was spent toiling. I postponed video calls with friends but I’ve also been texting a lot so I worry that I won’t get much work done.

Sunday

I had a nightmare, something that occurs time and again. When I do, I wake up early. Helped myself to some avocado and apple with honey and proceeded to spend almost two full hours glued to a game on my iPad. I kept dying and restarting but thankfully snapped out of it at around 10am to get back on track with my assignment.

My dad baked some banana bread and I snacked on small pieces of it throughout the day. In the afternoon, I Skyped my friend and we talked about drugs. He told me which were “uppers” (stimulants) and which were “downers” (suppressants) and educated me on the different methods of drug ingestion, among other things. He also said that he would not tell his extended family in the hypothetical situation that we got married because I was not Palestinian or Muslim and I felt rejected in an odd and funny way.

During dinner, my brother explained to the family how viruses attack cells and how they make use of the facilities in the cell to propagate since they can’t do it themselves (I didn’t take much biology in school so it was all new to me). He was so enthusiastic and also talked about genetic modification. It was really cool and educational stuff. I am now an upgraded version of myself with boosted Intelligence stats. For dessert, we had éclair with the chocolate dip left over from when my sister made churros.

I completed my write-up later in the night and then proceeded to spend 40 minutes boosting my Strength and Endurance stats with my daily workout. This week has been exhausting. And it’s probably the most productive I’ve been all year.

I’ve been staring out the windows a lot, something that I do when I’m not preoccupied. Maybe I do miss the outside world very much.

Feature image by Sherryl Cheong

a contributor

One of many contributors, sharing their stories under the cloak of anonymity.

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