It’s been a fleeting 6 months since you first arrived in Singapore. Your presence was albeit distant initially, as I heard about you only in news articles and on television. But I suppose you didn’t like it that way, did you? Soon enough, morning assemblies were no longer a thing in my school. Then came the shortened, later cancelled orientation. The next thing I knew, we were no longer chatting outside while waiting to enter lecture theatres. Instead, we were streaming pre-recorded lectures in our classroom with a fixed exam-style seating.
In the beginning, your presence threw us into a frenzy. Because of you, many of our essential workers defaulted into working overtime. I remember reading an article which highlighted how cleaning efforts had to be ramped up in public spaces, and that our transportation cleaners had been subjected to longer working hours and increased workload due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. In the heat of the moment, I decided to start a welfare-pack distribution project with my team at SGExams to better express our appreciation for the cleaners who had worked tirelessly this season to keep us safe.
On the actual distribution day, one cleaner spoke about her worries for her family in China while she’s here in Singapore. Another said, “是辛苦啊，但是我们一定要做”, which roughly translates to “It’s tough, but we have to do it.” Speaking to some of them and hearing their stories first-hand really tugged at my heartstrings.
Putting together everything in the short span of 3 weeks certainly wasn’t easy, but I was extremely heartened to have worked with passionate individuals that also felt strongly about our cause. The internet also made it much easier for us to materialise our project ideas. Collaborating online, contacting our beneficiaries and sending emails to sponsors from home was made possible with just a device and an internet connection.
This distribution aside, SGExams had many plans lined up for 2020. Being a student-run organisation meant to support a better student community, there were plans to organise volunteering opportunities, such as beach clean-ups and dialogue sessions aimed at improving the education journey of Singapore students. Your presence did throw a curveball in many of our plans, pushing us to shelve some of our projects and move others online. But while you might have inconvenienced us, you have not stopped us. While it wasn’t an easy journey transitioning to online, we did it anyway. I guess we can say “too bad for you”?
By now, your presence has introduced us to a “new normal”, multiple times. From a period of encouraged safe-distancing to circuit breaker, where full home-based learning and work from home came into effect. Now, we are entering the next phase of safe reopening.
Returning to school last week was the closest run-in I had with the yet another “new normal”. I can’t help but miss the times my class of 28 squeezed into 3 tables in the canteen, as compared to the present where each table sits a maximum of 3. I also can’t help but miss the times my CCA went for dinners at Junction 8 after practice. But I do believe the things you took from us, we will rise up and take them back from you, slowly but surely.
Too bad for you, I guess, for we are willful people who never give up a fight against the likes of you. Too bad for you, I guess, for we are opportunists that learn to make the best out of what we have in times of adversity. Too bad for you, I guess, for we are stronger than you are.