As we sang the Auld Lang Syne, clinked champagne flutes with the sounds and flares of the fireworks in the skies and bade farewell to 31st December, 2019, we had zero notion what would await us all at the turn of the year. Looking back to my 2020, my 365-day page was devoted almost entirely to the big C word that has drifted by with the passing of the 4 seasons (and counting …?)
In retrospect, there is probably one magic word that befits anno 2020: resilience. It is amazing how in the course of a few months we have been tested on our bouncebackability. Our ability of being adaptive and creative have been phenomenal.
Here is a snapshot of my diary of the year 2020 like no other.
Wedding of the Year
2020 could have been the year with a record number of weddings. Without a doubt, it was truly a blessing in disguise when my brother in Canada sent out early wedding invitations in 2019 to meet in Kuching for the wedding of his eldest son. The matrimonial vows were exchanged on 30th January, where families and friends hugged, laughed, shook hands and cried tears of joy. Here’s the write up of the wedding of my nephew and Nanako: Wedding
And then, the invincible invisible enemy crushed all hopes of all planned weddings in 2020. No church weddings, no banquets, no friends or families allowed. It’s gloomy days ahead for a long time.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March and lockdowns began in countries around the world. I would not have imagined that the colours of the traffic lights would dictate our way of living, but it had .… uptil now! Teleworking had been the new norm. I have been working from home since mid-March and it has been almost 10 months down the road. It was good at first as I hated the morning rush hours. When the days turned to weeks and then months, WFH seemed like an added chore, a drudgery of sorts. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. Let’s just say, it’s growing on me.
I did go back to my office 3 times since our first lockdown in mid-March. Although my office is prepared to have the employees back to the building, however, with the protocol of measures in line with the Fed Government’s, return to office is still not recommended.
For many people, looking back at 2020 is painful and frustrating. Keeping our distance from loved ones, friends and colleagues or not being able to attend a funeral, reunion party, potlucks, film, concert, workshop, meetings all led to isolation, hence a new word is born, “social distancing”. The introverts did not mind that, but definitely not the extroverts!
The corona virus might have taken the centre stage, but 2020 was also a year full of NEW ideas, NEW initiatives, fun and loving moments.
By the way, a surgical mask that cost a few cents became the most sought after item in 2020. When masks were nowhere to be found or sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, people were forced to get creative. YouTube Channels were exploded with tutorials and ideas of “how to make your own mask”. Millions made DIY masks. I was intrigued by the idea but the execution never got off the ground. I still have a bagful of cotton towels, mini sewing kit, filters, elastic band spools, untouched. When I wanted to start making my own mask, we received free masks from our commune, my company and from some friends. Not long after that, surgical masks were once again, allowed to be sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, but no longer at the price we knew pre-Covid.
We were told during the lockdown to stay healthy, to move around the house every so often despite the movement restriction order outdoors. It ain’t easy for the outdoor types, the extroverts. While swimming pools and gyms were closed, the free outdoors became the new ‘fitness centres’ of our world. There’s no stopping walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists working out in the woods and parks daily or weekly. Mind you, bicycles, sports suits, walking/running shoes and dumbbells were hot items in 2020, and pets, Netflix and Airfryer, too!!
And I just had to jump on the bandwagon!
How creative can a human mind be with a bad hair day during lockdown become a norm? When nonessential shops like a hair salon are closed for months, my hair was growing in all directions. YouTube seemed to have read my mind like an open book. Suddenly a video of an interview with George Clooney by Jimmy Kimmel appeared on my recommended feed. It was not just an interview but a surprising confession from the actor that he cuts his own hair … with a vacuum cleaner, aka Flowbee! After checking out all the Flowbee videos, I told my boys, “I want a Flowbee!, too!” Unfortunately, it’s an American product and it’s only available in the States, and they’re all sold out! Helaas!
Instead, I watched my boys having fun cutting each others’ hair while I snipped mine myself blindly …
Short and Crisp
Speaking of YouTube channels, I noticed so many new accounts created since March: all for the sake of entertaining the lockdowners. Some channels made it big in such a short span of time. I love watching musicals, singers and songwriters and one that stood out is a father-and-daughter vocal duo, Mat and Savanna Shaw. Their debut video cover of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer” published in March, garnered 8 million views (and counting), as I write. They have since published global livestream concerts and made their debut Christmas album in less than 10 months of owning a YouTube Channel. And I’m still watching them uploading perfectly harmonious songs. That makes me absolutely happy during this lockdown.
I’m afraid I am not one who has the patience to watch a lengthy movie in one sitting. Give me a good short story of 30 minutes or less at one sitting and I´d binge watch the videos in one night. Omeleto is my favourite pitstop and CGI animated short films is another. JinnyboyTV and Wong Fu Productions published quality videos with great acting and stories that are relatable with Asian values.
Summer 2020 was unlike any other summer. Airports were deserted. Commercial Planes were not flying, trains were sporadic. Many opted for a trip close to home, famously coined as “Staycation”. It was a hard decision for us, too, cancelling our trip to London via Eurostar. Infact, for ALL of us in these difficult times. We did, however, make a mini trip in September by car. We were very careful, maintaining our distance and adhering to the corona protocol and measures during our entire stay in South France.
Once a popular destination, all were quiet and almost deserted, but it was a much needed break for us. In hindsight, I’m glad we made it…
A picture is worth a thousand words.
The Pass that Failed
When the Belgian railway company launched the free pass “Hello Belgium” by promoting travel within the country, valid from 5th Oct 2020 for 6 months, I was thrilled. I had bookmarked a trip to Bruges with my son, but hey-ho, it was not meant to be. Belgium was flagged ‘red’ and entered into a stricter 2nd lockdown on 1st Nov when cases surged. There goes my free pass. It failed!
A Cancelled Concert: Despair vs Hope
Perhaps the most disappointing news was the cancelled live tour of my newfound favourite singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Josh Lee Turner, Carson McKee, Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren. Their live concert in Belgium in November where my husband and I were supposed to go, was cancelled. So we are reliving their music in our home and keeping our ears and eyes opened for new dates of their live concerts. Fingers crossed!
To keep the live musical theme alive in our home, we are listening to our 2 boys making music, yes, making and singing. Feeling blessed
“Bubble” during this pandemic means social contacts. How many contacts we could have were decided by the Government in alignment with the number of cases locally and regionally. Currently, Belgium allows only 1 cuddle contact (“knuffelcontact”) who does not belong to our own household. This “close contact” implies contact that lasts more than 15 minutes without having to maintain the social distance and wearing a face mask.
As far as I could remember, the number of bubbles in Belgium have been fluctuating like a yo-yo between March to December: from 2 to 4 to 15 and down to 10 and then to 4 and currently, to one lone ranger.
My kitchen has never been used so much the past 10 months. I was on my toes daily, balancing kitchen activities and office work. It was doable in the initial stage. I was like a duracell bunny hopping around the house with my daily chores and prepping daily meals for my menfolk. It was exhausting, so I thought the right way was to slow down and leave the cooking to either my older son and/or order takeaways.
Here were some snapshots of the memories of my bustling kitchen ideas, savouries and sweets
When I was weary, down and out, I passed the baton on to my older son. Here’s the outcome …
While I am not in the mood to cook, and the older son flashes his white flag, I had to resort to ordering takeaways. Here are the results …
Time will tell
A year in review might suggest that the moments are behind us, but what anno 2020 has shown is the events that will last a lifetime
Both my boys had to follow their University courses online. With lots of patience and determination, my older son graduated with his MSc degree last year. My younger son, on the other hand, is showing signs of losing hope. Hang on there, son. Hope works with Time and Time is capable of understanding how valuable Hope is.
The UK finally exits the EU and Time will tell how and what the future will be
The world stood still, but Time is catching up with us. We experienced a lockdown, felt vulnerable while the virus made a major impact on our daily lives. We had to get used to the new normal and the universal 1.5m social distancing, a word we had never used pre-Covid days. Shaking hands, attending a party, travelling and grabbing a shopping cart have not been the same and Time will tell if we will (ever) get back to our previous norm.
Following a public vote, “Knuffelcontact” has been named Word of the Year by the Van Dale Dutch language experts. The word literally translates to “cuddle contact” or “hug buddy” and refers to a close contact outside of one’s household in alignment to COVID-19 regulations.
The world stood still, but many have enriched their lives by staying healthy, eating right and being closer to their loved ones who are staying apart. It’s just a ZOOM away.
I look forward to the prospect of a new year in which we can see each other in person, give a hug and pass one another in the hallway with a visible smile on our face and a simple “Good Morning”
The fact that our freedom was limited the past year did not make it easy for all of us. But I know, we’ll come out of the rut year stronger than ever before!
Here’s to a Healthy, Happy, Stronger and Safer 2021 and to all Mothers-to-be and Grannies-to-be, enjoy a new Life in your lives. 2021 is one hell of a baby boom year. The Stork is working overtime in the Year of the Metal Ox.