Year 2020, when the world stood still

Singapore's Merlion void of its usual sea of people,
photo by Kris Whiteley

Days are exceptionally longer. Places turning into ghost towns. Streets are empty. Family and friends have become more virtual than ever. Just like in the movies, the idea of an apocalypse that seems to unfold, a world on pause. When the year 2020 rolled in, there was a sense of a more hopeful future amidst the unrest that is enduring in most of the world. Significant issues that is affecting more and more people, an awakening for a need to change. Then just like that, the world was forced to slow down. As if someone has pressed the reset button. Everything we know just seemed irrelevant during the past few months when a third of the world population was on lock down.

As early as January,
masks had been in short supply
It is now into the seventh month the world is struggling to cope with an invisible foe. The world is now brought to its knees against this virus that is consuming every country, challenging our very essence in science, in the medical field, in the economy. It's unimaginable how a microbe can shake the world now with an economy attempting to recover. Businesses who are suffering or shutting down. Not all of the 80% of commercial planes that was grounded are slowly picking up. The countries who are grappling to a new normal as it gradually reopens while some are still enduring the battle to contain and flatten the curve. And not even one seventh of the world is infected. The world has definitely transformed in a matter of months. 

A generation that has never faced such a trying and stressful time, will we take the occasion to fix the cracks of the system and our society?

A clear sign on prohibiting dining in a hawker
Such an experience have drawn humanity into light. It had showed us how it prevailed with acts of camaraderie and kindness, and the darkness of our society. It displayed our reaction to an altered normalcy. To stress and the fear of uncertainty. The list of our first world problems of not being able to travel, let alone go out of our own homes. The extravagance of boredom, or hoarding our personal food supply, and toilet paper. The unimaginable issue of masks, and the judgmental eyes to those who are prudent and to those who are not at all afraid. This experience has united and divided a society yet again. In the end, it somehow hadn't changed, only it brought out more color, or stain in all of us. Then life goes on. We forget so much easily of what this pandemic have made us witness. Somehow the sense of trust in different levels have been compromised.

Haji Lane deserted of tourists
There is a silent grieving of a world that may never be the same. The long wait to find it as we know it. But it is not only in getting back the life we had - to go out without masks, or to finally get to visit and fly to that place we have always dreamed of seeing. To watch a concert. To celebrate a wedding ceremony. There will now be that constant fear. Thoughts on people who have to be sick alone, die alone, and be buried alone. People who are living alone in this difficult time. People who live on the streets. People who lost their jobs. People in healthcare saving lives. People in sanitary who is keeping us safe to make us somewhat feel that we are still living normal, everyday lives. It still seems like the world pre-pandemic afterall. Just a magnified image of a world we have so long ignored. 

Safety first in trains
It has been a couple of months since the world could not just stand still. The economy has to restart. Our social life had to go back to normal and start consuming again. The moment people begun about their old lives again, getting together in their favorite bars, celebrating on the streets, and started traveling again, it is easy to believe that the pandemic is over as if it had never happened. We stopped updating ourselves with news. Knowing somebody being infected has become no surprise. A few seconds of disbelief when some countries still have thousands of cases everyday, then we go on with our day. This has become our new normal, until it gets too close to home and we become just a number of those who we lost close to us to COVID 19.

What a year this has been. Cancelled events, flight tickets and hotel reservations. Too much time in confinement pondering about your current and future situation. Couples divorce, parents openly admitting being sick & tired of their kids, marriages surviving & pregnancies. The delight of humankind fighting over rolls of toilet paper, and for some finally baking their homemade breads. But there is more to this pandemic that has become an eye opener. So many issues raised, and amidst of it all, there are so many protests on the streets everywhere for a lot of other concerns. And yet, here we are, armchair critics watching the world unravel and ravel again and again in the comfort of our own couches. What is your take in this historical year so far?

Seeing friends after a week of reopening, the habit of masks


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.

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