Covid-19: Lest I forget the gritty details (Part 2: Teaching and Learning)

The university put in place a few measures pretty quickly to address Covid-19. Aside from the Travel Declarations, some other measures were rolled out to stop students/staff who may have been exposed to the coronavirus from coming to class, and to facilitate contact tracing of physical presence in the lecture theatres and tutorial rooms.

QR codes and scanned attendance (12 Feb)
Each venue, lecture theatre, tutorial room, and meeting room, was assigned a QR code and the code was pasted at the doors of each venue. Students and instructor had to use their mobile phone to scan in their attendance at the beginning of class.

Class seating group photo taking (13 Feb)
Another step was added the next day, the instructor had to take a photo of the whole class to indicate seating proximity. This is to help in terms of contact tracing and allocating people in close proximity for quarantine, if needed. The group photos would be deleted 2 weeks later. Thankfully, no-one in the classes that I taught came down with Covid. I remember some of my students showing the korean “love” signs with their arms and fingers during photo taking.

No more than 50 per class (14 Feb)
Next, we could no longer have large group lecture and could only have classes with no more than 50 students. So I had to do some additional lectures to my tutorial group because they couldn’t meet with the larger cohort for the common lecture. Scrambled a little to understand the lecture slides prepared by my colleague. Also tried to help out my colleagues as they tried to set up live-streaming using BB Collaborate Ultra for a large scale professional development course. It was messy walking from lecture theatre to the tutorial room, and trying to use WhatsApp to communicate. Thankfully this was settled when the pros from the IT dept finally stepped in.

Things went on like that for awhile. Then the March school holidays (16-20 March) came and havoc came with it. Many teachers and students started traveling, even I had planned to travel to KL. By this time, there were also many returnees from Europe and USA. And then Malaysia implemented the movement control order (MCO) on 18 March 2020.

Leave of absence for students and teachers who traveled during March school holidays (19 March directive, backdate to travel from 14 March onwards)
This created another push to have all uni staff and students to declare their travel. At first, travel to Malaysia via the land crossings was allowed and then that changed when Malaysia enforced MCO. Many students and staff who went for a quick trip to Malaysia were placed on LOA for 2-weeks. LOA became Stay Home Notice (SHN) for some based on location of travel.

This round of LOA affected quite many trainees who were on practicum and had to miss at least one week of school when the school holidays ended. Some masters students had to miss classes because of the LOA. Occasionally for some students, while his or her LOA ended, they would have a family member in the same household return from a trip and thus prolonged their LOA further. Schools reopened with fewer students, and a diminished teaching staff.

Safe distancing, no more than 3 students per table (26 Mar)
Further safe distancing measure was implemented – no more than 3 students per table at the tutorial room. I think the students were rather surprised that I enforced it strictly. After I took the group photo, one student moved to another table to sit with his 3 friend. “No, you have to move back! No more than 3 per table. I must be able to answer honestly that I kept to the university advisory!” Haha.

Fully online classes and “closure” of uni (6-7 Apr)
Uni classes moved to fully online on 6 April. This did not have much effect on my class. By this time I only have one masters class left, and the remaining 3 weeks were allocated for self-directed assignment work and consultation. So I did not have to move my lessons online.

Since classes were fully online and exams have been mostly canceled, local students staying in the student halls were required to moved home by 5 April. Most uni staff must work from home (WFH; 7 April). Schools will go full home-based learning starting 8 April. With that, for the trainees on 10-week practicum, they are the first batch ever to experience a shortened 5.5-week practicum. I’m sure many are cheering in delight 🙂

Covid-19: Lest I forget the gritty details (Part 1: Awareness)

The news of the novel coronavirus in China was already circulating. 24 January 2020, one Mainland Chinese tourist in Singapore tested positive. 25 January 2020, several Mainland Chinese tourists in Malaysia tested positive. The first inkling of what is to come was when I flew back to Singapore from KLIA on 27 January 2020 after the CNY break. I can’t remember the exact reason why the awareness was heightened on this trip back to Singapore. I think it may have been triggered by a university email about travel declarations and the setting up of quarantine and leave of absence (LOA) student housing. The Grabcar driver who picked me up from my brother’s place was wearing a mask. When I arrived at KLIA and saw quite many airline staff and travellers with surgical masks on, that was when Covid-19 (then called novel coronavirus) situation became a reality in my life. I remember looking over at a group of tourists from Mainland China checking-in at the Southern China airline counter.

Travel Declarations

By 28 January 2020, the university had set up an Online Travel Declaration site for staff and students to declare any travel to China. Anyone who had traveled to Wuhan, would be quarantined for 14 days. Anyone who had traveled to other parts of China would be on LOA for 14 days. Initially there were some hiccups. Many prompts were sent to remind students to declare their travel. There were also a number of error declarations where students who did not travel to China, mistakenly entered “yes”. This was followed by some hoohah where these students were prevented from coming to class until their error declarations were checked out by the Immigration dept. I don’t think it got that far, because after a few days, these students were allowed to attend classes again.

Food Delivery for students on LOA

End January 2020 was also when the university moved students out of some graduate housing blocks and converted the units to house international students who had returned from China and had been placed on LOA. Another block was designated as a quarantine unit for people who had close contact with a confirmed case or who visited and returned from Wuhan.

For the 210 students in the LOA blocks, breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided for 14 days. Because of the large number of meals to be delivered, there was a call for volunteers to help distribute meals. I remember going for my first meal distribution volunteer session. It was lunch time on a Thursday (6 Feb 2020). Waiting at the entrance area with other volunteers and with surgical masks on, I saw a Grabfood rider arriving at the block. He must have quite a shock to see that sight. Then a male student, with a mask on, emerged from the LOA block to collect his Subway sandwich. LOA students are not confined to the building, they can travel out but just not to attend classes.

The volunteers had to use hand sanitizer before entering the building. We were told to hang the plastic bag of food on the door handle, to be especially careful not to touch the handle, and not to knock on the door because some students have complained about that. There were also special meals: vegetarian, eggless, no shellfish, etc. We also had to discard the breakfast sandwich and coffee that were left untouched. There were some confusion when the student was quick to retrieve the meal, and then another volunteer might hang another set of meal on that door handle. When I left, I quickly threw away the mask, and sanitized my hands and took the bus to office.

During my second volunteer duty on Saturday (8 Feb), the young folk in charge asked if I still had my mask from the previous session! That just shows people were not so aware of the do-s and don’t-s in this novel situation. I said no and she sent someone to get a mask for me.

I did a third call of food delivery duty on Saturday (15 Feb), by then there were fewer students on LOA in the block. Most have served their 14 days.

Daily Twice-a-day Temperature Taking and Declaration

On Sunday (9 Feb 2020), we received an email that there would be mandatory twice a day temperature taking and online declaration starting on Monday (10 Feb 2020). I was a bit distressed by this because I didn’t have a thermometer and dreaded the thought of the inconvenience of having to go to the hall office or the different temperature taking stations twice a day. I even pondered whether my food probe thermometer might work. I then went to the nearby mall knowing that there’s a baby section at Robinsons (higher end departmental store) and thinking that people may not venture there. To my delight and relief, they had two Pigeon brand baby thermometers. I bought both. I also found baby thermometers at the baby section at FairPrice. While I was browsing the pharmacies at the mall (looking for surgical masks but knowing there wouldn’t be any), I heard people asking the staff for thermometers and there was none available. Texted my colleagues to check if they needed any but did not hear from them. I decided to just buy another thermometer from Fair Price. I passed the two thermometers to my colleagues.

However, it turned out the temperature taking stations were quite conveniently placed and there were not many people queuing at the stations. Eventually the university placed temperature video scanners at some main thoroughfares and we didn’t have to be “shot” in the head daily by the contactless thermometers.

Twice a day temperature taking is still happening. My baby thermometer is very helpful when I’m working from home or is in the office and too lazy to walk out to the temperature taking stations.

More to come ….

February, March and April 2019 Fitness Tracker

~ 9 Feb 6:04pm 32:00 FB Refresh Relax and Restore: Stretching workout – cheating workout to get engine started
~ 10 Feb 5:35pm 35:00 FB30R3 D32 Cardio and core
~ 11 Feb 8:30pm 31:00 FB30R3 D33 Bodyweight strength + HIIT — I’ve never done this workout before. I like it but the transition is too fast.
~ 16 Feb 8:13pm 33:00 FB30R3 D36 HIIT & strength — I think I can skip any side-lunge moves from now on, maybe just do some stretches. Right knee can’t handle it.
~ 17 Feb 6:32pm 34:00 FB30R3 D37 Dynamic upper body
~ 19 Feb 5:30pm 27:00 FB30R3 D38 HIIT + core
~ 23 Feb 4:50pm 31:00 FB30R3 D39 Upper body strength
~ 24 Feb 7:15pm 30min FB30R3 D40 Strength, pilates, barre
~ 10 Mar 7:00pm 15:00 FB3R3 D41 Pilates + yoga blend — cheating workout
~ 1 Apr 8:55pm 28:00 FB Stretching pilates yoga blend workout — went on a long trip, lost all the workout mojo.
~ 2 Apr 7:08pm 35:00 FB Abs + Upper body strength training workout — can’t lift as heavy anymore
~ 12 Apr 6:30pm 34:00 FB fat burning cardio workout — Good to have done this. So many excuses to do nothing
~ 14 Apr 5:50pm 42:00 FB HIIT + lower body strength — did not lift heavy or complete all the reps but good to have done this.
~ 16 Apr 7:18pm 30:00 FB shoulders, back, chest + arm workout — Needed this.
~ 19 April 6:58pm 36:00 FB Burnout butt and thigh workout — right knee is reminding me that I’m growing older
~ 27 April 7:35pm 33:00 FB At home cardio workout with no equipment — Vantelin knee support is pretty good. Not as fussy as the Futuro one.
~ 28 April 7:10pm 27:00 FB Tank top arms Round 2
~ 29 April 9:55pm 28:00 FBSweat D26 Dynamic cardio + total body strength — doing this backward, starting from the last day because always never reach the end 😛
~ 30 April 8:17pm 26:00 FBSweat D25 Feel good recovery cardio — I like this one, senang senang no stress.

January 2019 Fitness Tracker – not too bad

~ 1 Jan 5:32pm 33:00 FB30R3 Lower body strength — new year
~ 5 Jan 8:37pm 34:00 FB30R3 Upper body strength + cardio
~ 7 Jan 5:28pm 30:00 FB30R3 HIIT + Core – lil bit hungry and cheated on some of the HIIT exercises
~ 8 Jan 8:00pm 32:00 FB30R3 Upper body burnout – workout after a day of retreat-ing
~ 10 Jan 6:30pm 32:00 FB30R3 HIIT + Strength — iffy right knee, when did I injure that?
~ 12 Jan 9:30pm 38:00 FB30R3 D22 Lower body strength — I think I will have to eliminate certain lower body strength exercise so I don’t hurt my knee — side lunges, split squats, even forward lunges. Jump squats are out too
~ 13 Jan 4:28pm 28:00 FB30R3 D23 Upper body + cardio — Pretty good, not as winded when I do jumping jacks
~ 15 Jan 7:23pm 32:00 FB30R3 D24 Dynamic HIIT
~ 17 Jan 9:24pm 27:00 FB30R3 D25 Core + upper body — I’ve never seen this video before! Ha, forgot to do cool down exercise.
~ 20 Jan 5:30pm 32:00 FB30R3 D26 Strength + HIIT
~ 22 Jan 6:58pm 34:00 FB30R3 D29 Total body strength + HIIT — I’ve never done this video before too! I must have quitted this programme midway in the past.
~ 27 Jan 5:00pm 29:00 FB30R3 D30 Core burnout — I’ve not done this either.
~ 29 Jan 9:35pm 30:00 FB30R3 D31 HIIT + total body strength — Pulled out and used the Futuro knee support strap, I think it helps stabilise my right knee.

Being a temporary resident

I remember back in 2010 when I got my job offer in Texas, I was mulling over how to furnish my future rental apartment. Back then, as an international student, I managed to get by with several pieces of furniture: serta twin mattress, ikea desk and drawer, and ikea poang chair.

Knowing I am going start a new job, somewhat of a new life, do I still go cheapo, poor international student style, or spend more on better quality furniture? The conundrum was I didn’t know how long I would be in Texas. Will I be there for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? I had no concrete plans.

One day I mentioned my struggle to Inkeri, and she wisely said to buy moderately affordable furniture that I like and if I have to move again, I could donate my “nicer” furniture to others who need it. I was placated and happy with this advice.

I stayed in Texas for 16 months and then moved here. As advised, I asked around in church for anyone who needed furniture. At first I was given a name but the lady never followed through. So I went to ask the condominium maintenance staff if he knew of anyone who needed relatively new furniture. He came over the next day with a few friends and carted away my bed, mattress, study table, sofa and bookshelf.

When I moved into my previous place, I took Inkeri’s advice again and bought some moderately affordable furniture, but because I was no longer a poor international student, I could afford to buy more. Buying more included getting nice-for-now-but-what-about-later? pieces like the Ikea glass cabinets for my lego sets. Felt like such a great idea at first. When the Cheah family, who happened to be visiting then, had finished assembling it and we had to move it to the upright position, I felt a pang of regret – it was so heavy and so fragile. But it’s too late. Well, I had the 2 glass cabinets for 5.5 years and proudly displayed my slowly yellowing lego sets.

When it was time to move again, no one wanted the glass cabinets when I contacted two charitable organizations. I ended up having to pay $150 for people to discard the cabinets along with my spoilt treadmill.

Now that I’m at this new place, which feels even more temporary, I dread buying furniture because when I have to move again, most likely I have to pay people to throw away the things. But I also don’t like the feeling of living out of boxes and not having a “permanent” place for things. I’m rummaging through 3-4 boxes to find my things. So I bought a few “lightweight” shelves for my books, and the other day I went to buy one more shelf with a cover for my lego sets.

Come to think of it, with my cheap furniture and mattress on the floor, I’m back to living somewhat like a poor international student. Except that I have a Nespresso machine and an Aeroccino milk frother!

Sometimes I think this stress of I-have-so-much-stuff-what’s-going-to happen-when-I-have-to-move-again is self-imposed. Maybe the difference now compared to Texas days is that in this country, donating to someone who needs it is not as simple or easy.

In the end, I just have to pay someone to either move it or discard it. Cannot run away from that.

Ending 2018

I bought the Assembly Square set back in September 2017. I wanted to use it as a reward for submitting a manuscript on the Equal project. But with all the work on the funded grants, I never got to completing that manuscript. So this big box of lego remained unopened and a reminder of my disappointingly unproductive academic writing life.

I opened the box today to end 2018, and to begin 2019, with something that I love doing. I shouldn’t set aside things that I enjoy to be “on contingent” on my work achievement. Life is too short for that.

December 2019 Fitness Tracker
~ 1 Dec 7:46pm 38:00 FB30R3 D8 Strength supersets
~ 4 Dec 9:30pm 37:00 FB30R3 D9 Upper body & Core
~ 7 Dec 9:12pm 36:00 FB30R3 D11 Upper body — cheated, did not do burnout round
~ 9 Dec 5:50pm 30:00 FB30R3 D12 HIIT + strength — felt like I’m at about 70% of my best form and not getting better
~ 31 Dec 6:20pm 35:00 FB30R3 D13 Pilates/yoga — strained a shoulder/neck muscle this morning, need this.

Overall, 2018 has been a weak year for my fitness. I’m not sure why. I just grew lazy.

Still somewhat living out of boxes

Two months at the new place, still somewhat living out of boxes. I’m undecided whether to get display shelves for my lego sets, and bookshelves for my books. Or just leave them in the boxes. Getting the shelves and a proper bed would be nice, but lately I feel very burdened by the thought of owning big furniture. Getting them is troublesome, and when I move again and need to discard them – another headache.

Moving to this place puts my mind in a limbo. Often reminded that all of this is temporary, often ruminating on what’s next. Don’t know if being in this state of mind is good or bad.

The construction outside will continue to be messy and noisy for another year. But once all the chaos is over and done with, there will be a beautiful lake garden right next to my temporary home. I think it’ll be very nice. Maybe I should hold on until then before making any decision.

November 2018 Fitness Tracker
~ 9 Nov 5:50pm 48:00 FB30R3 D1 Total body strength
~ 11 Nov 6:23pm 31:00 FB30R3 D2 Cardio interval
~ 12 Nov 6:15pm 38:00 FB30R3 D3 HIIT + strength – new place’s wood laminate flooring not as slippery as the old place, downward dog not slipping
~ 26 Nov 7:45pm 31:00 FB30R3 D4 Upper body strength – long break (KL visit and parents visit)
~ 28 Nov 9:32pm 35:00 FB30R3 D5 Lower body strength + HIIT – forced myself to do this
~ 29 Nov 9:27pm 26:00 FB30R3 D6 Static stretches for flexibility

I lost my fitness groove in 2018, so sad.

October 2018 Fitness Tracker

~ 2 Oct 6:58pm 35:00 FBStrong D16 Core — Starting October a day late but good enough.
~ 5 Oct 6:41pm 40:00 FB Cardio + upper body
~ 12 Oct 6:35pm 50:00 FBStrong D19 Total body strength — Turning into a couch potato growing roots into the sofa 🙁
~ 13 Oct 6:25pm 37:00 FBBurn2 D1 HIIT — Went back to a different plan. Just strength training alone makes me feel lazy, need to jump around. But jumping around reminds me of my weak right knee.
~ 17 Oct 9:55pm 45:00 FBBurn2 D2 Upper body + Core — Late night workout
~ 21 Oct 9:23pm 50:00 FBBurn2 D3 Lower body + Pilates
~ 23 Oct 6:55pm 45:00 FBBurn2 D4 Dynamic upper body strength — Slow one, good for lazy but not too lazy days
~ 29 Oct 5:20pm 42:00 FBBurn2 D5 HIIT + lower body strength — Where did that muscle twitch in my right foot come from?! 🙁

Moving is an emotional workout too

The first time I viewed the apartment back in November 2012. I moved in January 2013.

The last time I looked at the apartment on 20 September 2018.

You grow accustomed to things. I remember really disliking the location of this unit because everyone who walked into the apartment block can look into the laundry and kitchen area. But once I put up the bamboo blind, it wasn’t that bad anymore. I only fully appreciated all the closet space when I saw that my new place has less than half the closet space. At the same time, maybe it’s good to not have so much space so that I won’t indiscriminately accumulate a lot of junk. The old place was also really quiet and I did not share any walls with any neighbours.

The move really zapped all my physical and mental energy in September. I only managed to squeeze out 4 workouts.

September 2018 Fitness Tracker
~ 5 Sep 9:37pm 35:00 FBStrong D15 Total body strength — At least squeezed one in to start the month
~ 23 Sep 6:35pm 27:00 FB Build a better booty workout — First workout in new home, the floor is noisier, the lights are brighter, without any beds this room feels like a dedicated workout gym.
~ 26 Sep 5:05pm 31:00 FB 3 Day Flexibility Challenge Day 1 — Need a nap
~ 30 Sep 6:15pm 35:00 FB Upper body + Abs workout