Humans Being Lonely: Things Y6s Do During HBL 

By Ng Jing Ting (20A13A), Sarah Lok (20A03A), Sophia He (20S03H), and Valerie Tan (20A01E)

In this era where the pursuit of productivity has permeated near all aspects of the increasingly mundane lives of the soon-to-be national exam takers, there are few things better than a state-mandated sedentary lifestyle.

No longer can your sloth-like and sinful tendencies be shamed; these attributes are now held up as those of a conscientious and socially-responsible citizen, intent on doing their part as One People, One Nation, One Singapore. Oh, how the tables have turned!

And yet. Some people are doing Things. With a capital T. 

In this article, we explore the multifarious ways in which members of our community have put their newfound time to use. As productivity takes a backseat in these uncertain times, this leaves space for our lesser-explored talents to take the spotlight, along with some clever adaptations to keep plans workable in the new circuit breaker paradigm.

From birthday bashes to awe-inspiring workouts, we have compiled here just some of the many activities undertaken by the quaranteens among us.

The Musicians 

“Oh man.”

So went Daryl Keith Teoh’s (20A13A) dismal response to a question on how the circuit breaker has affected his musical endeavours. The singer-songwriter known for his previous work ‘In Every Way’ recalls avidly how, before the circuit breaker measures were implemented, he had used to head over with a group of musician friends to the makeshift home music studio at one of their homes to make music. Now left stranded in his house, Daryl was left to do some soul-searching as the days ticked down to his latest single release, ‘Life Sucks Balls’.

Daryl took the rest of the day off after his Home-Based Learning (HBL) lessons in order to remaster the song, marking the first time he ever produced a track (he’d previously only written them). “Honestly, being away from classroom stress gave me a lot of room to craft wacky ideas,” he revealed over Whatsapp, noting also that his creative ideas tend to come to him more often in the comforts of his own room.

“Prior to the circuit breaker, I was honestly way too occupied with work to even think about music.” —Daryl Keith Teoh (20A13A) 

When it comes to his promotional plans, Daryl reveals all through social media, where he has garnered more than 2000 followers on Instagram.

“I would definitely have loved to perform my new song before a live audience,” he said. “In fact, I had been called in for a school performance during Spirit Week, which was unfortunately cancelled due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases.” 

Yet the less-than-pleasant circumstances under which his new single was released did not deter the outpouring of love from supporters, as ‘Life Sucks Balls’ racked up more than 5000 streams on Spotify within the first two days of its release. “I go bazonkers knowing that people actually do enjoy my music,” he said. “I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received, and I hope everyone stays safe during this uncertain period!” 

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Daryl and his guitar.

(And if you ask us how we like ‘Life Sucks Balls’? In every way.)

While Daryl’s single was inspired by the mundanity of the circuit breaker period, others took advantage of the very mundanity that others were experiencing to release original music. After all, with everyone at home and free to use their devices whenever, any budding artist would most certainly attain a greater reach through social media. 

Upon noticing that most singer-songwriters in RI were doing acoustic covers, Brian Choon (20S06D) decided to “add some vibrancy to our music scene” with his tropical house single entitled ‘Be There For You’, inspired by Jonas Blue. 

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Brian’s single cover for ‘Be There For You’.

Brian, who lacks any prior musical knowledge, used the extra time to “read up a lot on music theory” and “learn some guitar” to ease his track design process. He even took the entire sound engineering process on himself; late nights were spent simply experimenting until [the song] sounded good. 

“I had to create everything from scratch, so that was definitely an eye-opener. Most of us might think that the process of sound engineering is easy, but the creation of original sounds actually requires a lot of effort and fine-tuning,” says Brian. 

Even without much experience, Brian managed to create the main instrumental melody from the vocalist’s voice, which thoroughly impressed one of the writers during our interview over Whatsapp. (A true natural, if we do say so ourselves.) 

With 25,000 streams and counting as of the publishing of this article, this upbeat track will certainly be there for you while the nation continues to break the circuit. 

Likewise, Syu Rui Ying (20S06M) also got in touch with her musical side during her long hours spent at home. The bedroom producer comments that the circuit breaker measures have not impacted her music-making activities greatly, since most of her tracks are uploaded on music-sharing platform Soundcloud and receive streams from an online audience. 

“Most of my friends are bedroom producers as well so they haven’t been greatly affected either,” she said. “It’s pretty much status quo for now.” 

Being stuck at home also saw Rui Ying spend longer periods sitting in front of her laptop, listening to music and getting inspired: “I’m listening to albums I’ve never listened to before.” Rui Ying also states her hopes for exploring new types of music moving forward, breaking away from her usual ‘indie, lo-fi’ beats. 

“And now that everyone’s at home all the time, it’s easier to make plans with people to make music together,” she said, hinting at her desire for a collaboration in the near future. 

(May we suggest the above two gentlemen?) 

The Bakers and Chefs

For Joshua Neoh (20A01E), HBL didn’t seem to drastically change his cooking habits. He’d been cooking since young, preparing his first proper dish at about 10 years old, and even started an Instagram account for his dishes before the circuit breaker kicked in. “I started it as a private platform where I can keep memories of my cooking, but also to share with others about how cooking is a beautiful thing which is relatively easy,” he commented. “It’s also to share good recipes and good local delights for anyone interested!”

Yet, even for someone already so familiar with cooking, HBL was more than just a time to “study and exercise and play Mobile Legends”—it helped to widen his range of skills, giving him the opportunity to experiment with baking more, and make Chinese dimsum like dumplings and pao. Recently, he’s also enjoyed making his very own pasta sauces, including the likes of béchamel sauce and Alfredo sauce.

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Béchamel sauce made from scratch!

The kitchen, of course, is not merely a place for cooking. If you’re a follower of Marie Goh (20S06R)’s Instagram and watch her stories regularly enough, you’ve probably seen at least one shot of her puffs and pastries straight out of the oven.

(And then wanted to eat them.) 

While Marie started baking as a kid, she only started investing more time into it a few years ago. “I started baking when I was really young, and my mum would bake chocolate chip cookies with my brother and me. But I only became a really avid baker shortly after O Levels when I had a lot of spare time and no studying to do,” she explained.

With HBL, that amount of spare time has skyrocketed again. Even with the (oddly) increasing amount of work to do, Marie manages to make time for baking—something that helps her relieve stress. “I turn to baking to relax and do stuff I love,” she commented, “And I think HBL hasn’t changed that much.”

Without the rigid structures of school, she can experiment with different recipes and try new things—a challenge that she greatly enjoys. The only problem is that she can’t bake as often as she would like: “I can’t go out to share the food I bake, so only my family can be my guinea pigs—and I have limited fridge space!”

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Marie’s bakes glisten even without a filter.

For those who want to start filling up their fridges with their own home-baked goodies, Marie recommends bread. “BREAD. Bread is great. And it’s actually quite simple to make.”

“It’s kind of like raising a little creature when working with yeast.” —Marie Goh (20S06R)

Besides Joshua and Marie, there’s someone who knows how to enjoy the best of both worlds. Valerie Tan (20S03R) knows her way round a kitchen from the oven to the stove.

This isn’t some brand new epiphany, no: similar to Marie, her history with it dates back to baking in kindergarten with her mum. It’s only recently, however, that she’s started venturing back into the kitchen to bake; the natural busyness of life had unceremoniously gotten in the way, leaving her to realise she’s “actually quite decent at it!” only in the last few years.

Thankfully, HBL seems to be making up for that lost time: “During the normal school term, I could only bake on weekends, but now I can bake even on weekends and at random timings, so I’m quite happy about that!” she shared. “I think it’s less stressful as well because I don’t have to rush or think about school the next day.”

She’s even found a new hobby too: besides baking, Valerie started cooking more and more, realising its similarities with baking, and developed an interest in it as well.

“Partly because I don’t want to keep having to order delivery or get takeaway, too,” she quipped.

When asked for her favourite recipes, Valerie recommends chewy chocolate chip cookies, as well as shrimp and spinach pasta—either with linguine or tagliatelle. “For the cookies, I actually just use the recipe from Tasty with less sugar, and it works really well. You can make a lot of the dough and then freeze it for even a month, and any time you crave cookies, just pop it into the oven.” On the other end of the spectrum, she has a much more straightforward reason for her favourite thing to cook: “I love pasta! And it’s very easy to make in one pot.”

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Just one of the many things that Valerie has baked during this period.

The Fitspos

If fitness really isn’t your thing, then you must have questioned why it seems like those around you are training for some unknown sports event, guided by the likes of Chloe Ting, Pamela Reif, Emi Wong, and Nike Training Club. (One of the writers even cluelessly asked if Chloe Ting was a schoolmate.)

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Everyone’s newest best friend, endorsed by the PE Department. 

Skype workouts and jaunty workout app screenshots have replaced the typical gym mirror boomerang. As we herald in this new age of virtual companionship on our fitness journeys, not many things have to change. Leah Ang (20S06L), for one, has been taking pains (and oh, does 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of workout a day sound painful) to keep her physical condition in pre-circuit breaker state.

“I have nothing else to do,” she said. “Plus, I’m eating more so I want to work the extra food off.” This is surely a relatable sentiment to most; the swift passageway of food into one’s mouth exhibits a level of efficiency that is quite unparalleled. While some may have given up reversing the effects of feasting, Leah has a plan. “I started off following videos, but I’ve compiled my favourite exercises into a personalised routine.”

While CCA sessions may be indefinitely suspended for most, it’s mostly business as usual for weightlifter Sarah Ang (20S06C). For her, the circuit breaker hasn’t been much of a hindrance to her training since she was able to bring equipment home to train; however, as she can’t “go heavy” on her weights, her coach has instead increased her training volume. 

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Sarah with a barbell.

Yet even a national team athlete has her down days. “It’s toughespecially on the days where I don’t feel like doing anything,” Sarah laughs. 

Perhaps the circuit breaker period will serve to be beneficial for Sarah: she now focuses a lot more on strengthening smaller muscle groups, which she admits that she used to neglect. She even works out with fellow bufflords over Skype, stating that “it’s a lot easier to train when you know that there is someone else training… [it] just becomes a little less sad”. 

Nutrition-wise, Circuit Breaker has given Sarah more flexibility to prepare food and to eat properly. “My main goal each day is to hit my protein count,” Sarah says, “so I don’t lose muscle.” However, Sarah sheepishly admits that being at home more often also means she snacks more regularly—something we’re all guilty of.

The Birthday Bashers 

April showers sure bring May flowers. 

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The flower in question!

For Kirsten Negapatan (20S06A), seventeen going on eighteen, this birthday would have been a very special one. “In the Filipino community, eighteen is the age when a girl debuts into adulthood,” she explained. 

Kirsten launches into an enthusiastic description of a traditional debut celebration as one of choreographed dances, performances, and buffet lines, marked by a gregarious (but most affectionate) group of family members and friends. The importance of the event was further consecrated by the grandness of the venue—Kirsten’s parents had arranged to hold their daughter’s birthday in a ballroom in Orchard Country Club.

Unfortunately, the abrupt closure of non-essential stores following the circuit breaker announcement meant the celebration had to be held without its usual pomp and circumstance. Finding themselves without a venue, decorations, and guests, Kirsten and her family were nonetheless singular in their conviction: the show must go on.

And with the help of an ingenious mother and other highly amenable family members, go on it didthough within the four walls of her own home.

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Streamersfrom Mum’s office.

First, there was a problem with decorationsbut that was soon quickly resolved. “My parents had gone out to party shops before circuit breaker to get them,” said Kirsten, “And my mum even borrowed some of her office decorations to make streamers.”

She then goes on to the most important part of the celebration—the dress. A quick Google search reveals that Filipino debut dresses are nothing short of the stuff of weddings, and it is customary for the debutante to be seen in two to three gowns throughout the celebration. 

“My mum had actually signed a contract with a bridal dress company in Singapore and commissioned the tailoring of a dress for me in the Philippines,” said Kirsten. Because neither arrangement pulled through in the end, the older woman brought out her own bridesmaid dress from two decades ago and lent it to her daughter, undertaking the painstaking process of tailoring by herself. 

One dress, two generations of women.

And what’s a celebration without food? Instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money per head as they would have for a party at a country club, Kirsten’s parents invested in a simpler but nonetheless heartwarming dinner of Kirsten’s favourite foods, including fishball noodles, pork ribs, and fish fillet. 

The cake was not forgotten either: “Since the cake shops were closed, my mum decided to bake her own triple-tier cake,” Kirsten said. “[My parents] had to stay up till 4:30am the night before my celebration to make it.”

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Birthday cake in the making.

“My mum also made my brothers and father learn how to waltz,” Kirsten said, highlighting an integral part of a traditional debut celebration that would usually be done before the teary-eyed mass of family members and friends. Dancing together in the living room was “weird”, Kirsten admitted. “But it was definitely nice to experience.” 

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Belle of the ball.

Thus, surrounded by the warmth of family, Kirsten passed into young adulthood. And while no longer a dancing queen, Kirsten, young and sweet, sure danced the night away. 

Another May flower who had to confront a very different birthday was Jerome Tay (20S06Q). “When I heard that the circuit breaker period would be extended for another month, I was devastated because it meant that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate my birthday in school,” he shared. “This marked many firsts for me: the first time staying home for my birthday, the first time not being able to hang out with my friends on my birthday, the first time I don’t have plans for my birthday, and the first time I didn’t feel excited for my birthday to come.”

Jerome’s many plans for his 18th birthday had included fancy food and wine tasting, perhaps in a fine dining restaurant with his family and friends. Yet, instead of a grand night out stuffing himself, Jerome’s birthday started with him watching Netflix as the clock struck twelve. With nothing on his schedule, the day felt just like any other ordinary day, rather than one that marked a milestone as he took one step closer to adulthood.

Still, Jerome was not to be disappointed for the next 24 hours. Food deliveries have become a new love language in such unprecedented times, and this was the form that Jerome’s birthday presents took. “I got many, many, many deliveries throughout the whole day,” Jerome said. “Literally. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner and supper. One of my friends even came all the way down to deliver food to me—in line with CB protocol and rules,” he quickly clarified. 

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Just a few of the many deliveries that Jerome received over the course of the day.

From cake to wings to ramen to milkshakes, Jerome’s house was flooded by an onslaught of food, as well as the kindness that came with it. “I had never had to open my door so many times in a day before. I felt so loved by the experience.”

Maybe just the thought of having so much food to consume would be enough to make anyone baulk; already this writer felt overwhelmed by Jerome’s descriptions. Yet Jerome took on a personal challenge to “devour EVERYTHING”, as a compromise for all his lost plans.

(He did not, however, report on whether or not he succeeded in wolfing everything down; perhaps the truth will reveal itself when school reopens.)

Conclusion

And there we have it: an assortment of Things Y6s Did During HBL (and the unanticipated May holidays that followed). 

Whether or not you count yourselves among them, circuit breaker—and the very gradual lifting of restrictions—still betides us all; we remain woefully separated from our favourite bubble tea orders, classmates, and cramped MRT trips home. 

But as the matter stands, why not take the opportunity to sleep a few more hours every day? You’ll thank yourself when school reopens next week.

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