Turning of the Tides – Learning throughout the pandemic

This pandemic with it’s persistent lock downs and restrictive measures have been stressful, challenging, and depressing for most of us. Many people lamented that they were the most physically out of shape that they have ever been in my life during this period of global adversities. Our mental health and emotional well-being also suffered a nosedive down a bottomless pit of doom and gloom. For me, I knew that I owed it to myself to get cracking in order to break out of the melancholic cycle of woe and self-pity, and so I summoned my inner resolve and got active once more. I hired a personal fitness trainer, and committed myself to a strict exercise and diet regimen. On top of that, I also signed up for a myriad of enrichment courses in order to upgrade my skills and challenged myself to confront my fears, as well as to step out of my comfort zones.

From culturally immersive recreations such as Ikebana and Iaido, to more exotic hobbies such as fencing, archery, horseback riding, windsurfing, pole dancing and aerial silks, or simply expressing my creativity and artistry via oil painting, pottery, playing the ukulele, and Latin dancing. I attempted many of these activities for the very first time. I did so many novel stuff and athletic sports that my friend Nigel jested that my new covid-induced profession has to be a secret spy agent. Another acquaintance quipped that I must be in training to become a ninja warrior. In actuality, I was merely extending myself in order to continue on my path of endless self-development and pushing myself over the limits to soar to higher heights. We ought to improve and work on enhancing ourselves in all facets and areas of our lives first before we can be of better service to others around us. In this article, I suggest and recommend some fun and active ways to make best productive use of your time during this extended pandemic. It is my hope that my personal experiences and transformations can also inspire you to aspire for greatness especially during these arduous times.

Yummy in my Tummy

Cooking is a creative and therapeutic process. It accords you the chance to express your artistic side with imaginative food styling and decorative plating techniques. Sharing and posting pretty photos of your delectable gourmet creations whets the appetites of those who would feast their eyes on your seductive food porn. I desired to enhance and upgrade my culinary skills during lockdown, and so I enrolled myself in several prestigious culinary institutes in order to master how to cook and bake an array of different cuisines and food items like a professional chef.

I had an immensely gratifying time cooking up a storm as I churned out a smorgasbord of Thai, Peranakan, French, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Malay, Cantonese, and Singaporean dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice, Hokkien prawn noodles, Nyonya ayam ponteh and everybody’s perennial favourite: chilli crabs.

Whatever food items I cooked and baked, I shared them with my friends, family and neighbours. On special occasion such as National Day and Christmas, my mother and I would team up and collaborate to pack freshly baked banana bread, almond raisin muffins and chocolate chip cookies to gift to our public cleaners and medical front-liners in order to show appreciation for their tireless contributions to the community, as well as to delight their taste buds and put a warm smile back on their exhausted faces.

The enjoyment of food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and most people eat an average of three meals per day even through the course of a global pandemic. Little wonder that so many local artistes, celebrities and people that have lost their day jobs are now choosing to transition into selling various baked goods during this period of prolonged uncertainties.

There is an adage that states, “The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.” A handful of friends and acquaintances have shared with me that they are willing to marry me just for my culinary prowess alone, and that my other added virtues and merits are the bonus cherry and icing on top of the cake. Who would have thought that learning to cook well would be considered such a well sought after spousal asset, and that could potentially land you a marriage proposal?

From Point A to B

The first thing I did immediately after the circuit breaker ended was to go out and purchase myself a nice bicycle. Cycling is a no-brainer pastime that allows you to avoid having to jostle with others in crowded public trains and buses. Not only is cycling good for the environment, it saves you money, and is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that also builds and strengthens your glutes and entire leg muscles. I once rode all by myself from West Coast Park over to Changi Airport, passing en route through Harbourfront, Marina Bay and East Coast Park. The whole duration of that epic route took over 6 hours to complete on my trusty city bike with no gear shifting mechanisms. Although I enjoyed the scenery and solitude of that extended solo cycling trip, it is not something that I would attempt again. Once is more than enough.


The pandemic situation has inadvertently encouraged the proliferation of bicycles as a mode of transportation and exercise. Drivers prefer cyclists off the roads, while pedestrians generally do not welcome sharing pavement space with cyclists either. As such, do cycle on roads with caution and awareness, as well as with courtesy and consideration while on pedestrian footpaths.

Especially since most pedestrians are incessantly glued to their mobile phones while listening to music with their earpods, and as such they might not be aware or alert to your approach. Because Singapore lacks ample dedicated cycling paths, you might have a more enjoyable time if you stick to cycling along wider pavements and park connectors. Serangoon/Coney Island, Punggol Waterways and the Green Corridor have got to be some of the most picturesque and conducive nature trails in Singapore to cycle at a leisurely pace.

If a two-wheeler is not your cup of tea, you can try picking up skateboarding or longboarding instead and cruise down the Esplanade with sassiness as you show off some sleek moves. You can expect to tumble and fall off several times while learning to execute fanciful skateboarding tricks especially as a beginner, but as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

It is a well-known fact that Singapore is one of the most costly and difficult countries in the world to obtain a driver’s license. But I took the opportunity during this period to simultaneously obtain both a manual car driving license, as well as a motorcycle-riding license.

Some of my pals thought that I wanted to acquire a motorcycle license so that I can go purchase a Harley and become a hell rider, but that could not be further from the truth. I merely wanted to challenge myself and get over my fear of motorcycles in general. It is my philosophy that you either learn to properly manage and control a machine, or it controls you. Getting the hang of safely operating and riding a motorcycle makes you a more proficient car driver, and vice versa for the simple fact that you would have a better understanding and fuller grasp of the capabilities and limitations of both vehicle types. Learning how to pilot a plane was also a dream come true for me. But that is a story onto itself for another time.

Adventure Time!

The mere mention and notion of abseiling, bouldering, zip lining, bungee jumping, and deep-sea scuba diving is enough to make some piss in their pants and feel apprehension and caution stirring within. I am no exception to these innate primal fears naturally rising up while attempting those heart-pumping undertakings.

What I did was to observe these biological ‘fight or flight’ responses being triggered and channel the induced adrenaline into a spur of stimulation in order to conquer the obstacles ahead. There is something to be said about the addictive adrenal rush and release of endorphins that makes one feel alive and proclaim, “I want to do that again!”

Bouldering is similar to rock climbing, but made more challenging and without the usage of safety harnesses. Because no belaying cables and protective harnesses are being utilised, bouldering walls generally do not exceed 5-6m in height. Bouldering basics are easy to comprehend and it is an affordable pursuit to pick up since minimal gear is required. As such, the sport is rapidly gaining in popularity with more places offering it as well as communities being formed around this strenuous yet enjoyable activity. Once you get the fundamentals down pat, you will be traversing, swinging and hanging off artificial rock cliff edges like an agile monkey in no time.

When my abseiling buddy suggested that I undertake a kayaking proficiency certification course, complete with evaluations and assessments in tow, my initial reaction was: why does kayak training require two full days? Is it not just merely paddling a small boat back and forth?

The course turned out to be relatively methodical, tactical and technical. We learned different draw strokes for the most efficient paddling in all directions, advanced rudder controls, various rescue methods, capsizing recovery, nautical terminologies, tide readings and much more. A lot of the manoeuvres taught are not stuff that you can learn and absorb simply from watching a demo video on YouTube, but rather something that you have to personally and physically practice a couple of times in order to get a proper feel and understanding of the mechanisms behind those drills.

Everybody is kung fu fighting

Having immersed myself in various martial arts such as Muay Thai kick boxing, Iaido, Aikido, Taiji Jian and Krav Maga, I have acquired and fostered an elusive sense of discipline, confidence, grace, poise and dexterity that can only come from repetition and consistency during training sessions. While trying out the various martial art forms, I discovered that I have a penchant and inclination towards all kinds of classical ornamental swords. The addition of an old-fashioned weapon elevates the entire routine into a more complex and sophisticated ritual as opposed to merely punching, kicking and blocking with your bare limbs. With a sword in hand, you feel like an ancient samurai and Shaolin monk rolled into one. The vast majority of martial art katas are very elegantly beautiful and have an alluring Eastern mystique surrounding them. However, these martial art forms are far more advantageous as a way of keeping fit and practicing a series of aesthetically pleasing patterns, and not really practical or feasible for actual real life self-defence scenarios.

Krav Maga is an Israeli system of self-defence that is catered to people who do not wish to engage in a fight, or to show off their impressive combat skills, but who need to end a fight pronto when being attacked by an assailant, thus buying them ample time to escape and flee. I would highly recommend Krav Maga to anyone and especially the more vulnerable amongst us such as seniors, juniors and petite-sized individuals.

Hopefully we would never find ourselves caught up in a scuffle or situation where we would actually need to employ those useful self-defence techniques. However, should a dangerous threat ever arise, we would at the very least be armed with the necessary knowledge, wherewithal and competency to protect ourselves and preserve our own lives.

The best is yet to come

At the 100th session with my personal fitness instructor, he enthused, “This is not the end, but only just the beginning for you.” Indeed his words of wisdom ring true, as our personal journeys of evolution and expansion are perpetual and never ceasing. I have earned my stripes and am proud of myself for my diverse accomplishments and experiences. Even though I have already achieved a multitude of goals thus far, there are still stones left unturned and empty pages to fill.

Learning to sail a boat is an activity that keeps getting repeatedly postponed time and time again due to the group size limitations and pandemic restrictions. Skydiving, surfing, paragliding and freediving are also high on my bucket list to check off. I have come a long way and I run my own race. I am not in competition with anyone else but myself, as I strive for excellence each and everyday to be better than what I was before. Whenever I admire others with lofty conquests, it affirms to me the wisdom that if others are successful in life, we ought to applaud their triumphs and emulate their lead for they have shown us what is truly possible.

By the end of my time here on this planet, I endeavour to have made a lasting impression, as well as to leave behind a legacy and precedent for others to follow suit. I step forth at the request of the comrades who have messaged me to say that they find me inspiring and asked that I recount my story of victory over adversities so that others might also see themselves reflected, and gain the tenacity and permission to rise up, and in so doing, humanity heals collectively and the world becomes a better place for future generations to come. May my sharing influence you to pick up the mantle, and try out a new activity or two from the listed suggestions and recommendations of what I have tried and tested. You might just surprise yourself at just how savvy you can also be!

Images: Luke Elijah 

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