The New Normal in Perth

Until one day, I woke up and found out that the world is facing a pandemic. Mid-march when Coronavirus entered the Western part of Australia, particularly here in Perth. All in just one snap, a sense of death stalking everywhere because of the virus.

By Rochelle Lyle Gotico

“A perfect year!”

This was the first phrase I’ve said to myself when the clock ticked midnight to welcome 2020. I was thinking about a perfect year I’ve crafted out of hard work ever since I arrived in Australia four years ago. Yes, four years of waiting for this year to come!

January, I treated myself for my first ever Sydney trip. February, I’ve accepted a security research in my university and felt so good working for a research paper as a tech scientist in the making. March, I received an invitation to participate a Cybersecurity forum in the University of London and I was joking that at last, I am going to meet the Queen. This was the first quarter of my “almost” perfect year.

Until one day, I woke up and found out that the world is facing a pandemic. It was mid-March when COVID-19 entered the Western part of Australia, particularly here in Perth. All in just one snap, there was a sense of death stalking everywhere because of the virus. People were being monitored while shops, offices, schools, and universities were closed. And then, the entire Australia decided to close its state territories and the border.

With everything changing unexpectedly, I needed to work from home while continuing my research and my last two units for this semester. As days come by, I received unfortunate responses and cancellations of events. No travel, no laboratory work, and the saddest thing might happen is that there would be no graduation ceremony. That also means my parents won’t be able to attend.

I started procrastinating about everything knowing that my perfect year won’t be so perfect anymore. For me, the system was already under a lot of pressure due to negative energy going on. Not only because of the deadly virus, but also because of politics, racism, and the hardest fight, that of depression.

Little did I know, I found myself lonely and depressed due to this pandemic. From that feeling of being lucky and being on top, it eventually transformed to feeling unlucky and it’s slowly killing me. It interferes with my current life and it causes severe feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest. I started isolating myself and not living up to my potential at work and studies.

Little did I realise that accepting what happens now in the new normal will help me to stand again. Accepting that maybe this year is not perfect and that is okay. Maybe this is not the time where I have to showcase myself outside but instead, it’s the time to cherish the inner me instead.

For me, this is the sign of the new normal. It’s discovering and teaching ourselves to accept the situation whether it’s perfect or not. That even when a year has been perfectly planned and crafted many years ago, things can change according to what it should be.

Now that I know my symptoms of depression, I chose to reflect about my life four years ago when I first arrived in this place. This reflection of the past and accepting what the new normal is helps. I’m also practicing to be a person who will be the reason someone feels welcomed, seen, heard, valued, loved, and supported because I know what it’s like how difficult self-isolation is.

Despite the current situation, that brave woman I’ve known four years ago turned out to be braver than she has ever been before. I gambled my life to a fresh reset and rolled the dice in this new normal, a new normal that will become a perfect year all in God’s perfect timing. ∎


AUTHOR’S BIO

circle-cropped (11)Rochelle Lyle Gotico is an international student in Australia. She’s working in Edith Cowan University School of Science as an Engagement Presenter for tech innovation where she combines her passion in arts and humanity. She’s also passionate in investing her time-sharing ideas, gaining experience, and motivation by being active in both domestic and international activities.

The New Normal in Calgary

When walking down the street, when someone sees you walking in front of them, they dodge you like the plague. So it’s either you walk on the opposite side or they will.

By Angelina Brendalee

The new normal now means asking someone permission if you can get in the elevator with them rather than going inside even when it’s full just like before. One person per elevator ride has become the thing.

When walking down the street, when someone sees you walking in front of them, they dodge you like the plague. So it’s either you walk on the opposite side or they will.

On my first day back from travelling, the streets were deserted. I work in a shelter as a front-line worker and our daily routine has shifted. Before we take in those who are in need, we have to follow the new rules. It breaks my heart whenever we have to turn away clients due to the new COVID-19 protocols in place. We did manage to avoid an outbreak but this situation still changed everything that used to be.

Before, getting tested was scary and the waiting time was scarier. Now, I’m used to it because of my field of work. However, paranoia is becoming a norm with my anxiety being at its all-time high whenever I cough or sniffle because I get glared at.

We live in a city where coughing or sneezing gets you the cold shoulder. Streets aren’t as busy as they used to be and the once busy Stephen Avenue I grew to love is now deserted. Calgary Stampede, one of the biggest outdoor festivals that has never been postponed, not even during the great flood, is finally cancelled. Raves and festivals which are our only source of connection has been dropped.

It’s weird that things are reopening here even when people are still treating the city as if it’s still scary. When walking with friends, people who are walking alone will give you stares for not social distancing. I even saw people scream at others for not following the social distancing rules.

Even with COVID-19 being no longer that of a big threat as it used to be, this is the new norm – a distrusting world of distance.

I miss the old city life though I’m glad the traffic is gone. But I miss seeing people happy, not the paranoid and scared citizens I’m looking at now. ∎


Author’s Bio

circle-cropped (10)Angelina Brendalee was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She’s half-Filipina and half-Jamaican. She loves dogs, beach side walks, swimming, sunrises, and sunsets and horror stories in Reddit. She is also an active member of #BlackLivesMatter in Canada where she actively participates in the protests.

The New Normal in Quezon City

To define a sense of “new normal”, at least from the perspective of one stuck in Quezon City, is to reconsider normalcy through a prism of three things; anxiety, loathing, and non-possibility.

By Thomas Leonard Shaw

To define a sense of “new normal”, at least from the perspective of one stuck in Quezon City, is to reconsider normalcy through a prism of three things; anxiety, loathing, and non-possibility. While others are able to navigate the uncharted nature of this pandemic –one that has caused major socio-political upheavals – with various levels of success, this crisis has only revealed the many fractures of a social space fraught with contradictions. Commuters are struggling to get back to work and earn with no transportation in sight, small businesses are on the verge of collapse, and countless others are suffering from the socioeconomic and emotional devastations of this crisis.

As far as I could be concerned, to assume any kind of new “normal” when everything remains uncharted waters is to overlook the dangers of this enterprise.

This is not to say I have been unlucky, on the contraire. I have a job that allows me to work from home, friends I am still able to meet and socialize with, and I am safe in the knowledge that I have the comfort of my condo unit and a space to isolate myself from the world. But the world looms terrifying ahead of us. No amount of hoping changes the fact that my future plans have burned up, my friends and peers have scattered all over the country, and I am kept from the main reason I find myself in this city – teaching. What this means to me going forward is that my position of privilege has only allowed me to recognize just how so many others have it much worse than I do.

People remain without jobs, many who relied on the informal sector have had to lose their main source of income. Even with the impending reality that is the new “normal”, one recognizes that the weak foundations upon which their survival has played out has been effectively shattered, destroyed by a combination of an apolitical virus and political incompetence. The anxiety and loathing I feel draws not only from a sense of individual devastation but from the empathy we draw from – recognizing that lives have not only been destabilized but taken in the process. To claim a sense of “new normal” is to undermine the precarious structures that have haunted the working class and much of Philippine society. In building for the future we must recognize that the “old normal” cannot be simply replaced by a similar system which has not only disenfranchised millions of people but has laid the groundwork for their own destruction in times of crisis.

My anxiety and loathing is simultaneously weaved from a sense of helplessness, that I have been caught up in a system that I have been complicit in working through and making sense of. The haunting of non-possibility lies in the fact that for many of the dead or marginalized, there doesn’t remain much room for socioeconomic mobility or even survival. If we are to continue life after COVID, with the desire to live better and more fulfilling lives, we must be able to navigate and create a system in which basic needs are addressed, government services are not bogged down by red tape and corruption, and people are offered a stronger set of tools to carve out their own destinies. What COVID has revealed is not simply the dangers of a contagious virus but the weaknesses of an unfair world, one in which we are always on the brink of returning to, of falling back to the same traps that have taken so many of us already.

I do not like the direction this “new normal” is going in because I don’t ever want things to be similar to the normalcy we’ve had. Normalcy equals neither justice nor equity. We have to be better. We cannot afford to be anything less than better. ∎


AUTHOR’S BIO

circle-cropped (12)Thomas Leonard Shaw was a graduate of Comparative Literature (European Literatuure) at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and poetry fellow at the 1st Philippine National LGBTQ Writers’ Workshop, the 1st Cebu Young Writers Studio, and the 26th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop. Thomas is also an awardee at the 2019 Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Literary Awards and has been published in several different countries.

The New Normal in Bangkok

I have been living here for a little over two years, and when the quarantine period started, I saw the streets of Bangkok empty for the first time. The silence was deafening, and it made me feel like I’m in a different city.

By Hanna Audry

Bangkok, Thailand, being one of the most visited cities in the world, is a city that never sleeps. Every single day, the streets are bustling with tourists and locals alike, enjoying Bangkok’s delicious street food, breathtaking views, and unique culture. The COVID-19 pandemic however, had a profound impact on Bangkok.

I have been living here for a little over two years, and when the quarantine period started, I saw the streets of Bangkok empty for the first time. The silence was deafening, and it made me feel like I’m in a different city.

Now, two months after the quarantine began, all of us living and working in Bangkok find ourselves adjusting to the “new normal”. The new normal here in Thailand includes checking in and out via a QR code in most places such as malls, restaurants, and supermarkets for the purposes of contact tracing in case you were in the same place as someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Moreover, everyone is required to wear masks and use hand sanitizers before entering any establishments and transportation. Additionally, similar to other countries, social distancing is practiced everywhere you go.

I am pursuing my graduate studies while working here in Thailand, and we have been having online (Zoom) classes since March, all the exams and presentations are done online as well. This is most likely going to be the “new normal” in the next few months until we’re all sure it’s safe.

Thailand has also moved the start of the school year from May to July. This means that both teachers and students have to adapt to this massive change in education. Having access to internet, a tablet or a computer is now a necessity. With work, I am one of the lucky ones who are still paid during this pandemic, and I’m also thankful that I’m in the line of work that allows me to work from home.

Most people are back to work now, but those who can work from home are still allowed to do so. The next steps and phases of this quarantine (or its easing) will depend on the COVID-19 situation, of course. But I’m looking forward to better days, where I can finally go out without worrying about the coronavirus. ∎


Author’s Bio

circle-cropped (6)Hanna Audry is an English teacher and an International Relations graduate student. She lives in Asia but her body clock is forever set to the EU timezone. Matcha lattes, true crime documentaries, and cute alpacas give her life.

The New Normal in Somalia

Forced vaccinations, COVID passports and protective gear might on the other hand sound like feasible (though not necessarily good) solutions in societies that can afford and enforce such policies. In Somalia and Tanzania such efforts would at best though be half-hearted attempts, considering how even more important initiatives have been unsuccessful in the past.

By Oscar Boije

My “old normal” before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 virus was not very normal, for most people’s standards. I am namely based in Somalia since about half a year, where I work for UNICEF. Together with my colleagues, we support the various federal and state governments of Somalia to increase opportunities for children and adolescents to access quality education. We have a long way to go: Less than a quarter of children were attending primary school even before COVID-19 closed all the schools in the country.

While I am most of the time based in Hargeisa (the capital of Somaliland), at the time the pandemic reached Somalia I was on mission in Mogadishu. Considering the capacity (or lack thereof) that Somalia has to battle a pandemic, myself and most of my colleagues were given the option and decided to relocate and continue working remotely from other destinations until circumstances allow us to return. This is why I find myself in Tanzania since almost three months now, supporting the Somali education system from distance.

But, enough about me. The real question is what will the new normal look like for people in Somalia and in Tanzania, post COVID-19? To even take a guess on the question, one would need to first understand what the old normal looked like in these countries, as well as what do we actually mean with new normal in the currently ongoing global (read: Western) discussion on the topic.

In most of the articles I’ve read online, authors have speculated COVID-19 to result in more expensive flight tickets and other challenges for future tourists. Many also argue the new normal finally introduced remote working to the masses, and that a large proportion of the workforce will from now on continue working from home – maybe even from the countryside. Others fear COVID passports will be introduced (either physical or digital ones), and that forced vaccinations will become a must. In addition, buying shares in a company that produces face masks and plastic gloves might be a good investment, as some predict we might need to continue using these protective gears in public places for a long time to come.

While some or all of these scenarios might become reality somewhere, in practice it will most probably only be the case in certain societies and more specifically for certain groups within those societies. I do not believe any of the above will apply for the absolute majority of Somalis or Tanzanians: Weekend city trips abroad were not taking place before COVID-19, nor will they do so after the worst has been overcome. Remote working and access to technology and internet is still a privilege not even enjoyed by everyone in some of the most developed societies, even less so in Sub-Saharan Africa. Forced vaccinations, COVID passports and protective gear might on the other hand sound like feasible (though not necessarily good) solutions in societies that can afford and enforce such policies. In Somalia and Tanzania such efforts would at best though be half-hearted attempts, considering how even more important initiatives have been unsuccessful in the past.

Over here, the new reality will most probably instead mean regression related to the positive developments that had been achieved over the last few years and decades. Poverty and extreme poverty will increase, and with it also the challenges faced by the most vulnerable people to access basic health care services, food security, clean water, sanitation, education, etc. The already ongoing financial crisis could last for years, and beyond creating new obstacles for the local populations and the economy, it might also limit the funds put aside by developed countries to support developing ones, which further aggravates the situation. Old, new or whatever normal you want to call it, the prospective is far from what “normal” should be like anymore at this time and age.

In Zanzibar, a tourism destination usually packed with visitors from all over the world, the number of tourists can at the moment almost be counted on the fingers of one’s hand. With tourism accounting for a significant part of the economy, the locals are understandably eagerly waiting for tourists to start arriving. I do not dare to say it out loud, but I do have a feeling it will still be quite a while before that happens. In the meantime, we continue patiently to wait for international flights to start operating again at some point – so that they can go back to earning some kind of a living, and I can continue my work in Somalia with some of the world’s most vulnerable and exposed children. ∎

Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and dot necessarily reflect those of UNICEF or the United Nations.


Author’s Bio

circle-cropped (7)Oscar Boije is from Finland and Bolivia, and currently lives in Hargeisa (though he’s temporarily stuck in Zanzibar). He’s passionate about education and creating opportunities for children and youth to thrive in life.

The New Normal in Maastricht

My “new normal” has been a sequence of months in which I went from a deep level of stress trying to imagine a way in which we could hold our business together without being forced to close it; to a deeper level of procrastination once things had slowly started to settle; to a profound period of purely reflecting in all what happened since I moved from Spain into The Netherlands to study.

By Javier Báez García

These last months have been nothing short of a continuous challenge from every front. I may not be at risk myself—at least not apparently, I am 22 and with no health issues—but the responsibility for doing my best not to put anyone else at risk is very present. I had to learn how to start leading my relationship with my girlfriend through Zoom video calls and texting. How to change the entire business model of my company in barely a weekend. And essentially, how to turn my small studio into different designated spaces so I wouldn’t go insane. Where to rest, where to work—and procrastinate, this has been a very important factor these last few months—and ultimately, where to exercise.

At the end of the day, we all can agree that this situation is just bonkers. But despite the horrendous effects it’s had in the lives of millions, it may have a small silver lining. At least it had it on me. And that is to get the very unlikely, almost unthinkable chance to stop. To breath. To take a look at where you are; how you got there, and asses what is it that you actually want.

My “new normal” has been a sequence of months in which I went from a deep level of stress trying to imagine a way in which we could hold our business together without being forced to close it; to a deeper level of procrastination once things had slowly started to settle; to a profound period of purely reflecting in all what happened since I moved from Spain into The Netherlands to study.

After such long time thinking and reflecting—and eating the indecent amount of delivery food that I will never recognise to anyone who asks— I have learnt three things:

The only thing you can control, is yourself.

This moment is perfect to realise that you don’t have control over anything. Right now, many don’t even have control on when it’s allowed to leave their house. Stop attempting to control everything. If you micromanage your life and everyone around it, you’ll fail at the most important thing—living.

If the only thing you can control is yourself, make sure that when you do something, you do it right. Taking pride in what you do is essential! And it will fill you up inside, at your very core.

The only person whom you and your time is accountable to, is yourself.

Stop fearing deadlines. Stop aiming at working a certain amount of time which you consider to be expected of you. Stop defining your work value by other’s standards.

Forget about long to-do lists that you never end up finishing and end up making you feel guilty. Set yourself only 2 medium tasks every day, that’s it. Dedicate as much time as you need to make you feel proud of that work!

Do not look at your week as an 6/8h of work per day. Look at it, as two tasks or projects per day. It may take more or less time, but at the end you will be much more productive and the work will certainly be of a much higher quality.

Not even a pandemic will defeat your procrastination. ∎


AUTHOR’S BIO

circle-cropped (4)Javier Báez García is a Spanish international student finishing his Bachelor’s in European Law at Maastricht Univeristy. During his studies, he opened a Language School and a Photography & Filmmaking business. He also co-chaired Founders Club Maastricht – promoting entrepreneurship for all ages and he was invited as guest lecturer at Maastricht University in the Master for Entrepreneurship & SME Management. Additionally, he worked as Residential Week Coordinator and Interim Marketing Manager for the EuroMBA and the MaastrichtMBA respectively.

The New Normal in Xiamen

Our lives were shrouded with anxiety and worry. But on the other side, we saw many brave doctors and nurses come to the front line to fight the virus.

By Xiuwen Chen

“New Normal” was a popular phrase in 2014. The government used it to describe the economy transition, from the fast-speed growth to the middle level, pushing for economic structure upgrade and innovation. In the shadow of COVID-19, new normal now has different meanings. I want to share some thoughts in this few months to also clear my puzzled mind.

At the late December in 2019, I remembered seeing a news popped up in my phone about some people who got infected in Wuhan. I didn’t pay much attention and there were only a few discussions about it online. At that time, I was busy with my dissertation and ready to go home for Chinese New Year gathering.

I went back home in January 20 and the news about the virus in Wuhan are heated online and the number of people who got affected surged. In January 23, Wuhan imposed a lockdown. I was shocked by the policy as it showed how severe the situations was. Since then, it became the main topic in our family, the society and the whole internet. Everyone was discussing about it and it caused panic. I was bombarded by various information – the Whistleblower heroes, the bad response of local officers in Wuhan, and the discussion about the origin of the virus.

Our lives were shrouded with anxiety and worry. But on the other side, we saw many brave doctors and nurses come to the front line to fight the virus. We saw volunteers taking care of people after the lockdown of the city. We saw the successful constructions of two hospitals in Wuhan within 10 days and the sacrifices of the workers who built it.

When we face the disaster, how to meet individual needs and how to balance personal freedom and other people’s lives are always questioned. But based on my observation, China chose the latter. The health and security of most people are top priority. The government arranged hundreds of cross-country teams to Wuhan for saving lives. We call it, “Provinces helps Cities in Wuhan” and its actions proved to be useful.

As a Chinese, I think I started re-thinking about Chinese people in a more vivid way. They obey rules, they work hard, they struggle to survive and they value family. But when it comes to group interests, they are willing to sacrifice.

In the darkest moment, the schools, the restaurants and all the stores were closed. Only the delivery service is available. It’s hard to go out for shopping because only one person in a family can go to the market once every two days and with necessary “tickets.”

Gradually, the business reopened again and people could go back to work with masks and temperature checking. Alibaba also created a health code which shows people’s healthy conditions and travel information. It helped track potential patients but of course, it also raised questions about privacy.

Meanwhile, we saw the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world and the number got crazy. I remember checking Twitter trends in January to see how people reacted about the virus but around that time, they didn’t post much. I guessed then that it was still very far away from everyone.

I don’t know whether the world became worse or it’s just my prejudice but I keep myself informed even with more depressing news such as the circuit breaker of US stock market, the locusts swarm in East Africa, America’s withdrawal from WHO, and a whole lot more. I learnt a new word called “Political Depression” and it seems that life is a bumpy road this 2020 and facing these changes and challenges is my “new normal.”

Job hunting is a hot topic in China after the slowdown of economy and schools are helping their graduates to find jobs. I always believe that looking for a job is a personal business but in China, schools and the government are eager to help whether you like it or not.

This year is tough and data shows the rate of employment has increased. Employment is considered vital to ensure a stable economy. I got some jobs offers from HUAWEI and JD.COM, but I’m still waiting for other interviews. However, I know that no matter which one I choose, work life balance is impossible here.

“Young people should grasp the chance to fight, to work 996.”
From 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week. That is my future “normal life.”

I will be back school soon to attend the graduation ceremony. Staying at home for almost five months is so strange but it also gave me enough time to think about myself, the society, and the world. Hesitated, worried, and sometimes lost. Are these feelings part of growing up or are these the attitudes we will continue to hold in facing the future? ∎


Author’s Bio

circle-cropped (8)Xiuwen Chen is an Asia-Europe Foundation Education Department alumna from Xiamen, China. She graduated from Nanjing University, China where she studied international relations.

The New Normal in Manila

From a hopeful start to 2020, it gradually became a terrible nightmare in a span of a few months.
In Manila, it was no different.

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal

The world took a major hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a given that it’s hard to fight a threat that you can’t see. There are no exceptions – everyone is at risk. This is why lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were enforced to at least contain the threat. Slowly, in order to save lives, every country in the world followed suit, but there were still casualties along the way.

It’s like a plot in a blockbuster movie but the only difference is we are living in it. That’s a scary thought. One would never imagine that this would happen in our lifetime but this is our reality now. From a hopeful start to 2020, it gradually became a terrible nightmare in a span of a few months.

In Manila, it was no different. Few days before the lockdown – or should I say quarantine – began, all of us were enjoying our normal lives. We were happily hanging out with friends and family, strolling through parks and malls, stuck in traffic, watching a movie in the movie house, and doing our errands. Everything was normal then but little did we know that all of it will be taken away from us in a snap. It was sudden and we didn’t see it coming.

It was hard to adapt during the first weeks. Despite the madness and uncertainty that ensued, I had faith that everything will come back to normal in a month. Little did I know that I was wrong on that front. It was difficult to sleep and waking up is no different either. Watching the news about the rise of COVID-19 cases added fuel to the fire. I can’t bear to witness the struggles of the people during the lockdown. Everything was too much to handle.

Weeks become months and hope turns into uncertainty. We are all living in unprecedented times and the struggle is different. Back then, during our normal way of life, everyone was fighting all sorts of battles but this pandemic took it up a notch. What I learned during all of this is it’s okay to take a step back and do something that can ease your worries. It’s also worth mentioning that we all cope differently, so take it easy.

From the gradual change of lockdown restrictions in several areas, it will be a while before everyone gets accustomed to the so-called new normal. This pandemic has caused a massive shift in everyone’s lives. I learned that it will be hard to adjust but it’s okay. The first step is knowing that you are not alone. We can’t fight the uncertainty but we do know that this is only temporary. Continue to create ways to find joy. In times of despair, it is important to celebrate the little things. ∎


Author’s Bio

picsart_12-04-09-1880520903.pngAeron Mer Eclarinal is an avid follower of the geek culture. After writing his first entry for The Diarist Projects, he used that as a launchpad to follow his passion to write stories about superheroes. As a result, he currently writes news and features for The Direct which primarily focuses on the superhero genre such as Marvel and DC.