Second half of the year

— 6 minute read

We are now officially one day into the second half of the year. I thought that I would commemorate this momentous occasion with a blog post and do the usual bitching about how time flies.

It's funny that a lot of conversations with friends on times of Covid go along the idea of 2020 being "written off", but when I actually think about it, my life has rarely seen such a productive period. True, there were certain things that couldn't be done. In an alternative universe by this time in 2020 I would have gone to Manila for a youth digital rights conference, Jakarta for the Goethe Institut Digital Discourses conference, Valencia (Spain) for the Internet Freedom Festival, Kathmandu for the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum, and San Jose (Costa Rica) for RightsCon. By now I'd be preparing to go to Cambridge (UK) for the Histories of AI summer school programme.

It makes my head swim just to think of my original schedule between March and August 2020, itineraries which I would have also expanded to include some travel for leisure and meeting of friends here and there, with work deadlines and other obligations to be met enroute. It would have been fun, but also extremely stressful. This year was looking to resemble the back-to-back travel madness of last year, in which I was constantly mentally exhausted and physically sick.

But then the world was served a curve ball and all those plans flew out of the window. Instead of back-to-back travel, there was a three-month long movement control order during which even stepping out of the house was deemed potentially illegal, and certainly immoral. What ensued was a months-long rehabilitation process in which I slowly picked up pieces of myself that I used to know, putting them back into place, and rearranging them in different compositions. With the abundance of time and the lack of distractions, I started on this journey first with fervour which slowly dwindled down to weariness. Regardless of my level of sprightliness in the process, I am thankful for the opportunity to slow down, to think, and to be. The thankfulness is not directed at the pandemic of course. You get what I mean.

So, since I last updated, the following things have happened:

  • I now have aquatic plants! Actually, I have an aquatic ecosystem in a styrofoam box, complete with six different water plants, about 20 guppies (I think they've multipled since I got them), and a bunch of water snails (which are also vigorously screwing among themselves, I think I saw some baby snails this morning). I am chuffed. So far my nightmare of finding belly-up fish has not happened yet. I have to get a forever-home for the ecosystem because I don't trust the styrofoam to not leach chemicals into the water, but for now everything seems to be happily alive.
  • Some of my tomato plants have flowered, which takes me one step closer to fruits. I am very excited about this. Tomorrow I'm going to do some major transplanting to move the tomato plants into bigger containers (quite big - 10 gallon fabric pots, which can hold about 45litre of soil), so that they will be able to expand their roots and be in the position to produce more fruit. Other edibles that are doing well in my garden include the kale, various types of basil, bitter gourd (fruiting! But the fruits are tiny, I'm not sure why), kangkung, various types of spinach, and so on.
  • I was also gifted eight air plants by a good friend, which takes my number of air plants to eleven at the moment. So in my garden now, I am growing plants in soil, in water, and in air. 海陸空兼具!
  • I am learning Farsi now on iTalki. Happened to have some credits left from before, and they were expiring. So I thought instead of doing Japanese, which was what I was using the credits for before, I will try to have some guided learning in Farsi, the new language which I had tried to pick up on my own but had abandoned for half a year at least. Maybe this time it will stick. Certainly, having a teacher to keep me accountable will help.
  • Coursera courses are continuing, so far I've finished two computational social science courses and am couple of weeks into the third, and I've finished the first level of guitar lessons and have started with the second. I must say that even though the initial burst of energy is no longer, as I'm more busy now with work, I'm still enjoying the classes and foresee keeping it up until the end of the year.

In general I wouldn't say that the past few weeks has been all that different from lockdown life. We've eaten out a few times and also met some friends and family since the lockdown lifted, but mostly we're still staying at home. As a result of prolonged isolation I've found that most social interactions now tire me out within hours, even if they are with people that I like and love. It seems that I'm still most comfortable within my own home, now that home has been lovingly transformed into a space that I really enjoy. At intervals Leo or the cats would find me squatting in front of my styrofoam box staring at the fish, or looking out into the balcony imagining different layouts for my garden.

While in Malaysia the pandemic has been largely under control I'm also observing with horror what has been happening at the global level. Every few days the US breaks their records of new lows in levels of stupidity and selfishness, which reduces my faith in humanity but I can't tear my eyes away from the carnage. Today there was news that they bought up the global remdesivir supplies, for the next three months, or 500,000 doses. That selfishness is compounded by the fact that they're doing such a horrible job controlling the virus on US soil, that many of the deaths are needless and therefore these lifesaving drugs are being used on cases that could have been mitigated by proper prevention. In other words, instead of giving access to patients in countries which have been working so hard to do the right thing, these drugs are effectively being flushed down the toilet that is known as the United States. Good grief.

breathes in deeply

Anyway. I should be closing this post, but I don't have any neat ending. Life is ok. Chugging along. Work is interesting and engaging. Fish are alive. Plants are flowering and fruiting. Till the next time I update.