#2068 | Flying in the pandemic (SG-NYC)


Hey guys,

I cannot believe it’s been seventeen months.

I’ve gotten so many questions on the flight process on IG that I thought it’d be easier to just pen it all down into a blog post. This was dashed off quite quickly, mostly on the flight itself, so its not as polished as the usual travel post (but what even is a travel post anymore, hur hur hur):

Flight:

SQ24 Direct SG-NY
Bought it for 1.2k premium economy one way, I think that’s the lowest it went cos I was tracking the flights on Google Flights for months. After that it went up like mad, the highest I saw was 8k. And guess what? PEOPLE MUST HAVE PAID BECAUSE IT’S A FULL FLIGHT.

Luggage configuration:

SQ PE to US gives you 2 x 23KG bags. I got away with having a 25kg one, but they made me repack the other bag cos it hit 28kg. Out came the extra skincare and books!!! :'(

I airtagged my bags which was quite cool cos I could literally see them being loaded. Having had my luggage lost on flights before, I’m always super paranoid that they don’t load my bags on the plane or something.

As for carry on, I packed a duffel INTO a smaller cabin sized luggage. This is because a rolly luggage with wheels is more convenient when on the move in the airport, but a duffel is better for the actual flight. Especially given how the US doesn’t let you use luggage trolleys for free and I refuse to pay 5USD for a dirty trolley. I really hate waiting in line at immigration with a heavy duffel (esp since you hand carry all electronics), so this duffel-into-luggage config was best for me, esp since my girlfriend was coming to pick me with a car. Might rethink that if I were taking public transport out from the airport, but I doubt many people are doing that now anyway thanks to Covid.

Pre flight business:

I strongly suggest calling your airline and making a checklist of whatever you need to actually get on the flight. Entry requirements differ not just based on destination, but airline as well. For example, SG-NY on an SQ flight requires only an ART test, but if you do the SG-NY route on JAL, you need a PCR test, which is more expensive and invasive. Some flights require your negative covid test result to be valid for takeoff only, but some need it to remain valid till you land. So on and so forth. Best to confirm with your airline directly.

This whole process was kind of confusing and unclear for me. SQ told me to take the test within 3 days of my departure, but didn’t specify if it was 3 working days, or 3 x 24 hour days. Anyway, I booked it for two full days before my flight through the SQ clinic partner, Collinsons, but even then there was confusion cos when I went to the clinic they were like no you cannot take the test now you need to wait till the day of your flight because ART results are only valid for 24 hours. But when I came back on the day of my flight to do it, the doctor was like oh shit cannot, you’re too late, you had to take it yesterday, you cannot fly. CUE MILD PANIC ATTACK.

In the end, turns out the doctor also didn’t know what the entry requirements were, and the SQ NYC flight accepts ART results. When I double checked with the nurse and came back to him, he was like, oh, actually I’m not a doctor, I’m cabin crew, this swabbing is my part time job, hehe.*

SO.

Anyway, the ART test will cost you anywhere from 30-40 bucks. PCRs are about 170-200 depending on where you take it. You need a MOH approved slip which the clinic will give you – you CANNOT do it at home yourself even though it looks like the same DIY test kit lol.

I also needed to print and sign a special form at home and give it to the check in counter. This will be provided by your airline. Again, when in doubt, call and check.

*A lot of people DMed me to say they’d be super angry, but actually the guy was super nice, except for the fact that he gave me a panic attack, so I guess I’m fine.

Airport:

My flight departed from T3, Changi airport. Please note that you CANNOT enter the airport building unless you hold a valid flight ticket. Meaning if your parents come and send you off they have to wait at the drop off point. The good thing is, you can go in, check in, and come back out to talk with your fam until it’s time to leave. I really dont envy the poor Cisco security guard though, he kept trying to get all the different families to move their cars because its a no waiting zone, but no one cared about him.

Non travellers cannot pass from Jewel to the terminal. My friend had to cab it from Jewel to the T3 drop off to come see me.

Basically nothing was open in the airport when I left (about midnight). Only the baggage wrapping service from Changi Recommends where the check in counters are. There were trolleys outside, but I didn’t see them once I passed the gate.

ALSO, IMPORTANTLY, the water coolers are all shut down.
I was so thirsty by the time I got to the gate! Theres a water dispenser inside, past the gate check, but that’s really far in. Please note that it’s a water dispenser, not a water cooler. That means you need your own bottle to fill – it’s probably to reduce possible contact points, like everyone’s lips touching the same water cooler mouth, ha.

Half the toilets are blocked off/ closed.
I made the mistake of not going to the first toilet I saw, and the next one was 20 minutes walk away, IN THE PLANE ITSELF AFTER BOARDING. So don’t make the same mistake i did. Lol.

Social Distancing:

Uhhhhh. Basically the chairs are clingwrapped so you cant sit with friends but tbh there wasn’t much enforced social distancing in the airport. Mainly someone comes up to you to ask to see your ticket every ten minutes or so while you’re walking to your gate, to make sure you’re going in the right direction and not mingling with passengers from other flights. Plus, my flight was full. I did call beforehand to ask, but they said they weren’t social distnacing on the plane, because they were social distancing at the airport and it should be enough. Ok, I guess. Wear your mask.

I ended up paying 200 to upgrade to a solo seat. There are 3 seats at the back of the plane where its too narrow to fit 2 seats by the window, so its just one seat + a large storage bin. I HIGHLY recommend this because it’s so convenient + big storage space + doubles as a table when closed + more privacy! I expect these seats will go fast since there are only 3 of them, so get them asap if you’re on a PE flight. You can book it online under the “Manage Your Flight” option on the SQ website.

In Flight Connectivity:

Pleasantly surprised to learn that SQ gave everyone free 3 hour internet on this flight! Plus it was email, not seat linked, so I just used it across devices using different email addresses.

I’m also a Singtel user, so it was $29 for unlimited in-flight internet. Dial *100# after your plane reaches cruising altitude. Pretty fuss free – yes there are some places where you lose internet cos you’re up in the air after all, but guess what? IT ALLOWS HOTSPOTTING! Which more than makes up for it, for me.

In Flight stuff:

Everyone around me was pretty good with the mask thing. Yay! Asians.

SQ provides a little care kit with a mask, sanitizer, and disinfectant surface wipe. They also give you a wrapped pillow and blanket but very few people used it, I think everyone is paranoid. There didn’t seem to be any conceivable difference to the meal service besides Book the Cook no longer being available for premium economy. No comments on in flight entertainment cos those of yalls who followed me from my travel blogging days know that I only read on flights cos watching TV makes me feel sick.

Landing:

This might be the first time I landed in the US without the stewardesses going around offering everyone the arrival cards. Possibly because everyone is already accounted for on the flight, given the covid situation and all.

I speedwalked to the immigrations counter because I’m deathly afraid of long immigration queues. It moved quite fast, but the counter guy told me that immigrations are SUPER busy every day, and the line can go all the way till the end of the hall. I landed early morning, so it wasn’t that bad, but still.

Also, the guy at the counter wasn’t wearing a mask, and halfway through his supervisor came up to him to tell him to put one on because someone at a different counter noticed and complained. Haha. So the first person I saw upon touchdown had questionable mask policies, which is interesting, given that you’d think customs and immigrations would be a high risk place to work.

Ok that’s about it! If you’re on a student visa, please don’t forget to pay your SEVIS fee and report your arrival within 7 days of arrival or you’ll get a nasty email from them like I did. I completely forgot about paying the SEVIS fee because, you know, you need to pay SO MANY fees to get your visa that it’s easy to get them mixed up. Pfft. Moving is rough is all I have to say about it. And if you’re voluntarily choosing to travel during this time, be careful and safe, and mask up!

x
Jem

#2067 | No vibes, just chaos

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Friends, I have returned, if only briefly. Since I last dropped in I have completely lost the plot thanks to an anime rabbit hole I spiraled down. For days? No. Weeks. Maybe a month. I am ashamed, but I suppose, not regretful. How can one be regretful, when much of the last month was spent away from the drabness of reality in the pandemic, and immersed in the world of xianxia and magic?

Life has been eventful in the most chaotic way. On the 2nd of April I wrote the last words of my novel’s first draft and burst into tears, celebrated with beer and fried chicken, and fell sick immediately. A novelist friend of mine said it was the same for her – the first draft being followed immediately with a high fever, raging for days. The body’s reflection of a mind’s truth, burning. Cue the anime days, cue celebrations, cue sweet, sparkling wine.

Soon after, Shane and I (finally!) decided to get married after being engaged for two years. However, turned out the joke was on us, as Singapore basically went into lockdown right after, banning all wedding services. Oh to the well. I did promise chaos. It did deliver.


On a happier note, I’ve also booked my flight ticket back to New York for the Fall. I’ve been tracking prices for ages, it had been hovering around the 3k+++ mark (insane!), but for some reason dropped to 1.2k one Sunday. I booked it immediately, and the next day it went up to 1.7k. Now the going price is 3k. As you can imagine I am all smug and pleased with myself for that bout of spontaneity. Hello again, New York, soon enough. Hello, long-distance?

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har di har. Always track flights y’all! Old habits die hard from my budget travel blogging days.

Anyway. Since booking my flight back, I’ve been asked multiple times if I’m excited to return. I suppose a year ago I would have said yes without hesitation, but return means something different now than it did before. Before, I had not yet accepted nor adjusted to the fact of the pandemic, to me, it was a temporal aberration, and return was proof that I was right, that I could slip back into the life I had carved out for myself there, that all the choices I made thus far had not been for naught. But America has changed and so have I. As I wrote in an essay for No Contact Magazine, the New York I return to eventually may not be one I recognized from before – the challenge, I think, is making peace with that fact. I recognize also, that America is not mine, I am a temporary sojourner, my claim to it is less than a smudge. But my version of America – that is mine and mine alone. And it is this that I fight to preserve.

And so, return, today, means no more or less than return a year before, it is just different. This time, I feel like I am meeting a version of my life there with a sense of inevitability, but without a sense of haste. I do not run, I walk, I arrive, I adjust accordingly. How much difference a year makes. I remember declaring, two years ago, in a fit of naivete, that I was exactly where I was meant to be. That can be true, and this can be, too: I have learnt to unlearn, to soften the fossilized parts of myself, so as to bend and not to break. Where unwavering determination has served me well before, an easy directionlessness benefits me now. And in the future, this will change, too.

I mean, who would have thought that I’d become a hard-core anime girl in 2021? Not I.

In the meanwhile, I am leaning into all of it – time with family, with friends, with fiancé. The months of faux-normality that we have enjoyed in the last couple of months, the gentle clinks of cutlery in restaurants, the rain, the hugs, the movies, the letting go. The biggest change that has come of all this, I think, is that I no longer dream of labour, I now only dream of the work I want to do, and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to know the difference.

x
Jem

#2066| nian nian you yu

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I must admit that I’ve never been *into* Chinese new year per se, probably because the idea of dressing up in tight new clothes and sitting in front of a steaming hotpot in the supremely humid Singapore while long lost relatives grill you on every single life choice you’ve ever made doesn’t quite sound like the ideal long weekend, yes? Try explaining your choice to be a writer, albeit one that’s infrequently, if ever, paid. Besides, the idea of reuniting with family might hold water in a country where you have to geographically traverse mountainous lands to be together once a year, etc, but this is Singapore, where you can get from one end of the island to the other in 30 minutes, flat, 45 if there’s traffic. Any lack of regular contact is, make no mistake, a choice.

All that to say that I thought I knew all that, but time has a funny way of revealing your own naivete to yourself, and it was only after moving across the world and back did i find it in myself to have fun on Chinese new year, to confront inappropriate interrogations head-on with cheeky comebacks and nudges, to harass my deaf grandmother with unnecessarily loud yells which, despite what she says, she enjoys, to unzip my jeans in the car after all the cny eating to my parents’s horror and amusement, to take CNY lightly, which in my books, ends up being to take it seriously, to treasure, to hold.

Ah, a cliche? Yes, yes, and yes. Anyway, I wrote about CNY this year more formally on Curbside. Here it is.

x
J


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#2065 | Making the best of a shitty situation

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In a move that was extremely on brand for 2020, my sister fell off a rock wall and broke her arm in two places last year, a thing traumatic and incredulous in equal measure (isn’t breaking a limb something that happens only in the vague realm of ‘to other people’, without ever taking on specificity for most of us?). She’s since had copious amounts of medication, surgery, and physiotherapy, thank God for insurance, and now lives with a red scar down her hand that can only be described as thicc.

She’s young enough that the bone will heal, she will function at close to full capacity again someday, albeit with a smudge more caution and paranoia, but the scar, i think, is here to stay. The scar, smooth and soft, a site of repair, a battle wound, a rope of thickened tissue, silky to the touch, fading slightly, stitching skin together. Let’s celebrate it I said, grabbing a sharpie, going at her, and she groaned, pushed me off, and said, jie, i think the only person enjoying this is you. But she was smiling.

x
J


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#2064 | New Year, Same Lower Back Pain

With each renewal of the calendar year comes the expectation of change, against all reason, which is probably why I find myself ridiculously disappointed in the second week of 2021, still struggling with lower back pain, still plagued with orthopedic concerns, still shocked to find that I do not, in fact, have a completed manuscript draft on hand.

x
J