Caitlin Chiu
Class of 2022

 

Student

 

 

 

 

I am Caitlin Chiu, a graduate of DGJS and a current student of a boarding school in Kent, UK. Recently, the coronavirus has been an increasing worry and an arising issue around the world which has brought a time of grief, uncertainty and stress to many.

The outbreak first broke out while I was studying in the UK. Back then, I didn't think much of it as I never thought that it was going to affect me. No one was prepared for the worst yet to come. In February, I was told that I was not going to be able to return to Hong Kong during the half term. Feeling quite bewildered and in awe of how serious the virus has become, it dawned on me the amount of damage it had already caused to Hong Kong and China. After the half term, things escalated quicker than anyone would've thought. The virus spread rapidly and maliciously to Europe, including the UK, and I was told that I was going to fly back to Hong Kong two weeks before the end of term.

Although this virus has caused me inconvenience, it has taught me precious life lessons. Firstly, I realised that preparation is crucial. Throughout life, you will be presented with various challenges and uncertain circumstances that you can't possibly prepare for. The virus is a perfect example of this. Who would have thought that this could affect so many people? Furthermore, as I have always loved animals and nature, I have learnt that I should put more effort into protecting them, as maybe next time, we could be seriously affected by a natural disaster, such as climate change. The powers of nature are way beyond our control. We should always prepare for the worst and do what is in our power to stop disasters from happening.

Secondly, I have learnt that life is very fragile. It is important that we treasure our loved ones when we are with them, as we will never know when we will lose them. Don't take any day for granted. I was so thankful and relieved when I finally arrived in Hong Kong and was reunited with my family. I felt that I was home and whenever I return home, I feel safe with my family beside me because we are stronger together. And here, I have to give my heartful thanks to the school team at my boarding school, who made a considerate decision to allow overseas girls to return home at the earliest possible date, allowing my family and I to be reunited during this difficult time.

My deepest sympathies go out to families who have lost their loved ones, and I pray for a speedy recovery for those who are battling the virus. Together, we will be strong, and we will win this battle. Below is the link to a song that I've written. I hope that this song 'Fighters' that I have written can provide support and encouragement to those in need.

   


Robyn Lamsam
Class of 1994

 

Professional Emcee, Motivational Speaker and Philanthropist

 

Marooned in Krabi

In a blink of an eye, six days in Thailand is fast approaching six months. We came to our home in Krabi for a short holiday at the end January, but as a result of Thailand's national lockdown, we are now marooned here until the country reopens at the end of June.

In the beginning, "doing nothing" took a bit of getting used to. Life in Hong Kong is frenetic, schedules are packed with social engagements and activities, things to do and people to see. In Krabi, the imposition of prohibited areas and checkpoints between villages arising from the lockdown meant that our freedom of movement was severely restricted. It was truly heart-breaking to be away from our family and friends in Hong Kong – especially not knowing when we could see my mother, to whom we are very close. Along the way when we received news that Thailand's reopening was delayed again and again, it was both upsetting and frustrating. Part of the solution was a change in mindset – a conscious decision to simply focus on the present and to deliberately put a positive spin on things that were within my control, rather than to obsess about things that were completely out of my control. Quite frankly that took a great deal of effort for a renowned control freak like myself, but once we put our minds to it, we settled into a calmer routine.

We are very grateful that at our home here in Krabi, we have access to swimming pools, gardens and beaches. Every day affords my 4-year-old son, Kyle, the opportunity to experience a living naturalist lesson, and he is fast developing into a mini David Attenborough. On land we have been chasing millipedes, monitor lizards and kingfishers; at low tide we get up close and personal with a wide variety of aquatic life, from giant hermit crabs to giant clams to sea slugs and starfish.

As a precaution against giving myself a coronary in the process of home-schooling, I also enrolled Kyle at a local kindergarten. Although schools in Thailand were officially closed by March, I made special arrangements to continue private lessons at the school because as much as I adore my child, those three hours of peace and quiet every morning have been marvellous for my own sanity! Kyle in turn has really taken to the Thai language – whilst he can only speak all of three words in Cantonese, in three short months he has already learned to read and write all 44 letters of the Thai alphabet, knows all the days of the week, numbers, shapes and colours. In turn, he has started teaching his mother and grandmother the language – often becoming quite irritated when we pronounce words incorrectly. Something he picked up from mummy's home-schooling technique perhaps? (Haha)

Is this an ideal situation we are in? Of course not.
Do we miss our friends and family? Of course, we do.
Our new normal is anything but normal.
So I am choosing to be happy. I am choosing to adapt. I am choosing to be present and optimistic.

Gratitude is a state of mind.

   

 
      

 

 

Janet Pau
Class of 1994

 

Economist and Director at The Economist Group

 

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, I had been writing about the adverse effects of climate change on public health challenges. As a densely populated city and an international travel and trade hub, Hong Kong has always been subject to a heightened risk of infectious disease spread. In southern China, extreme heat waves and increased flooding brought about by global warming foster environments susceptible to infectious diseases that are vector-borne, by hosts such as mosquitoes and ticks. At the same time, continued urban sprawl means humans are encroaching upon animal habitats. The mixing of animals and humans create the risk of zoonotic diseases, meaning viruses, bacteria, and parasites originating in animals that jump to humans.

Covid-19 is the pandemic that health researchers have been warning about for years. World Health Organization scientists in 2018 had warned about Disease X - their name for an as-yet-unknown disease, possibly zoonotic in nature, which could become the next epidemic. Covid-19 turned out to be one of these diseases-in-waiting. And Covid-19 may not be the last pandemic we face in our lifetimes. In the coming decades, climate change will likely accelerate the migration and dislocation of both humans and animals, exacerbating disease formation and spread. Better preparedness and detection will be essential combating pandemics. Beyond public-sector investments, which tend to favour low-risk and cost-effective solutions, notably vaccines, the private sector may have the opportunity to lead the way in investing in disruptive technological innovations. These could include artificial intelligence tools to disrupt the conventional process of disease-trend forecasting. For example, machine learning can be used to search for hidden patterns in environmental factors and traits of animal species that predict pathogen carriers with greater accuracy. Sustainable investment schemes can be designed to finance pandemic preparedness. Urban planners also need to better balance development goals with the longer-term preservation of wildlife habitats.

As Covid-19 has so forcefully shown, pandemics are an "uncertain certainty" that will lead to serious health, economic and social costs. They must be seen not in isolation but together with other global challenges, notably climate change. Hong Kong should now take its hard-earned success in largely halting the spread of Covid-19 to prove itself as a role model in the area of pandemic preparedness and public health.


Previous articles on public health and climate change authored by Janet Pau for further reading:
- Build up climate change resilience in the Bay Area
- Hong Kong can make itself a role model in preparing for pandemics
- Steps needed to cool down heat-stressed cities in Asia

     

 

Nancy Chow
Class of 1990

 

Social Worker

 

As a social worker, I have observed that COVID-19 has not only brought about a health and economic crisis for Hong Kong and the world, but also a social crisis which struck at the core of our society.

Family relationships have been severely tested by policies designed to contain the pandemic, with the collateral effect of shutting down community support services. The suspension of schools, day-care services for the needy, the elderlies and the disabled created additional burdens and presented enormous challenges, tremendous stress and frustration to family members and caregivers alike. Although the requirements of social distancing and work-from-home arrangements has allowed family members to stay at home longer, it has also increased the chance of familial conflicts. You may have read from the news about couples arguing over whether they should go out or stay at home, whether they should be wearing masks, or how they should use diluted household bleach etc. In addition, parents are involved in more fights with their children over homework and the use of electronic devices. During the pandemic, social workers like myself have also been challenged to make use of video communication to maintain contacts with clients, in order to observe the need for social distancing. As there are no physical visits, there is a need to heighten our awareness of the stress and needs of our clients in these complicated times.

COVID-19 has affected people from all walks of life, in particular the less privileged and vulnerable groups. At the outbreak of the pandemic, you may recall on social media, a story about an elderly man crying in front of a reporter, and expressing his desperation for a mask. This shows that for people with the least resources, they usually have limited access to information as well as the weakest coping abilities, making them more vulnerable to the dangers of the coronavirus. The situation is worsened by the requirement of social distancing, which leaves the elderlies, disabled, underprivileged and ethnic minorities most impacted by isolation.

To ease the plight of those hardest hit by the pandemic, the government has duly responded by granting different kinds of subsidies to ease imminent financial needs. I believe that society will benefit from more social measures or policies directed at restoring and strengthening the coping ability of these vulnerable groups. In the long run, this will also help to reduce the inequality gap and social injustices caused by the pandemic.

COVID-19 pandemic has brought misery to many, but it has also alerted us to look for ways to review inter-personal relationships, including how to deal with family situations and examine the effectiveness of Hong Kong's social safety net system. We should focus more on taking preventative actions so that we are better equipped to deal with another crisis should this happen in the future.

   


 

Carolyn Yeh
Class of 1995

 

Volunteer

 

A Time to Remember

Upon news of prolonged school closure in Hong Kong after the Chinese New Year holidays, we extended our stay in the US for a total of three times. Our short 8-day family vacation eventually evolved into a 4-month long stay.

As the coronavirus started to rage across parts of Asia, we found a sanctuary at my mother's home in the Californian suburb, about 1.5 hours south of San Francisco. However, the outbreak in the US soon ensued. Although our area was relatively unscathed, we felt sad and frustrated that the virus could infiltrate parts of the US unabatedly, even with the benefit of lead time. In contrast, we were proud and relieved that Hong Kong, having a strong sense of working towards the common good, was faring much better.

Although we could not see some of our friends and family, I was comforted by a unique sense of solidarity that we, as in mankind, were all going through this – the changes, the loss, the hopes and the frustrations – together. Every night at 8pm, we would step outside to "howl" with our human and canine neighbors to pay tribute to the amazing healthcare workers and first responders. This and giving to PPE sourcing causes were the little we could do. It was also a special time to connect with others. As I looked up in the night sky, I noticed that the stars, in particular Venus (my astrophysicist stepfather was the only reason I knew), were shining so brilliantly and stood still admiring them for a few moments.

While taking a break from in-person interactions, we took solace in the easily accessible nature and found ourselves immensely enjoying the simple pleasures it offers. The combination of the cool crisp air and the bright warm sun melted half of our worries away, so we tried to soak up as much outdoors as possible. Each day was a new adventure. One day we would see a hummingbird soar and dive in big loops or count the banana slugs on our path. We even brought one home to keep as a pet before releasing it the next day! Another day a family of deer or wild turkeys or peacocks would appear and every day squirrels would come and play in the yard. The chorus of birdsong every morning and the hooting of the neighborhood owl every evening accompanied us in our daily activities. We went elephant seal viewing and observed the craters on the moon through giant telescopes, picked citrus from trees and dug up seasonal bamboo shoots which we savored. We visited a farm to see the newborn foal and feed the ever-hungry cow, and the beaches just to enjoy the sun-kissed sand and sea breeze. We gardened and worked with seeds of vegetables we consumed and plants from the nursery. The vanishing of the daisies we had just planted – the likely culprit being a hungry bunny that frequented the yard – amused us greatly!

The daily hiking routine and exploration of state parks, reserves and the hilly neighborhood landscape revitalized us. Social distancing transpired effortlessly with the lower density of people. Contrary to the unpleasant behavior exhibited in some parts of America, our neighbors were cordial and supportive. Greetings with complete strangers were most customary. Seeing us exerting ourselves jogging uphill, they would cheer on us or send a thumbs up from their cars as they drove by.

There were lots of indoor activities too. We managed to secure 20 pounds of flour before it went out of stock due to the sudden surge in baking activity! Baking, filling the house with aroma, and topping off our meals with the desserts lent us much joy. A myriad of online resources for children timely circulated, and as an animal loving family, the live webcams at zoos became an instant favorite. We religiously followed the activities of various animals, in particular, a pair of burrowing owls at the San Diego zoo, and were delighted to see that mommy owl started laying eggs, one a day until there were eight and rarely leaving them for the next four weeks. Then the first chick hatched, followed by others, eyes shut until one day the first pair of black beady eyes popped open! All the while, mommy owl brooded the little fluff balls diligently to keep them warm. We marveled at the manifestation of love in the animal world and these animals wound up in many of our dinner conversations. Of course, online schooling took place and we were grateful that schools, utilizing modern technology, made the best out of this trying situation to facilitate children's learning. Fortunately, the adults' engagements also allowed for remote or virtual participation.

It was breathtaking to watch the seasons change. The new leaves slowly populating an otherwise empty tree and contrasting bright green tips extending from dark green pine needles were a spectacular sight. The magnificent blossoms could not be missed: first the pale pink cherry blossoms in late February, followed by darker pink magnolias, purple wisterias, multicolored roses and magenta bougainvillea. The change in seasons and the owl family we followed served as a powerful reminder that in the face of a calamity, life cycles on beautifully.

Even though nothing out of the ordinary happened to us in the last few months, it felt plenty extraordinary. We treasured spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together and relished things and experiences we were previously oblivious to, mired in our busy lives in Hong Kong. It was a time that we will reminisce over and over again as a family. We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful world. Our lives may be completely thrown off course, some by phenomenal challenges, but if we just take a step back to reflect, perhaps we can find a place where stars sparkle more brightly and birds chirp more sweetly.