The Novel Coronavirus

As of late, I can safely say that January has not been the best start of the new year (2020). So far, we have faced several challenges, one of them being the Australian fires and the other being the World War 3 scare after the assassination of Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani. However, we now face a bigger problem: the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The Novel Coronavirus is a part of the coronavirus family, which has never been encountered before. A Coronavirus is one of the various viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. The virus, in humans, causes respiratory infections, like the common cold, which are typically mild. However, rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and Novel Coronavirus can be lethal. The symptoms vary in other species. For example in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory disease, while in cows and pigs coronaviruses cause diarrhea. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections.

There are numerous symptoms as well as the virus causes pneumonia. People who have fallen ill suffer from coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, there can be organ failure.  Antibiotics are of no use as this is viral pneumonia. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

As of February 13 2020, here are now just under 60,000 confirmed cases and 1,380 deaths in mainland China. There are cases in 28 other countries outside China, with deaths recorded in one case in Hong Kong, and one case in the Philippines. The number of people to have contracted the virus overall could be far higher, as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected.

Singapore currently has been affected incredibly as citizens fear another outbreak similar to that of the 2002 SARS. The country is very vulnerable to the coronavirus spread as many international cases of the coronavirus from the UK to South Korea can be traced back to Singapore and some countries are now advising against travel to the international hub. As the virus came to Singapore, it automatically affects other countries as well because Singapore is a major international flight hub.

So far, over 30,000 illnesses and 635 deaths have been reported in mainland China which has caused global anxiety. Although the country is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus, there are countless repercussions throughout the country. There has been an increasing rise in racist abuse because of the outbreak. In Singapore, especially in school communities, there have been some xenophobic harassment and racist comments about the far east Asians in schools. Several people have begun to stay away from Asian students and tease them about wearing masks or telling them that they should be quarantined in LOA.

Although, understandably, these comments are purely out of fear of the virus. However, it doesn’t make it just to throw snarky comments around in the air. It is not easy for the people on the receiving end of these comments. Currently, in countries worldwide, countless Chinese restaurants have been losing customers due to the stereotype that the Chinese are unclean and uncivilised. Old racist tropes are fueling fears and societal barriers will only worsen over time.



The Odyssey Incidents Writing

In the book The Odyssey (translated by Emily Wilson), there are several instances where Odysseus has been portrayed as cunning and manipulative, a trait which is represented to be a valued (positive) quality crucial for victory in certain situations. In the Odyssey, Homer incorporates Odysseus’ characteristic of being manipulative as it reflects the behaviour of the Greek Gods, suggesting that Odysseus is the closest mortal to possessing divine powers. In the story, Odysseus receives help from Athena, who favours him for his “power of cunning” a trait which is reflected in both Athena and Odysseus. Besides physical strength, Athena and Odysseus both have intellectual prowess, a quality needed to achieve successful outcomes. 


The first incident where Odysseus displayed God-like qualities was in book 8: The Songs of a Poet when he attends the Phaeacian assembly at Alcinous’s court. “But as for myself grant me a rapid convoy home to my own native land. How far away I’ve been from all my loved ones, how long I have suffered!” Odysseus exclaimed at Alcinous and Arete so that they would assist him on his journey. After being accepted by the Phaeacians, men began to display their athletic abilities and Odysseus enjoys watching them race and wrestle. However, when he is asked to participate, Odysseus initially declines the offer, but Euryalus taunts him. Odysseus then demonstrates his god-like qualities by picking up the heaviest discuss and throwing it beyond the marks of all the other men. Odysseus’s display of strength is extremely impressive, Euryalus apologizes for his remarks before giving Odysseus a gift. In this scene, Odysseus shows that his aim to reach home never wavers. He takes advantage of Arete’s caring persona and manipulates the King and Queen into providing him with protection as well as a route back to Ithaca. Additionally, Odysseus sways the Phaeacians with his strength to prove that he is more dominant than the people around him. In this situation, Athena directs Odysseus to the Phaeacians knowing that they would be instrumental to his route back home. However, Athena also uses this situation as an opportunity to fight back Poseidon with whom she had a prolonged confrontation as Poseidon wanted her land Athens. The Phaecians who were supporters of Poseidon would be seen as traitors if they helped Odysseus, which is what they eventually do because of Athena’s manipulation thus, giving both Athena and Odysseus the upper hand that they have always wanted. 


In another instance, Odysseus also displays heroic qualities on the island of Circe. In book ten, Odysseus sends a party to investigate Circe’s home, and the goddess proceeds to turn the men into swine. After Eurylochus informs Odysseus of the shocking events and Circe’s magical powers, Odysseus courageously travels to Circe’s home to save his men. “I strapped my silver-studded sword across my back, took up my bow, and told him, ‘Take me there'” (chp10, 263). With the help of Hermes’ magic potion, Odysseus is able to defeat Circe’s spell and forces her to transform the pigs back into men. Odysseus’s cunning, bold behaviour demonstrates his heroic nature as he successfully rescues his crew from the powerful goddess. This shows that manipulative and cunning qualities, do have positive effects as long as they contribute to the objective. 


This image reflects when Eurymachus throws a stool at Odysseus but misses as Odysseus insulted of Eurymachus’ own. He hits a servant instead. Just as a riot is about to break out, Telemachus steps in and diffuses the situation, to the consternation of the suitors.

The Odyssey Polyphemus Comic

Nobody—that’s my name. Nobody—
so my mother and father call me, all my friends.

Cunning is Odysseus’s greatest trait and it serves him well throughout the poem, perhaps nowhere more famously than in his triumph over the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Having introduced himself as “Nobody,” Odysseus subdues the giant with wine and blinds him by piercing his one large eye with a pointed stake. Polyphemus then calls out to his kin for help, saying that “Nobody, friends…Nobody’s killing me now by fraud and not by force!” The other Cyclopes thus assume that he is fine and ignore his pleas for help, allowing Odysseus and his men ultimately to escape.

The Odyssey Athena Comic

(drawn by me)

The theme behind this comic is “Cunning’. In Book 13, Odysseus finally returns home. The Phaeacians convey him to Ithaca in what is the easiest leg of his journey since Athena puts him into a deep sleep. He wakes up in a cave so disoriented that he does not recognize his own country. Athena, in disguise, confronts and questions him. True to his character, he disguises his identity and spins a tale about how he came to the island. Athena appreciates his cunning, recognizing her own craftiness in her favourite mortal.


Writer’s Fortnight with Hanna Alkaf

Today we had a Writer’s Fortnight session with the Malay author Hanna Alkaf. Hanna Alkaf graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and spent over ten years writing everything but fiction before finally giving in. She now writes “unapologetically” Malaysian young adult and middle-grade stories. The Weight of Our Sky is her first novel.


Hanna was first explaining to us the importance of knowledge of different mental illnesses. She explained how in Malaysia there was a lack of information about mental illnesses and psychologists refused to provide new adapted information. Through this session, I realized that developing a mental illness was a process and so was coping with it. There were several mental illnesses that we covered today, these being OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, depression, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). During the talk, there were many of us who actually did not know the meaning of many of these disorders and were confusing them with other disorders. We learnt about how it was important to value people with “mental problems” and how it was important to help people who don’t know what they are experiencing. 


Hanna then moved onto describing her book “The Weight of Our Sky” which is about a music-loving teen with OCD who does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Melati Ahmad the main character is like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. However, the main character believes that she harbours a “djinn” inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied. A “djinn” is an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in human and animal forms and to possess humans. 


[continuation of plot] “A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theatre and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman but has to leave her best friend behind to die. On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbour tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope.”


From this story, Hanna explains how she suffered from Postpartum Depression (PPD) which is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that happen in a woman after giving birth. She explained how after giving birth everything became difficult for her and her life wasn’t going on the course she wanted it to. She then connected this to her previous story, Gila: A Journey Through Moods & Madness (Gila means crazy) which she wrote to represent communities in Malaysia who suffered from a mental disorder and were not able to get help, similar to her situation. 


In my opinion, I think that it is really promising that authors are now focusing on writing and representing the marginalised communities in Asia through stories especially because differently-abled communities are sometimes a taboo or a less understood subject. There are many people in this region of the world who are unaware of the problems that they face and why. Sometimes they are unaware of how to even deal with their problems which is why books as such are encouraging for certain communities. 

Ping Pong CAS

Season 1 Ping Pong!

This was my first time playing ping pong outside of PE class. I used to play badminton and tennis for a while. But, ping pong is definitely something new. I remember not enjoying the sport in class. However, because I knew some of the people I was playing with it was more fun.

It was slightly challenging because I used to lack a lot of patience. However, this sport helped me build patience, learn how to keep my brain sharp and importance of response.

Kahaani Dance Practice

This is my first ever Kahaani Performance! This isn’t my first participation as I was a backstage manager during my GCSEs and I was a part of the Kolkata Global Concern.

Kolkata Global Concern supports an organisation called Voice of World that helps visually impaired and orphaned children in the city of Kolkata. The GC has been supporting this cause since 2001 and helps to raise awareness and support Voice of the World’s educational projects.

Voice of World is also a multi-unit non-profit Social Welfare Organization providing philanthropic services, since 1992, for the underprivileged especially the differently-abled.

The dance practices were really fun, they were definitely a new experience for me as I have never learned classical Indian dance. I usually like working backstage in productions and performances, but it was a wonderful experience to see how the dances are choreographed. At first, I was uncomfortable with the dance because it was a genre I wasn’t accustomed to.  However, over time I got more confident with learning the steps and practising them.

My goal during this process was to learn a new type of dance which helped me relate and connect to my extended family back in India. It gave me something to talk about with them, and while talking to them about the experience they were able to give me a deeper insight on what my culture meant and why it is significant in our family. I think that this showcase gave me an opportunity to explore something different. I really enjoyed working with my dance team.

Linked below is my Kahaani Dance Practice