Excerpted from a diary entry on Monday 16 March 2020 1.30am SGT
Written on board UA1 from San Francisco to Singapore
My last week in Boston was extraordinarily crazy.
Things had still been fairly normal at the start of the week. It was on Wednesday, at 4pm, that a two-week work from home policy was instituted. For me, there were two options: to stay in Boston or to return to Singapore. Staying would have meant that I could keep regular hours, but would have also meant that I would have to deal with everything on my own should the situation in the US escalate rapidly. While I had already stockpiled food (chiefly black beans and peanuts) I was not confident that I would be able to deal with the psychological effects of a lockdown, far from my own family.
I prevaricated for another 24 hours before reaching a final decision. Since the virus grows exponentially, things could deteriorate very rapidly, and I likely had a very short window to leave Boston. However, leaving also brought with it other serious concerns – chiefly, whether I would be able to retain my job.
In the end, I asked myself whether I would like to be in Italy at this time, and since the answer was ‘no’, I knew that I had to leave at the earliest opportunity.
Once the decision was made, I got together with a few friends and drank through their cava, in the knowledge that this might be the final time we did something like that together. I visited another friend to pass him the last of my rice, and as I did so I saw the sun set over the Charles River as I rode the bus and crossed the Harvard bridge. It seemed a fitting end to my short, one-month sojourn in the US before returning to Singapore yet again.
On the flight home, it was surreal to travel amidst the same chirpy inflight announcements and safety videos. But there were a lot more surgical and N95 masks, and even people who wore gloves throughout the entire flight. Every cough or sneeze aroused suspicion.
But finally, I would be home.
Kai Yan is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago. He works as an analyst in search engine marketing for a large e-commerce firm in Boston. He wrote an essay on history and land acquisition in the 2018 edition of the Birthday Book