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Silver linings

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The Around DB gals – managing editor Rachel Ainsley, production coordinator Elizabeth Jerabek, digital manager Jan Yumul and operations manager Amber Kahu – reveal where they were during lockdown and what they did to pass the time. Samantha Wong reports

Where were you in lockdown 2020? That’s the big question all of us will be asking each other and bonding over for years to come. The shared experience has already brought us together (though we’ve been far apart) and there are still so many personal anecdotes left to uncover. With an eye to doing just that, while reacquainting you with Bay Media’s managing editor Rachel Ainsley and production coordinator Elizabeth Jerabek, and introducing you to our new digital manager Jan Yumul and operations manager Amber Kahu, here’s how the Around DB gals dealt with lockdown.

The cook
Another day in paradise is how Rachel describes her experience of lockdown in Koh Samui, southwest Thailand. She’s being facetious as usual though it’s difficult to know to what degree. Our managing editor’s no stranger to working remotely, and we all know she’s a homebody these days but has she really sailed through the COVID-19 pandemic in ignorant bliss?

“Well, so far so good,” Rachel opens. “Work’s kept me busy same as always; I garden a lot and I do most of my ‘socialising’ on WhatsApp anyway. The island’s been practically deserted, so I’ve had my favourite beaches to myself and, with the roads so empty, I’ve been able to drive faster than usual and crank up the music a bit. The tough part for me has been accepting that I can’t jump on a plane and head somewhere more exciting should I feel like it. And I wasn’t very impressed by Thailand’s (thankfully brief) ban on alcohol sales. But overall, hiding out here has been the right choice. With the tourists gone, it’s as if we’ve gone back in time. Pink dolphins are swimming close to the shore and turtles are laying their eggs on the beaches, which hasn’t happened since the early ‘90s.

“Fears about the future aside, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed lockdown. I’ve had more time to think and more time to do the things I like doing. Cooking, for instance. Instead of serving up the same six dishes all the time, I’ve finally extended my repertoire. I’ve been experimenting with new recipes and trying to master some new techniques. I’ve learnt how to gut and descale a fish, which is something I’ve always wanted to do… and make sauces. You can’t have enough cream, butter and parsley in your fridge. And wine. As the saying goes, ‘Cooking with wine always works – sometimes I put it in the food too.’”

The trail-biker
Elizabeth didn’t anticipate being marooned indefinitely in the US when her husband’s architecture firm asked him to come back to the US temporarily in February, but that’s how things have panned out. Our production coordinator has ended up spending lockdown with her parents in cold and rainy Manitowoc, a small town in northern Wisconsin on the coast of Lake Michigan. True to form, Elizabeth has chosen to look on the bright side and make the most of an unexpected situation. She says getting back into bike riding has helped.

“We all have a lot on our minds these days,” Elizabeth opens. “We worry about the health of our friends and family. We worry about how to get everything done while working from home and also trying to keep up with the homework and distance-learning activities. We worry about paying the bills and how the global economic situation will affect our jobs. But when I feel overwhelmed with anxiety, I ask my daughter Ursula if she would like to go for a ride and I give thanks for all my blessings as she shrieks with glee while we fly down a hill on our bikes.

“A ride along Lake Michigan is also a good way to make family time a priority. In addition to buying a used bicycle with training wheels
for Ursula, we were also lucky enough to borrow a bike trailer and trail-a-bike from my cousins. When Ursula needs a break from her K2 Cantonese homework, grandma or grandpa sit on the front porch with a hot cup of coffee and watch her zoom around the quiet cul-de-sac in front of the house. And on weekend afternoons, we all hit the trail together, with Ursula tagging along on the trail-a-bike for short rides, or snugly tucked into the bike trailer with her favourite stuffed animal (and snacks) for a longer ride. Ursula rides her bike in DB, usually down to the plaza, or to the playground in Siena Park. But we hadn’t ridden together as a family until we found ourselves in Manitowoc.”

The change-maker
Having returned to Hong Kong late last year after a three-year stint in Manila, Jan Yumul saw lockdown as an opportunity to spend quality time with her parents and two
younger brothers. She also found herself on a mission to keep the Filipino community here and in the Philippines informed about the crisis via tweets and reports for ABS-CBN Online and The Filipino Channel. Added to which she came on board as Bay Media’s new digital manager in May, and she’s already done wonders for our online presence.

“When news of the first Filipina domestic worker who got infected with the virus came out early this year, I knew I just had to be present at the daily ‘pressers’ of the authorities,” Jan opens. “From that day on, I never really stopped working. The hardest part of this health crisis is that it has exposed the stinging inequalities that exist in our city. Filipinos in Hong Kong are so vulnerable, especially when it comes to their labour rights.

“Initially I was reporting from the frontline, filming on the streets and outside hospitals, so when the social distancing measures forced me to shift most of my interviews online, I was worried my work would suffer. Adjustment-wise, it’s been a journey but I’ve found that transitioning to digital hasn’t meant I’ve had to give something up. Instead, the synergies all complement each other; digital is where all mediums converge. Interviewees tend to share more, and this was particularly true during lockdown when they were speaking from their own homes. What’s more, being stuck at home myself, I was able to take the time to play around with the latest software and catch up with all the complex digital technologies.

“When I reconnected with Philip, it was just for me to find a job that would augment my hours offair, i.e. make money. But as Bay Media’s digital manager I’ve been given a seemingly limitless digital space to develop. I can’t find the right words to express how excited I am about my new role.”

The RC car enthusiast
At home in DB for lockdown, Amber Kahu says she spent her days watching Netflix, baking cakes and updating her YouTube channel (more on that later) with her husband Joe. She also came on board as Bay Media operations manager at the end of April, immediately heading into the DB office five days a week. “My role as operations manager is very diverse – I handle distribution, deliveries, the printing, admin and some of the accounts – and I enjoy every part of it,” Amber opens. “In fact, one of my first tasks was helping
to set up the new Around DB YouTube channel, which worked well because my husband and I have our own channel, TheRcKiwis. We launched it just after Christmas and we’ve gained almost 1,000 subscribers in under six months. We head out to different locations around theworld (at least we did before the pandemic) and we film ourselves with our Remote Controlled (RC) cars. My husband has a winning streak when it comes to racing, and we both love making the cars do jumps and backflips.

“In lockdown, we were able to catch up a bit, editing a lot of footage and uploading it to YouTube. The whole process from filming and editing to uploading the video takes around two days. With so much time on our hands, we were also able to take the cars out to quiet locations in DB. There’s a good spot near The Lookout Point, and we like to go up near the reservoir, where it’s so very picturesque.”

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