Things to do whilst social distancing a guide by Liz Hew
A Note from Team BASE: These are unprecedented times and as we all try to adapt and adjust our lives in this strange new world, isolating ourselves from friends and family it is important now more than ever for us to stay connected.
Over the next few months, we will be publishing a series of weekly to-do lists, curated by some of our friends, industry insiders and community. They will be sharing their recommendations of things to read, listen to and watch to help keep your minds occupied, your bodies healthy and your souls energised. Whether you’re practising social-distancing or having to self-isolate we hope these recommendations will offer little nuggets of cultural escapism and spark a little joy.
WHAT music are you currently listening to?
I always return to shoegaze music which uses a lot of reverb to create a dreamy sound, so Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, which have in turn influenced other dream-pop artists I love, such as Beach House, The Radio Dept, and Men I Trust. I listen to a mixture of 60s yé-yé music — Jacques DuTronc, Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg — and garage rock revival, such as The Strokes. They make me feel incredibly sensual and in tune with myself! Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lastlings and Kllo; both are Australian electronic duos that create these moody, ambient, almost cinematic tracks. And of course, there’s the global sensation BTS. I’m pretty sure their joy, optimism, and songs about love, self-acceptance and hope have saved me over lockdown. I have an everyday Spotify playlist here that I update now and again; just songs that make me feel good.
What PODCASTS are you listening to?
I absolutely love podcasts! Funnily enough, my day job is deeply involved with working with podcasts; discovering new ones, and enhancing the podcast listening experience! My long-time favourite is Radiolab, which I’ve been listening to for over 10 years. Their deep dives into fascinating, sometimes obscure, topics have always shifted the way I perceive the world. I adore The Witch Wave, founded by Pam Grossman. She has an absolute gift with making her guests open up and feel at ease, creating a comfortable setting, as she explores modern witchcraft in all forms and walks of life. Some standout episodes I recall are with Rachel True, who played the young Black witch Rochelle in The Craft (1996), and is a tarot expert herself (founding True Heart Tarot); and also with Dia Dynasty, an Asian-American dominatrix. I love how Grossman examines witchcraft through the lens of race, gender, and sexuality, which has been really eye-opening in the sense that it’s traditionally been associated with a very white-centric, occidental, and heteronormative space. Her inclusivity and art in conversation are so refreshing, and her repertoire of guests all offer so much fascinating insight into their respective industries and areas of expertise. I absolutely love The Witch Wave Podcast and recommend it to anyone wishing to explore their inner spirituality.
What are you currently READING?
I recently treated myself to a beautiful collection of James Baldwin’s early novels and stories. I’m in the middle of Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room, and I’m just swept away by Baldwin’s immaculate, heart-wrenching prose, and his recording of the African-American experience. It’s sobering, enlightening, magnificent, tender, and heart-breaking at the same time. I’m also currently in the middle of a read through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series; since university, I’ve been hugely interested in medieval literature, and knowing Tolkien’s background and fascination with the Old English language has been so insightful in further appreciating and enjoying his body of work. I think a lot of the issues that the world is currently facing; the encroaching climate crisis, turbulent politics and fascism, warfare, greed, is all touched upon so skilfully through his fantasy narratives, despite being written almost a century ago. Having experienced the travesty of WWII as a soldier and being involved in conservation efforts, Tolkien’s world was not so far from our own. Reading both writers, while producing very different bodies of work, has been a stark reminder that humanity still has a long way to go.
WHAT are you watching?
During lockdown, I’ve definitely embraced an escape through the beauty of cinema. I’ve always loved films but having all this time spent at home has allowed me to revisit some of my favourites! I love a good heist film, so early in lockdown, I revisited the original Ocean’s trilogy by Steven Soderbergh — they’re very fun, slick, and so satisfying to watch. I love Heat (1995) and Miami Vice (2006), both directed by Michael Mann — just insanely good performances, direction, and the most lush cinematography. He has such a great way of capturing cities on screen, and wow, the soundtracks are incredible! I adore Wong Kar-Wai and his gentle depiction of longing and sensuality in In the Mood for Love (2000), and also the TV series Mad Men (2007-2015) for its masterful storytelling about the 1960s golden age of advertising, culture of consumerism, and the myth of the American dream. As for super recently, I devoured Bridgerton and have been going through a ton of K-dramas. I highly recommend Strong Woman Bong-Soon, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, Mr Sunshine, and Reply 1988 — they’re all on Netflix!
How are you staying FIT during the lockdown?
I’ve never been a fan of HIIT, so I prefer gentler exercises. Since lockdown, I’ve been going on long daily walks, which sometimes take me to Hampstead Heath nearby. I follow a basic Qi Gong routine every weekend and throughout the week if I can remember — there are two videos on YouTube that I constantly turn to: the former is led by a senior expert, and the latter by a Shaolin monk. Both videos are filmed outdoors, which is great because you really feel attuned to nature; hearing the sounds of birdsong above and feeling the softness of the ground below. Qi Gong is an Ancient Chinese practice, using movement, postures and breathing exercises in repetitive routines. It’s an incredibly meditative, grounding, and feel-good experience, which makes my body and soul feel lighter each time. Last year, I did some ballet classes that were streamed live online by the brilliant Eva Alt in New York. I loved those classes so much. I also followed Kassandra, a Yin Yoga instructor on YouTube, who has excellent routines to suit all abilities, and a 30 day challenge which I would exhaust repeatedly. My lovely friend Mai is also a wonderful Yoga instructor, and over lockdown she’s been hosting IG lives and going through these relaxing flows at home, open to all levels.
HOW are you looking after yourself mentally and emotionally?
To be really candid, looking after my mental health over lockdown has been a real struggle. I’ve had many low days, with experiencing loss, graduating straight into a pandemic last year, struggling with chronic insomnia and anxiety, and missing my family. I feel like social media has always been rather deceptive in not showing the complete picture of someone’s life, so I feel like I have a real responsibility to have very open and honest conversations about mental health, with whatever platform I use. I’ve shared a lot of my mental health journey with friends and on Instagram, and I always reach out when I know I need help. What I’ve found to be really comforting has been regular virtual meetups — on Houseparty with my cousins across the world, for instance, where we can play fun games like Uno and charades. I FaceTime my mum almost every day, just to check in and see how she’s doing; whether she’s eaten something tasty or watched a good drama series. I have some truly remarkable friends that I’ve found through Instagram within the last year — whether it’s leaving cute voice messages, filming neighbourhood walks, or even sharing amazing fancams of BTS(!), they’ve been there for me through the thick and thin. A special shout out to my beautiful pals Susan, Jana, Johnny, and Katie for being my very own angels! I’m also about to start CBT which will include Compassion Training exercises — I think it’s even more crucial to show compassion to yourself during these hard times.
What are your favourite meals or SNACKS that are getting you through each day?
While I definitely miss dining out, I’ve loved the extra time at home spent really leaning into eating intuitively; meaning I don’t restrict myself when it comes to what I’m craving. I’ve been enjoying so much bulgogi japchae — stir-fried Korean glass noodles made from sweet potato, with beef slices marinated in the glorious flavour of sesame oil. I’ve replaced regular crisps with these Bibigo seaweed crisps; they’re especially tasty and moreish due to tapioca and the extra crunch from the seaweed layer! I love buttered kaya toast, which reminds me of summer holidays spent in Ipoh, Malaysia. Kaya is this sweet coconut jam, and I honestly can’t put into words how incredible it tastes. My grandma used to run a traditional kopitiam in Kuala Lumpur and she has her own secret recipe for the perfect homemade kaya — to this day, I don’t think I’ve tried any variations that can rival it. I use my steamer to prepare pandan mantou, which is a soft steamed bun enveloping the green swirls derived from pandan leaves — it looks super interesting and tastes heavenly.
WHAT are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration comes to me in so many shapes and forms — it sounds very clichéd, but it’s true. I’m constantly inspired by the incredible online community I’ve found on Instagram, conversations with remarkable people, the books and visual art I consume, music, and even from within. A person who I’ve been really inspired by during lockdown has been Leah Wei; she has this YouTube channel, Leah’s Field Notes, which just feels so comforting, like magic and angel energy all rolled into one. It’s mostly her lifestyle content which I really enjoy; embracing the mundane activities of daily living, whether it’s watering plants, baking bread, brewing tea. I always feel like watching her videos is like watching a Studio Ghibli film, and I love that I can just live vicariously through somebody’s content from another continent. She has an extremely candid way of speaking to her followers on her channel; really opening up about her experiences and worldview, whether it’s about studying in another country, learning new languages, advice on sex and dating, thrifting clothes, and the list goes on. This video of hers is my favourite, from when she used to live in a rustic student house in Toronto. I’m always looking forward to her new videos every Friday.
What are your home luxuries that are making you HAPPY?
My Akari lamp by Isamu Noguchi recently arrived in the post after a much-anticipated wait! I love creating a warm and calming ambiance at home – whether that is through lighting, sounds, or scents. I use essential oil blends added to a humidifier, such as my Muji diffuser, so there’s a very lightly scented and welcoming softness to the fine mist. An at-home luxury that I’ve been increasingly indulging in over lockdown is steeping in a hot bath with a face mask on, while I watch a drama on my laptop nearby. My favourite sheet masks are from CosRX, Innisfree, and Dr. Jart+, while I love Hungarian mud masks from Omorovicza.
Do you have any other TIPS that get you through the week?
I think in these tumultuous times, being kind to yourself is the key to keeping afloat and staying hopeful. It’s been a process trying to unlearn certain internalised thoughts and ideas, that associate productivity with self-worth. I say, do whatever makes you feel good and take it day by day. Put on music that helps you envision your best self, wear whatever makes you feel powerful, look in the mirror and speak to yourself kindly; the way you would towards your friends and family. For getting over the banality of daily lockdown, I’d suggest trying to experience and learn new things — whatever stimulates your mind and keeps it working. Whether it’s brain-training exercises, learning about new topics, taking up a new hobby, or even going on sites like Drive & Listen so you can explore a virtual drive around the world, nurturing all aspects of yourself is the best thing we can all do, not just over lockdown, but for life.
Do you have any recommendations on how to spend the WEEKEND during social -distancing?
I always love starting my weekends with a long and leisurely walk, stopping by a local café for a hot drink to go, if it’s sunny — the only one I frequent has adopted a great window system where everything is operated through a hole in the wall essentially, so it’s kept safe and distanced. I definitely believe moving and keeping your step-count up is so important during lockdown, as it directly affects how well you can relax and sleep later. I love to spend time indoors delving into books, listening to my small but growing vinyl collection, doing Qi Gong and meditation exercises, playing Sims 4 on my PC, and co-op games with my partner on the PS4, baking, and binge-watching K-dramas. My partner gifted me a super cute crocheting kit for Valentine’s Day, and I’m so excited to start learning how to knit and crochet! I’m trying to engage in more tactile activities and would love to get into ceramics once it’s safe enough to take up classes.