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Of COVID-19, cabin fever and cartoons

Of COVID-19 cabin fever and cartoons

On 19 May 2021, a group of boys, their parents, and staff from Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) were quarantined for Covid-19.

But this being ACS, the ACS Old Boys Association (ACSOBA) immediately organised a series of Zoom activities to provide emotional and spiritual support—such as a workout with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, a humorous session with famous comedian Hossan Leong, a singalong with Bishop Dr Gordon Wong, and a doodle date with some fella who threw away his legal career to pursue cartooning, i.e. me.

I was approached by Joy-Marie Toh, a fifth-generation ACSian who sits on the OBA’s managing committee and is someone you do not say no to. Ever.

“Can you draw funny stuff with the kids to cheer them up?” she asked. “You can do it on Wednesday morning after their Pilates session, or on Thursday evening, though some may not come because they have online tuition.”

I chose the evening, after taking a second to marvel at how when I was in school, the words “Pilates” and “online” did not exist. (“Tuition”, alas, did.)

On the fateful day, after prayers and some songs of praise, I started by sharing with the boys some stories of the shenanigans my friends and I had gotten up to during our time in ACSJ (or “ACJS”, as it was then shockingly known).

“I’m telling you these stories, so you won’t do the same dumb things we did,” I said solemnly, to murmurs of merriment. “Please do your own dumb things instead.”

We then moved into the doodling part of my session. I started by asking them for drawing prompts—food they wanted to eat when they got out of quarantine, and cartoon characters—and then I’d do quick cartoons mashing the two disparate concepts up, e.g., French fries plus Iron Man…equals Fryon Man!

As the kids doodled along with me, we chatted. You’d expect kids being holed up to sound morose, but they were all very cheerful—almost gleeful—in sharing their quarantine experiences.

“My quarantine hotel bed is quite good, but the toilet has no door! Eeeewww!” said one boy.

“It was my first ambulance ride!” crowed another lad, who was Zooming in from his hospital isolation room. “They even turned on the siren for me!”

My heart went out to him—this 12-year-old boy, facing this terrible crisis all alone. “How are you coping?” I asked.

“Play video games lor,” was his nonchalant response.

The drawing prompts came fast and furious—and increasingly bizarre. “Mashup Donald Duck and Ronald McDonald… Donald McDonald!!!” “Can you draw a banana eating a monkey?”

Clearly the scary situation hadn’t diminished their sense of humour or imagination. Their parents and teachers should be proud of just how brave and resilient they are.

It reminded me of one of my favourite Bible verses—John 16: 32–33: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Colin Goh is giving away FREE 6-month subscriptions of the Dim Sum Warriors app to Methodist Message readers until 31 July 2021. Just go to https://www.dimsumwarriors.com/methodist

Colin Goh is a New York Times bestselling cartoonist and award-winning filmmaker. His current project is Dim Sum Warriors—an app that helps kids learn Mandarin through funny bilingual stories, games and cutting-edge reading evaluation tech. He attended Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) (back when it was known as ACJS), ACS and ACJC. / Photo courtesy of Colin Goh

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