Want To Try A New Hobby? This May Be The PERFECT Time! – By Expat Andrea McKenna Brankin

If it’s one you can do from home in Singapore, of course.
08 May 2020


It’s an understatement to say that most of us have more time on our hands than… maybe ever.

The end of the extended circuit breaker – scheduled for 1 June – has us all trying to fill the time between now and then. And some expats around the island are making the best of it by trying new things or, more often, spending more time on their current hobbies or restarting old ones from the past.

Because Bread

Baking seems to be one of those emerging hobbies. #yeast is trending, for sure – one funny recent Tweet read: “this is my year!!!” – yeast.

I came across several new bakers on my own Facebook feed, including Emma Maynard, an Australian expat who said she finally had time to do a sourdough starter, which she hopes to put to good use in baking soon.

Singapore-based Kiwi Brent Baker (yes, that’s his real last name) says a shortage of good French bread early on during the Covid-19 restrictions gave his family the idea to DIY. Chicagoan Kristine Arora, who has lived in Singapore for several years, was also inspired to make sourdough and white bread, because it was difficult to find at her usual grocery store.

Board Out of Their Minds?


I’ve heard from a lot of families that Board Game Night has been making a resurgence, including my daughter’s former babysitter in Chicago, who now has her own family.

Monopoly is a popular option, especially here where there is a Singapore version (which you can buy here, in case you’re interested). Taking games to a more modern level is AWA Singapore’s Bamboo Telegraph editor Tori Nelson, who found an online version of Jeopardy!

“I was looking for a fun way to celebrate my son’s 27th birthday on a Zoom call with 19 family members all over the world, ranging in age from 13 to 88,” says Tori. “My niece recommended a free online version of Jeopardy! where you can customise with your own categories and clues. It sounded like it would be a great bonding experience that would appeal to multiple generations and provide some much-needed laughter for us all.”

Puzzling Pastimes

Members of the AWA’s walking group had a Zoom meeting recently with many members discussing how to share jigsaw puzzles. Several of the members were banging out hours of effort putting together puzzles – some doing so with family. The veteran AWA ladies are doing a Puzzle Swap, too.

Separately, some interesting hobbies people are taking up – or restarting – include: songwriting, riding a unicycle, learning a language like French or Russian, making cocktails and doing gourmet or experimental cooking. Also on my unscientific Facebook survey? Making vision boards and doing an online course on bird biology.

Others are sharing their talents or expertise online, such as yoga and art teachers. Top honors from me go to my former New York City journalism colleague Jennifer Zajac, who now lives in Charlotte, NC, and is creating stand-up comedy videos as a new hobby.

Knitting and sewing also ranked high. American Women’s Association master quilter Charisse Litteken is “creating like crazy” and, lately, has increased from making two quilts per week to three.

Mandi Grattan, a filmmaker and former London expat in SG who’s now living in Rhode Island (USA), says knitting gives her a break from her computer screen as well as a way to give back to the community.

“It’s instant gratification because you can see the progress you are making. I have been knitting things I have never tried before to challenge myself but now am back to knitting baby hats for hospitals, so I can do something for someone else.”

Many people, like Mandi and her mom Amy, are sewing cloth masks for friends, family and frontline workers, too.

As for Myself?

I am revisiting my former would-be rock-star life: I just signed up for “return to guitar” lessons from the famous Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. In the 2000s, I spent many months mastering guitar lessons there and played in several of the school’s rock and acoustic ensembles. But, after leaving it behind for several years, I forgot how to play!

So, I’ll be banging out A-G chords online from Singapore to Chicago on a 13-hour time difference, with a legendary Old School teacher, Mr. Steve Levitt, who was my former music theory teacher.

For all of us, it will be interesting to see what this new training and retraining of skills will bring once we can get out again. Just like everything else in the coronavirus world, who knows?

About Andrea McKenna Brankin

Andrea McKenna Brankin is a journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the HCSA Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.

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