Cambo Life June 2020

This month, we went from weathering the storm of the century to having to abandon ship altogether. Here’s a look back at our June in Phnom Penh in the time of COVID.

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE – 30 JULY 2020:

I’m scrambling to play catch up, which will likely show through in how quickly these monthly Cambo Life recap posts were thrown together.

I’ve already written quite a bit on the month of June. For the real highlights, check out our posts from Siem Reap, especially our visit to eerie Angkor Wat in the time of COVID.

In June, we also received the unexpected news that Lori’s role here would be eliminated, cutting our time in Cambodia from three years to one, forcing us to scramble to find a new assignment in these already crazy times. You can read more about that here.

Also, our Big Boy turned the big Four this month, which isn’t covered here, but in a future post.

As with most of these monthly roundups, this post strictly covers our expat family life here in Phnom Penh.

The next few months are looking pretty hectic for us, with yet another international pack-out and move, a long-overdue visit back to the U.S., and figuring out next steps.

Look forward to more detailed travel guides from across the globe once things settle down a bit on our end and international travel becomes safe and possible again (which looks like it might still be awhile, unfortunately — though, in June, things were looking up in that respect).

30 June 2020

At the beginning of June, Cambodia appeared again open for business. Total recorded cases of COVID were holding steady around 120, no serious cases, no deaths, nada. Local businesses continued to take precautions, plenty of people still wore masks, and the mood was lighter and more positive.

Walking the high streets of the capital, one could easily mistake these for normal times in Cambodia. Despite how things look on the surface, however, life in Phnom Penh is still far from normal.

How is Cambo keeping the numbers so low? Well, for one, they stopped issuing tourist visas to foreigners a few months ago. That’s a big one.

For everyone else who might be trying to get into the Kingdom, they now have to show proof of $50,000 of health insurance coverage and a COVID-negative certificate.

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Oh, and there’s the little detail of paying a $3,000 deposit per person up front upon entry. If a single person on your plane tests positive, consider most of that money gone during your 14-day quarantine in which the government bills you exorbitant amounts for food and shelter.

Let’s just say that, in June, there aren’t a lot of foreign tourists milling about. None, in fact.

Which has been a huge hit on the local economy.

And…schools are still not open. In June, officials extended the closures through the end of the year. For the vast majority of kids, that means no in-person education for at least nine months. In a country where less than 30% of students have access to e-learning tools, that means a huge step backwards for a country like Cambodia.

It’s also been a surprisingly sunny, hot, and dry rainy season so far, and farmers are staring down the barrel of a serious drought, on top of everything else.

But compared to the last few months and countries across the globe, things feel strangely normal here in Chamkarmon, our little corner of Phnom Penh.

For our family, the month of June began on a high note. Cambodia seemed to be fairing well against the pandemic, we were getting out of the house more, and Lori was getting to move forward with things in her project area at work rather than just focusing on COVID.

But the easy breezy vibe was short lived.

Lori went into work on Friday, 5 June for a long-scheduled meeting with senior management and was told, as a matter of fact, that they’d decided to eliminate her role and basically the whole initiative that Lori was hired under (which, ironically, was an initiative meant to demonstrate, to the world, the organization’s commitment to increasing their technical capacity and bringing technical expertise closer to the field).

I think it’s pretty clear to everyone now where this organization’s priorities are. Sadly, they’re far from alone, in this respect.

In other news, this.

Not really news, I guess. Everyone already knows Riley’s a pretty cool dude.

Oh, and we got him an “Infant Protective Safety Hat.”

Riley’s only getting braver and more active, spending more time in the house, and those steel i-beams holding up the roof aren’t going away.

So, rather than repeat our Easter Sunday trip to the emergency room, we invested $7 in this awesome new hat. Riley fought it at first, until we pointed to his head and said, “Owie!” He’s been happy to wear it ever since.

We also managed to borrow a play kitchen for the boys through some mommy circle connections. Lori and I have been looking one for a while, but they’re expensive and hard to come by here. In light of the fact that we’ll be leaving Cambo two years early, we’re glad we didn’t end up buying one after all.

After 2.5 months growing out our lockdown locks, Noe, Riley, and I have come to the tough realization that our dos’ days are numbered.

Riley’s hair was first to face the chopping block. At 20 months, this was Riley’s very first haircut (with the unfortunate exception of a bit of shaving for his stitches in April). We love Riley’s curls, but it’s for the best, particularly in the hot climate.

 

Even under the watchful eye of George Clooney and the Fresh Prince, Riley didn’t appear to enjoy the experience as much as his brother during his first haircut.

With that said, he didn’t fuss too much either.

Speaking of Noe, our little Frenchie…

He insists on wearing this hat these days. I have mixed feelings about it, because his other one (identical to Riley’s below) provides awesome sun protection. But I am partial to his new look (he also picks out his clothes now and is adamant about his colors coordinating…).

Noe spends an inordinate amount of time speaking French these days, which in addition to his continuing classes with his French teacher from his kindergarten, he also speaks French exclusively with his sitter/nanny. And Lori and I know how much Noe likes to talk, regardless of language.

Back to haircuts. One final pic before dad’s hair goes under the knife. Goodbye Isolation Man. Hello, Quasi-Isolation Man?

 

Just another morning playing out in the alley.

Riley loves the rain. He’d be thrilled if I held him outside in the rain every time we had a storm. Of course, I’m not willing to do that. Not every time. But I did manage to whip up this solution.

Bath time!

Tiny house. Tiny bathtub.

Lori’s been raving about Nesat Seafood House since she went there with friends a few weeks back. For whatever reason, I kept brushing off her recommendation to try it for one of our date nights. Not sure why. Finally, I gave in. I was pleasantly surprised, but I should know better by now with Lori’s recommendations.

Kampot pepper crab, fresh oysters, and a bunch of other mouthwatering deliciousness.

Believe it or not, this is the front door of one of the city’s best bars. Lori and I found ourselves here on her birthday in January.

Current stock at our favorite craft beer bar — Embargo. I think one of the owners is from New England, hence the odd-man-out in the top-right.

 

 

Our little vampire. These kids love beet juice smoothies. Who would a thunk it.

Dentist time! I think this is Noe’s fourth visit to a dentist over the years. For some unfathomable reason he gets really excited whenever we mention the dentist. Maybe it’s the shades…

 

 

 

Riley’s turn! Baby’s first dentist visit.

 

The summer months in mainland Southeast Asia make for the most colorful sunsets of the year, when we get one.

It’s that time of the week.

Gearing up for another construction site tour.

After several months of zero action at the sizable construction site behind our place, they’ve suddenly started work on digging a giant hole. You can’t even imagine how happy this makes the boys.

 

For our anniversary this year, we returned to Sakana Lab where we went for Lori’s birthday. Afterwards, we stopped by the city’s newest craft brewery.

This was their IPA. The color threw me a bit (and so did the taste), but they did just open this week. Maybe we’ll try again in a few weeks.

We did determine that the same dude that did our shophouse renovation did the renovation on this building. The tile, sofa cushions, and … vertical black i-beams … gave it away.

Our bi-weekly walk along the Tonle Sap to see all of the cruise boats not getting much love these days.

 

Not sure what the deal is with the looks on their faces. Makes me wonder what they weren’t telling me.

 

Somebody wants to get back on a boat. Me too, Noe.

All of Noe’s friends at the moment in one bed.

No boys, the baby doesn’t belong in the microwave.

Cambodia. The beer.

Pardon me, coming through…

And that’s how it’s done around here.

Noe’s favorite book right now, Kevin and His Dad. All about a father and son cleaning the house while mom’s away, then going out for an afternoon around the neighborhood. He especially loves the part about folding the laundry and grabbing a snack at the restaurant. No surprises there.

Someone’s discovered big brother’s step stool. This guy’s out of control. Nice i-beam, buddy. Forget your helmet?

For Noe’s birthday, we got a sitter for Riley and took Noe out for a night of live music at his favorite bar (more on that later). He liked it so much, I decided to take him back a week later for a daddy morning. He did not protest.

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Laura Courtney Headley
Laura Courtney Headley

Noe can fold laundry with Auntie Laura any time. He’s a boy after my own heart! And I love Riley’s safety hat! Do they make them in teen-size? 🙂

JAN FULLERTON
JAN FULLERTON

Noe’s French look is adorable as is Riley’s haircut!! What a smart move to buy him a “helmet” and the “bathtub” is a winning idea as well. Love you family–