Cambo Life: 3/18 COVID Isolation Update

The latest from Cambodia. Our current status update from Phnom Penh in the time of COVID-19.

18 March 2020

ad·ven·ture

1. a risky undertaking of unknown outcome
2. an unexpected event or course of events

Our sincerest apologies for not posting any updates for a while. It’s been a bit of a crazy time here in Cambodia. Daily life here has been turned on its head by a new disease, COVID-19. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Looking around the globe, it seems Cambodia is fairing better than most (for the time being), so we count ourselves as fortunate in that respect. But no telling, of course, what lies in store.

So…I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post for about six weeks now, but figured it was as good a time as any to finally get ‘er done. This is my third or fourth attempt at doing just that.

Each time I sit down to “finish” the post, I find myself having to start all over again in light of new developments.

1 The first iteration of this dispatch was all about living in close proximity to an exploding epidemic in China and gearing up for the worst.

2 The second revision focused on how Cambo and the rest of the world looked to have dodged a bullet for the time being and how strange it was that daily life continued here unchanged while China, Korea, Japan, and other countries in the region took strict measures to contain their respective outbreaks.

There was a strange calm before the storm, so it seemed, when things appeared to be heading back to “normal.”

3 Then, suddenly, the news out of Iran, and the situation began to spiral downward from there, as Italy, Spain, France, and the U.S., suddenly found their numbers doubling by the day.

Now, the majority of countries around the world, including Cambodia — which, up until just over a week ago, only had one or two confirmed (and contained) cases — find ourselves impacted by COVID-19 in some way.

In two weeks time here in Cambodia, we’ve literally gone from seeing this as a primarily East Asian outbreak to a Western European and North American problem.

Strangely, the pandemic didn’t actually impact Cambodian daily life until it had gone clear around the world.

A testament to globalization and the times we live in.

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As of writing (Mar 18), we have 35 confirmed cases in this country, the vast majority of which are imported.

Those numbers may be misleading, however, as it is unclear whether authorities are just testing those coming into the country from affected countries or potential domestic cases as well. Given that the ban on travelers from the U.S. and some Western European countries only went into effect yesterday, it’s very possible there are many more undetected cases among us.

Chances are also good that, if you are reading this, whether you live in the U.S., Australia, Europe, East Asia, or somewhere else, your daily life has probably been seriously impacted by recent events as well.

The strangest thing for Lori and I to wrap our minds around is how we can live so far away from family and friends and find ourselves impacted in much of the same way.

Up until just 72 hours ago, we were closely following the news of the developing situation in Western Europe and of family and friends in the U.S., particularly in Washington and Oregon states, preparing to hunker down for the foreseeable future, as schools, sporting events, shops, and restaurants shuttered and residents were urged to self-isolate and practice social distancing.

Meanwhile, here in the Kingdom, life rolled on per the usual, with no discernible changes.

But there was an eerie feeling among everyone that it was only a matter of time.

The common belief was that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

That “when” became last weekend. Literally overnight the authorities announced a sudden spike in confirmed cases, setting into motion a number of decrees that would begin to bring our lives to parity with what most of you all are likely experiencing already — travel bans and school closures, then bans on religious gatherings.

Additionally, all indoor play spaces, playgrounds, pools, and cinemas have closed, and we’re in the full-blown hot season with temps last week exceeding 100 degrees daily.

If the numbers continue to increase, we expect to see closures to restaurants and bars, and limitations on movement as well.

We find ourselves less concerned with getting infected (we’re young[ish] with no underlying health issues) and more concerned with avoiding unknowingly passing the virus on to vulnerable people, managing daily life with the four of us cooped up in our small urban flat, and how it will impact out lives as expats and travelers moving forward.

Lori and I find it a bit less than humorous that this is all happening now.

Six months ago, we had a large house with a big, beautiful yard, and the boys were at ages that were more amenable to being cooped up inside.

Now, we’re in a very different phase of our lives, living in close quarters in a small flat with a rambunctious and impossible to reason with 17 month old, and a demanding, mischievous, and strong-willed 3.5-year-old.

To top it off, Lori’s still expected to put in 8 solid hours working from home each day.

At the moment we’re fortunate to have a bit of help a few hours a day from one of our babysitters. But that might even change if the government decides to enact tougher restrictions. But even before we’ve seen anything close to a true outbreak here, we’re already feeling the crunch.

The hope is that these measures nip things in the bud pretty quickly and we’ll see loosened restrictions by the end of the month. But that is looking less and less likely.

The word from the authorities is that the restrictions could last months.

So, we’re taking things day by day like everyone else we know, both near and far. It’s some consolation to know that this isn’t just a Cambodian thing, but something that much of the globe is dealing with. In that respect, there’s very much a feeling that we’re not alone in all of this.

But there’s also a helplessness to that, knowing that if things get bad here, they’re not likely to be better back in the U.S. And that’s perhaps the craziest part of it all.

For the time being, we count ourselves fortunate to not be in a high-risk group for this disease. But that doesn’t mean we don’t worry about our many loved ones who are older or at risk.

We also count ourselves fortunate for living in a place that so far has managed to avoid the worst (fingers crossed). But we’re fully cognizant of the fact that that could change at any moment.

We are also cognizant of the fact that the global health crisis we are facing at this moment in otherwise stable and industrialized countries is but a glimpse into the daily lives of millions across the globe—

—those living in, and fleeing from, active war zones in places like Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many others— 

—whose stories aren’t told in the same sensationalist Technicolor ad infinitum on our TVs, phones, and tablets.

It does indeed feel like we are all in uncharted waters. And while no one knows exactly how this will all end, Lori and I take comfort in knowing that we aren’t strangers to uncertainty.

For much of the past two decades, change and uncertainty have characterized our daily lives, and Lori and I have become adept at managing the risk that comes along with it.

Only time will tell how this “adventure” ends.

For now, we’ll continue to heed the advice of experts and officials, make critical adjustments as necessary, and do our best to keep our family and those around us healthy.

For us, social distancing and potential self-isolation won’t mean Netflix binging and boredom, but rather chasing around/ feeding/ bathing/ teaching/ playing with little ones, keeping tabs on events here in Cambodia and back in the U.S., maintaining our household in the midst of all the craziness, and trying to squeeze work in where we can.

It’s a crazy busy time in a crazy world, but I hope to continue to post updates on our situation and add new content for the future when I can, so stay tuned.

All anybody can do at this point is take each day as it comes and hope for the best. Wherever you find yourself at the moment, we wish you and your family all the best.

As always, thanks for reading!

David & Lori

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Jeanette
Jeanette

So glad to get your update. Your little family is on my prayers. God has this!

María González
María González

Glad you all are doing well… it’s always short of an adventure when you have two small boys. Enjoyed the read… saludos Lori