I began the trek to Cambodia on Thursday evening, flying Windsor to Toronto to Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, and landed just before noon on Saturday. I had my visa marked “used” as I passed through customs, I retrieved the pack I had checked, exchanged some USD for Riel, and ventured out of the airport. My first task was to buy a local SIM card to put in my phone then get a taxi to take me to my house. We found it without too much trouble, only consulting the taxi driver’s laminated city map twice. I felt more energized than I anticipated I would after long days of travel. But after I unpacked and I had a moment to relax, the wave of exhaustion hit me. After giving in to a short nap, James (the other W&M student interning in Phnom Penh for Open Development Cambodia) and I ventured to explore the streets surrounding the house. We quickly found the Russian Market and wove our way through the narrow paths between the cluttered maze of various goods displayed for sale. It’s nearly impossible to keep oriented in the market. That evening, we met Pinkie, one of my supervisors at Open Development Mekong (ODM), for dinner.
Sunday morning, we tasked ourselves with finding the local grocery store, and successfully bought some essentials to cook at home. We then bargained with a tuk tuk driver to take us to another part of town where we could explore the National Museum and Royal Palace. After 4 hours of sightseeing under the hot sun and humid air, we were exhausted and ready to retreat to the AC of our respective rooms. Between my jet-lag and the heavy thunderstorms that rolled in, I was content to stay in and go to bed early. I spent part of Monday walking the local streets, wandering through the Russian Market, and reading in a local café.
Tuesday was my first day at ODM. I was given a quick tour around the office, which ODM shares with Open Development Cambodia and East West Management Institute. I had a quick meeting with my supervisor to learn more about ODM’s website, infrastructure, goals, and how it works with its partners. We spent a few minutes discussing the project I’ll be working on. For now, my propriety is research and write a topic pages the be published on the ODM website, starting with climate change.
I’m using Open Data sources to research and write a very broad document, limited to about 1500 words, covering climate change in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. It’s an extremely dense and interconnected topic to distill down to such a brief final product. Writings for ODM’s website must be extremely fact based, properly cited, thoroughly reviewed, and neutral in tone to avoid bias and political repercussions.
I’ve now been in Phnom Penh for four full days, and I think I have finally adjusted to the jet lag. After several nights of fighting to keep my eyes open until 9pm, I feel as though I’ve gotten past the worst of it. I’m getting to know my neighborhood essentials: restaurants, markets, ATM, etc. Communicating with the tuk tuk drivers to get to and from work is easier and the haphazard traffic patterns are becoming more routine (although still wildly entertaining).