The New Normal

It is amazing how quickly life can change. Three months ago, I imagined spending my summer living in Cambodia, experiencing the culture, and exploring southeast Asia. Unfortunately for everyone, COVID-19 appeared, so now my summer will be spent working remotely in Williamsburg, Virginia.

I am one of the lucky ones. Unlike so many, I am healthy, safe, and still have an opportunity to work. The organization I am working for is called Open Development Cambodia (ODC), an ‘open-source’ website that works to provide freely available information about Cambodia and its economic and social development. ODC provides this information in the hope that they can contribute to Cambodia’s transparency and facilitate research and communication between the public, private companies, civil society, and governments.

For ODC, I will be researching the potential impacts of climate change, specifically the impacts that rising sea levels could have on Cambodia. The scope surrounding this topic is incredibly broad, running from the emergency preparedness of the government, the economic and agricultural effects sea-level rise could have, to how the government can work to ensure its policies are being properly enforced, and everything else in-between. It has been around three weeks since I started my research and most of my time has been spent trying to familiarize myself with climate science, where there are still some gaps in my understanding that I need to fill.

At home, the pandemic still dominates daily life. Social gatherings are largely limited, and stores require that customers wear a mask upon entry. The pandemic has been present for enough time that all these measures now feel familiar, and strangely comfortable. Had I seen photographs of people in public wearing masks, stores sanitizing surfaces, and people standing six feet apart from another I would have been horrified six months ago. But now, this is just another day out on the town and I gladly welcome any precautions that businesses or institutions are taking to navigate the pandemic.

The air conditioning is currently out in my home so this may be as close to a Cambodian summer as I am going to experience. Considering everything though, I do feel incredibly fortunate to be working with ODC this summer, especially as we all adjust our lives to this new normal.