In this blog post you will read how the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has impacted our students’s lives and their home countries.
Panna from Cambodia:
My name is Pannaawattey Chheng, or បញ្ញាវត្តី ឆេង in my native language of Khmer. I’m an international student from Cambodia. I’m so honored to represent my home country in the International Cultural Service Program (ICSP) at Portland State University for two years now. I would like to share a bit of information about the pandemic and social distancing in Cambodia, as well as my current situation going through this quarantine in the U.S.
Cambodia, located in Southeast Asia, is a developing country that still lacks medical support, such as professional doctors, medical equipment, hospitals, and healthcare services. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China and many countries in Asia in February of 2020, people in Cambodia expressed concern even though there were no cases within the country quite yet. The majority of people started to wear masks, use hand-sanitizers, protect themselves, and stay home since the Cambodian government had not announced to do so. The government did not start any early announcements because they simply wanted to avoid a panic for their citizens, but the news was all over social media about the unpredicted virus. There were only a few cases after, and then, it has increased just a small amount a month later. Many schools and universities switched from in-person classes to online classes, and some workplaces moved to work remotely. Online classes are not common at all in my country, so there is a big challenge for students to pursue their education successfully during this time. Many teachers and students are not familiar with technology. The schools do not have enough online resources and services to support students. In addition, it is also difficult to communicate over technology because emails, google platforms, and other apps require us to use English or other languages besides our own country.
There was a big event that happened in my country this year, the Cambodian New Year, which was from April 14th to 16th. People normally travel back to their hometowns, celebrate with family and friends, play many fun traditional games, and go to the temple to ring in the New Year. This year unfortunately, the New Year was cancelled, and the Prime Minister decided to lock down amiding the coronavirus outbreak within the country just during Cambodian New Year. People could not travel to their hometown to visit their family and friends because the borders between cities were closed. Everyone needed to stay home, but some people still had to go to work as usual. All of us needed to wear masks when going outside. A small group of people did not agree with the idea of cancelling the Cambodian New Year and banning travel within the country. However, I think it was the best option to prevent the spreading rate. There are 122 coronavirus cases in Cambodia according to the Worldometer as of May 16, 2020. Fortunately, all of them are recovered, and no deaths occurred.
Even though there are only a small number of cases in Cambodia, I’m still worried about my family. I remind them every time to wear masks and clean them properly if they are reusable. The temperature in Cambodia is humid and hot. It sometimes can be up to 100 degrees fahrenheit at noon. People are sweating even if they are just standing outside the house. They protect themselves from each other, and no big gatherings like usual. Some restaurants are closed but offer delivery options to the customers, and the transportation around the city was also reduced significantly. The government in Cambodia still decided to delay the starting date for the new academic year at schools and universities, and some workplaces allow them to remain remotely.
On the other hand, my family in Cambodia is also extremely worried about me studying abroad in the U.S. since we are living far away from each other. I need to confirm to them everyday that I am safe, I am doing good and healthy, and I am not meeting lots of people outside the house. When PSU announced that spring term this year would be remote, I was so stressed and afraid that I might not do well for all the classes and many programs I’m involved with. I might not be able to keep track of everything online. But then, I realized that I have a full capacity to control my everyday life. I did not have to wake up at 7 am to commute to school and come home late because of rush hour traffic. I did not run from one building to another for my work and classes. The first couple weeks of online classes were both frustrating and fun to play around with Zoom meetings, checking with friends online, and working everything online. I almost could not keep track of my schedule. I know sitting in the same spot in your room and looking at the laptop all day long is not healthy. So, I decided to take about 20 to 30 minutes to decorate my room, rearrange the table and chair, and throw unnecessary stuff away. It can help me release some stress, see my room in a new way everyday, and enjoy my time while working and taking class online. I take 10 to 15 minutes of my life to do yoga or workout. Staying away from technology either phone or laptop is helpful during this quarantine time. If the weather is good, I walk around my neighborhood areas, see the view, and look at the trees and colorful flowers. I cook and find new recipes for myself on the weekends. I know it has been challenging for all of us during this pandemic, but finding new ways to make it beautiful and use your time wisely is your motivation for the day. Try to be positive and aware of what’s happening, and learn from this historical experience that we are all here together! I hope everyone stays safe, healthy, and enjoys your time with your family!
Mizuki from Japan:
Hello! I am Mizuki who is from Japan. And I am majoring in theater arts at Portland State University. Last August was the last time when I went to my home in Tokyo. Since I came to Portland, I have gone back to Japan every summer. At that time, I already decided not to go to Japan this summer, but of course,it was not because of covid-19 pandemic but the Olympics which was planned to be held this summer in Tokyo. I just did not want to go to hot and crowded Tokyo in summer. I knew but I did not understand that things can change dramatically without any signs. The Olympics was postponed to next summer. Schools were closed down. Restaurants were closed. Classes started remotely. People work remotely. People have communication remotely.
Things can move fast but they are not moving straight forward. For several months, the news of coronavirus which I focused on was about Japan because it was not the problem which surrounded me yet. However, the situation got changed because PSU was shut down. Coronavirus became no longer only their problems but also mine. While the US government declared a state of emergency nationally on March 13th, it was April 7th when the government of Japan declared a state of emergency partially. Following the information about what they do officially in both Japan and the US has been like watching an odd race.
Anyway for many people, it is very hard to be in their home all the time. Because some people misunderstood what could happen with the spread of infection, and the Japanese government cannot force people not to go out, Also some people cannot stay at home even if they want to do that, because the companies or businesses which they are working for are not closed or cannot let them work remotely.
Even though there is always a limitation. what is important is that people are conscious of what surrounds them, and people think about what they should do individually. In Japan, several famous people promote staying home on TV or through social networking services. And people have been trying hard to find their ways to stay home comfortably, and there is no doubt that the entertainment industry plays a huge role in helping people have fun at home. Some famous people do live broadcasting using social networking services such as instagram. Some artists did unique things with their creativity. The song Uchi de Odoro (Dancing On The Inside) by Hoshino Gen(You can see the music video on Youtube. Subtitles are available.) is one of them. Hoshino uploaded the music video on his Instagram page, and he encouraged people to collaborate with his video in any way such as playing instruments, dancing, or singing. A huge number of people have collaborated with this video so far including the prime minister. Actors and creators who cannot gather for taping or recording began to try a new way to do that. Gekidan Nenichi is a new theatre company which is run by four young Japanese actors. They recently published their first work on Youtube. The work, Hada no Kioku (A memory of Skin) was shooted all remotely, and the two week rehearsals were also done remotely.
Many people try new ways to manage things under this difficult circumstance. Education is not an exception. Many schools in Japan have been closed down. In Japan, spring is the season of graduation and entrance ceremonies, but a lot of them were canceled. Now most of the schools are doing classes remotely, but they started classes later than usual, and they cannot cover as much as they can cover in in-person classes. Some friends of mine are teachers, and they are struggling to get used to the new teaching format. One of them told me that she had to record and edit lecture videos on her own which she had no idea of how to do before this happened. Also many schools decided not to do most of their school events in order to get back on the right track. I can understand how they made those decisions, but I consider schools as not only learning places but also learning how to communicate with others, how to cooperate with others ,and how we can have fun with others, so I hope somehow they can have opportunities to experience that.
On May 14th, the prime minister declared the recession of a state of emergency for 39 prefectures which are over 80 percent of total prefectures. Also on May 25th, the government declared the recession of a state of emergency for the other prefectures. I hope people in Japan will not explode their desires and keep thinking how to get through this together. I also keep thinking about that.
Hanh from Vietnam:
Hello everyone, my name is Hanh and I am from Vietnam. Ever since Oregon’s stay-at-home order has gone into effect since the middle of March, I have been staying at home everyday and only going out about once a week to buy groceries. Needless to say, I appreciate grocery shopping in this time more than ever and I have come to a conclusion that, the best time to go to grocery store is between 6-8 pm due to my experience that there are not so many people in the store around that time as I think it might be due to the fact that it’s closing time to most stores now.
I find myself adjusting quickly to quarantine life as my life pre-quarantine feels pretty similar to what now which consists of going school and going home day by day. The only difference is that now everything has moved online. Given the situation, the missing piece to my daily routine is that there are no more social interactions (physically) and going to places that I need or want to in the time being. I personally feel that staying at home all day feels like I have more time in a day. It does give me a sense that I have absolute control over my time in terms of how I should spend my day logically. I don’t have morning classes so it is natural for me to sleep in until my class is about to start ( based on my bed time at 2 am ). Now, I consider that is a waste of time and a habit that could affect my health and time badly. I now try to follow the schedule that I consider more appropriate which is waking up before 9 am and going to bed before 11 pm. I try to optimize my pastime with working-out and practicing my ukulele, and try to keep up with Corona virus’s updates in Oregon and Vietnam. Besides that, I very much enjoy going on Youtube and watching ASMR cooking videos without doing what they do in the videos, also I love watching NPR Tiny Desk Concert that I have discovered many artists that keep me sane during this time. During the isolation, I try to stay in contact with my family back home more regularly to keep up with the situation at home and while keeping my parents updated with the situation here in the US. It is not easy to take care of your loved ones when you are faraway, but thanks to the technology we have nowadays ( Facetimes, Zoom,…). It definitely eases the anxiety for me and my family.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many threats and challenges that neither of us anticipated its consequences. My family back in Vietnam started to take caution and practice social-distancing and avoided going out since the end of January which was not long after the celebration of Lunar New Year. My family’s business had to be closed during the time and only opened for contactless delivery. The fact that Vietnam is close to China geographically, Vietnamese’s government took immediate measures to prevent the spread of the disease that include closing the border, limiting travelling and closing businesses that deemed as unnecessary since the first positive case was recorded in Vietnam. Now it is May, and Vietnam has lifted the closing orders, however the government still strictly regulates the borders. People are now able to go out, go to work. School, restaurants, businesses are now back to usual while still practicing social-distancing and people still are wearing masks to public places. I would say that Vietnam has done a great job in preventing and controlling the disease considering Vietnam’s population of about 95 millions of people and as of May 17th, there are a total of 320 cases recorded in which 260 people are fully recovered and 0 deaths have been recorded (GoogleNews,2019). The rest are either in quarantine or being treated at no cost (Le, 2020).
Although Vietnam’s national lockdown order has moved to an ease, the government has not declared that the virus is totally under control as there are 2 new cases identified at the airport ( Shira,2020), and they are strictly regulating the borders and encouraging social-distancing at all times. Surely the pandemic brings harm more than good, I would like to take the time isolating at home to reflect on things that I’ve been taking for granted including but not limited to the ability to not think twice after shaking hands with people, going out to eat or hanging out with friends, or just simply have a conversation with my parents without worrying about the situation. I am definitely looking to the time when COVID-19 no longer exists, until then, I’m trying my best to stay home and stay sane !
Google News. (2020). Retrieved 18 May 2020, from https://news.google.com/covid19/map?hl=en-US&gl=US&ceid=US%3Aen&mid=%2Fm%2F01crd5
Le, M. (2020). Containing the coronavirus (COVID-19): Lessons from Vietnam. Retrieved 18 May 2020, from https://blogs.worldbank.org/health/containing-coronavirus-covid-19-lessons-vietnam
Shira, D. (2020). Vietnam Business Operations and the Coronavirus: Updates. Retrieved 18 May 2020, from https://www.vietnam-briefing.com/news/vietnam-business-operations-and-the-coronavirus-updates.html/
Vu, K. (2020). Vietnam reopens schools after easing coronavirus curbs. Retrieved 18 May 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vietnam-schools/vietnam-reopens-schools-after-easing-coronavirus-curbs-idUSKBN22N0QB