Michael Chapman (Chatham 62)

Michael writes, “This year has been quite eventful. I left Palau in mid-January (a small island in the Pacific) having spent the last five years there working on an Asian Development Bank Funded Sanitation Project (KASP). In that time, I gained quite a few friends without even realising it – so in retrospect I feel a bit sorry to have left.

I passed through Manila to visit my wife at home for a couple of days, then hurried to the airport on the evening of 23 January as there were clamours for urgent participation in my new assignment – expecting that I would be back to visit my wife for our wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day, if possible, or at the very latest by Easter. By 2am I was on my way from the airport in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), past the piles of garbage lining the road and several traffic accidents, to arrive at my hotel overlooking the Mekong (actually a large tributary). The next day, I attended introductory meetings in the Ministry of Handicraft (now renamed Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation) where I have been working since.

So, here I am as Team Leader for the Provincial Water Supply and Sanitation Project (ADB & ADF) with the objective of upgrading the water supply systems for Battambang and Kampong Cham, which are a couple of reasonable sized cities. As you can imagine, with Covid-19 the work has been slow – lots of working from home for many of the international team members and only a few of the proposed 20 or so nationals available. I average three video conferences a week – mostly with ministries, our home office and ADB. I am not at all sure when I will be able to get back – either to see my wife in Manila or my family in UK (one of my daughters had a baby boy in July – whom I have only seen on Messenger and my son graduated from college in the UK with a 1st in Geology).

Here in Cambodia life is pretty relaxed – I can go out and about when and wherever I feel like. I’m just missing family and friends at home.”