John “Jinja” Weeks
Profile picture by: Linda Saphan
July 12 2006
-Where were you born?
Concord, Massachusetts, USA.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live in a shared house. (Myself and a rotating cast of houseguests.)
-In which country and city are you living now?
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
-How long have you been living in Cambodia?
Six years. The first three were in Siem Reap, then in Phnom Penh.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Cambodia?
I'm fascinated by Cambodia's stories, real and imagined. The easiest way to learn more is to be here, so after some initial study I had little hesitation to make the move.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Cambodia's quite welcoming of foreign business activity. I do think a little more transparency would be good in the business world, though.
-How do you make your living in Cambodia? Do you have any type of income generated?
I have various art-related jobs. I generally focus on print and the Web. I make enough to get by, and the cost of living here is cheap. Some expats live a quite comfortable life in Cambodia before they realize that they're making a piker's wage by overseas standards.
Noodle soup is cheap but I would like to retire someday...
-Do you speak Khmer and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Sure, it's good brain exercise. Khmer has evolved from Sanskrit but don't let the alphabet scare you, it's not impossible. I'm functional I guess, but learning language is a lifelong effort.
But I'm fascinated by the 'spirit houses,' little animist shrines people have everywhere. Betel nut chewing? I'll give it a miss. Regardless of trying to respect customs you'll mess up occasionally, just try to use common sense.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I email or Skype them, and I try to visit once a year. My friends are scattered across continents, which I hope may bring travel opportunities some day.
In Phnom Penh, I try to post a weekly illustration/comic based on the 'Illustration Friday' site's topics, and I hope to publish a book once I've done a good year's worth. I also take photos, get my 'temple time,' and explore the cultural and physical landscape.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I'll be right here for the time being. Inshallah.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
That's a good idea, actually. There's a land boom on in Cambodia at the moment, I'm waiting for the bubble to burst.
-What is the cost of living in Cambodia?
I can live on about $2 a day but it ain't pretty. Then again, most in the countryside live on less.
-What do you think about the Cambodian people?
I'm fascinated by people from all walks of life, especially when they have such interesting lives. Foreigners are accepted here but they’re rarely anonymous.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Cambodia?
You can make positive and direct change quickly. But if you don't plan well, it can vanish overnight.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Cambodia?
You don't need malaria pills in urban areas. And the 'Ministry of Naps' requires the country to take a two-hour snooze at lunch time. 'Observe local customs?' No problem there.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Cambodia?
I'm at http://jinja.apsara.org, apparently Cambodia's oldest weblog.
What to recommend? So many!
Khmer Connection http://khmer.cc/
Linked into my feedreader are Tharum http://www.tharum.info/
Beth Kanter http://beth.typepad.com
Andy Brouwer http://andybrouwer.blogspot.com/ .com/
Elizabeth Briel http://elizabethbriel.blogspot.com/ .com/
I'm sure I'm forgetting some; many of the folks you'll see excerpted on
the Global Voices postings:
What I'm particularly excited about is the growing use of Khmer text on the
Web; finally, language is less of a barrier. This is due in large part to
the efforts of Khmer Open Source. http://www.khmeros.info/