Jinja is an American leading a laid-back lifestyle in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

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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?
Thirtysomething.

-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!

Props to:
Khmer Connection http://khmer.cc/
JavaArts. http://www.javaarts.org/
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/
Phnomenon http://www.phnomenon.com/

I'm sure I'm forgetting some; many of the folks you'll see excerpted on
the Global Voices postings:
http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/-/world/east-asia/cambodia/

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/

Internet

moore2236's picture

Hello. Can you tell me about the internet service available? Cost and reliability? Thank you.

Moslem...

resaputra's picture

Are you moslem? since you use the word inshallah. If you are moslem, I need more information about the mosque and halal food there. I will travel there next month. Thank you very much.

Halal Food

alxyreen79's picture

Please let me know on the accessiblity for halal food. I will be working in phnom penh in a near future

Living

nevadakennedy's picture

Hello my name is Leon and i am American, i am looking to move to Cambodia upon two years of research. I am a 22 1/2 year old American student and am really looking to start a life in Cambodia, I have no degree's or phd's but i do have computer professions. I want to know how hard would it be for me to get a job there?

Siem Reap question

joe-and-carol's picture

Hey Jinja ,

Thanks for the posting and links...

My family and I are considering living/volunteering in Siem Reap for 5 months from Dec thru April. I am a family doctor and my wife is a health educator . We've worked in other developing countries in the past incl Nicaragua, Sri LAnka and Ecuador.

2 questions:

- Do you know of any international or english speaking schools in Siem Reap or a contact there who would know.?
- Any Development / health NGO's that you admire there that we could contact re volunteer work .

thanks, joe

Living

Paul Cockayne's picture

Hi Jinja
I am looking into coming to cambodia to live. I literally have no professional qualifications but I am saving and learning different things in the u.k which I hope may help me get a job. Are reasonable jobs hard to come by and is it mainly jobs teaching English which are available. I am visiting for the second time in November but hope to have some sort of vision on my return to the u.k. Hopefully next year it will be goodbye U.k

HELP

daniel thomas's picture

JUST THROWING THIS OUT THERE FOR ANYONE WILLING TO HELP. I AM NO GEEK, BARELY LITERATE ON COMPUTERS. I NEED TO KNOW IF I CAN JUST BRING MY LAPTOP TO CAMBODIA AND START EMAILING, PAYING BILLS WITHOUT SKIPPING A HEARTBEAT. THANKS AND SORRY FOR THE STUPID QUESTION DAN