A Day in the Life of a JVC Cambodia Office Representative @ Phnom Penh

[Original by Mariko OMURA, Cambodia Project (February 13, 2020); Translated by J. Tsuchiya/M. Olagoke]

Following the previous blog report, I’d like to tell you about my official trip to Phnom Penh, the capital, which I make once or twice a month.

A four to five-hour drive completely changes the landscape

A topical building, “Gold Tower.” The construction of this 42-floor building was halted in 2008, but ten years later, it was resumed by a Korean and a Chinese company.

I go to Phnom Penh by the JVC car or by bus (one-way costs $11). There are many domestic flights to Phnom Penh, so I suppose that most businessmen prefer traveling by plane. From our project site to the capital, it takes four hours in the fastest case or five hours if the traffic is heavy. Phnom Penh is in the midst of economic growth. The landscape is completely different from our project sites.

Buddhist monks are relaxing and chatting in a Starbucks cafe. I was invited later to join them in a tasting event. You must be careful when talking to them. There are some rules, for example, “Women should not touch Buddhist

Watch out for purse-snatching!

The most important thing that you should pay attention to in Phnom Penh is purse-snatchings. This is what most foreigners living in Phnom Penh as well as local people say. Unfortunately, I personally know several victims. Smartphone is one of the highest targets. So, basically, you should not take it out from your bag on the street. And it is advised not to use a shoulder bag but to use a backpack. Snatchers cut the strap of the shoulder bag or drag it together with you by a motorcycle. It is worth paying the highest attention.

Administrative procedures

During my stay in Phnom Penh, I spend time mainly on administrative procedures such as monthly tax reporting, visiting banks, or getting a car inspection. The procedures are almost the same as those in Japan but are very different from the standpoint of culture. For example, it takes 5 times longer or more to go through the procedures in banks. I don’t know why…. I am quite often irritated, wondering why on earth it takes such an awful long time! I try to head for administrative procedures with peace of mind and plenty time to spare.

When I visited a bank before the Bon festival, I found a roasted pig and chicken offered on a table.

On a tax deadline, there is a huge crowd just like in a super sale. Because office staff manually check documents, it requires a lot of time.

Refresh and study in Phnom Penh

The official trip to Phnom Penh often gets tough, but it is a precious time for me who lives in a rural area to get refreshed.

1. A time to spend and study with the Japanese representatives of other NGOs of my generation

There is a network of representatives belonging to Japanese NGOs in Phnom Penh. We have a study meeting once a month where we can exchange information. I heard about the front-line activities of land-mine removal, learned political situations, and joined an end-of-year party…. Many of them are working based in Phnom Penh, so, for me, who lives in a rural area, this is a stressbuster moment. I fully enjoy talking in Japanese with other representatives of my age.

A peaceful and relaxing time talking over one thing or another.

2. Meet Cambodian friends living in Phnom Penh

Cambodian people whom I meet in Phnom Penh are different from those at our project sites. Some of them own private lands, have succeeded in business, or live in a surprisingly gorgeous high-rise condominium. Of course, everyone is different, and we cannot talk about the Cambodian people in general, but I find that this country looks quite different if we change the perspective. It is an important time for me to talk about this country with the people living in Phnom Penh.

In my Cambodian friend’s high-rise condominium with a swimming pool.

This is the family who owns the office building of JVC in Phnom Penh. Their daughter already speaks Khmer, English, and Chinese.

I was invited to a wedding ceremony by a friend of mine. It was held in a large and luxury banquet room.

3. Natto (fermented soybeans)

You can find various food from all over the world in Phnom Penh (sorry, but I have no photos with me). I really enjoy eating various foods, because I only have Khmer cuisine in the project sites. You can find Chinese, Italian, Russian, and Iraqi restaurants that I love. Of course, there are Japanese restaurants, too, where I can buy my favorite natto (fermented soybeans). Three packs of natto cost 3 dollars, which is a little bit expensive. But, as a reward for myself, I make a rule that I can eat as much natto as I like once a month.

I travel to Phnom Penh by car with a driver Rith, if he is available. It is safe and secure!

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