Adventures in Saigon

More like work in Saigon, but it doesn’t sound as romantic, does it?

Anyway, I’ve now been in Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, since Monday. I’m leading a group of 19 Afghans on an institutional development study tour. The group is comprised of faculty of education members from fifteen teacher training institutes in Afghanistan, two representatives of the Ministry of Higher Education (one of whom is the Deputy Minister), and two institutional development staff from my office who are also serving as translators.

The group has really been fabulous but it has also been very busy. Tomorrow is my first day off after the last eight days on, and alas I have to take one of them to the doctor to deal with a heat rash. Such is life.

Most in the group don’t speak a great deal of English, but they all try very hard. One of them who doesn’t speak English has assured me that if he did he’d be telling me many stories that would have me laughing on the floor. He manages to still make me laugh with no words needed.

A couple of the bags didn’t get transfered in Dubai, as there is a total lack of a baggage transfer system there, and I offered to take the two guys to the market to help them buy some clothes and such. I said that if anyone else wanted to go they could feel free. The next thing I know, they ask if there would be anything wrong with all of them tagging along. So in the end I took seventeen of them out to the night market. As we headed out, I got the comment that this might be the first time in history that so many Afghan men followed one woman.

They gave the women at the market a run for their money. We happened to come across one of the first stalls right as it started raining. As in Latin America with the first sale of the day, the first sale after the rain starts indicates good luck for the rest of the night. For this reason they will sell you their stall for below price if necessary. The guys managed to talk them down from $25 to $8. They knew exactly how to play the game and walk away just so far before turning back.

While it has been a great deal of work at nearly all hours of the day, it has also been very rewarding so far as well. One of the guys likes to joke and call me an Afghan. I find it interesting to be closer to Afghans here than I could have ever done in Kabul.

More later when I’m not so tired.



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