Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I think I was feeling particularly messed up because I wasn't eating, and that was because I was freaking out whenever I left my hotel and so it was a nasty cycle.
They don't call it culture shock for nothing. I was in this weird paranoid, anxiety-ridden state all weekend. It was not pretty but I think I am past the worst of it now.
A big part of the shift in the positive direction has been due to the help of my Vietnamese counterpart Quyen. She took me around to the market yesterday and got me set up in my new digs. I am living in a hotel but I have access to a kitchen, which is great because I can take refuge when I need to and still have food!
The market is a very intense experience; there are so many smells and colours and so much interaction with the vendors. Shopping in Canada is a very sterile process indeed compared to this! The most striking thing I saw in the market was when we went to one of the beef stalls. You could literally buy any part of a cow; hooves, intestines, eye balls, bones, and at first I couldn't figure out what this other pile of flesh was but then I realized that it was the cow's face, whiskers and all! It looked like rubber mask and made me wonder what people make with it.
Quyen also helped be figure out the proper resonse to all the hellos: be sure to repond to children and seniors, but not to young to middle-aged men. I guess with women it is my call. Ok, 10-4.
Work has also slowly started to take shape. This week we will have a meeting of the head teachers of all of the schools we will be working with. I beleive that head teachers are the equivalent to principals in Canada. We will describe the program to them and our aim of increasing community participation in the school and building the community's capacity to help vulnerable kids to attend class. Next week we will have a three-day training session of the head teachers. It is a little hard for me to find my place in this. I have definately got experience in putting on workshops, organizing meetings and problem solving, but I worry that it doesn't translate into Vietnamese culture. I hope that my being here is helpful rather than just adding on work.
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