Reporters on the Job

You Want to Do What? Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a city best explored by motorbike, though it's not for the fainthearted, says correspondent Simon Montlake (see story).

"Every junction teems with motorbikes and scooters, often with several riders on each one," he says. "To cross the road means to weave past the bikes. At first, you stand at the curb, waiting for a break in the flow. Then you realize that there is no gap, just fleeting opportunities to dart across."

Simon says that road accidents are distressingly common. "I saw one almost every day. What I found most alarming was the sight of a trendy young local cruising along the street on his bike, sending text messages on his mobile phone with his spare hand."

So far, private cars are rare sights in the city center. But car sales are picking up, Simon notes. The rule of thumb is that each car occupies the same space as six motorbikes. Buses aren't popular. Everyone keeps talking about subway lines, Simon says – but the first isn't due to open until 2012 at the earliest.

Market Forces: For the women in Perugia, Italy, who gather weekly to send goods home to family in Ukraine (see story), the event is an important social outlet. "The women could load the vans in 10 minutes, but it takes a couple of hours," says contributor Davide Berretta. The women he spoke with said that they had friendly relationships with their employers. But they are very focused about their purpose: "They were determined to make money and send it back."

There's a sober side to their presence, though, Davide says. "The people who handle the vans charge about €2,000 to €3,000 to bring women over – so women will often spend their first year paying back the debt. There's a lot of backdoor business in this scheme."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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