Whereas last year we were chronically short of foreign teachers at VAIE, this year we have seven... in anticipation of a very busy summer season. Consequently, my roster is alarmingly thin! Only three classes this week! So I have had plenty of time on my hands. Both Khánh and Xuân have been patiently teaching me Vietnamese... I feel like I'm progressing at a snail's pace. The old brain is struggling to retain it even after I manage to get my tongue around the pronunciation. I now have a whole new respect for my students - the amount of language they absorb every two days is staggering!
The volunteer classes at Nam Phat church had been in recess, waiting for a teacher, and now I'm back we re-convened on Wednesday. It was so great to see many familiar faces. Even though they had only two day's notice, 25 students turned up - including Madame Tra, who kindly brought me some bananas and artichoke tea, which she told me is very good for your liver. I hadn't tried it before, but it has a really pleasant taste, so I've been drinking it often.
Every couple of months Uschi and Satya host a cocktail party for Westerners at Harbour View Hotel for social networking, followed by dinner. Although I was always invited, last year I was working every Thursday night, so I could never join in. But with no classes to teach, this week I was free, so Helle picked me up and off I went to hob nob with the foreigners. There were about twenty people there and I sat with the ladies and enjoyed a glass of wine and delicious apperatifs. Uschi, Helle and Caroline I already knew; Andrea (from Chile / Germany) I met at Texas BBQ yesterday; and new to me were Alicia, from Belguim and Tina from Denmark. Tina is pregnant and will be soon returning to Denmark until after the birth of her baby. She and her husband have come here from Qingdao, which is where Helle and Boy will be living for the next five years. It is a gorgeous, modern city on the coast, east of Beijing, not far from Korea. Apparently Hải Phòng has come as a bit of a shock to the system and she's struggling to settle here.
Because I have so few classes, funds are running pretty light, so I had intended to stay for the cocktail hour and come home before dinner, but Helle and Usch wouldn't hear of it, bless them! So I was Uschi's guest for dinner, too. There were ten of us - including husbands and the conversation flowed in several languages - German, Danish, and English... most of it went right past me! Uschi will be away for the next 6 weeks, in Dubai and Europe, so Helle will be gone by the time she gets back. These girls are used to forming close friendships that hold for a season... still it's remarkable how often they reconnect in exotic places.
Helle dropped me home, full as a tick, having enjoyed crab cakes, rib-eye steak and chocolate lava cake and ice-cream... Imagine! Steak twice in three days!! Katie was still up, doing assignments, so we had a chat, I proof read her work and then I went to bed. She is such a night owl - there's no way I could be functioning at 3am!