Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dave left... but I scored his room!

TUESDAY 31st May

Dave left two weeks ago, but I have been too flat out to get to my blog so this post comes long after the event. It was sad to see him go... many of his students were in tears and everyone here hopes he'll return. He's headed back to England to catch up with family and teach in a summer camp for a couple of months, then he's off to teach in an orphanage in Tanzanier, right near Mt Kilamanjaro on the Serengetti Plain... how fabulous would that be??
(now you can see why I whinged about the tailoring on my pants.. aren't they awful!!)
Into the taxi and off to the airport... that'll be me one day...
It was a week before I found the time to shift from my little room into Dave's old room, and this morning I finally got around to taking some photos.
As you can see, it's twice as big - even a double bed - and it has a balcony!!
This is the view from my balcony, which faces east, with trees in the distance!
This window doesn't open, but there's plenty of room to spread - even the desk's bigger

And there's an ensuite, too

This room will cost me more. My rent on the small room was $15 a month. This one will cost me all of $40 a month. On top of that I pay for water, electricity and cable TV. All up I spend $100 a month on accommodation, and $250 on food, transport and entertainment (but them I don't go out much...)

Monday, May 30, 2011

After a long wait, here is where I work...

TUESDAY 17th May.... finished off on 30th May

This morning I finally had my camera out of my bag for the ride to work! First, let me introduce Mr Cuong, my faithful xe-om driver.
and his big bike...
He speaks very little English, and doesn't understand me when I try to speak Vietnamese, but we get by. He picks me up every day and takes me to school. On the weekends we go back and forth... pick up at 7.10 am, bring home at 11.45am, then back again in the afternoon, depending on which classes I have...
Anyway, here we are at the front of the school - even though the name's changed officially, nothing's changed, so I'll keep referring to it as VATC...
And here's the reception area
and on the left is the students' computer room where they can do online work (although they usually look like they're playing games...)

And in the staff room...
this is my work station

and this is Ann at her desk

This is Gene, our new 'part-time' teacher, who is working full time hours on top of her regular job as a primary school teacher at the local International School. She's American and lives in Hai Phong with her daughter, Becki, who is also a teacher. With her is a new trainee Teacher's Aide, Harvey.

I worked  for 26 days straight because since the three young Aussies did a runner, we've been critically understaffed. But today I have a day off!... A day to relax and catch up on my correspondence and my blog! I expect to keep on working very long hours till we get 3 more teachers... I hear there's one coming in June... I have at least 32 teaching hours a week, so add preparation time and I'm chalking up at least 50 hour weeks.  Saturday is the killer... my last class on Friday night finishes at 9:30pm, then the first class on Saturday starts at 7.30am! I have 4 x 2hour classes - 2 with little children, 1 with teenagers and 1 adults...  then I have to back up with 3 children's classes on Sunday, also beginning at 7:30am. I have no voice left by Sunday night.

My weekday routine is to wake up at about 8am, have breakfast and chat on Skype, check emails, and do whatever housework, shopping, washing etc needs to be done.  I prepare the 2 lessons for that evening, and at least one for the weekend, then Mr Coung comes and takes me to school at about 3ish, where I print off lesson plans, do photocopying etc etc. I usually have some dinner at the school canteen. This is Bich, our canteen lady... The canteen is tucked in under the stair well, but there are extra tables and chairs outside in the playing area which I forgot to photograph... will do so eventually. This is her Kitchen. She keeps everything spotless:
She does a roaring trade serving snacks and dinner to the evening students who usually come straight from school or work.
bánh đa cua from the canteen

Now for my students. What can I say? They are simply delightful. The adults in particular have a wonderful sense of humour and are a pleasure to teach.  The kids are like kids everywhere... some are angels, some are very naughty, but we have a lot of fun and many are learning quickly. Let me introduce you to a few:
L to R here's Flower, Apolo, Tom, Livi (in the red shirt), Antony, me, Sea, John and Dote.... from class 2E2oB

These are some of the kids from S1A2a - front row: Tom, Kevin, Jenny and Lisa; back row:  Batman, Kaka, Tiger (being silly) and Lily... gorgeous kids.
And these are some of the babies... on their second morning.
 John, Tim, Penny, Tommy and Benny
Liitle Mary (one of the teary ones), Tom, Sam and Tony (who has an incredibly musical ear... he sang all the songs perfectly as soon as he heard them, and parrots back everything I say with no trace of an accent!  Now say, good morning Tony... very good boy!

This was my first tiny tots class of brand new kids... only 3-4 years old and pretty teary at the start, wanting their parents...  but I had already prayed that God's peace and love would shine through me, and He came through so beautifully.  By the end of the class Mary, one of the littlest, who had been crying at the start called me Grandma in Vietnamese  :)  There were none of the dramas and hysterics I had been warned about. The littlest boy (who looks like he might be only 2),  was desperately clinging to his Mum and the start he was terrified of me, the big foreigner. But with God's grace, he settled right down and joined in and as he walked out the door, he said in a confident, loud voice Hello, I'm Superman!  ... that's his English nickname... and that was the goal of this class - for them all to be able to introduce themselves with their new name ( which they were given the morning before.....)  huge effort!  They joined in the singing, and the games, and laughed when I was silly, and coloured in beautifully... just a model class!  And in the staff room they said wasn't I lucky to get such a class.... lucky? no way... God was there with me... as he is in every class.  No wonder I'm enjoying the teaching so much.

These are some of the bold little boys who cheekily invade the staffroom on Saturday morning

And these two beautiful girls are in one of my classes
 Rachel and Tia

So there you are. That is where I teach...

Birthday blog


Today I turned 60!  That sounds so very old... but it doesn't feel very old. It's only when I take a look in the mirror that reality kicks in!  I'm so glad we're only as old as we feel!

I woke up to skype and email birthday wishes from precious family and friends. The weather was quite mild, so the walk to join my ex-pat ladies for lunch was very pleasant (though I do get some funny looks when I wear my conical peasant's hat). Instead of the usual venue (Texas BarBQ) Helle had sent me a text saying that we were meeting at the restaurant at Sunflower, (the gated community for rich westerners) ... lovely grounds, swimming pool, tennis courts, golf driving range....  I'd been chatting to Andrew on skype and rocked up ten minutes late to find that they had gathered to wish me happy birthday!  They gave me a beautiful red bamboo salad bowl with silver handled lacquerware servers and a bunch of roses!... I got quite misty!
On top of that, Maritha shouted me lunch! Bless her!
 Here are the girls...
Dorothee, Maria, Ann, Pia, Helle, Bettina, Maritha, and Virag.

It was a lovely surprise, after which I walked home and prepared more lesson plans.  At work Ann said they would be celebrating my birthday with Oscar's and Ian's arrival (a new teacher) in a few weeks.

Here's what I had for my birthday lunch... chicken. The flowers were a happy birthday gift from the restaurant

At home, Katie took flowers up to Mum at Coffs Haven Nursing Home for me only to find her covered in bruises, with a cut on her forehead from when she fell out of bed last Saturday. She will be bed-ridden for a few days, but praise God, nothing was broken. As always she is in good spirits and her usual beautiful self. I had asked at Coffs Haven that Katie be advised if anything happened to Mum, but that message hadn't filtered through, so we didn't know about it till days later.... a situation that I hope is now rectified!
So there you go! Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...... :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

VATC changes it's name to VAIE

TUESDAY 24th May

This morning I had to go to work for a special meeting with representatives from the board of education.  It was a ceremony marking the change of name for VATC-Hai Phong. We are now Vietnamese American Informatics Education - Foreign Language School, VAIE. No longer part of the VATC franchise. One of the classrooms was all spruced up with a new banner and gorgeous flowers, and speeches were made. Afterwards I grabbed my camera and we had a photo fest...
the Teachers

And the gorgeous admin staff ... reception and accounting
This is beautiful Kate... she looks after all the foreign teachers when it comes to accommodation, visas, ordering more bottles of water, maintenance etc... Nothing is too much trouble, and she's always so helpful.

I just had to re-arrange the placement of the flowers in reception...

Then we all trooped to a restaurant practically next door and sat down to a feast!.... I know, someone's got to do it!
With this fish hot pot, you take a rice paper wrapper, put on it some strips of green banana and fresh pineapple, some Vietnamese mint and then fish and vegetables from the hot pot, roll it up and dip it in fish sauce and it is simply delicious!  In this photo you can also see the fried prawns (you eat them whole coz the shell is soft), BBQ'd pork and fresh corn kernels also dipped in a very light batter and deep fried. 

Then I took a video so you could join in the conversation....  The man in the striped T-shirt is the night watchman. He comes every night at about 9:30 and sleeps in the reception area on the couch, then goes home again at 7am.  That end of the table were really hooking into the rice wine, having a whale of a time :)

The next course was boiled rice with fish soup, and lastly segments of grapefruit / pomello and green tea like they served at Do Son beach.
By then it was 1pm, but a surprisingly mild day, so I walked home and had an hour to chat on skype and grab my stuff before going back to work. Two more new classes tonight... beaut teens/adults who got right into the games and activities, so the classes were very productive and satisfying. I've got a swag of photos of students, the school etc, but I'll blog them when I have some more time.  Cheers!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dave's farewell dinner on the esplanade at Do Son Beach

SUNDAY  15th May

Being Sunday, I taught two kiddies classes today. They are always noisy, but fun.  Ann gave me my roster for next week... and whereas before I was doing 16 teaching hours a week, now I am booked in for 34 hours!! + preparation time that's at least a 55 hour week.  I will have to be careful to pace myself, because that won't change until we get three more foreign teachers in... and no days off...

Anyway, at 5:30 most of the students from the VIP class picked us up (Dave, Ann, Oscar and me) from school and drove us to Do Son Beach for dinner. Do Son Beach is the favourite place to go for Hai Phong folk. They love the beach, the swimming and the seafood, and my students have been telling me I should go there ever since I got here, so it was a lovely surprise to find out that was our destination for dinner. We arrived just on dusk, but I took some photos out the window of the car... not the best, but they give you an idea
All along the coastline near the beach there are little tables set out for people to have dinner

That's the main beach.  Doson is just beginning to be developed with high rise resort accommodation. Apparently in summer you can't move for people, and it's a very festive, summer holiday kind of atmosphere.

This is a not very flattering pic of the actual beach... Lots of chairs for hire, and lots of umbrellas. Vietnamese people love to go tho the beach, but they're very careful to avoid the sun, so they sit in the shade (in swimmers) and the women swim with their clothes on. Even though it was getting dark, there were still some people swimming... apparently sharks are not a problem here. The only time there are decent waves is in a storm.

Can you see the kite?  There was a lovely breeze keeping it cool.

Here we are, our table as close to the beach as you can get
This is Oscar, Dave, Aline (a doctor), Mountain (VATC vice-director) and School (businessman).  Can you see the beach in the background?

These beautiful ladies are Laura (a business woman), Aline and Anna (she manages a large under-cover market in Hai Phong). The blessing for me is that their English is strong enough to carry a conversation, so we can communicate quite well. They are delightful company.
That's Mountain and School on the left, Aline's husband Mike (also a doctor), Oscar and Ann... and then the feast began...

This interesting nibbly is dried squid... tough as old boots. To eat it you pull of shreds of 'fibre'. It has a pleasant, mild flavour and fills in the time! Next came out these enormous oysters... fresh and delicious

The shell is as big as the rice bowl!

Next on the menu were these wonderful mussels.

Then it was a humungous cooked oyster still in it's whole shell...check out how big this baby is!!  And look what came next....

The sauce on these crabs was  caramelised tamarinds and oysters...
Laura piled up my plate... the back shell has the red eggs (a delicacy) and of course, the claw and body has the amazing meat... scrumptious!
(sorry about the hair pulled back... but there was that wind)

These BBQ'd prawns were great, too. Laura explained to me that if they are not alive just before skewering, they are given to the cat.... guaranteed fresh!

 I thought that was it but they bought out another course... soup to finish off the meal! with this tasty chicken and tiny oyster omelette, and rice...
I should have scooped up a ladle full so you could see all the yummy things in this soup... tiny shellfish and oysters, tomatoes and vegies... very tasty. So on top of all that wonderful seafood, you have a bowl of rice and omelette, then rice and soup!  How on earth is it that Vietnamese people are all so slim??  So even though that was the end of the meal, they still brought out green tea, and this yummy grapefruit (not at all sour like grapefruit at home)!

They dip it in dried chilli and salt

Then we took some photos of everyone...

Ann and Ann

Dave and the girls

School, Mike and Aline, Anna, Dave, Mountain, me, Ann, Oscar and Laura

So that was what I did on Sunday...  what did you do? Cheers!