Monday, August 29, 2011

And life goes on...

MONDAY 29th August

My goodness, August is nearly over! I just had the usual busy weekend. A new teacher arrived on Friday. His name is Tony and he's a retired teacher from Adelaide (born in Britain). He moved into the upstairs room and is settling in, getting used to how different everything is here.... he's come just in time, for Lesley is going back to Australia next Sunday. We had a staff dinner at Seamen (seafood buffet) to say goodbye, hello, and happy birthday to Lesley, Tony and Ian respectively.
this video was an accident... I intended to take a photo... anyway... that's Tony in front, and going around the table.. Lina, Linh, Ann, Sun and her husband, Frank, Linh, Gene and Ian
In this shot you can see Lesley, too. Don't you hate it when the camera takes so long to finally flash the picture everyone has stopped posing and turned away!?!

The food was fabulous as before so this time I only took one food pic... this is frog meat on the right of the plate (with bamboo shoots)
And yes, those oysters are to die for..  the little shellfish are delicious, too

This morning Khanh was here bright and early to take me shopping. We started out getting a typical Vietnamese breakfast - Pho Bo
which was, of course, delicious.
Apparently this is the place Ian reckons serves the best fried rice in Hai Phong.

After breakfast, Khanh took me into the city to look for a hat... (I'm over getting sunburnt). The first place we went to had hats big enough to fit me, but the old lady wouldn't budge from her inflated price, so we moved on.  The second shop was better... much more realistic prices, but the lady wouldn't bargain much because today is the first day of the lunar month and to sell for less would bring bad luck for the rest of the month... Still, I'm happy with my old lady's hat and a baseball cap (for under my helmet). Then Khanh took me back to a watchmaker not far from school and I bought a nice watch. The band needed to be lengthened, so he tipped out a tin full of bits he'd removed from other watchbands to find a match... Vietnamese people have such small wrists he usually has to shorten them...  and found a near perfect match.

After that we went to the big bookshop near here for a look, then finally stopped off to buy bread from a roadside stall, and fruit at the little market near home. We had banana rolls for lunch, then Khanh had to go to Uni. I am so grateful that he would spend the morning taking me around. There is no way I could have done it all on my own, and he is delightful company.

Tonight's classes were both adult beginners and they were great, with everyone enthusiastically participating. This Friday is Independence Day in Vietnam, so it's a public holiday so the school will be closed... AND Saturday, too!!!  Two days off!!!  Woo-oo!  I'm planning to go to Nimh Binh with Gene and Becki. It should be a 3 hour bus ride if all goes well, and I understand the scenery is spectacular, so I'm really looking forward to it.

I'll finish off tonight's rave with this video clip of one of my children's classes from Sunday...
Simba, Leo, Superman (another one) Tracy, Smiley, Sun, Pink, Tony, Tiger, Peter, Lisa, Mimi, Lisa and James. After the video I tried to get a photo of the class too...
 now stand still for a photo, kids... hello?!

Here's an older class...
This is Happy, Anna, Susan, Doremon, Jenny, Mary, Lion, Adam, Monkey, Tommy, Ben, and Alex

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My kindergarten class

THURSDAY 25th August

I have been teaching a kindergarten class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. A taxi picks me up and drops me home and I sing and do simple stuff with these gorgeous littlies for an hour and the pay is generous, so it's all good! Thursday's class is mostly 5 year olds, and they respond really well... and here they are singing the Bye, bye, see you tomorrow!  song:

Teacher, Mike, Kate and Jenny

Jane, Tom, David, and Black

Jack, Anna, Tony and Jane

Tapy, Billy, Miss Tran Anh, Mary and Jack

Their favourite song is Galump went the little green frog...  and they also always request 1, 2, 3 4 5 once I caught a fish alive (but I think that's because they like to see me 'crying' when the fish bites this little finger on the right.)  Today we did Open, shut them  with a verse of fast and slow...rolling their hands really fast, then very slowly and they thoroughly enjoyed that one too. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This week...


This week has been busy as usual with lots of classes. Khanh took me to the church class on Friday in the pouring rain. These rain capes are ideal...
this is outside the classroom, at the church.

I haven't blogged much about school lately, so here are a bunch of photos I've taken recently. After very heavy rain about a month ago, the carpet in the staff room was saturated. Repairs to the roof of the room next door began, and the old wet carpet was pulled up to reveal ceramic tiles underneath.

It was decided to lay new tiles down so the floor level would match the hallway so we had to relocate the staff room to the student's computer room while the renovation work was carried out... a big job for the IT man - installing all our computers in there as well... plus jamming in extra desks, cupboards etc. We were packed in for over a week while the students were very disappointed that they couldn't use their room... it was a bit like working in a gold-fish bowl...

Anyhow, it's all good again now and we're back in the clean, fresh staff room again.  Some things never change... Ian still gives the girls a hard time and they hassle him right back... like the time Linh threatened to get him "in the centre" after he mussed her hair for the umpteenth time

Now that uni has started again, several of our TAs have left. This is Thao, with Gene, Lesley and Ian. She has gone back to Hanoi to study... she is part of the family for Ian and Lesley and will be missed. But Hanoi isn't far away and she can come back for weekends easily enough.

 This little cherub is Paul. He has just turned 4. He's in one of my Kitty classes and yes, he's a real little cutie... and smart, too.

and this is Ha, one of the cleaners at the school. She has gorgeous thick hair...

Being a smoker, Ian is always outside at break time and the students really enjoy his company. I can only sit out there when the weather is cooler... otherwise I end up going back to class dripping wet.  urghh.

This video is one of my teenagers classes. They're a great bunch of kids... lively and full of personality. The first person is Loyal, my TA... then the kids introduce themselves

Loyal, Rose, Henly, Ruby, Peter, Jack, Jerry, Max, Johnny, Rain, James, Angel, Tom, John, Lisa, Kitty, Laura, Clare, Rabbit,  and  Jennifer

Today I had lunch with the Wednesday girls at Harbour View. Several of them have returned from their summer holiday in Europe and there a couple of new faces too. This photo is in the restaurant...
Estelle, Birthe, Helle, Maritha, Caroline, Ushi and Becki

And there you have it... life goes on in Hai Phong. 

Yes, I know, but someone's got to do it!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A fabulous day gallivanting....

WEDNESDAY 17th August

Today was going to be a day off, so I planned to spend it with some of the church class students... turned out Gene had to go to Hanoi, so I ended up teaching her classes anyway, but I had the best day...

I woke to a thunder storm at about 5ish. There was a lot of lightning, and we had a blackout. Nevertheless, it stopped raining and Xuan picked me up at 8:15am and we went to 'Miss Lesley's' church class

They are meeting back at the Big Catholic church again. These students are very keen and teaching them is a lot of fun

The discussions are always lively. The young man in the white and blue shirt in the front row (Tinh) is particularly vocal, and loves to take a contraversial stance... especially when it comes to the role of the submissive, faithful wife and the inevitability of philandering behaviour in men... yep, he always gets a bite!

After the class, Xuan had to go on to university so his brother, Dat, was my escort for the day. A convoy of 4 bikes headed off to Kien An district... we travelled slowly at about 20kph so we could still chat, riding side by side. After about half an hour we came to their house, where his sister, Lan had ridden on ahead to begin preparing lunch for us. What an awesome privilege, to be invited home! It is a traditional Vietnamese house... very simple, but entirely functional.

You enter off the street into a utility area where bikes and bulky stuff is stored:

Then you come straight into the main room. There's an altar to the ancestors, a fridge and a table and chairs
that's Tung and Tang

Thien, The and Dat. 

Behind the divider is the bedroom area.
As you can see, the armoire is beautiful with intricate inlay decoration..
Trung and Tung.

Then outside is a little courtyard with the kitchen and laundry.  That's Tung sitting outside the kitchen...

and this is the kitchen.
Though Lan did all the food preparation for lunch out in the sun in the courtyard, with several large bowls of water for washing the vegetables etc.

The loo is down this little side path  (that's the laundry on the left)

This kitten was in the laundry in the shade.

Lan prepared a tasty lunch for us and we sat on the floor and enjoyed it... rice, pork, tofu, greens and melon soup

The, Dat, Lan and Tung.  
Lan's husband is a sailor who is away for a year

After our meal, Thien and Tung got a couple of fresh coconuts and prepared delicious drinks for us to complete our little feast. 
It was 1 o'clock when we headed off for the lookout. The day was hot and sunny with no sign of the storms early in the morning. There are only a few hills in Hai Phong, and they rise out of the plain like big dollops. The view from up next to the observatory is uninterrupted...
The steep sides of the hill are all forest, and down below you can see rice paddies in amongst the urban sprawl. We could hear horns blasting from the traffic in the distance, but they were surprisingly loud. Apparently this lookout is very romantic at night with all the city lights.

Lan, Dat, Tung, Thien, Trung and The. 
There is an observatory but it was closed to the public so I took a couple of photos and we headed back down the hill

On the way down the hill we saw a small herd of about 20 wild goats! They were very fat and healthy looking. Funny that they eat dog meat here in Hai Phong, but not goat!

Our last stop was in the shade of the trees around Happy Lake, which (as Dat pointed out) is really more of a pond than a lake...
Thien, Trung, Thien, Tung, Lam and Dat
Lan, Xuan and Dat's aunt and uncle run this street cafe. Their aunty was stripping sugar cane ready for the evening's trade

So Trung and Nan made us some fresh sugar cane juice

By the time we headed for home it was getting close to 3pm, which is when Mr Cuong picks me up for work, so I passed my phone to Trung so he could phone Mr Cuong and ask him to pick me up at 4 instead
but he wasn't answering his phone, so I ended up texting "4pm" to him instead and when he phoned me at 3 to check, we changed our arrangement. The boys were fascinated how Mr Cuong and I manage to communicate when we have no common language, so when we got home at 3.30 they decided to hang about and meet my amazing Xe-om driver.  They got to say hello to Katie on skype, then  I got ready for work and when Mr Cuong arrived at 4 they got to meet him too.
Add a couple of great classes to top off the day (5:30 to 9:30pm) and there you have it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

There is no translation for Chè Huế

FRIDAY 5th August

This morning I taught the volunteer Nam Phap church class again. Khanh picked me up at 8.30am. The 2 hour class goes very quickly. During the class we were talking about lotus salad, and Net offered to take me somewhere I could have some after the class. So a bunch of us headed to this little cafe which is a favourite haunt for local Uni students. They had run out of lotus, so we had this amazing 'drink' called Chè Huế,  or chè thập cẩm .  There is nothing like it in our food.. it's served in a beer mug with lots of crushed ice. The liquid is soya milk and coconut milk and into that is added shaved coconut, sago, beans, little rice dumplings and I don't know what else... a variety of tastes and textures that is quite delicious. You eat it with a spoon and it's quite filling.
That's Xuan's brother, Dat, next to him. See the little stools behind him? ...good thing I've lost plenty of weight !

I took this photo to show the 'kitchen' which is in the front of the cafe.You can see the cafe behind Net, Quyen and Xuan.

After that treat, Khanh took me to Big C so I got home at mid-day having had another little adventure AND having re-stocked my kitchen. And guess what, tonight I only had one class so I finished early!... That's why I had time to blog...

Do Son and sunburn

WEDNESDAY 3rd August

Hanoi Monday, Kindergarten class Tuesday and today?... a day in the sun at Dosun Beach!  Last night at about 10pm (after classes) I got a text message from Xuan asking me if I'd like to join him and a bunch of friends from Nam Phap Church Class and Ian and Lesley on a ride to Dosun Beach today.. so of course I jumped at the opportunity. So I was up early to get tonight's lesson plans done, because I knew it would be a rush to get organised for classes at 5:30pm.

Khanh came to pick me up at 10:30 with a Handbook for the English Translator which he bought to help me to learn to speak Vietnamese... how kind of him! We headed off to Ian and Lesley's hotel where we teamed up with several others, and headed off... 4 bikes, 8 riders. They decided to divert before heading out of the city and get an early lunch here rather than pay the inflated prices at Dosun. So we ended up at a vegetarian restaurant called The Loving Hut,  where we had an assortment of dishes.
Khanh, Ian, Lesley, Thao, Xuan, Nhan, and Net

While it all tasted nice, what fascinated me is why they take so much trouble to make their vegetarian food look like meat! We had imitation beef, chicken, pork, prawns, snails.... even bamboo shoots presented so they looked like chicken drumsticks!  What's wrong with vegetatians just eating tasty vegetables??

On the way out the door I took a photo of the dish washing department. This is typical of the way dishes are washed... which explains how all the little sidewalk cafes manage. All you need is a supply of clean water and off you go. If you're lucky you get a tiny stool to squat on...

For the ride to Doson, I hopped on behind Xuan. Most of the traffic flows at about 40kph which is quite gentle. Best of all it allows motor bike riders to talk freely... to one another, or to the pillion passenger, so a half hour ride goes quickly. Xaun decided to make the most of the opportunity to learn the ABC Song (you know, the one from Sesame Street). So we sang the alphabet over and over again in bits and pieces all the way from Hai Phong to Doson. Every so often, Khanh and Lesley would ride up beside us and chuckle...

Anyhow, we rode through the town to the bottom of the only high ground - a steep hill on the point. It was a hot climb up the path to the lookout, but the view from there was great, as was the cool breeze!

You can see the huge resort complex that's under construction down below.  Later on we went for a swim in the little cove you can almost see on the right.

Nhan, Ian and Net

Nhan, Thao and Net

The walk down the hill was interesting... we passed through a 'zoo' of concrete animals...

suspension bridge complete with brontasourus and a little boy hanging off it's tail

concrete crocodiles

They're building a pagoda next to a big terrace...  a bit like a wedding chapel?

There is also a row of delightful cabins... no doubt intended for wealthy tourists.

Down at the bottom of the hill you can look up and see the dragon's head up at the lookout

We headed over to the umbrellas on the other side, then the guys and I had a swim in this little bay. The water was really warm...

 I didn't get around to taking any more photos, but the girls sat on those deck chairs under the umbrellas and made sure they stayed covered up to avoid the sun. I foolishly didn't wear a hat and ended up severely sunburnt.  I got home at 4:15pm and had to shower and get ready for school by 4:30pm... just a bit of a rush! My students were horrified by my bright red face!

Nevertheless, I had a great day, thoroughly enjoying the company and the outing. Still, I was very glad that I didn't have to walk home after work... Sun, the security guard gave me a ride.