Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting the air-conditioner cleaned.

The air-conditioner in Tony's room has been flooding all over his floor for a couple of weeks now, but finally, today Kate has arrived with the repair man. Apparently it was blocked with dirt, so now that it's fixed, they decided to give mine a clean as well. As you can see, it's high up on the wall above my door and he doesn't have a ladder, but no problem!  ... just use the security gate as a ladder!

But he needed two hands, because it was so dirty, so a chair stacked on the lounge chair does the trick...

and Bob's your uncle... it's all done. And there was no need to disconnect the power or any of that fuss...

Ah Việt Nam!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Lately, Tuesday has been my day off, and it's usually pretty quiet because I don't have anything booked in for Tuesdays on a regular basis. Today was shaping up to be a typical Tuesday, then a couple of different friends contacted me about hanging out. So at 10.30 I walked down the lane to AT Cafe to meet Frank. He's one of my students and is keen to practice his English. AT Cafe was renovated last year when I was here and it has a beautiful decor with very comfortable lounges and a variety of delicious fresh fruit juices on the menu. Since we have no lounge area here in the house (it's either the kitchen table or the bedroom if I want to sit and chat) I decided to adopt AT Cafe as my new living room... So Frank and I sat in comfort, enjoyed fresh juice, and chatted for an hour. It was such a good idea, later in the afternoon when beautiful Lina (from VAIE) dropped in to say hello, we ended up down there again... sitting in comfort, sipping a fresh juice and chatting away to our heart's content.  Comfortable lounges are as rare as hen's teeth in Hải Phòng and you don't realise how much you miss it till you sink back into a soft lounge again!

I thought I would have a quiet evening, for my usual IELTS group are in the middle of exams, but I had a call from Meagan asking if I was free to teach a class for her tonight, so at 5.30 I walked to her school and taught a class of 10-14 year olds. We had fun and after the class I went downstairs and ordered dinner. James, her regular teacher was there by then. He'd had a nightmare day chasing his passport and visa and losing his phone all in one day, but was sorting himself out by then. He's from England. He taught in South Korea last year, so he could give me first hand impressions and some handy hints about teaching there in case I go there next year. Apparently it's far better to teach in the public school system there than in a language school, and the best gig is as a university lecturer (but my degrees are not in education, so I probably wouldn't qualify for that).

He has also spent time in Germany and Berlin is his favourite city, so he was very enthusiastic describing life and conditions in Berlin. The city Khánh is planning to go to next year is adjacent to Berlin and he has suggested that I should teach in Germany next year... so it was interesting to hear what James had to say.

I was walking home and half way down Lạch Tray I heard someone call my name. I turned to find Ba sitting with some friends having a glass of tea. They invited me to join them, so I sat down and enjoyed a glass of iced tea and some conversation. It was a very pleasant night for sitting outside with a cool drink. Several of the boys are studying for uni exams and they were taking a break. When it was time for me to go on home, Ba kindly joined me and walked me home. He is working for a shipping company and will be concentrating on improving his English for the next four months, then he will be at sea. He is a navigator and will work on the bridge, so he needs English in order to be promoted through the ranks. So I will probably see him often over the time he is still here.

And to cap off a lovely day, Revenge was on TV, so I watched some telly before going to sleep with a big smile on my face...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More Birthday Celebrations!

Somehow the students in my 3 o'clock class found out I'd just had a birthday, and when I came back to the classroom after the break they had covered the board with messages and drawn birthday cards...

They are a delightful class.
Most notable of course is the one in front... Jake, the irrepressible...

Jake and Anna

Helen and Catherine

Ann and Malya

Danny, Kitty and Kate

Bella and Anna

Mary and Lina

Jake and Jackson

They are so much fun, this class. I taught them last year, too, so we're old friends. Jake cannot sit still for more than ten seconds, and his mate Jackson is quiet and studious. Both of them are extremely bright and their English is remarkable. They all got right into singing me Happy Birthday...

So after the lovely surprise and showers of love from these precious kids, I was spoiled all over again when Linh and Linh and Gene joined me for dinner at Texas BarBQ after work.

Gene gave me a bottle of Baileys and some chocolates Becki brought back from Switzerland last month!!

After dinner, the two Lynhs and I went to a cafe concert put on by the church I went to once last year (before I had to start working every class everyday for months). It was upstairs in a really nice place and there were people sitting around enjoying the excellent music. We were all treated to a delicious fruit drink or coffee and there was fresh fruit on the tables too. First time I have eaten green mango and it was delicious... crisp and juicy, not unlike eating an apple.  We sat around the walls on cushions.

These are the musicians from the Philippino church, and include Bonali (Gene and Becki's friend) and her husband, Abel. She has a wonderful voice and we really enjoyed their music.  When the concert was over it was raining outside, so they kept on singing. Pastor Abraham recognised me from last year and had welcomed me already, and at the end they insisted I join them for a couple of songs. Christians everywhere know Hillsong songs, so we sang a couple, including Shout to the Lord.

And so ended another lovely night. It was drizzling a bit as Lynh and I rode home, and not long after I got home it was pouring... I hope she got home without getting drenched! I simply had to crack open the Baileys and see if it was OK... and I'm happy to report that it is just fine!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Birthday Dinner

Today was my birthday... 61!  I don't feel 61.  When you get this old, age seems even less relevant than ever. I am blessed with good health, a wonderful family and so many loving friends it amazes me. In all those years, I never imagined that this is what I'd be doing in my sixties... and I'm absolutely loving it!  I woke up to text message after text message wishing me happy birthday and sending me love. It was raining and I had the hedonistic pleasure of staying in bed till after 9! Then I spent a very leisurely day chatting to Katie on skype, fielding facebook messages, reading a James Patterson novel and listening to music... a perfect way to spend a rainy day.
Here are Katie, Jordan and Bailey singing Happy Birthday to me on Skype

In the evening Greg and Gemma came on-line too, so I got to chat with them as well.  When I was their age, video calling was something you only saw in science fiction movies and now it's available to everyone. The difference skype makes to my life is immeasurable. I can't imaging enjoying living so far away from my family without it.

Will came over at about 6 and got to meet Greg and Gemma, then chat to Katie, and half an hour or so later Xuân, Quỳnh, Trường, Nga and Hảo arrived.
Hảo, Will, Xuân, Quỳnh, Nga and Trường

The plan was for us to all meet here at 6 and then go out for dinner. Khánh was running late because he was trying to exchange the shoes they bought for me on Wednesday (unsuccessfully)... but he outdid himself, for this beautiful plaque is what he got me instead...

By then Emma had finished teaching so Will picked her up and we all headed off to a specialty goat meat restaurant.
While we waited for the food to arrive, they pulled out a cake and sang me Happy Birthday

and more pressies!  A lovely tan shoulder bag from Quỳnh and some yummy cookies from Will and Emma.
(The 3D jigsaw puzzle is from Linh)

Dinner was BarBQ'd goat followed by a hot pot. It is so well organised here. Plates of meat and vegies cooked at the table as you go on these little portable gas cookers.

Then they remove the BarBQ plate and replace it with a pot of bubbling goat soup, to which you add mushrooms, tofu, greens, noodles.... more stock, more of everything until everyone is totally satiated.

  Nga and Quỳnh

A couple of hours later and the pots were still half full of by then even more delicious broth and meat and noodles and vegies because they keep on topping it up, but we'd had enough... and there was still birthday cake to come!!  The table was overflowing with debris from our meal, but over here you don't sit around waiting for the table to be cleared... you just relocate to another table!

So we enjoyed birthday cake and watermelon... and by then we were REALLY full!
Nga, Hảo, Trường, me, Emma, Will, Xuân, and Quỳnh (Khánh took the photo).

We finished up a wonderful night having a quiet drink back at Meagan's with a few of the teachers who hang out there. Lovely night, lovely friends. I feel very blessed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Birthday Party with my Nam Phap Church class

Even though it was pouring rain, most of my gorgeous Wednesday morning class at Nam Phap Church rocked up today for a party to celebrate my birthday! My darling Khánh organised it last week and he wanted it to be a surprise, but some people aren't very good at keeping surprises... Regardless, I had a wonderful time...
This is Khánh Dao. He gave me a ride this morning... as you can see, it was pouring rain (still is this evening). But in spite of the heavy rain, a lot of people turned up. Xuân was the MC and he organised a variety of games and songs, which were enthusiastically enjoyed. Sáng, a friend of Trung's brought his beaut sound system, so we had music and the tables were all pushed to the side and spread with nibblies and there was a soft drink for everyone, balloons...
First up the first person to burst their balloon by sitting it won... Yup, that would be me...

Then Khánh sang Nồng Nàn Hà Nội and everyone joined in. Then he amazed me by playing and singing Kate Wray's gorgeous song Deeply In Love. He had surfed the net for Christian songs and found this one and learned it. What an absolute blessing... I love that song!  And it was written by a friend from my church in Coffs Harbour! It didn't matter to me that Khánh and I were the only two who knew it - we sang it regardless. Beautiful.

This is Ba.

 He also has a great voice and sang a few songs (including You're Beautiful...)

Then Xuân and Linh got the pace cracking with some great games. This one required as many people as possible to stand on a single sheet of paper about 25x35cm!!!  Would you believe seven? !!

Then it was the classic game of Knots and Tangles with ten in each team...

This game had four girls on stools holding cucumbers tied to strings, and four boys racing to be the first to eat their cucumber... again a lot of fun and great enthusiasm.

Then Madam Tra made a lovely speech and gave me a gift from the class... a lovely pair of shoes.

but sadly, my feet are way too big for VN shoes :(

And Angie gave me this trendy handbag, too.

This next game was hysterical. The guy had a cucumber tied to his waist and hanging between his legs, and the girl had to guide him into position straddling the candle. Then the idea is to swing the cucumber and put out the candle...

 ... much harder than you'd think!

Then Linh and I were blindfolded and had to pick up these lollies with two pens ('chopsticks') and drop them in the bowl.

Linh has volunteered to teach this class two mornings a week. She's a Hải Phòng girl who won a scholarship to study high school in Singapore, where she has been for the last four years. Now she has won another scholarship to continue on in Singapore at University. So she speaks English fluently and has kindly offered to work with these students during her Summer holidays... Fluent in both Vietnamese and English, she is inspiring them to continue working hard.

Then Khánh led everyone in a chorus of Happy Birthday and we wound up a delightful morning with heaps of photos...



Ba, my navigator mate.

Darling Khánh, who planned this surprise party for me...

... and my Xuân (this is his 'I'm too sexy for my shirt' face).