Tuesday, July 31, 2012

John and Melissa

A new Aussie teacher arrived last week, with his partner, Melissa. He plans to take up a 12 month contract at VAIE here in Hải Phòng. John has already taught a few classes and will fit in very well. It's amazing what a small world we live in... he and Ian were comparing notes and it turns out they have both worked at the same prison in Briarfield, Victoria in years gone by... they know many people in common, (both guards and prisoners)... small world!

Of course I told them about the wonderful students in the Nam Phap Church class, so this morning they came along. There were plenty of students present - all of whom were delighted to welcome John and Melissa to the class. Many of the old students have moved away or found employment and we have a whole new crop of students joining the class, so we began by going around with each student introducing his/herself. Then they played a couple of games and broke into small groups to discuss "The three most important contributions made by women in society".  John and Melissa joined in the discussions and were very impressed with the level of English and the high degree of intelligence in our students.

After class a few of us took them to Sunflower Cafe for a coffee and sữa chua nếp cơm.

Thảo, Melissa, John and Xuân

Dat, Tuấn, Trung Ho, Trung and Sáng

It gave John and Melissa a chance to get to know some of the crew. Melissa has done her TESOL International Teacher's Licence too, but isn't confident yet to put her hand up for a teaching post, so she will begin with a class on Thursday mornings. I know that she'll find these classes are stress free and very enjoyable... a great way to break the ice and get some teaching experience.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lunch with Kien's family

Today I had the delightful privilege of dining with Kien's family for lunch. They live not far from here, and after I got home from teaching the kindys at Kien An, Xuân picked me up and took me there. Both Kien's parents are career army officers, although his father is now retired. His mother is a cartographer and still works. They all pitched in to prepare this delicious lunch and then she had to go back to work before we left (after we ate). His younger brother, Ky, is 13 and it was lovely to see how much affection is shared between these two brothers. Ky is studying English and has been brave enough to come to the Nam Phat church class with all the older students during the Summer holidays.
Their home has a simple, functional layout with living room, kitchen and one bedroom downstairs and another upstairs with a bathroom on each level. Down the side path there are three rooms for rent, similar to the room Ba lived in. Everything is spotlessly clean and breezy and very pleasant. All the houses in the neighbourhood are similar, so there is a feeling of spaciousness. And they all have trees growing in their front courtyards so I guess this is the suburbs, Hải Phòng style!

Lunch tasted every bit as good as it looks... especially the succulent goose!!!!

I'm not at all graceful sitting on the floor... I've just gotta keep a sense of humour and find a spot with room for my legs which simply will not fold away like everyone else's! No wonder the locals chuckle at my efforts to get comfortable...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Farewell to Lesley after six short weeks

This year Lesley was only here for six weeks, and they have flown by. Today she left Hải Phòng and a bunch of us gathered to see her off. By the time Khánh and I got to their hotel, Ian and Lesley's room was crowded with friends. She has done this many times before, so she was packed all ready - not like me last year... trying to finish packing with a room full of well-wishers (several of whom had been partying with Katie all night... that was chaotic)!

The taxi arrived at mid-day so we gathered on the steps for a group photo

Then we convoyed the short drive to the airport. Even though Hải Phòng is a city of over 600,000 people, the airport is a pretty laid-back regional airport - I guess because most Vietnamese people cannot afford to fly... most people here don't get to travel, even around Việt Nam.  So Lesley checked her bags and we stood around outside the terminal waiting for her flight... and of course, took more photos!



Thảo and me and Thảo

This is Kien

...wishful thinking!...

Then all too soon it was time for one last photo, last hugs and tears 
 ... and Lesley was on her way back to Australia.

This year, the time is flying by. It seems like only a couple of weeks ago that Emma was saying she was halfway through her six-month contract and now she too will be leaving in two weeks, and Ian will be gone in just six weeks.  Much as I miss my gorgeous family, I'm glad I still have several months before it's my turn to say good-bye.... I know it will be very hard to farewell my dear Vietnamese family!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Last Lunch with Hannah

Today, Sunday, Hannah came to Hải Phòng from Hạ Long to say goodbye to her Nam Phap Church family one last time. Next week she and her husband are leaving Việt Nam and don't know if they will return, for that depends on his job. So one last time the students from her class of past years gathered to spend time with her.

I was teaching in the morning, so Xuân picked me up from work to take me to the restaurant where they had already begun lunch.... horse meat BarBQ followed by goat hot pot.

Lan, Lực, Trang and Nga             Hannah, Quỳnh, Nam and Nguyên
Minhi and his girlfriend, Ủy and Tinh and a friend of his from Hạ Long

Dũng, Phương, Cường and Hảo                Hảo and Nét
There were many toasts...

Tinh and me                                     Khánh and Lan

After lunch, we all went for tea at Hannah's favourite tea house ... we went there last year, too, but I can't remember the name of it. Anyway, it's a gorgeous place and I understand why it's her favourite  place.
This is Ủy in the garden.

There are ponds on either side of the walkway in between the buildings and it's all quite charming and restful.

Trung and Nga are expecting a daughter before the end of this, the year of the dragon... good fortune!

Once again, we took lots of photos...
We rearranged the furniture to make one big long table and all sat and enjoyed tea and fruit juices while all these old friends caught up... most of them are working now, so they don't see one another so much these days. Hannah asked everyone around the table to take a couple of minutes to tell everyone what they are doing now. It was wonderful to hear how often they expressed gratitude to Hannah for taking time to teach them and care about them. They also exhorted one another to keep in touch, now that Hannah's visits would no longer be  a reason to gather together. Unfortunately I had to leave before they got right around the table... I left it as long as possible, but I had to be teaching at 3pm and it was 12 minutes to!! So sadly I missed the final group photos and didn't have time for farewells even...

Just as Xuân and I were dashing out the door, Tinh and Quỳnh rode up with gifts for Hannah and me. What a shame I had to rush off. This is the gift... a beautiful framed ceramic tile of the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nam Phap Farewell for Lesley and Lynh

Today the students from the Nam Phap Church class threw a party to farewell Lesley and Lynh who both taught their last classes this week. Lesley is going back to Australia next week, and Lynh will return to Singapore to resume uni soon. Xuân did a lot of phoning around during the week to find a place and get things organised.  The plan was to meet at the church at 10am and all go to Nga's house near Doson Beach.  It was a very hot day, and Khánh knew they wouldn't be leaving till at least 10.30, so we stayed here in the cool air-conditioning, planning to leave a little later when things were rolling. Then Trung phoned to say he was coming and that he would meet us here and we'd go on together. So we waited... then half an hour later he called to say he wasn't coming to the house, so we headed out.  We stopped at a roundabout (under a shady tree) and waited for him there for a while till a couple of other late-comers met us and we got a call to say Trung was already at the party!  I often wonder whether things would run more smoothly without mobile phones??

Anyhow, we got there eventually. It is a lovely new house and there were heaps of students there busily preparing a feast of Bún Chả.  I was told that the men were on the roof cooking the barbque but I was too hot and lazy to climb up several flights of stairs to go and say hello and take pictures.
   Nam and Khánh

Nam, Lesley and Thảo

Nam, Trung, Hiền, Khánh and Ian

Mười, Đạt, HaiAnh, Trung and Thảo

We sat on the cool tiles and chatted while the workers slaved away in the kitchen...

Finally, lunch was ready and we all tucked in...

On this side of the room it was men only... một, hai, ba, rô !

The clean-up was clean and efficient... all hands on deck!  Here are the girls washing up the dishes.

Then it was time for more photos... Trung, Lesley and Khánh

Lesley and Ian

It was still really hot, so the party moved on down to Do Son Beach, but I had to go home and get ready for work. This next photo I lifted off facebook because it's such a great illustration of the spirit of joy for life that these gorgeous friends exude...

And somehow in the midst of all that I only got Linh on video, so I'll keep an eye open for pictures of her at the party on facebook, too.