Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hannah's triumphant return to HP

On Saturday morning, Giang picked me up at 7:10am and we rode to a senior high school near Kien An. I taught 4 classes - one Year 10, and three Year 11s. The students, of course were delightful - typical teenagers - not particularly interested, easily distracted, treating it all as a bit of a joke... 

(these kids are 16 years old)

But what I found most interesting was the vast discrepancy between the level of English in the text book and their level of understanding. One would assume that the textbook reflected the material they knew, but that was far from the case. I had to modify my lesson right back to basics. When they did speak, it was very difficult to decipher what they were trying to say. I am told that they would be taught reading and grammar, but not listening or speaking. To pass their exams, they learn everything by rote. Western teachers in the government schools certainly have their work cut out for them!

Shortly after lunch, Hannah and Sam arrived from Hà Nội. Hannah has recently started an excellent job there, teaching in an International Pre-school, full time. Sam attends the school, so he is learning Vietnamese. They checked into a room here on the second floor, then came up to my room where we hung out for the afternoon. I really don't have much to interest a 2 year old, so my melamine plates and bowls came out... he was fascinated by the steel spring from my shaker. But most of Sam's attention focused on what food was available! Over the next 4 hours he ate and ate... 2 bananas, a cucumber, 2 hard-boiled duck eggs, half a frozen bread stick, numerous snack packs of biscuits and nearly a whole moon-cake!

Tuấn Anh came over with Tarzan (Hiệp) and it was lovely to see that Sam remembered him... after 9 months away...

Then Aunty Jutta arrived and he enjoyed some rough-and-tumble with her (in between snacks!...)

Check out his gorgeous curls!  I can understand why Hannah doesn't want to cut them off, but she has to put up with people constantly asking if he's a girl...

We went to Texas BarBQ for dinner and caused an uproar. As soon as we walked up towards the front door, the security guards recognised Sam and jumped up calling his name, one of them bolted inside and several waitresses came running out. Hannah couldn't even get the stroller through the door for all the people gathered around wanting to touch and talk to Sam. I'm sure the diners inside were wondering what all the fuss was about.... but Sam had been a regular at Texas BarBQ since he was only a few weeks old, so they had watched him grow. Last year when the Wednesday ladies were regulars here, Hannah would arrive, and immediately the waiters and waitresses would take Sam to play with him. He was quite calm about all the attention - remarkable, considering it's been so long since he was last here.

Hannah. Sam and Ngọc

Ngọc is an absolute sweetie. Not only did Sam recognise her and give her cuddles, she remembered our names and even knew what I was going to order!  By now, Hannah was very glad she had decided to return for a visit... after all, Hải Phòng was her home for over two years, so she is no stranger here.

Jutta joined us as we were finishing and then Tuấn Anh arrived with a couple of his mates on bikes to take us to Bia Hoi with a bunch of the Nam Phap students. (Hannah taught there for a while after I left last year, and Jutta also has a class every Friday)

As you can see, Sam loves riding motorbikes, and knows how to hold on tight!

Jutta, Tuấn Anh, Công, Trung, Mười, me, Hải, Hiếu, NguyênTuấn Anh, Manh, Thắng and Tran Anh. And that's the top of Xuân's head in the foreground...

Even though it was getting late and he hadn't had a nap all day, Sam was still going strong, still drawing a crowd... and still eating!!!

The party broke up around 9pm and Tuấn Anh and Công took Hannah and Sam back to the hotel. His friend had to carry the stroller under one arm on his bike... and it's a very heavy awkward load!  But a few of us went on to Karaoke and Tuấn Anh and Công joined us there.

New friends... Hải, Hiếu, and the other Tuấn Anh

I totally enjoy karaoke... and of course we had a great time. What a special evening!!

After such a huge Saturday, Hannah and Sam didn't wake up till around 8 so it was a leisurely start to the day. She had H-Tower on her list of places to go, so we walked there for breakfast. It was a gorgeous day - not too hot - and the terrace on the top floor was just beautiful.

Hannah ordered ham and eggs for Sam, but he preferred to noodles out of our phở ... he is growing up bi-ligual and prefers Vietnamese food, too.


This terrace wraps around three sides of the building, so you can get panoramic views of the city in every direction - quite spectacular. It gives you such a different perspective when you see familiar territory from a birds eye view. My hotel is to the right of that very tall building on the left, down by the river...

And this tree lined street is Văn Cao - I used to walk this street every day. I lived down a side lane at the far end.

Once again the waitresses recognised Sam and wanted to take photos with him

With nowhere special to go, Hannah and I stayed up there long after the breakfast crowd left. Sam kept himself occupied pottering around and we just enjoyed relaxing in such peaceful surroundings.  Jutta joined us eventually and we walked down to the Bún Chả corner fo our favourite lunch... more photos of people with Sam...

Walking back, I couldn't resist taking a photo of these power lines...

Originally, the plan was for Hannah to catch a bus back to Hà Nội in the early afternoon, but they opted for a nap instead and then stayed for as long as possible... in no hurry to leave after all. Here's Hannah enjoying the sunset on my balcony, looking very refreshed and relaxed

Tuyền came over to take me to dinner, so Hannah and Sam joined us for one last meal...cháo ngan... very delicious.

And finally they said farewell and caught the bus home... but I'm sure they will be back soon. I expect weekend visits back to Hải Phòng will be a regular occurrence now.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A busy Friday

Today began with a walk as usual. then Later in the morning Ba picked me up and we went out for coffee. We were joined by two of his friends - also navigators - Mickey and ...... All three are in between voyages. With the depressed economy, there is not a lot of work for seamen so they have to be patient.

It was very interesting to hear about their travels. They have been to so many different ports around the world.  Ba was docked in Australia for 15 days, but none of them were allowed to dis-embark. Too many seamen have jumped ship in the past, so the authorities weren't taking any chances!  They tell me it's easy for someone to disappear into Australian society and work for several years to make enough money to set themselves up back in Việt Nam. Then they just turn themselves in to immigration and get sent home - where they resume life, get married, raise a family etc.  It seems most people here know someone who either has done, or is doing just that.

......, Mickey and Ba.

After Ba brought me home, I had a great skype conversation with David and Andrew. Isagenix will be launched in Việt Nam next year and I have been telling all my friends about the products and the amazing business opportunity it represents. I see it as a way to help them become financially independent as well as live vibrant, healthy lives well into their hundreds... even 120 years old!  So I am inviting them to be part of my team so together we can build strong businesses helping others get healthy and wealthy too.  We were discussing the need to maintain momentum and pass on the skills needed to be successful in network marketing and David came up with the brilliant idea of me setting up my own facebook page, dedicated to building my Isagenix team here in Việt Nam!  I can use it to disseminate training videos, product information, stories, .... I can supply transcripts of the clips that are in English, and get my friends here to translate them into Vietnamese as well. The possibilities are endless!!  I now need to find out how it will work over here so I can take the next step in getting it up and running. I'll get it up started before I leave and hopefully, by the time Isagenix is launched here, we'll have a team of business builders ready to go.....   Exciting times!! 

Later in the afternoon, Trang and Trung Ho and their friend, Mi, came over with a gorgeous cake!!  They arrived later than expected, so our visit overlapped a meeting I had arranged with Giang, who was desperate for a relief teacher for Saturday morning. I had agreed to fill in tomorrow, so she brought the books and suggested lesson plans for 4 classes in the morning. I'll be teaching till 9:30 tonight, home around 10:30, so there won't be much time to go over the material... I'll just have to wing it.

After she left, we took photos of the cake before we ate some....

While all that was going on, a man delivered these beautiful flowers for Trang. She didn't say who they were from and it was all a bit intriguing. When Trung and Trang came in they gave me the cake and also put a bag of groceries on the table - soy milks and cartons of milk and some plastic containers. I thought that they were for me... a little unusual but there you go. After a while, Trung delicately explained that the little containers were actually Mi's, so I gave them back. It was only now, a week later, as I am writing up my blog that I've realised the bag of groceries was not intended for me at all!!  How embarassing!  Poor Mi must have been caught between a rock and a hard place!  I have now messaged Trung and hopefully he can sort it out and explain my mis-understanding and extend my apologies... sometimes the old girl is a bit slow!  We'll laugh about it one day.....

The cake was delicious, by the way!!!   LOL

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday ladies

Wednesday today... so I joined the ladies, but not at Texas BarBQ, this time we met at the Korean restaurant - Aryang. Maritha, Caroline and Jutta are the only ones left from last year and it was so good to join them again. The Korean ladies now in our group ordered the food and there was enough for about 20 people, I reckon, whole platefuls were untouched! .... the equivalent of a whole week's food budget gone on one lunch!
Barbara and her grandson, Youejung, Caroline, Maritha, me, Jutta, and Seaoqing with baby Naut

Halfway through our meal, I received a phone call from Khánh so say he had arrived safely in Germany and was at his Uncle's house. His first impression was that it was cold.... hmmm.... he ain't seen nothin' yet!  It's not even close to winter!!  LOL

I walked home past my old house and dropped in to say hello to Bich. It's pretty funny, since she speaks zero English and my Vietnamese is appalling, but we get by!  This little 2 year old is someone else's grandson... cute, eh?

During the afternoon, Hùng came over and we started working our way through his TOEIC text book. After that I had two classes at VAIE, which is always enjoyable. By the time I walked home I'd had a pretty full day!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chua Cao Linh

Early this morning I had a call from Khánh from Hà Nội airport ... off on his grand adventure.  He'll be away for a long time, but it will be amazing.

Tuấn Anh came over in the afternoon and took me for a ride to see the largest Pagoda in Hải Phòng - Chùa Cao Linh, Bắc Sơn, An Dương.  It's about an hour's ride out into the countryside... I love the rice paddies and little villages along the way - so very picturesque.

Chùa Cao Linh was built by the Chinese seven years ago, on the site of an ancient pagoda that was several hundred years old. It covers several acres and is a very ornate complex of buildings, pavillions and gardens. The style and decorations are Chinese.

Inside the gates, everything is clean and immaculate. There were only a handful of people there, looking around like us, and a few nuns stationed at the doors of the various buildings.

Tuấn Anh is a charming host. I asked lots of questions and when he didn't know the answers he asked the next nun we saw...
There was a very long mural wall of posters depicting the most hideously explicit drawings of people being tortured in hell - with explanations of what sins they had committed while on earth to deserve such horrors (in Vietnamese, of course). It was disturbingly gruesome. Somebody has thought of / imagined / 'seen' all those gross acts of torture in order to have drawn them... demons and all. There were five panels for each of the seven (I think) levels of hell. Only the last panel depicted those lucky enough to get reincarnated............ I definitely prefer the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!

Inside the various temples everything was covered in elaborate decorations, with colourful statues - a feast for the eyes.

Can you see the two kites in this photo?  We saw many kites in the sky in the surrounding countryside. They were quite huge - at least a couple of metres long, controlled by just one line.  Although we saw many kites flying, I didn't spot anyone actually controlling them on the ground. If they were boys, they must have been very strong to hold them.

We had a delightful afternoon and I was surprised how fast the time went by. We returned home by a more direct route and it was much quicker. Tuấn Anh lives at Đồ Sơn, so he still had another long ride to get home.  

I spent the evening on skype with Katie. She is in the final stages of completing the last assignments for second year Uni and has been putting in very long hours and late nights to get it all done to her exacting standards. I help where I can.