Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Adventures in Vietnam

December 1, 2009

— Written by a Teacher in Vietnam —

Aside from having four people throwing up all around me on the bus to and from fellowship yesterday, my month has started off well. I have started a new class, ridden on the back of a motorbike (which was a long time due) and I have received an encouraging email from a student.

Although I still deeply miss my level 9 class, my new level 6 class definitely has potential to take away my sadness. I don’t know if they could ever replace them because each class has it’s unique personality but these new students are very sweet, quiet, but sweet. I don’t know if they don’t understand my instruction sometimes but they have the “stare at your book when a teacher asks a question”, down pat. And I hated when my teachers did this but I have resorted to calling out names. Turns out…they usually know the answer or can read the passage well! They just need some confidence instilled in them and that is my plan for these next few months. Please lift me up. I know with His help I can transform this class and get them out of their quiet bubbles.

Sorry mom and dad, I know you don’t like the motorbikes but really it was the only option. On Wednesday Carolyn and I discovered one of our staff members was a soccer coach and that he had a game the following day. After sending our friend Andrea to the airport, we came back to the apartment and planned to head out the door when we were stopped by a foreign woman in or building who wanted to do laundry….unfortunately we don’t have a quick cycle. To make up for lost time Carolyn and I hopped on motorbikes and headed towards the stadium. Luckily for me, I was the first to arrive at the random stadium, in a random district, without cell minutes. Fortunately, Carolyn called me 15 minutes later and she had been dropped off right up the street from me! She had met up with a girl from or school who had invited us to coffee with the team. After coffee, which had been the pre-party, we all took a ride into our district to get lunch. As we were leaving the coffee shop, I figured I would ride with the girl who I rode there with….now I have to admit, she wasn’t the most confident driver but I trusted that she could get us there. I don’t know if she felt this way too or if she was trying to set me up with a guy from the team, but I ended up riding on the back of a random guy’s motorbike. Whenever we would pull up to another teammate they would always look at me, say something and laugh. I really wish I knew Vietnamese to know if I had just made him the most popular guy on the team or the joke.

When we got to lunch the real celebration began and beer flowed around us everywhere. Assuming that we are like every other American, they poured us half a beer and stuck it in front of us. One girl saw that I wasn’t drinking mine and ordered me another drink. Being the only foreigners and blond foreigners at that, we are constantly reminded that people are always watching us. Showing them that multiple bottles of Sting (a syrupy caffeinated drink) and half a beer was sufficient proves that we are not like the Americans they see on TV. They, on the other hand, consumed more beer than I have ever seen in my life.

The next day was Teacher’s Day! A day that we had heard about, at least a month before. This day is not like Teacher Appreciation week in the states. Yes students bring in presents for their teachers but instead of the school putting a potluck together, all of VATC put a production together. Night classes were canceled so teachers could attend the celebration in District 1. I was a little surprised by the whole night. They had singers and dancers which were fun but everything was in Vietnamese! Yes, I know what country I am in but I assumed that at least some of it would be in English since they were celebrating the teachers working at Vietnamese AMERICAN Training College where we teach the students to speak English. It sounds like I am bitter and I am really not. It was a nice event, it was just tough to follow. Luckily Carolyn had the bright idea to ditch out cushioned teacher’s seats to sit back with the rest of our staff. This made it more entertaining and easier to follow since one of the guys was translating everything for me.

The pink is made up of greeting cards “from our students”. Some students must have written a lot because out of two they were supposed to write, my students maybe filled out one.

Teacher’s Day for me didn’t come with presents from the students but I did get a ceremony and a nice letter from one of my students. Remember how I gave out my email address to my precious level 9 class? Well one of my students had taken down my email and written me a sweet note for Teacher’s Day. She also sent me her blog link that she has written in English! I was so excited to read it but as I was reading it began to tear me up. This girl is such a beautiful and kind girl who always had a sweet smile. I just figured she was a quiet but happy girl. Her blog however, showed that she was having a tough time in high school with friends. If her blog didn’t make me cry then her response to my email definitely did. I wanted to let her know I took the time to read her blog so I wrote to her, trying to send her some encouragement. When she wrote back she told me that I was unlike any teacher she had had before. She said that usually teachers keep their distance from students but that I was different, that I was “special”. As I write it now I am starting to cry. That is why we are here. To show everyone we are different because of the transformation He has made in us.

Days before I had received this email I had cried out to Him, asking Him to change hearts and to open my eyes to His will. If her email doesn’t confirm why I am over here, I don’t know what will. Right now we are writing to each other every day but hopefully that can turn into hanging to as well. Please lift our relationship up. All I want her to see is Him working in me!

The weekend ended with fellowship and an amazing Thanksgiving lunch!


A Day of Service

December 1, 2009

— Written by a Teacher in Vietnam —

Villagers Waiting For Instructions
Today we were invited help some friends who work with Orphan Voice ( to distribute goods to an area that was hard hit by the recent typhoon. They delivered two truckloads of rice, noodles and blankets to the Quang Ngai District- about 105 Kilometers south of Da Nang.

Getting ready and unloading the trucks.
We started at 6:00am this morning to load 2-tons of rice along with with many many boxes of noodles and blankets. There were many helping hands, so the loading when pretty fast. Around 7:00am, began our three hour van drive to the distribution location.
This woman was so sweet.  She just came up and held Kristen’s hand.
A few weeks ago, Orphan Voice sent a few people down to the area to work with the peoples committee and the local government to develop a criteria for who would receive assistance. Tickets were then distributed to the people in need that would allow them to come and receive a gift on the distribution date. Each household received a 10kg bag of rice, 2 bottles of fish sauce, two blankets, a mosquito net and a box of noodles.
This is what much of the drive looked like.

We arrived at the distribution location in a very rural part of the country. The people were already gathered and waiting. The donations were intended to be a short term response to the damage that the typhoon cause to their village. There was major flooding that destroyed many crops and it will be another 4-months or so before they can begin harvesting again. Also, many of their homes were flooded and all of their belongings washed away.

We were greeted with many different faces. Some looked inquisitive, some sad, some confused, some smiled and some just watched from a distance. All of them were beautiful. A few elderly ladies just walked up and held our hands. Their faces looked so gentle yet so worn.
The children came to see what all the excitement was about.
The distribution process began. Tickets were collected and people received their items. All went quite smoothly. A couple of children discovered the empty boxes from the fish sauce and began collecting them to play with. Every looked pretty happy. We wished we were able to talk with the people.
Boxes make great toys!
It was hard going into an area like that just for a short period of time and delivering goods. It is difficult for me to make sense of the imbalances in the world. They hardly have any belongings or enough food to satisfy their stomachs, yet I am able to write this letter on my computer and in just a few minutes we will meet some friends for dinner where we will be able to eat whatever we want.
I think it made me want to give more of myself. It is great to give a gift – and the people there definitely needed the items they received, but I just longed for a relationship to go along with the giving. Sometimes I think I am afraid that they will only see us as rich, gift-bearing, westerners.  But, I guess there is only so much you can do.  I was thankful for the opportunity to help out.
During the distribution, this lady put the little boy inside of a box.  It was cute.

If all the Rain Drops…

October 21, 2008

— Written by a Teacher in Vietnam —

Today has been a lazy day. It’s a quarter past noon and I’m still in my pj’s. (a first for this year) It appears that rainy season has arrived and with the onset, an initial sense of demotivation. Thus Erin and I are trying to motivate ourselves to get out of the house. You see, during rainy season, life still happens and the sooner you get out of the house in the rain the sooner you’ll gain renewed motivation.

Rainy season is a time of year when naive foreigners can learn a LOT. For example, a poncho that costs 5,000vnd (30 cents) is probably worth about, 30 cents when it comes to staying dry. Taxis, buses, and motorbikes somehow are all capable of doubling as jet skis in the rain, and one should always think twice about riding a bicycle in a terenchal down pour.

Some things that I am truly coming to love about rainy season are as follows. I have more time to cook/bake b/c I’m home more. Fried bananas are ONLY sold during rainy season & I LOVE fried bananas! The relentless shouts of nationals when they see me walking or biking in the rain “Mua, Mua”(it’s raining, it’s raining) Really? Is it? Thunder storms, it’s relaxing to just lay on my bed and listen to the storm. Sometimes, if I’m real adventurous I’ll go to the bay to watch the lightening

For the past 2 years the beginning of rainy season has always come with demotivational feelings and even slight discouragement. But you know, yesterday, as I was walking home from my canceled class, I really wanted to just twirl in the rain & burst into song “If all the rain drops were lemon drops and gum drops Oh what a rain that would be standing outside with my mouth open wide…” Don’t worry, I refrained from bursting into song as I didn’t want people to think I had totally lost my mind.

I guess all that to say that, you know, rainy season is a challenge at first, but once you realize that it’s just part of life here then you can go on about your daily business & the only consideration of the rain happens when you put on your poncho to leave the house. You could even surprise yourself and, heaven forbid, come to enjoy the rain.