Settling in

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The school is gearing up for a BIG Halloween celebration. Notice that there is KFC (the words just before it are Ga ran, fried chicken) on the menu--I asked my students about it and the LOVE Kentucky Fried Chicken, called Kentucky Chicken for short.
The school is gearing up for a BIG Halloween celebration. Notice that there is KFC (the words just before it are Ga ran, fried chicken) on the menu–I asked my students about it and they LOVE Kentucky Fried Chicken, called Kentucky Chicken for short.

Oct 23, 2014

I try to start Off each class with a positive quote. It’s a simple warm up which helps get the students thinking and talking in English. It also makes them think outside the box. But the quote I used yesterday simply didn’t work:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

― Abraham Lincoln

I asked three students what they thought it meant, and got blank stares. So I started asking questions. Did they know who Lincoln was? Yes, he was an American president (though they seemed to think he was a recent one). Did they know what a thorn was? A bush? No. So I Googled photos of thorn bushes to show them. But they still didn’t understand. Turns out they didn’t know the word for rose. They had seen the flower, mostly on TV, but I had to explain that roses have thorns. They don’t grow here, so none of them knew that. It turned out to be more of a lesson for the teacher than the students!

The rain seems to fall the heaviest JUST as I need to leave for work. And on a scooter, that’s a problem. I decided to wait out the storm and was a bit later than usual getting in. But everyone did the same. That’s how the combination of monsoon and scooters goes!

Oct 22, 2014

I have begun a simple, daily routine now. I get up around 6 or 7am, when the temperature is still cool. I stretch and have a large glass of water. Dehydration is a real issue here since it is hot all the time. Best to start off hydrated. Then I have some yogurt (sua chua) and coffee while I organize my backpack for the morning.

I’m out of the house in less than an hour, walking (for exercise) to a street side café (quan) for breakfast. I can get Com Tam (literally, broken rice) for 15,000-25,000vnd and it’s served with about 2 ounces of grilled pork, a fried egg, a small salad of cucumbers/tomato/onions and iced tea. That’s only about a dollar and cheaper than I can buy the ingredients. Plus it’s very fresh food. I study my Vietnamese while eating.

This is the "kitchen" of the small breakfast place I go to once a week or so. The man is sitting at a small fire where he grills slices of lean pork. The large aluminum pot holds rice. Eggs are cooked on a simple hot plate. The floor is dirt and there are long communal tables or small (child sized) plastic tables.
This is the “kitchen” of the small breakfast place I go to once a week or so. The man is sitting at a small fire where he grills slices of lean pork. The large aluminum pot holds rice. Eggs are cooked on a simple hot plate. The floor is part dirt, part concrete and there are long communal tables or small (child sized) plastic tables.
This is Com Tam (broken rice), a common breakfast on the streets here. Under the grilled pork and egg is a small salad of cucumber, cilantro, onion, and tomato. Everything is topped with nouc cham (literally "fish water") a dipping sauce of fish sauce, lime, sugar, water and spices. Very tasty and cheap.
This is Com Tam (broken rice), a common breakfast on the streets here. Under the grilled pork and egg is a small salad of cucumber, cilantro, onion and tomato. Everything is topped with nouc cham (literally “fish water”) a dipping sauce of fish sauce, lime, sugar, water and spices. Very tasty and cheap.
This is the restaurant (quan) where I had Com Tam. I shared a long table with these nice people. Everyone is very helpful, making sure you have a glass from the communal iced tea pitcher or napkins from the one dispenser.
This is the restaurant (quan) where I had Com Tam. I shared a long table with these nice people. Everyone is very helpful, making sure you have a glass from the communal iced tea pitcher or napkins from the one dispenser.

Next I do any shopping I need. I don’t keep much in the kitchen, but always have fresh fruit, yogurt, instant noodles, dumplings, tea, coffee, and peanut butter. All of these are easy to get nearby, except the peanut butter. Today I bought candy for my students. If they are very good, I toss a piece of candy to them. It gets students to volunteer to talk faster than anything else I’ve tried.

Lucky Viet turned out to be two floors of shoes. Ladies, you would love this place. Seems that women in Vietnam also want lots of fancy footwear! A shopgirl, who spoke no English, followed me around through the entire store, trying desperately to get me to try something on.
Lucky Viet turned out to be two floors of shoes. Ladies, you would love this place! Seems that women in Vietnam also want lots of fancy footwear! A shopgirl, who spoke no English, followed me around through the entire store, trying desperately to get me to try something on. As if they have anything to fit my large feet!

Then I go to a coffee shop and do my lesson plans and read while I drink ca phe sua da (coffee with milk and ice). If I get hungry, I’ll eat there or I might pick up a banh mi (sandwich made on a French baguette) or banh bao (steamed, filled bun) to take home for later. Each are about 15,000vnd when purchased on the street. I’m back to the apartment around noon, which is about the time Robert gets up.

This is the latest coffee shop I've tried. The rumor is that it's owned by the son of the local mafia head. At night the music is VERY loud with a hard driving beat. I'm glad I don't live that close to it.
This is the latest coffee shop I’ve tried. The rumor is that it’s owned by the son of the local mafia head. At night the music is VERY loud with a hard driving beat. I’m glad I don’t live that close to it.
Interior of Café Boo Boo. During the day, it's a family oriented café, almost completely with outdoor seating.
Interior of Café Boo Boo. During the day, it’s a family oriented café, almost completely with outdoor seating.
There is even a small play area for children. Not sure how these are used at night.
There is even a small play area for children. Not sure how these are used at night.
Not sure what this was that I ordered. They didn't have the first two dishes I requested, so I pantomimed asking "what DO you have?" And I got this, which was tasty and healthy. Wheat noodles (mien) with beef (bo) and veggies, all in a tasty sauce.
Not sure what this was that I ordered. They didn’t have the first two dishes I requested, so I pantomimed asking “what DO you have?” So three waiters pointed at a very poor photo, while assuring me I would like it. And I got this, which was tasty and healthy. Wheat noodles (mien) with beef (bo) and veggies, all in a tasty sauce.

I do what I want in the afternoon, but today it is quite hot. It’s already 33C (91F), so I’m not likely to move around too much. If I do get out, I go on the scooter. If I was up late, I might take a nap after lunch, during the heat of the day, or just retreat to my air conditioned room to read. If I have two classes to teach in the evening, I try to be at school by 4:30p for my 6p class.

This routine seems pretty boring, but it allows me to try different restaurants and coffee houses, learn and sample new foods, and practice my (very) basic Vietnamese speaking skills.

This is probably a fighting cock. He was very beautiful. This photo does not do him justice.
This is probably a fighting cock. He was very beautiful. This photo does not do him justice.

Oct 21, 2014

I’m settling in, feeling less anxious. The routine of teaching is beginning to take hold and I’m better able to understand what’s needed to prepare and teach classes. I find I do better with Boost classes, later ODI classes. I loved the IELDS group and would teach them anytime. But I’m not doing so well with new adult learners or the very, very young. I have to do a better job with these groups. Slow down, focus, and figure out their level. Today Marcus gave me some good feedback on the class that was videotaped last week. He offered some excellent suggestions, ideas for improvement and additional options for how to accomplish tasks.

I find I have lots of new injuries, mostly below my knees. The bed has low, sharp edges which I run into, particularly at night. I have half a dozen bruises. Ouch. I also have a small scrape on my left forearm. Going up the concrete ramp to the second floor parking deck on the scooter, I scraped it on the wall. Getting better…..

Condensation on glassware is such a problem here! It’s due to the combination of high temperature and humidity. I’ve taken to saving the lids from instant coffee and peanut butter. I put my drinking glasses in the lids to catch the water. Many of the cafes do the same and I notice that outdoor cafes will pour the excess water directly on the ground (if the floor is dirt) or into a floor drain (if it’s tile or concrete).

Turns out the thing I hate most about my new home is the plumbing. This is a very new building, but the plumbing is substandard. I never put any paper down the toilet, but I still have to spend time coaxing it almost every day. I’d gone three days in a row without an issue and thought I had it cleared, but today I had five separate rounds with the plunger. Nothing seemed to help. Then when I came home from class, it was working just fine. But now my bathroom sink is running slow. They’ve never heard of Liquid Plumber here, but perhaps I can find something like caustic lye? Can’t even find baking soda to combine with vinegar to clear the sink. (They don’t bake much here.) I’ve tried pouring boiling water down the drain. Not sure it helps, because I doubt this is actually a clog. It’s more likely that the system simply is laid out poorly—inadequate pipe diameter, sections where the water has to rise rather than fall.

Good news! I may be getting my own class. The World English 3, Firefly group, has been taught by Marcus, who is from the UK. Possibly he just needs to free himself up from some classes, but he’s suggested that I take the class permanently. Whatever the reason, I told him I would, but I’ve not gotten confirmation. I’ve taught the group twice. Once the class was videotaped, so Marcus has seen me with them. It’s a wonderful group of young adults. Three of the men have a good enough grasp of English to crack jokes. Frankly, I do better with a more advanced group. I can work on pronunciation, idioms, and cultural differences. I can expand their vocabulary, too, though sometimes inadvertently. I used the word “sloppy” to describe something and they’d never heard it before. I defined the word and gave some examples. Later, we were doing a short listening exercise on how words like “Did you” become “Didja” when they are spoken. The class asked asked for more examples and I came up with a few, including “ya’ll.” This one was completely new to them (having had a teacher from London, not Atlanta) so I explained it and even did a Southern accent. At the end of class, Marcus came to check on us, using some slang greeting. One of the young men mimicked my southern drawl and told Marcus, “Ya’ll are just bein’ sloppy with your speech!” We both fell out laughing. Hey, at least they are paying attention!

The other big success tonight was the Random Name Generator. There are several on the web and all you have to do is add a list of names to it. The generator will digitally spin a dial or wheel and select a student’s name at random, along with sound effects. This way when you want a volunteer, you really pick someone at random, and the students don’t feel “picked on.” The kids loved it, even the adults were facinated. This is the one I’m using.

Grand opening for a new night club near my apartment.
Grand opening for a new night club near my apartment.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

5 thoughts on “Settling in”

  1. YES YES YES ~ u r rockin’ it B!!!!!!! I’m hungry for your brekky. I’m in Northern VA helping my mom, who was hospitalized. Larry’s will wait for a bit. This area is rife with ethnic groceries & restaurants so I’m busy buying peanut sauce and mango pickle to go with my take out kabobs and rice noodles.
    Love hearing about your adventures. Best always, Tie

    1. Glad you can be there for you mom and that you are enjoying some exciting food along the way. Say hi to Larry and give him a hug for me.

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