Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happenings over the past few weeks.

I apologize for the long absence, believe it or not I have been quite busy over the past few weeks (despite what gets posted to Facebook) I am in the classrooms, observing but also teaching. I am giving presentations on American culture, history, customs, and anything else people may be interested in. So just a few highlights....
1. A few weeks ago I was asked to be a judge for the English Olympics. An academic decathlon sort of competition where participants were judged on their English abilities in various forums (general knowledge, impromptu speaking, prepared speech) yours truly was a sort of celebrity judge since it's not often that native English speakers are present and I was asked to prepare the questions that were used for the impromptu Q and A round.
2. At the competition I became acquainted with Mr Hieu, one of the organizers who promptly invited me to the wedding of one of his co workers (this is a common practice and it is expected that your guests will bring guests of their own). So I was fortunate enough to experience a Vietnamese wedding the next day. By comparison American weddings are down right boring (sorry Italians who think Italian weddings are crazy), i cannot completely describe here what it was all like but I will say there were fireworks present. Indoors. 
3. The same week I visited U minh thương National Park. It was quite fascinating and beautiful to explore on these tiny motor boats and to see some of the indigenous wildlife.
4. Then came the trip to Phu Quoc Island. A tropical paradise in the middle of the Bay of Thailand. The island was absolutely stunning. I did get a small taste of what awaited me back home though. All this time in Rạch Gia I have stood out and I have become accustomed to the stares and curious questions. The first thing I noticed on Phu Quoc was nobody stared, people really weren't interested in me (shocker I know) as I looked around I realized that I wasn't the only foreigner around. The island was full of tourists. Many of them westerners so I was definitely not a curiosity, just another potential customer. I did have the privelege of getting to know an Australian, a man and a woman from Slovakia, two ladies from Italy, a couple from France, and two British couples. All lived in Asia and had come to Phu Quoc "on holiday" (gotta love British English). 
5. During this time I did become sick (don't worry I'm fine) and I got an up close look at the Vietnamese medical system. Rest assured that my hosts took VERY good care of me during this time and I walked away with some rather interesting souvenirs (not everyone gets a copy of their bloodwork IN Vietnamese, right?) but I was out of commission for several days.
6. As far as teaching goes  I have been in a classroom almost everyday this week. They've also started allowing me to teach alone. I'm not sure who's more afraid, me or the students but needless to say it has been a learning experience for all of us.
7. Ok last thing. This week in addition to teaching alone I've decided to be more adventurous in my experiences so I finally decided to go out to eat, alone. Yes I've been doing it already but that's been on KGCC campus. The kitchen staff knows me and will slowly tell me my choices or will just bring something out to me (and hope I like it). I've been out to restaurants but always in the company of someone who would quickly translate my poor Vietnamese pronunciation for the poor waitstaff. One day I decided to go on my own, order on my own, pay on my own. I walked to a place about a quarter mile from campus and sat down. I wish I could describe the sheer look of terror on the faces of the two servers who had no idea what to do with a foreigner sitting in their restaurant. One approached and with a hesitant voice said "hello". I said hello and after a few seconds of silence I asked for "cơm tạm" (a rice dish with pork and egg). I didn't understand every word but I understood they had none left. So then I asked for "bùn ca" (fish pho basically) which they quickly brought out with an obvious sense of relief. After finishing I asked for the check, ( I understand numbers ) paid and left. Feeling confident I ventured out later that day for some banh đã and nước mía (rice paper and sugar cane juice, there's a picture on Facebook). 

So that's it, a busy couple of weeks which will only get busier but it's great and I'm learning so much and doing more than I thought I could. 

Tam Biết (goodbye) until next time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This week in Rạch Giá.

It's been a busy week, one filled with observations, presentations, and of course teaching. It's been interesting to be able to sit and watch both the differences and similarities in language teaching and I will definitely write about my observations. For now I just want to list a few things I've learned/ observed during my time here:
1. Sidewalks are not meant for walking, sidewalks are for parking your motorbike. 
I've been out for a few walks on my own and my instinct to walk on sidewalks was quickly changed because they are few and far between but the ones that are there are usually crowded with parked motorbikes. 
2. Never, never, never apply Deet immediately after shaving. It hurts. Trust me.
3. Speaking of Deet, there needs to be an addition to Murphy's Law that says the day you forget to apply Deet is the day you will be bitten by three Mosquitos. 
4. Speaking of Mosquitos, sleeping under a mosquito net is an experience all should have. It has taught me to be thorough in completing tasks because once I'm under the net it's too much trouble to crawl out and back in again. Forgot to turn off the light? Tough, I'm not leaving the net.
5. To quote Maimun Khan: "There is nothing else on the planet like fresh green coconut water" 
6. Except maybe ground up sugarcane juice. I can't decide which is better. 
7. Vietnamese coffee. Enough said. 
8. I need more junk in my trunk. 
Last weekend I was taken to the countryside again, this time to a place called Hòn Đẩt (I'll share my experiences there in another post). The trip took about 2 hrs (once again via motorbike) over less-than-ideal roads. At the end of the day I was very sore, I'm certain had I had more padding "back there" it would have been more comfortable. 

Me at Hòn Đẩt