Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pay day

I heard we're supposed to get paid today or tomorrow. Wonder how much it's going to be this time?! By the way, the school paid us 100,000VND for attending that Grand Opening Ceremony. Sometimes, we would get 20,000VND for attending a smaller meeting.

Vietnamese marketing ingenuity

We didn't pay attention and bought the "168" lemon tea instead of the "100" lemon tea. There was a big difference in the taste. Now we know.

Giò Bò

I was talking to this one girl in the class and found out that her dad makes giò bò (it's kinda like beef meatloaf wrapped inside banana leaf) and her mom sells them at the market for a living. So I decided to order half a kilo to try, since it's kinda hard to find beef in this little town. It was nice to be able to put in a custom order, where I asked him not to put any MSG, too much pork fat, and too much salt in it. She brought it in last Friday, and I tried it yesterday in a sandwich. It was very good! Now, it would be very nice if I can get to know all the other students so I can get vegetables, fruits, rice, bread, .... from them, then I wouldn't ever need to go to the market.

biking home

Last Friday afternoon, 5 girls stopped by to say hi and to turn in their homework. They came into my "office" and we chatted for a little bit. It was nice to be able to speak more one-on-one with the students outside of class. It was also nice to hear them speak English since most of these girls are very quiet in class. I've been encouraging all of them to stop by at least once a week to get some listening and speaking practice.
These 5 girls came from the same hometown, some small farm town about 20km away. They were on their way home for the weekend. I thought they were taking the bus, but they said they were biking home. I asked how long it would take them, and they said 2 hours! 2 hours of biking in the hot VN afternoon sun! They said they couldn't take the bus because they get motion sickness. And I remember seeing buses giving out small plastic bags to passengers, so apparently a lot of people here can't handle the bus very well.
The parents of a lot of these kids are farmers. They must be very proud to have a kid in college.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mr. Dao is bald...

One of the assignments I gave the students last week was to describe one of their *former* teachers. I was going through their papers, and I realized I had forgotten to explain to them the word "former." One of the students wrote the following:
Mr. Dao is one of my foreign teachers in Hai Phong University. He teaches me speaking and listening English. The first time I saw him, he made me impressed Because he didn't look like a foreigner. And in fact, he's a Vietnamese, and his nationality is American.
Mr. Dao is bald. He has a tall nose, nice smile. He wears plainly. He told us he's 41 years old. But I think he looks younger. He's very enthusiastic; humorous. He's always willing to help us. Fortunately, he knows Vietnamese. So we can ask what we don't know in Vietnamese. He's always smiles. It makes him more sociable.
I am wondering what grade I should give her...

"Lễ Khai Giảng"

A month into the term, the school just held its formal Opening Ceremony, with the presence of some of the big officials and party members from the city of Hai Phong. Again, as foreign teachers, we were "extended the invitations," and we got to sit right behind the rows reserved for all the dignitaries. There were speeches, music, performances, and awards. Among other things, the rector of the school was officially honored with the title "Anh Hùng Lao Động," so now he has quite an impressive title in front of his name: "Nhà Giáo Nhân Dân Giáo Sư Thạc Sĩ Anh Hùng Lao Động Vương Toàn Thuyên." In English, it may mean "Educator of the People Professor Doctorate Labor Hero ..." (someone please correct me).
I recognized some of the music because I remember hearing them some 30 years ago.
One of my classes were also invited. They sat in the back, and one of the students exchanged some text messages with me asking me what I thought of the whole thing. It was interesting to hear what she thought of it.

Discovery Group

This small group of young people are not from our school but they love to come every week to study with us. They are so eager, taking in every word that comes out of the teacher's mouth.

Our Heroic Pest Control Rookie

We share our habitat with many little critters. The past couple of weeks, the moth population has greatly multiplied and they've been feasting on our shirts. The moth balls didn't deter them. But fear not. Besides the electrical zapper gadget that we just bought, we also have help from our pest control geckos. They work for free, and all we have to do is just to clean up their droppings when we see them. Yesterday, a small gecko was found dead on the floor with a big moth half way in his mouth. What a heroic sacrifice!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mr. Andy

Most students in my classes call me "Mr. Andy". I am actually older than some of their dads. The other dads are either my age or just a couple of years older. So, potentially, the students could just call me Dad or Uncle Andy.
Someone asked how Grace felt about me being "surrounded all day with female students". She said she felt sorry for the students! I don't know how I should take that.

Andy packing Caleb

On Ruth's bike...

In Vietnam, helmets are required for motorbikers only. I think pedestrians should be required to wear them too!

Caleb's schedule

Here's what Caleb's homeschooling schedule looks like...

Not mangoes and pomelos

We discovered that though mangoes and pomelos are not the fruits of the North we can still find gems for the taste buds: Andy's favorite guava with chili salt and my new favorite fruit the pomegranate which is extremely juicy and sweet!

My favorite tool

It has been so useful both inside and out!

Our living quarter

Some have asked about how I am doing since Andy is the one posting most of the time! Much praise I am settling in well. Just busy tidying up the place, learning the new culture and my way around, cooking, homeschooling Caleb etc.

Here are a few pictures of our living quarter for those who are interested. Each teacher is given a room, and the ELIC team gets a common room, so we have the privilege of using that common room as well.

The front portion of the common room is a "library" for our students' use. The back portion is our dining area and team library. The university has yet to replace that desk with a round table for us. The back room is the "kitchen" with a counter-top gas stove, and I do dishes in the "bathroom" using the red basins and green dish rack. Notice the green bottle above the sink, it is for washing our fruits and veggies!

The other room has the same basic layout. Caleb and I share the desk on the right. And the washer in the back is the best piece of appliance the school provides. It has 10 different water levels and many programs to choose from! Very high-tech.

We are grateful previous teachers have left behind furniture such as shelves and dressers and kitchen utensils for our use!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Random Updates

Caleb has become good friends with our teammate Manny's Vietnamese tutor. She lives in the dorm building next to ours and comes each week to play with him. She's taken him for walks and even to take these fancy studio pictures across from the university that are very popular with young people here.

As for me, I've tried to bake for the first time with ingredients obtained here in Haiphong. I didn't have all the measuring spoons, and also decided to use Milo powder in place of cocoa powder which I have yet to get. Here's a picture of my first half batch of Milo Bars (brownies) which I shared with some friends who came to study.

For Caleb's math, we didn't purchase the balance that is used in his Saxon math lessons thinking that we may be able to find one here. But since we have yet to see one, Caleb made a temporary one with his K'nex instead.

Friday, October 3, 2008

2 interesting events last week

Last week we were invited to 2 interesting events.
The first was a celebration of China Independence Day 10/1 by the Chinese students on campus. There are about 500 students from China coming here to study Vietnamese. Most of them live in our same dorm building. We met a few of them who happen to be next door to us. They have actually come into our room to play with Caleb a few times. You can see them in the picture here with Caleb, on the night of their performance. These girls have been rehearsing in front of our building the past couple of weeks, so they invited us to come see them perform. (Can you guess how we communicate with these students? They know little bit of Vietnamese and English. We know little bit of Vietnamese and Chinese. So we try all three languages in every conversation, and the words somehow get across one way or another. It's painful, but fun.)
The second event was some sort of a "Miss/Mr Haiphong U", where we got to see 19 girls and one boy from the Foreign Languages Dept walk on the stage in their nice outfits and also show off their talents. It was quite an interesting experience. The winners from this dept will get to compete in the all school pageant in two weeks. One of the 19 girls happens to be in one of my classes, and she came in 2nd place. We didn't get to see her perform her number because we left early (we were seated in the 1st row right in front of the huge speakers). I also forgot to bring a camera. I congratulated her in class this morning, but I am wondering if she knew what "congratulations" meant.
The auditorium where these two events took place is actually right in front of our building, so it was very convenient. We can't remember the last time when we only had to walk a few steps to attend an event. Some of the perks we "get to enjoy" being foreign teachers...

My new lesson prop

More pictures of our gated community