Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mangoes and Pomelos

We have wanted to have a picture of both mangoes and pomelos together for a long time, and today (written last week) we happened to have both. So, here’s an artistic arrangement of the two fruits in picture.

Evening with some students

This post was written last week, but I didn't have a chance to post it. Please keep that in mind as you read...

On Tuesday, we had some students over for dinner. Since our teammate Ruth gave us a homemade pizza, so we served it, and they got to eat pizza for the very first time! After dinner, they had a blast playing Jenga, also for the first time. The loser had to sing solo, so I could not afford to lose. They laughed and screamed as they played. Ruth and Manny also joined us, so it was really exciting. At one point, we got up to 30 levels high. We ended up playing 3 games, and the same person lost all three times. Kim Anh sang “Long Me” quite well!!!!!

Packing Up and Provision

This post was written last week while we were packing, but I didn't get a chance to post. So please read it keeping that in mind...

The past few days had us packing and cleaning, getting ready to leave for the summer. Since there’s high probability that we will be teaching at a different school next year, we had to pack all the things that will stay in VN for next year and had to ship them somehow to the new location. Dealing with the “moving company” the past few days reminded me once again where I am.

On the other hand, during all this frustration, we also experienced the hands of providence. We had to pack all of Caleb’s books and toys and feared that he would not have anything to play with for the coming week. However, on the day our stuff was picked up, the school took us out for lunch and gave each of us a little end-of-the-year gift. Caleb received a set of Vietnamese Lego blocks, and that kept him occupied that whole afternoon. Our little ELIC library here also has a couple of children’s books that Caleb has found very interesting.

In all this, I had to learn to trust and expect to receive only things from the hands of providence and not from my own hands. This is too hard…and maybe that’s why I had to be here!?

Triết ơi là triết!

Học một tiết triết rồi mới biết
Biết là có nhiều cái mình không biết
Mà cũng không cần thiết.
Viết đại thầy cũng không biết.
Đó là triết.

Mấy em thi triết sao rồi? Trượt hết chưa?

Another World Another Life

We're just one hour and a half north of HP now, but we're in a totally different world! Although still in Asia, it feels like the west. Streets are filled with only cars and buses, not a single bicycle or motorbike. Modern shops and malls and restaurants everywhere. I fit in very well here among the many western tourists. No more stares from the locals--in fact, it's hard to tell who is local and who is not. I went into a supermarket yesterday, after spending a couple of hours in the library, to look for a razor that runs on 220V, getting ready for the next school year in Vietnam. The young Chinese store clerk was able to speak very decent English and answered all my questions. She was impressive!
At lunch we went into a small eatery that specialized in pot stickers. They were delicious. For dinner, we went to a nice restaurant and had a lot of different good dishes. So, the whole day was filled with eating and shopping--very different from a typical day in Vietnam. We're living another life here. No more students coming around, no more preparing for lessons, no more teaching, no more grading...
This morning after church, we had dimsum lunch with a family who supports us financially. They asked us about our past year in Vietnam, and we were able to tell them a few things about Vietnam that they hadn't heard before. I also brought my laptop and showed them some pictures of the students that we got to know. One of the sons asked if we drove a car and ate dimsum in VN. We told him that we rode a bike and there were no dim-sum food where we lived. The father, who is a retired electrical engineering professor, was surprised to find out I used to be an electrical engineer and asked why I changed profession. I told him I hated English when I was in college and changing professions was not my idea.
After lunch, I said goodbye and told them I would not see them for another year. Doing what I do, I have to get used to meeting new people and then saying goodbye to them after a short time. We stay in touch with just a few during a year because everyone is so busy with their own lives. For most, we see them once a year for a few minutes.
Teaching is a little like that. We see the students in class for one year, and then they move on to different classes the following year. We only get to see a handful of them again if they come by to visit. But I value each encounter with each student, and treasure each relationship at whatever level. I know certain students more than others because there were more interactions with them, but I am glad for each opportunity that I had with every single one of them. Although we may see each other just once a year, I am at peace with it and know that the relationship is still there no matter what. I will see them again someday, so it's never a true 'goodbye' but more of a 'see you again,' or a 'tam biet' in VNese.
Thinking back, what am I grateful for this past year?
I am grateful for:
1. An opportunity to teach and live in VN
2. An opportunity to meet and get to know a lot of VNese students
3. An opportunity to spend a lot of time with some of the students
4. An opportunity to visit some students and see how they live
5. An opportunity to get involved in the students' lives and know what they go through
6. An opportunity to share part of our lives with them
7. An opportunity to meet and get to know many other ELIC teachers who are teaching in VN, Laos, Cambodia, China, and Mongolia
8. An opportunity to work with wonderful teammates
9. An opportunity to learn to depend on the Almighty and Jehova Jireh every single day
10. An opportunity to see the Father's blessings and goodness on the VNese students

It was an incredible year filled with many changes. We were blessed with very nice students who appreciated us and responded to us with their sincere love and kindness. We hope that they will stay in touch and continue to grow with new ELIC teachers, and that we'll have many opportunities to visit them from time to time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last night in Hai Phong

It's 2:20am. In 4 hours, we'll be heading off to the airport. This is our last night in HP. Time flies. I remember our first night here in this room as if it was yesterday... As I typed the word 'yesterday', I remembered the students.
I'd like to write what I am thankful for this past year, but it's kinda late now and I have to finish packing and maybe try to get 2 hours of sleep. I'll continue this entry next time...
Goodbye Kien An.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saying goodbyes

Our phone line was out of service for a while and finally they found out it was the rats that chewed up the phone lines! Now we have our dial-up connection back...50kbps…

We’ve been busy wrapping up the school year and packing. Last day of class was last week and finals will begin next week. We are scheduled to leave on May 29 stopping by to visit my family in HK and then back to California for the summer! We will return in August but highly likely to a new teaching location in Vietnam.

The past few days have been spent packing and saying goodbyes. The year has passed by so fast. We can’t believe we’ve been in Vietnam for over 9 months already. We’ve been so blessed with wonderful teammates and students and fellowship. We will forever treasure our first year of serving here with the most experienced and caring teammates one could ever ask for, and passionate students that we got to share laughters with.

Caleb's graduated

Here’s Caleb and his cap and certificate for successfully completely his year of kindergarten! How grateful we are for this opportunity of home-schooling and strength to do it!

Caleb's buddy

Caleb’s friend came to visit one last time before we leave. They always have a fun time hanging out together doing silly things.

Little homemaking things I am thankful for…

Over the past year, there were definitely lots of adjustments to make. But in the end, I am thankful for being blessed with much...

I’ve gotten used to the way of doing dishes here and not getting backaches anymore!

Though we do not have a dryer, I am still in love with the washer we are provided with with multiple water levels and programs to choose from!

A friend introduced these bi-directional shower slippers that prove to be so useful especially when we need to get in and out of the bathroom/kitchen so very often!

The students who live in the dorms adjacent to us often have to draw water from this water trough when water supply is low while we have running water to use. I learned not to complain whenever there’s an outage.

And we have the luxury of buying these 5-gallon jugs of drinking water for about $1.50 each.

I had trouble getting my dishes and plates to stay upright in the “dish rack” to dry but am grateful for these little hooks that I found at the store that I managed to insert through the rack to act as plate partitions!

Caleb had his first bite of pizza in Haiphong a couple weeks ago when our teammates finally got the chance to bake their famous homemade pizza!

My cooking companion (the two-burner stove) has served our family well this year. I’ve managed to make meals almost every night!

Though I miss having a hood, the natural ventilation still works well even though Andy warns me of rats and roaches coming in to the room since we are on the ground floor.

A friend sent a care package with these beautiful origami paper that kept Caleb and the students occupied making different origami’s.

I love the assortment of face masks to shield us from dust and exhaust (though I am truly the only one using it faithfully each time I am out).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tin Buồn số 2

Vài ngày nữa thì tôi sẽ rời HP và tạm biệt những sinh viên tôi đã quen và gặp mặt mỗi tuần trong suốt năm học vừa qua. Đây là những học trò đầu tiên của tôi ở VN. Tuy cuộc sống ở đây hơi cực nhọc, nhưng nơi nầy có đầy kỷ niệm, nơi mà bắc gặp nam và đông gặp tây. Những tiết học đầy tiếng cười, ồn ào nhộn nhịp với tiếng anh lẫn tiếng việt và có đôi lúc cả tiếng trung. Có trò thì ngồi nghe chăm chỉ, có trò thì ngồi gục đầu trên bàn, có trò ngồi ăn và nhai ngon lành y như ngồi ờ nhà mình, còn có trò thì nói chuyện với bạn trong lớp hay trên điện thoại di động như là thầy không ở trong lớp!
Có nhiều để nói quá, thôi thầy tạm chúc mấy em lúc nào cũng rất yêu thích học tiếng anh (anh mỹ), ghét học tiếng trung, ngủ gục trong lớp triết, cúp cua lớp thể dục, và ngồi nghĩ vơ vẩn trong tất cả những lớp khác...
Hẹn gặp lại sau nhé.

Tin Buồn

Mới được tin Cô Hai ở Biên Hoà mất hôm nay. Vậy thì chỉ còn lại Cô Tư và Chị Gái Hai ở nhà Ông Nội. Mình mới gặp Cô Hai lúc Tết, có để lại cho cổ 50 đô và thấy cổ vẫn còn khỏe, không ngờ…

Bây giờ bên nội chỉ còn Cô Tư và mấy người chị họ. Sau này chắc chị em họ hàng và gia đình sẽ không còn biết nhau nữa vì không có dịp gặp nhau. Thế là một thế hệ đã trôi qua…

Quê Ba ở Biên Hoà, quê mình ờ Sài Gòn, còn quê của Caleb ở San Jose. Họ thì vẫn còn, nhưng quê thì sẽ lần lần cũng sẽ mất đi. Nhìn tới nhìn lui, nhìn xuôi nhìn ngược, thì nhớ đến lời của một ông vua hồi xưa đã nói:

Phù vân, hư ảo! Hư ảo, phù vân!

Trí người không thể nào hiểu nổi mọi việc xảy ra trên đời!

Mọi công lao khó nhọc con người làm ra trên cõi đời này

Có ích lợi gì lâu bền cho đời người?

Thế hệ này qua, thế hệ khác đến,

Trong khi trời đất vẫn còn đó.

Mặt trời mọc, mặt trời lặn,

Rồi hối hả quay về nơi nó mọc.

Gió thổi hướng nam,

Chuyển sang hướng bắc,

Gió xoay đi, xoay lại,

Đổi hướng xoay chiều theo luồng gió thổi.

Mọi sông ngòi đều đổ ra biển,

Nhưng biển chẳng hề đầy.

Nước trở về nguồn,

Nơi đó sông ngòi lại tiếp tục chảy ra.

Mọi vật không ngừng xoay vần;

Môi miệng người nói mãi vẫn có điều để nói;

Mắt nhìn mãi vẫn có việc để nhìn;

Tai nghe mãi vẫn có điều để nghe.

Điều chi đã có sẽ còn tiếp tục có,

Điều chi đã làm, sẽ vẫn tiếp tục làm.

Chẳng có gì mới trên cõi đời này.

Nếu có điều gì khiến người ta nói:

"Xem kìa, một điều mới!"

Thì chính điều ấy đã có rồi,

có từ ngàn xưa, Trước thời chúng ta.

Không ai tưởng nhớ những thế hệ đã qua;

Những thế hệ mai sau cũng vậy,

Những người đến sau họ

Cũng chẳng tưởng nhớ đến họ.