A Travellerspoint blog

DA NANG

The adventures of 4 teachers on Teacher's Day

Over the Fall we had a couple of days when the school was closed due to concerns about the typhoons that were heading our way from the Philippines. Luckily the typhoons missed us but one did land in Da Nang, about 3 hours away from us and we were told Da Nang looked like a war zone. We were excited about the month of November since we had a day off on November 20th because it was teacher’s day in Vietnam. Although not a statutory holiday, we did get the day off and we were pumped for that. Also, in addition to having a day off, it was also Leah’s birthday. We had decided that we would go to Da Nang on our day off. Although it was only one day that we had off we were able to arrange it that we really had 1.5 days off.

During lunch time on the 20th of November, Mrs. Thao invited all of us including the Vietnamese teachers for lunch in honour of teacher’s day. In addition, because it was also Leah’s birthday, a cake was ordered. The meal was quite good and we were all full. All of us had afternoon and evening classes that day which ended at 8:30 p.m. We arranged for a ride to Da Nang at midnight but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stay awake that late and was wondering how I would feel the next day as we had a pretty heavy itinerary of sightseeing, shopping, dinner and then we had planned to take in a movie. There was no need to worry….I was pumped.

We had an early breakfast which was included in the cost of our room. I had a room by myself which I preferred and the other teachers shared 2 rooms between themselves. Leah did not spend the day shopping with us as she was quite sick. After breakfast we walked to the beach which looked pretty rough but it was quite pretty. Next, we took a taxi to a nearby Pagoda which is up a winding road. The view of the beach from the Pagoda was quite stunning. We then scooted around by taxi to different malls….and boy did we shop. I picked up earrings and some costume jewellery which was quite inexpensive. I also picked up some dried lavender for one of my students because she had never heard of or had seen lavender before. Before I left one of the malls I picked up 3 small perfumes that came in a gift pack and each perfume was bottled in a clear figurine shaped bottle of a woman wearing the traditional dress called an Ao Dai (pronounced ow yi). Each figurine had a different hat which represented a particular city. One City represented was the old capital of Vietnam, Hue, the second figurine represented Ho Chi Minh City and the 3rd figurine represented Hanoi. After our first round of shopping, we came back to our rooms around noon hour and checked in to see how Leah was doing and then after a few minutes we were off again; this time to the market. We quickly decided that we would forego the movie and continue shopping and then head out for a nice meal. I bought nice but super cheap tops which I was planning to give to my daughter or other friends who were slim in build. I also bought 5 purses - 3 of them as gifts, one purple leather purse for me and the 5th purse I will keep aside as an extra gift that I will give to someone somewhere down the road. I also picked up some small souvenirs at the market for my co-workers.

For dinner we decided to eat at an Italian restaurant. I ordered a pizza which I had been craving for several months and I also ordered a cocktail – a Singapore Sling. I can’t remember the last time I had a Singapore Sling. My pizza was okay, I had been hoping it would be better. We left the restaurant full and tired. We picked up some food up for Leah and once we arrived back to our rooms we showed her our treasures. We had all chipped in and bought her some goodies for her birthday and also picked up a small cheesecake for her….we all had a piece and it was decadent.
I hit the sack early and woke up early as we needed to start heading back to Quang Ngai as our classes started late in the afternoon. We stopped just outside of Quang Ngai, near the airport and went to Jollybean (a fast food place) for lunch. There also happened to be a Blue Notes clothing store and a Co-op Mart (grocery/retail store). The teachers bought some shoes at Co-op Mart that were a great price. Reluctantly, we finally made our way to our house and unpacked our treasures and packed up our school materials and headed towards the school. We all agreed it was great to be away from Quang Ngai and although we wished we had been in Da Nang longer, but we all knew that the time away was just what we needed. Of course in just over a month’s time it would be Christmas and another day off. How we decided to spend Christmas was another story.

Posted by Rhondalee 18:07 Comments (0)

SEN RESTAURANT

Post Halloween Dinner

In early November Ms. Thao treated us to dinner at a Sen Restuarant which seemed just to be on the outskirts of Quang Ngai City. We had never been here and we were looking forward to the meal. There was a series of short docks where you walked up to a platform which was where you ate (without chairs). Sort of like an open concept, floating restaurant. There were low lying tables where the food was served and you had a view of the river.

Young children and adults came up to us on their boats asking us if we would like to have a ride on the boat. Providing boat rides was either supplementing their income or was their sole means of income. So off we all went, except Mrs. Thao who stayed behind and watched our belongings. In the horizon you could see My Khe (beach) and the waves rolling in. From a distance, other locals or tourists beckoned us to join them, which we did not do. We weren’t really in the boats too long and when we disembarked at which point our guides asked for more money…it is the way they do business, and not out of the norm. We only had to wait a few minutes to have a delicious dinner of seafood and a hot pot.

Now that we were into the month of November, we were all looking forward to Teacher’s Day and we were wondering what should we do on our day off. Should we go out of town? Should we stay in Da Nang, and where would we stay? For me, November meant the last full month I’d be teaching and soon I’d be heading back to Canada. I really didn’t have any plans where I would go for 2 weeks before I headed back to Canada. I had booked my flight in August and I would be leaving Vietnam on January 15th. Tom, had just finished up the renovations on the house and was hoping to make it down, but a part of me knew he wouldn’t. He had not been feeling well and wanted to be checked out by a doctor first, which he did and in early November and he was fine. I had not seen any pictures of the house but I tried to envision it based on all that he had told me. It all sounded good. He had not wanted my neighbours to take any pictures as he wanted to surprise me. Although I was glad that the house had been renovated, I also knew that this would have also been a great opportunity for him to experience. Oh well, such is life. By the time November rolled around, he had not booked a flight and it was high season. In addition, North America was being hit by bad weather…meaning lots of snow and flight cancellations.

Posted by Rhondalee 12:56 Comments (0)

THIS IS HALLOWEEN

Global English Centre's First Ever Halloween Party

I know for a fact that Global English Centre’s 2013 Halloween Party was its first ever party. I’m almost 100% certain no other language school in Quang Ngai has ever had a Halloween Party and I’m 50% certain it was the first ever Halloween party in Quang Ngai Province. The party was very successful and it was a lot of work.

How did it come about that a small school in rural Vietnam had a Halloween party? Well, it’s because of Leah, who came to the Centre in September 2013. Leah had experience in organizing Halloween parties in Ho Chi Minh City at the international school where she had worked. Leah had asked us if we would buy into the idea and we did butt it was a lot of work. I estimate, and this is a loose estimate that each of us volunteered about 100 hours of our time putting it together. That’s 500 hours volunteering to do this and all of us took a fair amount of money out of our own pockets too to buy supplies. Mrs. Thao had given us some money to purchase what we needed but it was only enough to make a small dent into what we needed to buy. We had about 6 weeks to pull it all together. The one major event during the party is that selected classes would put on a performance. In addition to the performances, there was a contest for the best decorated classroom, the best costume amongst the teachers and a best costume award for the students plus each teacher had to sponsor a game. The game I selected was a version of “hot potato”….remember that game you pass around an object and when the music stops the person holding the object is out of the game and the lone person is the winner. Well the Halloween version was passing a small paper mache pumpkin……it worked just fine!

When Leah asked me was I stressed out about this event I answered honestly and told her yes and my reason was because I did not know where we could access any resources. We couldn’t take a trip to the nearest dollar store ‘cause there was no such thing where we were. In retrospect I think I was also burned out at that time as I had just recovered a month prior from a 5 week illness. My other teacher friends also indicated that they were somewhat stressed about the whole thing. Plus, and this was a big plus there was the language barrier. Leah was more familiar with Quang Ngai City than we were as she had come here several times during the summer when the International school was shut down for the summer. So one day Leah and the group of us went to the notions store where we picked up material, batting, notions etc. We weren’t 100% sure what we were going to do with all of these things but we wanted to get them because we didn’t know if we would be able to get them a week or so down the road.. One thing that we couldn’t find was coloured Bristol board or Elmer’s glue (although towards the end of the preparations my older students brought in small containers of Elmer’s Glue. I have no idea where they purchased it.).

It was decided that each of us would have one or more of our classes do a presentation. It could be a song, dancing, a poem etc. We would also decorate our rooms around a theme and the students would participate in the decorating. I immediately thought of my 7A class and when I approached them they were very open and enthusiastic about the idea. The class decided they wanted to sing “This is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s” Nightmare before Christmas”. I had heard of the movie but had never seen it and I had not ever heard the song. We also had to figure out how to decorate the classroom. So, I immediately started researching websites on Halloween crafts….believe it or not Martha Stewart was a great resource. I then searched for a good rendition of “This is Halloween” on YouTube that showed the words to the song and then an instrumental only rendition. I also had to find the words in hard copy that I could print of for the students to sing. Because I only met this class twice a week they would also have to practice on their own as the song was to be memorized for the performance. Although we had class time to do the decorating and practice the singing there was some push-back about doing this on class time which caught me off guard and the way it came about was rather strange.

This is what happened. In October the school was broken into. There are two buildings that make up the school. The first building holds the reception area and a small resource centre with several computers on the main floor. There were also two classrooms up top of the main floor which were used by Iris and myself. When the school was broken into the main floor computers were taken. The police also went upstairs to see if anything else was taken and of course they saw the two decorated rooms. Mrs. Thao was told by the police that this wasn’t suitable as Halloween was not a celebration in Vietnam and the focus of the school should be educating. Mrs. Thao then asked Iris and I not to decorate anymore because of what the police had said. Although Mrs. Thao told us she herself understood how preparing for the party benefited the students (creativity, team work, practicing singing and reading in English and using critical thinking skills etc.) I really think she was somewhat nervous about this undertaking and concerned that there would be negative feedback from the parents. It was rather weird that none of the other teachers were told to stop decorating and for that reason, Iris and I continued to decorate as the students were really engaged in the activities and we did not want to disappoint them. At one point we were all told to only spend 15 minutes per class to do Halloween preparations…..an impossible task if you are painting, or cutting and then having to do clean-up. In spite of this setback, we continued to prepare for the party and it really brought home to me that we were definitely in another country and celebrations that we see as being a common event were very uncommon and scary to others. For example, one of my students had her mother take a look at my decorated classroom and she gasped. Once Leah dressed up as the grim reaper and made unplanned visits to the various classes and some of the students both the younger and the teenage students were very scared. Some of the younger students actually hid under the tables. A lesson learned from this was because the concept of Halloween was so alien to the students that any future visits from costumed folks would have to be announced beforehand. But when I look back on some of my pictures by the end of that first unannounced visit the students were laughing and smiling.

In addition to having my 7A class decorate the classroom I had 3 of my younger classes participate in decorating the classroom and also making their own trick or treat bags. One class made Q-tip skeletons, my other class made small hanging ghosts that we hung on the branches of a pruned tree that I had brought into the classroom. Another class made bats out of toilet paper rolls. These students also made their own Halloween bags. Iris had found the location of a place that sold small plastic coloured bags which would be perfect for trick or treat bags and they were so cheap. All of us also found Halloween cut -outs on our computers that the kids could colour and paste onto the Halloween bags. I found some templates for Halloween masks such as a pirate, a super hero, Mardi Gras masks which the students cut out and used on Halloween night. The main decorations for the classroom were made by my 7A class and my teens in 11A. 7A made 2 big hanging ghosts out of white material which we sprayed with diluted coffee and water to make it look old and worn. Some of the students cut out tombstones out of styrofoam and made gravestones with sayings such as Barry D. Live. We stuffed neutral coloured tights and wrapped the tights in black and red stripes to look like socks and glued black shoes to the feet, we put a self-made witches’ hat on top of the feet and voila it looked like the wicked witch of the west/east from the Wizard of Oz when the house landed on her. This class and another one of my older classes drew and painted a Halloween wall mural. Two women in my 11A class stuffed flesh coloured up to the shoulder length gloves with stuffing and then used red paint to make them look like bloody hands. We stuck them on the window. The remaining students worked diligently creating a coffin but, while it was being built in between classes ,it was destroyed by the younger students….too bad! They worked so hard.

The experience was very rewarding, particularly for my 7A class that learned a lot about themselves. They worked together as a team. Two of the students coordinated the singing arrangement, one student had a knack for finding ways to do things that at first seemed impossible to do (problem solving), others used their painting and drawing talents while another realized that he/she didn’t have such a bad voice. Of course in between this there was discussion about the history of Halloween and how did kids dress up in North America etc.

As we got closer to October 31st, the students started wondering about costumes. What should they wear? How would they get them? Where would they get them? Thanks to Leah, a relative of hers in HCMC sent us a website where the students could order costumes such as witches’ hats for a real cheap price. Other students winged it. In addition to these preparations, the teachers were also busy making their costumes. Three of the teachers bought material and had a dressmaker make the costumes….it took a while to get across to the dressmaker that they were making costumes. They actually thought that the costumes were being made for everyday wear. Truly it was funny and frustrating at the same time to explain that they were Halloween costumes. I decided to be a pirate and opted to wear and full silk multi-coloured skirt I had and just layer it with scrap material and cheap material. I made an eye patch and used scrap material to make a head covering and bought a plastic sword. Iris had some of her costume made She was Ursula the octopus from the Disney movie the “Little Mermaid.” But Iris stuffed her tentacles and decorated them and they were attached later on to her dress. She won the prize for the best costume. E-Mae was Tinkerbell and she had her dress made but made her own wings and wand. Mae was a mermaid and borrowed a skirt but made her own tail and decorated it. Leah was a devil and had her costume made as well. We all went to the beauty parlour across the street and had our make-up done. That was fun. This party also had food prepared and the local café Q-Cup set up a booth where people could purchase smoothies. While all this was going on we were up pretty late a couple of days before the party cutting out decorations for the backdrop and making decorations to hang outside the centre such as orange bags stuffed with newspaper that became pumpkins and spider webs.

As I said at the beginning the party was a huge success. The school has about 450 students about 400 of them attended. Parents were snapping pictures and all of the younger students had fun getting candies with their trick or treat bag. The start of the show began with the teachers do a short dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We were a hit. Next, my class 7A performed “This is Halloween.” I was so proud of them. Throughout the party we had 2 of the older students act as commentators and the adult students helped with the sound system during the day. Iris’ young students did a puppet show with the story “The Hungry Caterpillar”, some of the little ones danced, and others sang. The performances were followed by the games which were also a great success. The party was done by 9:00 p.m. and we were exhausted. We had a late dinner and then headed home. We topped of the night with a well deserved gin….we were bagged. Shortly after the party we all picked up some type of cold or were generally feeling under the weather but we figure this was because we were rundown and/or decompressing. When the students asked us if we would be doing a Christmas Party we all said a resounding NO!!!. We decided that Christmas was a special occasion time that we would celebrate on our own terms.

Posted by Rhondalee 08:14 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER...THE CHANGING SEASONS

BIRTHDAYS, PARTIES AND CRAZY WEATHER

At the present moment I am sitting on my little balcony here in Mui Ne, with my gin and tonic trying to catch up on my blog. The sun is somewhat glaring at my computer screen (poor me) hence, the typos. Yes I am on my way home….I will be there in 7 days to enjoy the -50 degree weather, (NOT). My last day working at the Centre was December 28th and I left Quang Ngai on December 30th. I won’t get into all the details about that right now, but just to let you know it was and still is an emotional rollercoaster and very similar, and probably really is, a grieving process….but let me tell you about September and October and some of the events that took place during that time period.

As mentioned, earlier, Mrs. Thao’s partner, Leah joined us at the Centre. It seemed that she was there to provide us with professional development…yeah!!!!, set up policies, procedures and language benchmarks which would include tools we could use to test students such as an oral fluency test. Well, somewhere along the way, Leah has ended up teaching 33 hours per week and there is no time for all of the above. But with that being said, I can tell you that in our daily conversations I have already learned so much from Leah, and I know there’s a ton more I could learn. Her and I had some great discussions and because of her, I had the opportunity to learn more about education and technology and in a relatively short period of time I got somewhat familiar with some technological tools for learning and managing the classroom such as Edmodo, Glogster and Prezi. In spite of the fact that many of the original duties that Leah thought she whould be performing have be sidetracked for the present time, we did do one huge event and that was the first ever Halloween party in Quang Ngai, and definitely the first for the City of Quang Ngai . Leah had organized a few Halloween parties for the International school she worked in in HCMC, so we had someone who could guide us along the way. I estimate that in addition to our regular teaching hours and lesson planning each of us put in at least an additional 100 hours of our own time to put the party together.

September and October were also the months when the temperatures shifted a bit and the weather became cooler, but for me it was not freezing, but at times I did feel the need to put on a light jacket at night and sometimes a long or short sleeved blouses/dresses to my classes. I was told that it was the beginning of the rainy season and indeed we did have more rain. In fact, the school shut down a couple of times because of typhoons heading our way. One of the typhoons was Haiyan which had hit the Phillipines. but missed us. In fact the first time the school shut down was the day after Iris’s 30th birthday. But the crappy weatherthe day of Iris's birthday did not hamper our celebration time for Iris. On the day of Iris’s birthday, Iris and the other teachers made a great luncheon consisting of Philipino foods. Arnold, our friend from the oil refinery and also from the Philippines came over and brought a bottle of wine. Since the weather was so dismal, we decided to brighten up that day by doing a fun thing at the Centre and that was wearing fascinators which we had purchased at a local store for about $2.50 each. So here we were in our raincoats and umbrellas walking in the pouring rain to teach….and what a welcome we got. I did not teach my first class that day because I went out celebrating with my students because one of the students I had taught was heading to the United States, California I believe to complete her high school …and then onto University. After that celebration the 700 p.m. classes were cancelled due to the weather but we did have time to have a few pictures taken afterwards and to enjoy a piece of birthday cake that Mrs. Thao had bought for the occasion. So here are some pictures of that fab meal, the fascinating teachers (hee, hee) and the delicious birthday luncheon.

Posted by Rhondalee 23:13 Comments (0)

SEPTEMBER A FUNNY HOOKER STORY AND THE MID AUTMN FESTIVAL

SUMMER IS ENDING

September marked the beginning of Fall and some changes for the teachers. First of all, during the summer months all of us had Sundays off so we were able to do things together and we really enjoyed that. In early September the same day off was ending and to mark the end of the summer, Mrs. Thao and all of us went to My Khe Beach for an overnight get away. Also, Raissa, a teacher from the Phllipines was leaving and this would be our last weekend with her. In her place, Mrs. Thao had spoken to her partner, Leah and Leah had agreed to come to Quang Ngai to set up curriculum, polices and provide us with professional development. Leah also came to My Khe with us. Minh, one of my students and her mother joined us and the three of us shared a room together. After a late afternoon swimming and indulging in the wonderful seafood, we noticed that the resort also offered a massage service. Mrs.Thao asked if we would like to have massages and of course, we said yes. it only cost 50 VND for the massage ...rather cheap. I thought it was sort of weird that the masseuses did not have uniforms, but thought nothing more of it. Well, I had the quickest massage ever...approximately 15 minutes long and the lady mandipulated this and that on my back and got a couple of good adjustments which felt heavenly,and that was it. She then asked me for a tip which I thought was also peculiar, All of us had very short massages. Mrs. Thao then approached me and advised me that the 50VND was for the room only and that these girls were hookers and that is why she asked for a tip. So I gave the girls a tip. Mrs. Thao told us later that this was the first time somethiing like that has happened at My Khe. We all had a good laugh about it.

We had been told a couple of months previously that September marks the mid autumn festival which is a children's festival. During the moon festival it is customary to give boxes of moon cake which are only available at that time of the year and sure enough there were specialized stalls set up selling their mooncakes. Children parade on the street singing and dressed up in costumes as dragons. The children dance in their costumes as long as they are paid for their dancing (sort of reminded me of the idea of Halloween back home)

Posted by Rhondalee 05:16 Comments (0)

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