A Travellerspoint blog

IRONING OUT THE WRINKLES

in other words some balance coming into my life

sunny -27 °C

Well, it now March 11th. I finally feel that some of the glitches that I first encountered have been resolved. As for the adjustment phase, well, in all honestly there are some days I think what am I doing here. There is a lot to be said about having a job that is from 8:30-4:30 a day and that is it – no other unpaid work obligations. Here, I work a 36 hour work week over a period of 6 days and have one day off. However that has just recently changed as one student needs to be accommodated because her regular school schedule has changed. So the only time that I could meet with her was on Friday – my day off (for 1.5 hours). Right now this is not a huge issue, but once my better half comes over I definitely want one whole day off. Lesson planning which is unpaid takes up a huge amount of my time but now that I am getting to know my students it is becoming easier but I know I still need to cut down on the amount of time I am spending doing this. It has been difficult to get into a routine because up until now, I really haven’t had any consistency in my teaching schedule. First I was filling in for someone who was on vacation for 2 weeks, then I was filling in for someone else for another week or two so each of these classes was brand new for me. About 3 weeks ago I got my schedule for the next 3 months (although the times I meet with the students has changed about 4 times now). Now I have the opportunity to get to know my students and plan lessons around their needs. Most classes use English Language books and we try to supplement additional materials into the lessons to make the learning more interesting and relative to the topic they are covering. For example, doing Powerpoint presentations, including games, crossword puzzles etc. which we research and find on our own.
There were also other day-to-day things that were also part of the transition process. First we moved. I have included some pictures of where we are living. It is only a couple of minutes away from the school. There are 4 bedrooms and three bathrooms. The bedrooms are huge. I have my own ensuite and the other two teachers have a shared washroom. All the rooms are big in the house and we have a second floor which opens up onto a huge upper deck/balcony. We have talked about getting some plants but at the same time we all know we are very busy with our work so whether or not that happens is another issue. I know that I would like to get a lounge chair to soak in the sun a few times a week.
When we first arrived in the house I was the first to use the washing machine. I didn’t know it at the time but the hose for the water was not yet connected, so we had a kitchen flood. My computer was a huge issue as I needed it to take into the classes as there are workbook audios which I use in the classroom. That didn’t get sorted out until the end of February. I couldn’t connect to the Internet on my computer but I could on my Ipad, and as a result everything was taking twice as long to do. Anyways,that big stress has been taken off my shoulders. My cargo of clothing finally arrived. Remember I shipped it to Vietnam from Bangkok as it was going to cost me $600 to take it on the plane. However, the carton of clothes went to Hanoi and the customs officials wanted to know why I didn’t have an address here so we provided them with a copy of my flight ticket from Canada which showed that I came from Toronto Canada and landed in Bangkok. During the middle part of February my tooth became infected where I had my root canal done in Canada. I suppose as some point the temporary crown broke a way or came totally off. So I went to a dentist here and had to have a crown put on which seems to be working just fine.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve bought material, had clothes made, am eating some great food and some different foods, experienced TET (Chinese New Year) have gone to DaNang, Hoi An, My Lai, beach, Hue , experienced my birthday here and was taken out for dinner on International Women’s Day by one of my students. Here International Women’s Day is a big deal. Now that things are more balanced I have finally had the time to do my walking exercise video that I brought from home. I still have not learned much Vietnamese in spite of listening to an audio while I was away in Hue and so far no plans to do any biking (I also brought my bike helmet over from Canada). However, I just learned that one of my students does biking as a form of exercise so I may see if I can co-ordinate something with her.

Posted by Rhondalee 09:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

HAS IT REALLY BEEN TWO MONTHS SINCE I LEFT

So much to tell you.....

I can’t believe that it has been two months since I left Canada…two months since Christmas Eve…and now only 4 days away until my 57th birthday. I had initially hoped to update my blog once a week, but I now realize that I’m lucky if I’m able to get to it once a month.

So….back to where I left off previously. After a week of gloomy weather the sun peeked out and the weather turned into what I would call an early summer-type of day. Although to the locals here, it was still very cold as evidenced by the fact that they were wearing winter coats. My students, thought I was most bizzare because I was walking around sleeveless and having the air conditioning on in the classroom. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t sweating to death wearing a winter jacket in the classroom.

In mid January, I decided to take a walk around the town. I had envisioned in my mind that I would do a walk-about in the shape of a square and I also had handy the name and address of the hotel I had initially stayed at. But, curiousity got the best of me, and my one little extra turn, ended up in a long 2 hour walk with me pulling out the hotel’s business card and showing it to the locals who graciously pointed me in the right direction.

Just a couple of minutes from where I am living there are some market vendors. I was quite pleased with myself to have found this group of stalls. Stores/stalls are clustered together based on the products they sell. For example there are stalls that sell household plastics, there is a grouping of stalls that sell fish, fruit (I love buying mangos) and sundry items such as deodarant, and nail polish…………..Regarding the nail polish, I bought 10 of them at $1.00 each. They stay on pretty long. I have a medium green colour, a blue/purple colour and 8 others….but I definitely need a fushia colour as I don’t like the pale pink. Of course, what I’m finding out is that I don’t have the time to do my nails….I’m still working on organizng my time around the new job the schedule and preparing lesson plans. However, I did buy my own maincure tools in the event that I would like to get a manicure and pedicure done, which literally costs about $3.00 - $4.00, mind you they are not the fancy spas, but even those are cheap.

So, as I was saying, right near the house is this small market which I found out from one of my students is the remanants of the old market which was destroyed by a fire and relocated approximately 20 minutes from where I live (more on that later).. So on this bright sunny day, I took some pictures of the locals and the market vendors. Also, somehow, (totally by accident) I was able to take a couple of pictures of a rice paddy field. I could not for the life of me tell you how to get to this particular place. I do know that my fellow teachers had not seen rice paddy fields here. I also suspect that in another few years you won’t be able to find a rice paddy field here. I believe that this city will grow as they have an oil refinery here and I I think that the refinery willl really boost the economy.. Some of my students work at the refinery and are learning English as their employer has asked them to do so. Oftentimes my adult students and myself discuss their vision of Vietnam in 10 years. I can tell you that, although I am the teacher, I know that I have learned more in these last 2 months than I could have ever learned by coming here for the next 20 years as a tourist!

I love this town and its people. It is always a shock to see another tourist in the area because they are so few and far between. Anyways, I did take a picture of my walk, which I am sharing, and I hope that you enjoy the sites and the pictures of the people who are a part of the community I now live in…oh, and I also found a place where I can sit with the locals and have my 50 cent can of the local brew.
There is so much to tell you all…stay tuned….the house, the shopping, the tailors, Tet, Hue, My Lai, the house, the food………

Posted by Rhondalee 07:58 Comments (0)

I HAVE ARRIVED.....Finally

The First week

I slept well during the night and was refreshed and excited as I headed to the airport for the second time in less than 24 hours. My luggage was overweight for Vietnam Airlines, but it only cost me a whopping $10.00. The flight was smooth and because the airport was small I basically walked in, picked up my luggage and walked out. Mrs. Thao called out my name and I was so happy I gave her a big hug. We had talked on and off for the last 8 months but I had no idea what she looked like because her Skype video portion never worked, although she was able to see me when we had Skyped. She told me that I looked much younger than what she had seen of me on Skype (bless her soul). Mrs. Thao had also brought one of the teachers from the school to meet me. Her name was Iris. I was also introduced to Mrs. Thao’s brother who was the designated driver for the trip to back to Quang Ngai. On the ride to town, Mrs Thao advised me that she would be putting me up in a hotel for 5 days as the teachers would be moving to a new house and it didn't make sense that I should unpack and then have to pack up again. Made sense to me. I have to tell you that when I arrived it was dismal, overcast, rainy and not too warm. It was the coolest day I had yet to experience since arriving in Asia...and I rationalized in my mind that after all, it was the winter season and quite frankly I didn't care! As we were driving into town I saw farmers working the rice paddies and I knew in my heart of hearts that this is where I needed to be at this point in my life. As we got closer to town Iris and Mrs. Thao were busy on their cell phones arranging a special luncheon for me. You see, with the rainy weather conditions they were not sure if my flight would take off from HCMC. When I arrived at the school I met the two other teachers. Sienna is from the Philippines as is Ms. Iritis. Sienna and Iris started working at the entire around the same time. Kristina is an American living in Australia but she will be leaving at the end of January. I also met Mrs Thao's children and her sister-in-law. and Mrs Thao's daughter and son and husband. What a beautiful feast they had prepared for me .

It was delicious. Amazing Springs Rolls, several types of fish, bread and I was politely given a spoon as the chopsticks were a challenge. Mrs. Thao’s son David tried to show me how to use chopsticks as he is also left handed. Apparently learning to use chopsticks is more difficult to use if you are left-handed. After lunch I was driven to the hotel where I would be staying. Later on I joined Kristina, Iris and Sienna for dinner a nearby restaurant. This was the first time I ever ate goat meat and it was delicious. We ate the goat meat as a wrap. First you pick up the rice paper and then add some vegetables and mint onto the roll and then put on the goat meat and then dip into some sauce if , which I did and it tasted incredible. That night I had my first local beer, Dung Quat, a lager beer which I really enjoyed. When I buy a can it usually cost me 50 cents. The teachers walked me to my hotel and then I settled down for the night, watched a bit of TV and then headed over to the school first thing in the morning (we usually referto the school as the centre) which is just around the corner from the hotel. I’m shown the nearby café and for the next few weeks. I go to that café almost daily for breakfast which is usually a french roll with spiced meat and Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk.

I learned that I will start teaching on January 15th as one of the teachers is leaving on vacation and for the remainder of the week I job shadow which is very benificial. I will be very busy as I will be working 36 hours a week and then I have to do lesson planning on top of that. Every evening we go to the centre and eat between 5:00 – 5:30 for dinner which is very inexpensive. I use the times that I am not job shadowing to go for walks around town and take pictures. During the first couple of week the weather is cool and rainy (but still way warmer than in Canada. These pictures were taken during my first week in Quang Ngai. By the way, everyone here thinks I'm crazy walking without a coat on...some of the people are actually wearing winter coats.

Posted by Rhondalee 02:35 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

ONE MORE STOP TO GO

BUT FIRST MY LAYOVER IN HCMC..

I’m in Vietnam…only one more flight away!
I arrived at the Don Meuang Airport early and was very happy that my luggage was not overweight and that I did not have to worry about juggling all my belongings back and forth between the carry-on and the checked baggage to get the weight evened out. The flight went off without at hitch but once I arrived in HCMC it took about one hour to process my visa.

I was met at the airport by Mark one of the teachers who works at the HCMC school. We took a taxi to the backpacker district . Mark and I checked out 3 guesthouses. The first one I would have had to trek my luggage up about 4 flights of stairs….forget it – I was tired of dealing with the luggage, and for one night……..nope, that ain’t happening. The second place was pretty dumpy looking but the third place was just fine. It had an elevator….perfect. Mark told me that his sister, Leah would meet me at the guesthouse around 1:00 p.m. and take me out for the afternoon. Not only did I get to meet Leah but I also met her two nephews (Mark’s two sons) and her mother. Leah and her family were the most gracious hosts. They took me to a very nice restaurant and I tried some Vietnamese food that I was not familiar with and enjoyed a fresh fruit shake. By the way, it was also very apparent that I would need to learn to use chopsticks. Afterwards I was taken to the Reunification Palace . This palace was the home and the workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was also the site of the end of the Vietnam War when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates on April 30th 1975. The war room was in the basement and you can easily see how quickly technology has developed since the 60’s. The computer system took up close to half of one of the rooms.

I was glad that I had the opportunity to see the Reunification Palace as I did not have the opportunity to do so the previous year. After seeing the Palace I went back to my room and inquired where I could get a massage. Initially I was unable to find a place to have a massage but the staff at the guesthouse (Hotel 168 www.corp.com.vn) suggested that I have a massage done by one of the students at the massage school for the blind. I had a rough idea of how to get there and I asked a couple of people along the way if I was on the right track, which I was. Well, the massage was an experience. The massage itself was not too bad but all the masseuses did was talk on their cell phones and talk to each other over the partitioned curtains, which often resulted in a one-handed massage. It was very annoying. Then, when I went to leave, I could not figure out how to get out of the building and I definitely did not want to go to the men’s massage area, so I back-tracked and found my masseuse and explained to her that I did not know how to get out of the building. Obviously she couldn’t see my hand gesturing but somehow we connected and she led me out to the main entrance…now there is an example of the blind leading the blind!

Posted by Rhondalee 05:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

THE EBB AND FLOW OF TRAVELLING

CLOSER TO THE DESTINATION

It is now time to leave Bangkok. It seems often when you are travelling just when you get into a groove; building a repoire with the people around you, getting more familiar with your surroundings and have developed a routine and then it is time to move on. To me this is like the ebb and flow of life in general. There are times in life when things change and you either stay-put (so to speak), move forward, or move backwards. In life I believe we are often the initiators of the change within our own lives, even if at the time we do not see it as so. Every choice we make has a consequence. So, as I was booking my taxi to get me to my accommodations that are closer to the older International Airport in Bangkok, I am also saying good-bye to my new found fellow travelers who are leaving a day earlier than me. The two teachers are heading back to England and Rosemarie is heading elsewhere in Thailand but as I say good-bye, I also know I am one step closer to making my dream a reality!

I have found accommodations at a place called Wee-Train which is about a 10 minute ride from the Don Meuang Airport in Bangkok. It has taken me over an hour to get to Wee-train by taxi so I believe this was a good decision on my part otherwise I would have been getting up at 3:00 a.m. or thereabouts to get to the airport the following day. Wee-Train is a non-profit organization that provides assistance for women and children who are victims of abuse. It is not really close to anything that I would want to walk too. They have a huge (really huge) pool and I take a quick dip in the pool and then read for an hour or so. I am able to pick up some dinner in the cafeteria. It feels rather lonely here compared to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok but I also know that over the next couple of days I will be getting up early, finding accommodations and meeting new people...so, a quiet evening is not a bad idea, and I did sleep well.

Before leaving Canada, I had booked a hotel supposedly not too far from the airport in HCMC called the Victory Hotel. That factor along with the hotel having a pool really appealed to me. However, Mrs. Thao and her staff reassured me that I will be able to get to the airport on time on January 6th regardless of where I am staying. So, with that information I have cancelled my reservations at the Victory Hotel and I will be picked up by one of the teachers at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and will be looking for accommodations for one night. I will need to get up around 5:30 tomorrow (January 5th 2013) around 7:00 a.m. the following day….the day I arrive in Quang Ngai City………………8 months of planning is now very close to becoming a reality!

Posted by Rhondalee 23:57 Comments (0)

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