A Travellerspoint blog


Another student with a dream....

In late March I started working with a young woman called Minh. Throughout my time here I have focussed on teaching her speaking skills, although at times, I also taught her writing skills. Minh’s family wishes her to go to University abroad. Universities in Singapore and North America have been mentioned. Although Minh has an older sister, her parents are hoping that she can be educated abroad, secure employment abroad and be in a financial position to have her parents emigrate to North America or Australia. A lot of pressure is on the shoulders of someone so young. But I am learning this is not uncommon in Vietnam.

Minh just turned 17 in May 2013. So, I have been working with Minh to improve her speaking skills to the level of 6.5 based on the IELTS exam. As I write this, I am hoping that Minh did well on her IELTS which she just wrote on November 21st. Apparently she was quite nervous and she is not sure that she did well. Even if Minh did not get 6.5, I know that she is quite capable of getting 6.5. Her acceptance into a University overseas is contingent upon her receiving a score of 6.5 on the IELTS. She will know her results on December 3rd. If she passes the IELTS, she has already been accepted into one University, Liberty which is located in North Virginia. If she receives 7 on her IELTS, then she would get a full scholarship.
In Vietnam, the students take many extra classes. Think of it like this. In North America after work, or after the kids finish school, parents are taking their children to soccer practice, baseball, swimming, gymnastics….get it? Here in Vietnam the parents take their children to extra classes. What I’ve learned is that that students get up around 5:00 a.m. School starts before 7 and ends at 11:00 a.m. at which time the students go home, eat lunch and nap then they are off to extra classes. Some of my students have extra classes until 9 or so at night. When they get home they do homework and oftentimes are not hitting the sack until midnight or later. That is the way it is here.
The education system is very old-fashioned s. Students are passive learners. From what I understand the students listen to the teacher talk and take their notes. There is not much group work, not much use of the multi-media in the classroom. In my opinion many of the students who travel overseas for post-secondary education will be in for a big shock as it is the expectation that the students work in group, problem solve together and individually, have critical thinking skills and provide evidence, or supporting documentation for what they are speaking/writing about. I think that is why I have enjoyed teaching these young adults “speaking” because oftentimes our conversations also focus on a “North American” perspective, or the “other side of the coin”. I hope that doing this with my students widens their worldview. Needless to say we have some very amazing conversations and I have learned so much. For example, I did not know before I came here that Vietnam has a 2 children policy. Also, I did not know that there is a law that a husband and wife cannot learn the sex of their child until the pregnancy hits the 5 month mark. This has been initiated so that selective abortions (female fetuses) cannot be aborted. I also learned from one of my students that in Vietnamese culture a woman’s beauty takes into account her long hair. This is why, I suspect that there are very few women here that have short hair…..but Minh does.
Something else that I noticed here in Quang Ngai at the beach there is hardly any women who wear bathing suits. We have learned from our students that women who wear bathing suits, are generally not held in high regard. It is rather funny though, because at the beach women wear very, very (and I mean VERY) tight dresses which are often quite short with high heeled shoes and they walk around in these heels in the sand. I would say that in lots of instances, the dresses are as revealing or moreso than the bathing suits. However, you do see the odd bathing suit and when all of us went to My Khe beach in September, Minh and her mom jumped and played in the water in their bathing suits just like the rest of us.
Minh’s mom is a forward thinker and very generous to her daughter. I really like her mom! When I was sick in July, Minh’s mom offered to take me to the doctor and one morning before 800 a.m. Minh was at the door with special soup for me to have. Minh’s sister has a tatoo; and her mom knows about it too! Remember how I mentioned that long hair is highly valued in Vietnamese culture. Well, when Minh went to Ho Chi Minh City over the summer for a couple of weeks she had her hair cut short. She didn’t like it but I did and so did others. I asked Minh what her parents said and she said nothing…
During one of our classes we were talking about families and discussing whose who in the family tree. For whatever reason, we got onto the topic of adoption. I told Minh that I was adopted and then we did a family tree for me that included foster parents, foster sisters, half sisters, brothers etc. Wow….it was pretty interesting and confusing. That is when I learned that there was a time in Vietnam that a man could have more than one wife. Anyways, Minh shared the adoption story with her mom and Minh told me that her mom cried when she heard it because it reminded her of her upbringing. My understanding is that Minh’s mom’s parents died when she was young and her family was very poor. Her life was very much a struggle.
Minh’s mom recently came back from China and bought me a good luck omen and when Minh goes to Hanoi or elsewhere she always brings me and the other teachers treats. A couple of times Minh has taken me out for breakfast, for the most delicious fish ball soup. Minh’s mom also invited all of us to a delicious meal at their house to thank all of the teachers for helping Minh. Today, Minh and I are going to pick up my 2 Ao Dhai which I had made and then we are going to show them to her mom. When I leave here , I will be spending a couple of days in HCMC and Minh and her mom will be there as well, although they head back to Quang Ngai on the 14th of January and I had back to Canada on January fifteenth.

Posted by Rhondalee 21:45 Comments (0)


In the early Spring one of the teachers, who was only here for a couple of months, told us that her husband, who worked at the oil refinery knew of an individual from the Phillipines who lived in town but had no one to speak English too . When this fellow, Arnold learned that there were 3 Fillipino teachers nearby it was quickly arranged that the teachers and Arnold would meet. And that is how a new friendship was formed. Arnold was the HR consutant from the Phillipines who was working for the oil refinery. Unlike the other workers, he did not live in a compound as he worked from his home in town which added to his isolation. So needless to say, Arnold was very happy to meet 3 young woman whom he could talk to in his native language. Living with the Filipino teachers, has meant that I have been exposed to some yummy home-cooked meals. In July, Arnold and another worker, Wilson came over and prepared an amazing feast for us. Another time it was Wilson’s birthday and we went to Arnold’s home and ate an amazing meal !

Overall, most of the food I have tried I have enjoyed but there is one food I will not eat and another food I tried and will not try again. In both Vietnam and in the Phillipines it not uncommon the eat blood. The way the blood is prepared, is that it looks like a cube of jello, and I usually see it in some soups. I haven’t tried it, and won’t. Iris told me that in her family the blood is bought fresh from a local supplier and her family has never experienced any problems with prepared blood .

Over TET, Iris went out with one of the students one evening and when she arrived back at the house with the student she was quite excited to have me try a food that she had bought for me. She and the student sat waiting in anticipation for me to open up what they had bought me. What I had was an egg in a shell. But when I broke away the shell from the egg and started to eat the egg, what was inside was the embryo of a chicken which was well enough formed for me to be able to distinguish its various body parts. Apparently, it tastes good when ate with salt, lemon juice and ground pepper. The broth surrounding the chick is also drank prior to eating the chick. The name of this dish is called balut. I have read that the balut eaten in Vietnam is 19 to 21 days old. Needless to say, I was not anxious to dig into this treat, but I did eat it. Apparently, however I ate some parts that I shouldn’t have. Quang Ngai is also known for its snail soup called NON (not sure if it is spelled correctly), and it is so good! Another favourite of mine is called Banh Xeo which is the Vietnamese pancake. It is soooooooo good and I particularily like it with shrimp inside. Believeme there are many other foods I like here. Mrs. Thao makes a banana salad…hard to explain but it is scrumptious. The grocery store up the street makes a great banana cake too. Oh, but the seafood in Quang Ngai is so good as well. Another meal I like is the food cooked in hot pot. I’m hoping to pick up a hot pot at the market and bring it home with me, it’s sort of like a small round hibachi.

Posted by Rhondalee 05:09 Comments (0)


meeting students and saying goodbye to them

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work with a couple of students who were studying at University in Ho Chi Minh City but returned home to Quang Ngai during the summer break. These students signed up for some extra English classes during the summer break and one student in particular, Helen was so motivated and dedicated that although I only met with her for a couple of months, her improvements were amazing…especially with her pronunciation. Helen treated me to a nice breakfast one morning and before she headed back to HCMC we went out for a drink at the Q Cup where we had a couple of photos taken. I’m hoping that when I spend a few days in Ho Chi Minh City before I head back that I will be able to hook up with Helen.

Also, September marked the time that my student Tram was getting ready to go to England to study for her masters in business. I had to laugh when she was talking to Mrs. Thao about the things she was bringing with her and how heavy her suitcase was. When Mrs. Thao asked her what she had packed that was so heavy, Tram indicated it was rice. Mrs. Thao reassured Tram that she would be able to ge rice in England. I am unable to communicate with either of these students right now as I can’t access Facebook. I do know that Tram is cold and still adjusting to the food.

It’s hard to believe but in nine weeks I’ll be back in Canada. I think I’m ready to go home now. My better half is not here and I’m not sure at this late date if he is coming. He’s been working about fifteen months non stop on renovating the house…longer than expected but that’s because there was more problems to be dealt with once the renos started, as is usually the case with renovations. I am definitely not looking forward to the cold weather. It is hard for me to get my head around the fact that it is November when it is hot and sunny here. But I am definitely looking forward to working only five days a week and having 2 days off per week...but I will miss those massages, and I won't like being tied to the computer for thirty five hours a week. I wonder how I will feel, 6 months down the road? Only time will tell....

Posted by Rhondalee 22:57 Comments (0)



In the early spring Iris and I were at Co-op Mart the local grocery shop when Iris said to me, “Rhonda there’s a foreigner looking at you”. Since Iris is a Filipino she is often mistaken for being Vietnamese so, when someone says to me there’s a foreigner looking at you what that really means is that there’s a non-Asian person looking at you which is not that common around here. .And sure enough there was. He was in the check-out line and we were just walking around the store. Our eyes met at the same time and we both said simultaneously “where are you from”? and that is how we met Grover who comes from Georgia. Grover is a young man in his early 20s, very tall and slender who was working for an NGO in Vietnam whose head office was in Hanoi. This NGO was tracking a rare breed of turtle found in Central Vietnam (read: Quang Ngai province). Grover had been here for over 6 months and his life passion is turtles….I think the teenage muntant ninja t-shirt was the give away. And if you ever asked Grover what he did…boy could you learn a lot about turtles. So over the course of the next few months we had the chance to hang out with Grover a few times and we introduced him to a few of the eating places we knew of. Grover had become quite ill several times with food poisioning while here and he was hospitalized a couple of times as well. He really didn’t have much opportunity to speak English, as the staff he worked with had limited knowledge of English except for his boss who he didn’t see on a regular basis and a staff member in the Hanoi office.

We introduced Grover to Mrs. Thao and in early September Mrs. Thao treated all of us including Grover to a barbeque chicken dinner to mark the end of the summer which in turn meant the end of us all having Sunday’s off together (sad). So here’s a picture of Grover eating french fries (yes, they were very good) a la Vietnamese style …..that is with chopsticks. Grover is now back in Georgia, his goal is to pick up some work and then pursue his masters. Once I’m able to get access to Facebook, then I’ll send a friend request. We had a few laughs with Grover, and it was great sharing our time with him………….

Posted by Rhondalee 01:33 Comments (0)


Acute Respiratory Infection

What started off as a simple cold ended up lasting for about five weeks of being sick and turning into an acute respiratory infection. First it was the sniffles, and I resisted taking any antibiotics at the pharmacy as I thought if it is a cold, which meant that I was dealing with a virus and antibiotics won’t help. However, the cold gradually got worse and my one ear became plugged and I was really decongested. Mrs. Thao took me to a doctor and his English was pretty good. My one ear was full of wax which they were able to remove and I was given some ear drops. I remember being so, tired. I was told that if it did not clear up in a couple of days to come back. Well, it did not clear up and I went back. A hearing test was conducted which showed that I could not hear so stronger antibiotics were given. I was still working at this point, and when I look back at some of the pictures of that time, I was so pale. Still the antibiotics did not work and my other ear became blocked. Mrs. Thao spoke to the doctor again and he suggested I go to Da Nang and have my system flushed out. I checked with some of the teachers here who were nurses because I had never heard about this procedure. Well they had, and they said it probably should have been done earlier on.

Mrs. Thao knew of another doctor and I decided I would like to give it one more go. I went to see this doctor and he asked me if I had hit my ear and he said it was quite inflamed and my other ear also had quite a bit of wax in it; which he took out a couple of weeks later. He gave me several antibiotics which I was to take for a week. At this point I was beat and for a period of 3 days I did nothing but sleep. It took over a week before I was able to hear and once the antibiotics were finished I went to the doctor for a check up. He questioned why I had not finished the antibiotics sooner, and we discovered that his assistant had not written down the correct number of times I was to take the meds. As a result, I was not getting the correct dosage I needed so I was given more antibiotics…3 days worth. Luckily, by the end of the 3 days I was better. But I do believe that I have not yet fully recovered my strength from being this sick this long. I have had a couple of sore throats since. One time the sore throat did not develop into a cold so I went back to the doctor and was given more antibiotics. This happened in September. I believe that I am quite run down as I am working 33 hours a week plus lesson planning, and attending meetings. There’s been a couple of changes here at the school over the last couple of months…..more on that later. Being sick was scary as I was concerned what happens if I can’t clear up this infection….should I head home….after all we’re talking about my hearing ……

Posted by Rhondalee 00:41 Comments (0)

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