Vietnam Team Journal

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The View From Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam.
Friday, November 28, 2008

As our first week of teaching came to an end, we enjoyed another beautiful sunny day. Tim, Jim and I had a wilder than usual taxi ride to Foreign Trade University this morning. Tim and I spent the morning in a 2.25-hour literature class assisting Ms. Huong and her 70 first-year business students. The topic was esssy writing, and Tim and I had the opportunity to brush up on our rusty knowledge of style, tone, rising action and phrasing. Many of the students have an impressive command of English, as one asked Tim and me the difference between "discrepancy" and "incongruity."

Tim, Jim and I had a brief 35-minute lunch of noodles and beef from styrofoam takeout boxes, while Mr. Tri, our Director at FTU, solicited our advice on the English language greeting to be included in the University's annual Lunar New Year greeting card. The pressure was on.

I spent my afternoon in Ms. Hue Chi's 2.25-hour marketing class for first-year international business students. I taught alone straight through the period. We asked each other many questions and discussed various topics. They taught me Vietnamese history and culture and are fans of Michael Phelps, Britney Spears, "High School Musical," and most things American or British. I told them about American education, politics, driving and traffic, geography and Vietnamese-Americans. One student asked how she could learn to think in English. Another wondered if everyone's vote was worth the same in the U.S.

Before returning to the hotel after our afternoon classes, Mr. Tri wished to further discuss the greeting card. I'm sure we will continue working on this Hallmark moment next week before it will be presented to the President of the University for final approval.

When I return home, I look forward to standing at the end of a crosswalk as six lanes of traffic part and I safely walk across the street to enjoy a big bowl of pho. I believe I can now join my fellow fun-loving team members as a veteran Global Volunteer.
-Donna Young

First Week at the Foreign Trade University:

The week went well. The students are friendly and enthusiastic, and the reception by the program director was well-organized. Other reflections: Big thrill riding on motor bike; young professor took me to her favorite dress shop -- helped economy by having six dresses made for women in my family! Saturday, we needed R&R after a busy week. Most volunteers headed for Ha Long Bay, and Mary, Donna and I take the City Tour. Most noteworthy was the lake where (John) McCain crashed. Water puppet show; two pagodas also visited; Ho Chi Minh masoleum probably was the highlight. Our tour guide gave us a thorough history of Ho. Donna arranged a photo for me with an attractive bride at the memorial. (Young man to email photo tonight to my wife.) My previous emails home described "hardships" for volunteers doing their work....oh, well! We've now seen Hanoi as tourists and are ready for our final work week. Dinner last night as the only man with three lovely women was fun! New expression coined: "Fox and the turtle." - Jim Wilson

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day in Hanoi was a beautiful sunny day in the 70s (degrees F). We seem to be adjusting to the stresses of the last-minute schedule changes which mean you have to “wing it” for an hour.

Ruthanne, Jenny and I spent some time at noon talking with some senior girls as we watched other senior girls play catch with Leo. (The car was hit only once! No apparent damage, though.)

The highlight of the day was our Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel (Restaurant Chica). The chef prepared a magnificent turkey dinner dressed by the canned cranberry sauce Leo brought from the U.S. (to add the final “gourmet” touch). Dinner included vegetables, chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, and a chutney-type substitute for cranberry sauce. Pumpkin soup and roll led off the meal, and the yummy finishing touch was chocolate velour with mango and strawberry slices. Keith’s description of dessert was “a brownie in a martini glass.”

To add to the fun, we were entertained by Patrick, Tim and Donna performing “Pilgrim, Pilgrim” with gusto, by Cathy reading the poem “After Thanksgiving,” and by Tim reading an Emerson poem of thanks.

The day ended with a local tour given by former HBK students. They’re eager to practice and improve their English (and we appreciate their company!). - Mary Chatfield

Wednesday, November 25, 2008

Our third day of teaching was sunny again. At breakfast, we discussed possible free-time activities including trips to nearby areas and upcoming performances of the symphony and opera.

Today’s highlight at the high school was the launching during noon break of the “New York Yankees” and “Boston Red Sox” baseball teams under Leo’s and Dick’s guidance. The girls were as enthusiastic as the boys over this new sport. The first class was quite basic – how to put on a baseball glove and how to catch the ball.

The classrooms continue to be noisier than we expected, but on the whole, students appear to be responding to us well. We met some classes today for the second time. The street traffic today doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Perhaps it’s because we’re learning to do as the Vietnamese people do….just step out (at a crosswalk, of course) and maintain a steady pace across the street. It’s best if you can cross at the same time with a local person or two.
– Sally Keller

Monday, November 24th, Hanoi, Vietnam
Global Volunteer Team #3.

Our first day of real work. The pink-hued clouds and clear blue accents signalled a change -- not only in the weather but in our lives as volunteers and with hope, those of our students -- as we start our service in Hanoi.

Ruth Ann inspired the team with a quote: "To the Man of Goodwill, All the World is Home", Socrates.

And off we went to universities and high school waging peace and encouraging conversations.

Donna, Jim, and I headed to Hanoi's Foreign Trade University to support the faculty of the "English for Special Purposes" department. Our first large class of at least sixty represented the highest achievers in the English entrance exam process. They are 18 adn 19 year olds beginning their four-year journey towards specialization in Business Administration, Finance, or Economics.

A lively group of articulate students, eager to ask questions (with some prodding) and offer insight into their view of life in Vietnam and Hanoi. We encourage questions about our lives in the states as a springboard to questions specific to Vietnamese life. The students explained that most families consist of parents and two children. We also learned that time abroad is a common expectation in completing their BA education. Australia and the UK are the most common destinations.

Of course American movies and television have colored the student's conception of our reality and Donna and I attempted to ensure them that Los Angeles is not the violent world of Hollywood blockbusters!

I believe our time while short, can be a catalyst to encourage greater understanding and a willingness to explore the English language.

It is almost unworthy to mention that Global Volunteers has again maintained the alias "Teach 'n Eat" with the great food consumed overt times of fun and laughter. A noble start to our Adventures in Service. - Tim Cunniff