Vietnam Team Journal

Saturday, October 9, 2010


By Phil

Francoise arranged for our going-away party to be at Hoa Binh, which turned out to be an excellent decision. The food was great, and we had time to relax and say goodbye to each other, as well as to the staff of Hoa Binh who have become our family. The team shared toasts to each other and to our hosts, recognizing Vietnam for the enigmatic and promising nation that it is. Everyone’s plans for leaving Ha Noi were dissected, with intentions expressed for meeting again soon. There was general agreement that the 11th Global Volunteer team to Ha Noi was an enormous success, owing to a well-functioning and compatible team and calm leadership. Sadness tempered by knowledge of a productive experience was the general tenor as each of us got up to say goodnight and give final hugs.

Next year in Chennai, Peru, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, or Hanoi!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday, October 8th

By Roberta
NBK teachers waddled off to Thursday classes savoring the aftermath of the sumptuous Wednesday night banquet given in our honor by Mr. Hoa, Mrs. Hoa, and the English Dept of NBK.

Morning classes had some missing students who were learning songs and dances marking the 1,000 year anniversary of Ha Noi. A production will be held Friday at the school. The stage is set up and acts are rehearsing. The students are hyped up today, anticipation about weekend activities are apparent.

Friday ends our team’s teaching at NBK. It appears we have come a long way. At the primary level, we have learned to be over prepared with multiple activities for each hectic class. Middle school teachers find joy in the openness and curiosity of the students as they practice English. High School classes have a depth of discussion and breadth of information that is ripe for extension activities.

By Terry
At this point in our teaching lives, students recognize us on our way to class, smile, say “hi!” even engage in conversation. This is a distinct pleasure for all. Many classes entail presentations (or introductions to same) and our task is to offer friendly but specific feedback. Teaching the phrase “ladies and gentleman” seems a constant.

Dinner with FTU officials, at a distant restaurant was relaxed, informative, and quite delectable. Francoise – who certainly knows – remarked that the spring rolls are the best she’d ever tasted. Conversation with V.P. Nguyen Dinh Tho and Vu Hoang Nam, Manager of International Affairs, along with their assistant, was quite mutual. It centered on 3 topics: the history and development of the university, the life and times of the Vietnam nation, and small talk. Live Vietnam itself, the conversation was friendly, courteous and charming.

The penultimate day of our common sojourn was typically active. A good time! For the FTU bunch, the stroll home (after being dumped by the taxi at the opera house square due to road closure), entailed a very military parade, reminiscent of May Day on Red Square circa 1959.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday October 7th

By Tim

Thought of the day: Random acts of kindness are good – organized act of kindness are better.

The day is off to a good start with an organized team meeting. The end of our time in Ha Noi is approaching. The high school team will meet in the home of the school president before what surely will be a good dinner and party.

Our morning taxi commute was challenged by street closures and signs of people gathering for a celebration- saw some floats parked in front of the Opera House too. The street traffic seemed extra frenetic, which I believe was heightened by the blaring music from rusty speakers along the way.

At school, we reported to our scheduled classes to continue towards our goals of encouraging spoken conversations. Another go at e-commerce where discussions included advantages and disadvantages for this newly emerging method of Vietnamese commerce.

Because this is our second meeting, the students this week seem more at ease and willing to try a series of questions and answers! My afternoon writing class was a lively discussion of process analysis writing as taught by a discussion of food and how to make dinner. The students and I had fun.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday October 6th

By Dan

Thought of the day: President Teddy Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

The Nguyen Binh Khiem group leaves minus its quintessential organizer and leader, Roberta, who is under the weather. Her students miss her. Al and I have two tenth graders preparing for mid-terms next week. The written material is the same for both classes, but one class is taught entirely in English and the other in Vietnamese. I am impressed with the written material and concluded that some of it would be a challenge to American students,. The eleventh grade class was a Q and A regarding the 1000th anniversary celebration of the founding of Ha Noi. There was the usual challenge of getting the students to speak up, but with a little patience, most students were able to carry on a simple conversation. Again, students generally read well and write well; speaking and pronunciation are other issues – maybe best saved for the evaluation.

Seija’s sixth grade students were captivated by a US National Park Service brochure of the White House. Seija mentioned that Francoise lived near the White House and the students wanted to know if Francoise visits with President Obama.

The Foreign Trade university group gave lectures to and received lectures from their students. Global Volunteer lectures included topics concerning contract negotiations, leadership, e-commerce, and team building. Terry’s students presented twelve lectures to include the topics of the use of the telephone, internet shopping, stress at work, and the positive and negative aspects of stress. Terry remarked that some of the lectures would have received an “A” in an American university.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday October 5th

By Alex

Rested and rejuvenated, we volunteers returned to our respective assignments on Monday of week two.

Classes at NBK greeted us with gusto. Brandishing smiles of familiarity, they enthusiastically called us by name. Like thirsty sponges, our students absorbed our English lessons and asked insightful questions, such as “what do you think of Ho Chi Minh?”

At lunch, we expressed our collective condolences to Mr Quy regarding the loss of his grandfather. As a cultural aside, we found ‘the washing of the bones” of the deceased most interesting.

At FTU, Keith was recognized as a “Distinguished Guest” at a program featuring the Ambassador from Denmark opening a new joint program. Upon completion of this professional exchange program, FTU students will be certified for further education or employment in Europe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday October 4th

By Al
Thought of the day- Be the change you want to see in the world – M. Gandhi

We ended the first week at the start of Ha Noi’s 1000 year celebration – and wonderfully, the streets were cleared.

At the end of the week, we realized how easily school integrated us into their schedules, i.e., teachers, students and Mr. Quy. The students welcomed the break from school routine provided by the presence of the volunteers and yet welcomed the opportunity to practice their English. Many had traveled abroad to Turkey, Finland, Indonesia, Singapore, and even Germany. They are the most fluent speakers.

The teachers struggled with their English, but felt comfortable with us and we shaped our instruction to their different styles, as well as ours. Sometimes we followed the text book chapter for the day; mostly we improvised. We have learned from the teachers to appreciate their work; from the students that Vietnam has an auspicious future.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


By Francoise

Since this is the 1000th anniversary of the city of Ha Noi, I decided to pay a visit to the original capital of Vietnam; Hoa Lu, which was the capital under the Dinh Dynasty between 968 and 1009 AD. The site was situated about 2 and 1/2 hours from Ha Noi on a kamikaze bus ride on bad roads. We had about 25 tourists, I being the only American. Some of the sanctuaries have survived the years and temples have been built on the old foundations of the original palaces in the 11th and 12th centuries. After walking around the peaceful gardens, we had lunch then went on to the tour of Tam Coc nearby to enjoy a ride on the Boi river. Our “boatman” was a lady who rowed with both her hands and feet. She spoke some French, as does my Korean companion who went to school in France. The limestone formations are similar to those of Guilin China and HaLong Bay. The ride is lovely, quiet away from the Ha Noi hustle and bustle.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday October 1, 2010

By Dan & Ceil

At the University we all had classes and subjects top teach, for a few of us they even corresponded to the schedule. As usual some of the students in our classes were excellent and engaged in interesting discussions while in other classes the students were not so excellent. The students in the advanced classes were uniformly very good.

The volunteers teaching at the high school had an easy half day unlike the hard working volunteers at the university who worked a full day. They had three short classes ate lunch and took off.

Dinner at the hotel in the evening was good. After dinner some former students came over. After discussions and photos they accompanied everyone to the lake where we mingled with the throngs of people who were there.