Vietnam Team Journal

Friday, March 16, 2012

"No matter where you go, there you are!"

Our final day at school - the children are as energetic and fun as ever.  We teach a full load with Ms Vananh and Ms Lan.  Bittersweet goodbyes.  We all had the kids sign our yearbooks and they surrounded us, clamoring to have their notebooks signed by us.

Lovely YouTube songs and dances....lots of Hangman games!  

Lunch at school and coffee at Boong Cafe with Bob, Jack and Mr. Quy.  Barb's attempts to order a large mug of coffee resulted in  "iced coffee."  But it was good. 

Dinner at Dinh Lang Thuy Ta Restaurant - beautiful lakeside atmosphere, charming waiter, but disappointing food. 

But the company was good!  And for the first time ever, I tried eel soup!  After dinner, Bob and I relaxed in our room and did a little packing.

To Bob, Jack and David:  Thank you for sharing your talents, compassion and sense of humor for these past two weeks with the people of Hanoi!  You are great team players!

- Barb

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another Day

Breakfast, journal reading and off to school.  First class was with Ms Chinh.  We have only had a couple of classes with her.  She is the third elementary English teacher. We had to make sure we got a photo with her. We missed her yesterday.

One more class with Ms. Lan before lunch.  David got to play keep-away soccer with the high school kids before lunch. He seemed to enjoy getting some exercise and the kids.

After lunch we went book shopping several blocks to the east.  All the books were in Vietnamese, but David found two to purchase.

One more class with Ms. Lan and off to another bookstore at the south end of the lake.  We saw it this morning on the way to school and we each purchased several English books for the school. 

For dinner, we planned to eat at the New Day Cafe.  We heard from some Russian tourists that it was very good.  One problem in Hanoi is they do not have no-smoking sections.  Smoking and dining just does not mix.  So we went across the street to the 69 Bar/Restaurant and had a very nice fixe price meal for four.  No smoking overlooking the street.

Barb has a cold, but hung in there all day.  After lunch, she finally ran out of steam.  I picked up pictures and walked around the lake, before going back to the room.  We watched a movie, the first one we have seen while we have been here. I hope Barb feels better on Thursday.  

--- Bob

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"To love another is to see the face of God."

Today students in our first regularly scheduled class had some kind of testing that resulted in a free period for us.  We spent it exploring the library on the fifth floor - a sparse room with most texts being soft-cover teaching materials - very few children's books.  We concluded that period taking official school photos with the faculty.

Our one class, a first-grade classroom, was spent going over fruit identification, and practicing prepositions.  Students seemed to be tripped up saying/enunciating "next to."

Team 17 spent an hour touring the ancient Literature Temple, then concluded our evening with dinner across the street from the temple at KOTO, a restaurant that strives to assist Hanoi's disadvantaged youth.

Some discussion throughout the day included proposing that future visits to Nguyen Binh Khiem International School by Global Volunteers could involve suggesting the team consider bringing with them a contemporary new book that would interest primary or high school students - in English or Vietnamese.

-- David

Monday, March 12, 2012

"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand."

Today I would call a typical Monday.  Got to school on time to wait for an assembly to finish.  Second hour, we went to the wrong room, but got that figured out.  Third period went fine, but the WI-FI was down so the teacher did not have her YouTube videos to play.  The volunteers had to cover the planned "sing-a-long"....  Lunch and then a break and then afternoon classes.  We were informed that the English teachers had a meeting and we would need to teach without their help. Before lunch, we were given the lesson plan and workbook for 6th hour.  But fourth and fifth was a combined class of 1st graders.  David walked in early and got the directions. He did a great job on the fly.  But after over an hour, the homeroom teacher bailed us out with a numbers game.  Sixth hour we talked about making sandwiches with the kids.  It seemed to go well.  Back at the hotel and then dinner at Highway 4 Restaurant.  Nice place.  I liked the veggies and duck.  Good night!

- Bob

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fun Indeed

We get up and eat. Wait in lobby for mini-bus to the Oriental Sails boat in Halong Bay. Left about 8:15 a.m. While waiting, tried to use the PC in the lobby.  On the bus ride, we saw rice growing, water buffalo, freeways, lakes, village and more villages.

Had a quick rest stop at tourist "trap" -  W.C. place, gift shop and coffee/tea place.  Cool and cloudy.  Reached Halong Bay City boat ramp.  Great group on bus - three Asian Aussies, a Dutch couple, us, and a couple from Hong Kong and Australia.  One guy from Australia was working for an NGO in Thailand for seven-plus years.

We boarded a small junk that held 8 to 10 people.  Had a great lunch - sailed slowly.  Went to the karst caves - got on a tender and went to shore. Many junks and people and sampans.  Had a hike/walk up many stairs into the caverns or caves.  Went through about three chambers.  It's a UNESCO park. Overall a great place to visit, see and experience. 

Back to the junk - sailed slowly - moored.  Ate dinner at 7 p.m.  Great, wonderful, tasty meal  About 7 to 9 courses.  Wonderful presentation.  Carved fruit-vegetable flower designs in a vase to eat.  Later a wonderful lighted carved  pineapple.  Wonderful meal. After meal, we the group did karaoke.  Very spirited.  Very peppy.  Fun.  Just plain funny!  About 11 p.m., the end of the day for the majority.

PS:  We all got to paddle in a canoe or kayak.  Special experience.  Unique and wet  but fun indeed!

- Jack

Friday, March 9, 2012

"You cannot change the way people think. But your actions will change the way people think about you."

Breakfast at the top of the hotel - 8th floor.  Crazy dash drive to school. It took 45 minutes. Once at school we got started in the classroom.  Students are active, sweet, eager to learn, cute and peppy.  We all did various parts of the lesson - some oral, some drill, some modeling.  Students did worksheets on body parts and matching.  We did some correcting.  10 is the perfect score.  Good use of education is the TV YouTube concepts via song and pictures and diagrams. ..."under, about, next to... colors, hair, lips, ears...etc"

English teachers rotate into classes to teach English.  Classrooms are small and tight.  No rugs for students to sit on.  About 11:15, we had lunch across the courtyard in the first-floor eating area.  It was cooler today.

Lunch was typical - rice, veggies, etc.  We had free time. Several went across the street to walk and have coffee - Vietnamese coffee - small cup, drip.  Several checked emails upstairs next to the teacher room. 

About 3:15 we all went to the large, noisy, basic assembly hall for the English-speaking contest and assembly.  Small plastic chairs were set up. After some fixing and fussing and logistics, the program started.  Had a very loud PA system.  The H.S. principal  talked and several others.  Two students did the emceeing.  Then the contest started.  Ten students, grades 7- 12, spoke.  Topic was England or the United Kingdom.  We had a scoring sheet. Students used  PowerPoint.  Group was noisy in the hall. After each student speaker, the judges judged and turned in rating sheets.  Some students sang songs between some of the speakers.  After the contest was over, the results were added.  Finally all students came to the stage and we all presented the prizes - runner-ups, 1, 2 & 3rd.  About 4 p.m. the program ended. 

About 7 p.m. we walked several blocks to Tamarind Cafe.  Excellent place.  Veggie international food.  Real international group of college students and Hong Kong high-school international students nearby.  After dinner, all GVs went back to the hotel to rest, prepare, ponder, relax and sleep.  Amen!

-  Jack

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"A stitch in time saves a dime."

Weather cools a bit as we greet this new day. It's the usual crazy, insane commute to NBK - totally indescribable mayhem of cars, motor scooters, bikes, plus all the sidewalk merchant distractions.  We are assigned to Miss Vananh's classes today - talking about body parts, numbers (1-10) and the concepts of "in," "under" and "over" etc.  Plus the children created cards to celebrate International Women's Day which is today.  I was treated like a queen receiving roses from several classes.

After lunch we headed to the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology - with Thu, our friendly NBK colleague.  It is a fascinating place - wonderful artifacts representing the talents and lifestyles of Vietnamese minority people - of which there are 90 groups!  I especially enjoyed walking through the very interesting "homes" and community buildings of various peoples on the museum grounds - bamboo floors, towering ceilings!

Also there was an amazing "long" junk boat - more than 100 feet long.  It was used in several junk races, then retired to the museum.  After enjoying coffee in the museum cafe with Robin from the U.K. - pleasant fellow - we headed back to school.

A fancy teacher's program and Women's Day celebration followed.  We were introduced to the teachers formally. I gave a few remarks and so did David. Great fun!  A huge potluck ensued with interesting dishes.  Then back to the hotel.  Later in the evening, Jack, Bob & I stopped at the Pub next door to the hotel for conversation and pizza!  Fun!  Goodnight!            

- Barb       

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new lands, but seeing with new eyes."

Breakfast meeting and we are off to another day at NBK.  It was nice to have the directions and map to NBK.  The cab driver did not get lost today.  Thus, no arguments when we got there.

The morning was two periods of 3rd through 1st graders.  Great fun but we all agree that 4 volunteers in a classroom is too many.  Before lunch, we spent about 30 minutes talking to two student teachers.  They were very interesting.  They are worried about finding a job after they graduate from college.  So what is different here than in the U.S.?  They also told us that population growth in the country is the main issue of concern.

Lunch, a break and then one more class of first-graders - then back to the hotel.

Dinner was at the Huyen Huong Restaurant - spring rolls, fried rose and pho. Altogether a pleasant evening.

- Bob

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Yesterday is but today's memory, tomorrow is today's dream."

After a long detour by our lost taxi driver, we arrived at NBK school late.  We participated in the last 20 minutes of what appeared to be a math class, and were relieved for a couple of hours from teaching.  Thu spent 40 minutes teaching us some basic Vietnamese phrases, such as "xin chao" (hello) and "tam biet" (good bye).  We participated in an English class, working with students on learning parts of the body, through watching videos on YouTube and playing "Simon says."

Tuesdays are a half-day, so we were treated to lunch at NBK school and released.  We attended a pleasant water puppet show, then convened for dinner at the Avalon Grill.  Before the evening concluded, we booked a weekend cruise to see Halong Bay.

-- David

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Day of Teaching

We all got up early and had breakfast on the top floor.  Nice meal.  Enjoyed looking at all the rooftops.  Was cloudy and misty.  About 7:30 a.m. we had a short meeting.  James Heiss read his report and his quote.

Next:  A long 45-minute crazy taxi ride to out-of-mind experience - the bikes, the cars, the motorbikes, the people....and all the sights.

At the school, there was a simple welcome reception with the headmaster.  Had tea and got flowers.  Floors were slippery - all marble.  It's a very large, 7-story school.  This was International Women's Day.  We had two school assemblies in the large school outdoor courtyard.  Hundreds of kids on little plastic stools.  Two programs - lower elementary and middle school.... Saw dancing, heard poems and singing. Program was too long.... Next to the teacher's lounge where we had a short planning meeting.

We visited several classrooms - lots of moving around and the afternoon is sort of a whirl now.  Twenty-eight to 30 kids in small rooms.  Colorful - 2 to 3 teachers in each room in grades 1, 2, 3.

It's busy here.  Students are peppy, spirited and happy.  Students studying English -  I thought the lessons were too hard, in my opinion.

We all took part and shared experiences.  David played "Hangman" with the kids.  David also directed a game regarding "countable" and "non-countable" nouns.

Had a nice lunch with our new staff.  Had coffee across the street.  David James Heiss finally after some coordination and help, got his much-needed new pants. 

School ended at 4 p.m.....way too late from my point of view.  Got taxi.... ride home took almost 45 minutes (to hotel).  Back in hotel- we rested. 
- Jack