Well, as you can see, Brian and I got caught up in living our lives here in Vietnam and completely neglected this little blog.
So you might wonder, what about your job? what about Vietnam? Are you staying longer? Good but tiring, awesome but overwhelming, and Yes! Here's a rundown on some things that have been happening in our lives.
Shortly after writing our last post, we became friends with an excellent group of people here in the city. My experience living abroad changed immediately when I felt I had a group of people I could trust and rely on. This past year we've shared three successful group trips, countless nights out, celebrations of holidays, group dinners, tearful goodbyes to some of us, and daily group chats. I can say that a sense of community is essential when you're building a new life for yourself.
I consider the people I've met and grown close to here to be lifetime friends. We're sure to meet again some day and probably in some other country for more adventures!
One thing going abroad and teaching as taught me is that I don't necessarily want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. Teaching is thankless, hard job. For example: at our language center, you are sometimes expected to work miracles with kids you see once a week and support children with learning disabilities in classes of children who do not have those issues.
So, becoming a teacher at a language center has been...an experience. It can be quite stressful, the students are coming for a 3 hour class after 6-8 hours of school. They're fried, don't want to focus, and sometimes are forced to be there by their parents. It can be hard to make a foreign language seem appealing when all they want to do is chat with their friends or listen to Kpop on their iphones.
With time this can wear on you, you feel like you've tried everything to get them engaged, you know you can only do so much in the confines of your small, tiled classroom. Classes are sometimes 20+ students with varying levels of English comprehension, you might feel that even with a 3 hour time, you don't get the results you wanted from all the students. I admit to becoming burnt out especially when I was working at my language center and at a local kindergarten.
When we came home for Christmas, I had a month long break from teaching and returned feeling more optimistic. I began to care more about the success of my students and wanted to push them harder. Currently, that's how I'm feeling about my classes. My school doesn't have many resources but I want my students to succeed at learning this language. I've had to become more creative in some ways and try different methods and practices. It sounds like I didn't care before, I did but I was so new to teaching I felt afraid to try different things from my lesson plans.
It really does make you feel amazing when you see your students finally get a concept. You see the light come on in their eyes and it's a huge "YES!" moment. It's also great to have a class that absolutely loves you, one of my classes gave me gifts for teachers day and wrote me letters about how much of a difference I had made in their lives. It's also hilarious to hear a bunch of little kids yell "MS. HOPE MS.HOPE!!!" when they spot you in the hallway.
This year of teaching has taught me a lot about myself, it's turned me into an actual and better teacher, has made me respect the craft of teaching, and has made me excited about the little moments of success and appreciation I get from my students.
Vietnam and Staying Longer
Vietnam is an amazing country. Saigon is an amazing city and every day I see amazing things! So yeah I need to get a thesaurus and put some more adjectives in that sentence up there but honestly I have a deep appreciation for the beauty, kindness, and challenges living in Vietnam has given me. The city is almost inscrutable when you first arrive, when Brian and I got off the plane and thought "Oh no what did we do?!" we were scared we wouldn't be able to make it here. My favorite thing about Saigon and what I think makes it so beautiful is that everyone is living their lives in the open. Most shops and restaurants are open air, people eat drink and hang out on the streets, motorbikes are the main form of transportation so you can actually see all the people traveling around you.
There is rich vibrant life all around you all the time. The food is incredible, the people are kind, the alleyways and city streets hide hidden gems waiting to be found. The outer districts (2 and 7) have the lush expat life if you want a break from the center of the city bustle. People grow plants on their roofs, balconies, sidewalks adding a little green to the hard concrete facades. There are weird smells, weird sights. It's an overwhelming blur of everything you can imagine. Vietnam is slow to embrace outsiders but if you go with the flow you soon find yourself appreciating and learning and experiencing more and more.
For my birthday this past year Brian got me a nearly permanent "souvenir" from my time here, a dog! We have our own little vietnamese mutt named Ginger. He is a sweetie but it's hard to own a dog in a small apartment! It's been a fun adventure.
I am ashamed to admit that I have learned no Vietnamese. My goal this year is to get a tutor and try to tackle it head on. I did learn to ride a bike and bought my own little 70cc Honda cub that I putter around the same few places on.
Beyond that, we have decided to stay for another year. I can't wait to see what happens this year and I will keep this blog updated a bit more regularly!