First weeks teaching in Vietnam

While I sit here sipping a gin on a chilled Friday night in, I thought I’d give you an insight into my first few weeks of teaching here in Vietnam. I’m going to run through how teaching works out here and at my school, my routine and things I have seen or learnt so far. cropped-39098029_1970734732978207_3690897445945868288_n

So the first official teaching day at VAS (Vietnam Australia International School) was Monday 13th August however the week prior we were learning the ropes, going between our new campuses and meeting a lot of new people. How the PE department works at VAS is a little different to any school I’ve ever known. VAS is a bilingual school and the students study in both English and Vietnamese. Once they reach Grade 9 (Y10) they begin English (Cambridge) PE. Its crazy really, they wait all this time for some decent PE lessons. All the Vietnamese PE is very static, a lot of drills, one by one practises (my personal favourite, standing in a line and hitting a shuttlecock hanging from a string). They also have minimal time playing games and also love routined dancing (we’ve seen this a lot). So once they come to us, with Cambridge PE being very active, games based, teamwork, independent tasks and tactical learning they are a little stunned. It’s a fun and exciting time for them learning a style of lesson they have never experienced before. We have already been told on many occasions that they want more Cambridge PE and less Vietnamese!

Our PE department is made up of Me, Steph, Danny and Jonny (4 brits – woop!). We work between 6 campuses around the city of Saigon. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we are at all different campuses each day, and Thursday and Friday we are at the same one. Its a lot of travelling on the motorbike to different campuses, but at the same time the week goes so fast. With the longest commute being around 25 minutes and a full tank of petrol being equivalent to £3 – we can’t really complain.

The introductory week involved visiting all the campuses, tidying store cupboards and getting to know people we would be involved with at each campus. When the kids arrived we started the lessons with baseline assessments – one of the most tedious tasks! Assessing the students in running, jumping, kicking, throwing and catching to give them a baseline score for assessment purposes. This week was also a chance to introduce ourselves to the new students and get to know some names. Its fair to say its pretty cute being called “Miss Grace” but something I’m totally not used to. Another thing I am still not used to is getting to know names I cannot even pronounce. The Vietnamese language is very fast and involves a lot of rise and fall on each word. Names like Nguyen – pronounced “Win” and Nghia pronounced “Ni-yeah” and one of my favourites Phuc pronounced “Phooo” – all a very funny process when you first try to read out the register. Luckily a lot of these students use English nicknames in Cambridge lessons so were converted to something a little more familiar.

I am going to conclude this blog with some memorable moments from my first 6 weeks of teaching. Its fair to say I’ve had a good share of broken glasses from students who don’t know how to catch properly.  The language barrier is a bit of an issue at times but the kids do very well to understand. Students always need a demonstration. All very amusing but a little frustrating when you tell students to stand “opposite” each other and they move side by side with very blank faces. Sometimes a bit of physical handling is required to move students into the correct place!IMG_1361

The way in which I talk to students is completely different to back home. The language is very basic and broken down into phrases they understand like “good job” or “well done”.  As they are so new to games play or tactics, if you try and give them technical information to improve you often get a face staring open-mouthed at you… don’t bother.

Another comic moment which I am experiencing out here during swimming teaching is… cramp! The amount of cramps in one swimming lesson is ridiculous, at least 2 or 3. Students here just aren’t cut out for busy, active swimming lessons. Often when asked if they have eaten or drank much today the answer is “NO”. My thoughts are “you live in Vietnam where its over 30 degrees”, “I sweat buckets just walking to the toilet”, “I pee about 10 times a day from the amount of water I drink”… so how can you not have a drink! Baffled is the word. IMG_1600

I am enjoying getting to know my classes and the fast pace of the week. I am one for getting bored easily, so the fact we move to different campuses each day is fun for me. I have a lot of great classes with students who are so willing to learn. They are golden, the only issues I ever have is low level chatting or some lateness to lesson – nothing “Miss Grace” can’t handle. In the back of my mind at the moment there is only one issue… No break until Christmas. The long slog until then continues, wish me luck.

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Food frenzy in District 1, HCMC

District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The busiest district, the centre of the madness and also the home to the most historic buildings, bustling shopping malls, crazy moped-filled streets, and delicious food the city has to offer. I always find it funny when I talk about the city being split into districts. Does anyone else have Hunger Games in their head by any chance? What a film – “I volunteer as tribute!”

During our first week we were staying the Ruby River Hotel, pretty central to all the District 1 madness, but also quiet enough that we could get a good nights sleep. Although most mornings we would hear the motorbike horns as our get up alarm. We would also hear the food vendors on their pedal bikes and megaphone announcing they were selling food (a bit like the ice cream man of Vietnam). These noises have become all too familiar to us now.

Over the next few days we explored the cities central district, visiting Ben Thanh Market and Street Food Market which quickly became one of our favourite places to eat. Not only were the prices cheap – around 70 VND for a meal = £2 GBP – but the food was incredible. The street food market hosts about 50 different eateries all under one roof. A mixture of traditional Vietnamese dishes to Thai or Italian dishes with my particular favourite being “GOT BUN?” A Vietnamese place selling the best bao buns the city has to offer (A steamed bread bun encasing a tender piece of meat). In particular the fried chicken or the belly pork bun. I could have eaten one of those every night if I could, must resist!

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The street food market offered a real insight into the travellers life as we were surrounded by backpackers as well as some locals enjoying the ambiance around us. The place was simple, wooden benches and tables to eat from, a make shift roof that wheeled on and off if it rained, and some painted street artwork on the walls. But all in all a perfect place to devour excellent food for minimal cost.

A couple of nights in I decided to get on trip advisor and find what some of the other food fanatics had to say about eateries in HCMC. About 6th down on the list I spotted something I’d always wanted to try… POKÉ. I’m a massive fan of Sarah’s day on youtube and Instagram (if you don’t follow her, you must!) and I know she always makes her own poke/nourish bowls and I’ve seen them all over the web so wanted to try! I felt like I needed pure vegetables to give me a boost of nutrients. Vietnamese food is pretty plain, normally rice or noodles with meat so I needed my dose of vitamins. Poke Saigon was located on ‘Walking street’ (no cars allowed) in a picturesque building called Apartment 42 Nguyen Hue https://goo.gl/images/kA1w7p. They say that all the best restaurants or bars are hidden away in this city, and this was definitely correct for this place. The place itself was small but bright and clean so it was all we wanted.IMG_1266Here we picked our own salad, vegetables, sauces and fish poke to create a delicious bowl of yumminess for just £4/5 – I will definitely be back!

With District 1 boasting a whole range of food options both western and authentic we are excited to try more food that the city has to offer. Jonny and I have said we are going to try and have a date night every week where we try a new restaurant. Its so cheap to eat out here that it seems a shame not to. I’d say you’d spend the same amount eating out here every night (depending on how upmarket you go) as you would buying food in to cook at home – its crazy!

 

Leaving home for Vietnam

Having been here 6 weeks I wanted to start sharing my experiences with you. I’m going to start with the first 2 weeks when it was all a total whirlwind. Looking back the first 2 weeks it seemed like one massive holiday. It’s all a blur now, it didn’t seem real.

We (Jonny and I) departed Manchester Airport, UK on Wednesday 1st August 2018. Our parents took us to the airport separately and we met there. I remember feeling sick with nerves in the car but I didn’t want to let my family know I was scared, because I’m a “tough cookie”. The lead up to moving away I was totally excited, no nerves at all. But when it came to leaving my family behind I was an emotional mess. You don’t realise how much family means to you until you are apart. I have always been very close with my family so the whole ordeal seemed a lot harder for me. Jonny however was hard as nails. Sat in departures looking out at our plane I was an ocean of tears, I don’t know what had come over me, I couldn’t stop crying! This is not like me. Even on the first plane to DXB I would randomly break out in tears for no apparent reason. Jonny being Jonny knew exactly what to do in the situation. We talked it out and then ended up laughing about it, the best!

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The past 4 months of planning the exciting big move was all becoming real.

As we landed in Saigon, my nerves and emotions seemed to turn to excitement. With everything going smoothly from visa collection and hotel pick up we made it to our first destination, Ruby River Hotel, District 1, Saigon. This would be our home for the next 7 nights.

We arrived and were quickly checked in. They obviously didn’t think we were a couple as the school had booked 2 separate rooms on different floors! We squashed into 1 of the rooms (no wardrobes or drawer space) with all our bags covering the entire floor of the room and this is how we would live for the next 7 nights … out of a suitcase!