I returned to Thai Binh last Monday, by bus, taking four hours, giving me the opportunity to see some of the countryside. I had experienced the chance to teach on three occasions at Bac Giang. I taught both young and older students, which was an interesting experience, as I had only sat in in classes ranging from 3 – 10 years of age, the previous week in Thai Binh. I found the older children, aged 14-15 years, challenging in the fact that they are so reserved and quiet, I was expecting the typical teenager, I have experienced back in the UK, full of life and opinions about everything!
As a new teacher I am still finding my feet and trying to identify the age range that I feel is my preference. Whilst training in the TEFL methodology I felt I would be suited to the older student and/or even adults, in preference to the younger students. However, since returning to Thai Binh I have taught several classes at various state schools, as well as at the New World Education Centres and found I quite enjoyed teaching the younger students. Yes they can be challenging, especially at 7.30 am on a Sunday morning, or at 5.30 pm after school, as they are tired and are not so focused, as they would be during the day in a school classroom, but the ability to capture and keep their interest on the English language, means you have to be inventive and use your imagination. One bright student, aged 7, I took for a “one to one” lesson, as last minute change to my schedule, was lovely, not only very good with his English, but was intent on trying to teach me Vietnamese during the lesson!
I received the greatest compliment, this week, from a co-teacher who I’d met for the first time, that evening, teaching a new class of 5-8 year olds at one of the Centres in Thai Binh. She said “I can see it in your eyes that you really love to teach children”. I did enjoy the class… the topic was “What is your job” one of the jobs was a “Fireman”.
I introduced myself and showed the children a picture of myself dressed in Fireman’s uniform, in front of a Fire Engine, with my former colleagues at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. There was a look of amazement, for a split second, then onto the usual questions during introduction. What is my name? What is my age? Where do I come from?
On a negative side to the new teaching schedule, I was attacked by mosquitos, on Thursday evening, during my time at one of the schools, I was not prepared, wearing a dress, I suffered two horrendous bites on each leg, resulting in blisters and inflammation which, those who follow me on Facebook, saw my whole ankle and foot swell up! Within 24 hours I needed medication, in the form of antibiotics and antihistamines, (I think) due to the severe language barrier at the pharmacy, a lot of pointing and sign language, resulted in one syringe, sterilised water, lint dressing, cream and the two lots of tablets. Thankfully the inflammation and infection subsided within 48 hours, however, I had developed a head cold and sickness bug, so the end of my week had turned into a disaster health wise.
One benefit of living in 27 degree heat, was the head cold disappeared within 48 hours. I stemmed the sickness by forcing, what I can only describe as the alternative to British toasted bread, which is my usual recovery aid with any sickness bug, by eating a Banh My. A baguette filled with an omelette, fresh herbs and chilli sauce, lightly toasted….. followed by coconut ice cream later in the evening. A much better alternative to yet more medication… which was probably the cause of my upset stomach in the first place!
Following this week’s opportunity to teach classes and start to gain experience in the classroom, my schedule for the following week has increased to around 16 hours, a gradual build up to the 25 hours per week, agreed in my original contract. Miss Hong informed me yesterday that I would be staying in Thai Binh to teach, rather than go to Bac Giang. As two of the current team of volunteers, Ewa and Mymy are both leaving soon, I can understand the need to keep me here, there is a big demand for English teachers in Vietnam generally.
Today, I had a day off from teaching, an opportunity to take a walk around Thai Binh and explore new areas in the city. I took a walk along the many of the waterways (flood drains) that run through the city, down to the main River Cau Bo, a tributary of the Red River, which flows through Hanoi, taking in the sights and sounds of the City. There were many colourful market stalls, with fresh flowers, meat, fruit and vegetables brought in by the local farmers to sell, the food stalls and restaurants, selling local dishes such as fried rice and beef noodles, which smell very enticing as you walk by, and the variety of small shop and industrial units, reflecting that Thai Binh is an agricultural town, situated within Thai Binh province, the agricultural area in North Vietnam.
The town reflects not only the extreme poverty, but also the wealth of success, living side by side, in a strange kind of harmony.
by Elaine Lennox
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