Vietnam Volunteer Vacation – Tuesday June 23, 2009

English Language Students in Class

Thoughts of the day: “Turns out not where, but who you’re with that really matters.”
– Dave Matthews Band

“I sought trains; I found passengers.” – Paul Theroux

It seems that Ruth’s adage proved true today: Don’t over-plan for the mission. After banging our heads against the wall yesterday afternoon trying to find something to fill 40 additional minutes of class time, I think all were relieved to find that we had more than enough material for a very productive second class!
We awoke to a rainstorm, a blessing, as it kept the heat at bay. The group discovered at breakfast that we could count on Patrice’s persistence; she came prepared with 2 additional activities. She was also responsible for determining that we have access to a photocopier at the hotel, which could definitely come in handy going forward!

Today we worked with the younger group of students: about half of yesterday’s group, which allowed us to actually begin to get to know a few names and to have a lot more interaction with the students. We discovered that we have twin boys in class, that group activities are a hit and that introducing a little bit of competition is a great way to up the excitement level! The theme of the day was food and we got the kids to list as many kinds of fruits and vegetables as they could. Groups of 5 or 6 competed to see who could come up with the most and everyone — including Mr. Long — got involved! I’m fairly confident that each student could go into a restaurant and manage to order whatever they “would like” to eat, even a plate of shark and a bowl of brown jellyfish! However, the distinction between regular and diet soda seemed to be lost upon a group that clearly doesn’t have to worry about its calorie intake yet.

“Young Man,” aka the YMCA, also continues to draw an enthusiastic response, even from the otherwise quiet Ms. Huong and a few younger girls at the orphanage, whom we could see through the windows imitating the older kids as they tried out the hand motions. Ruth will remain our designated song leader, as hearing a group of 20-something Vietnamese kids sing “Ah se-ud, yung ma-un,” in their best Southern drawl is just way too priceless!

We had another fabulous lunch prepared by Ms. Tam, although she continues to overestimate our appetites. Pumpkin and pork ribs (chicken for Ruth), tofu with tomato sauce, a lovely tomato, cumber and carrot salad, steamed rice and a special dish of pork and bird eggs, ordered by Mr. Dung, was definitely more than we could handle, much less the mango, dragon fruit and bananas for dessert, plus the plums brought over by the neighbors! Needless to say, we continue to eat very well! We also learned the Vietnamese words for son-in-law and old goat – obviously useful phrases, both!

With a new batch of kids being picked up and the second driver attending a funeral, no one was available to take us to the furniture showrooms, so we got the afternoon off. It seems I will have to wait for my motorbike ride with Mr. Long! So after lunch we returned to the hotel, took a short break and had an abbreviated planning session, in which we mostly celebrated the fact that we can re-use our food lesson tomorrow with a few small modifications.

Ruth, Toni and I had a very productive trip to the post office and several silk shops on Pho Hang Gai in the afternoon. And this evening all of the ladies went to a water puppet show. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional music (particularly the dan bao) and the playful performance! My favorite was the dragon dance, complete with pyrotechnics.

I skipped out on tonight’s dinner, but I’m sure that if it was as memorable as all of our others have been, someone will be willing to supplement my entry a bit. Overall, I would say that it was a great second day, that our rapport with the children and the administrators at the school is building every day and that the group dynamic continues to be very positive!
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