Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're Here!

by Karissa

A few nights ago I was seranaded at supper, by a man on a guitar. Then he kissed my hand. It wasn't my husband, but Eric was there, sitting across the table from me. The guy also toasted Eric about 8 times. Every meal is an experience...

I had just finished my first demo lesson (they want to make sure we're good teachers) and it had started raining. Eric met me at school and we quickly walked to the first restaurant on our way from the school. It was busy, but it was mostly men patrons and there was a lot of cigarette smoke in the air. We went to the next restaurant (these restaurants open up onto the street, much like a store in a mall opens up to the main hallway). This restaurant is called Red. There were chairs that were normal height at tables with tablecloths. Nice! Of course, the fanciness would mean the prices are a bit higher, but eating at a food stand wasn't much of an option when it's raining out.

The friendly man who seranaded me was another guest at the restaurant, there with two of his musical buddies and one of their lady friends. They were singing a bit and playing guitar before he came over. He brought over a Tiger (seen everywhere here!) beer, poured some into Eric's cup and started toasting him. "Uh.... America!" (toast) "Uh, aaah, uh, number one!" (toast) This went on until either he ran out of things he could toast about in English or the bottle was empty. I'm not sure. I got one toast near the end. I think it was to marriage or something. I wasn't quick enough to toast him lower on his cup than he on mine, which is polite. Then he sang a song with several verses, his friend tapping the guitar with the beat. Each verse ended with "Vietnam... America!" (the only English part of the song).

The beer was done. The toasts were complete. The song was over. And the friendly man went back to his table. Eric and I smiled and talked about it for a bit, finished our veggie appetizer (probably the only time we've ever had a plate of steamed veggies as an appetizer!) and entree of grilled steak (yum!) We asked for the bill (we act this out buy either writing something in the air or pretending to write something on our hand--sometimes one works, sometimes the other works). We got our bill... and to our surprise and, yes we giggled, the beer that we had been toasted with had been put on our bill.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Full Month and a Crazy Week

by Eric

Training is done! We have our final commissioning service Sunday morning, but other than that, it's time to pack up and get ready for Vietnam! We fly out Tuesday morning.

It's been a wild month. The first few weeks of training are designed to be intense. Someone referred to it as the 'Toothpaste Time'... What comes out when you get squeezed?
Our schedule was intense:
7:30 Breakfast
8:00 Discussion groups about the day's topic
9:00 TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Training
10:30 Continuation of TEFL stuff, but split into regional groups to learn about teaching in Vietnam
12:00 Lunch and a break
1:30 Large group session on the other aspects of life overseas. Team dynamics, dealing with emotions, conflict, depression, etc.
2:30 Language and culture. Preparing for the specifics of life in Vietnam and learning some language cornerstones and survival phrases for our first few weeks.
4:00 Practicum prep. Four nights a week, we teach a group of Chinese Americans. We find out who is teaching in the afternoon and then those who are teaching have about an hour and a half to get a lesson prepared
5:30 Supper
6:15 Leave for practicum
9:15 Get back debrief with your city/team
10:00 Done for the day. (Unless we have homework)

Things slowed down a bit in the third week, and most people had a less eventful week four. But we're not like most people...

This last week had a lot of surprise twists and turns for Karissa and me. We started the week figuring we'd be teaching in Ho Chi Minh City at an English center and that there would be another team of two in the city with us. Unfortunately our school backed out on the contract and our director had to start checking out other options for us. For the next day or two, it looked like we may be teaching at a high school/middle school in HCMC. But once we started finding out more details about the school and the teaching schedule, that option started to look less and less appealing. After that, there was the potential of working at a school in a sister-city of HCMC. But our director isn't familiar with the school and agreeing to work at a school and live in a place you've never seen isn't a wise thing to do. Currently, our in country director is pursuing a fairly solid lead in a different city where we have teachers serving.

So yeah, it's been a challenging week. It's tricky. I feel okay when things are unknown, but it's been hard to deal with the changes. As things were unfolding, I'd let myself think "We're probably going to be teaching in _____." The first change was a bummer because we really liked the situation we had in HCMC. But you roll with it and you pick out the positives of the new situation and think "This won't be so bad. In fact, I kinda like this." Then the situation changes again. And it's a bummer again because you had just found things you liked about that possibility. So again, you look at the next possibility, find the positives, and think "This won't be so bad..." And then it changes again.

The best thing is that the changing situation has kept us dependent on Him. We've joked saying, 'I thought we were flexible before!' With all the changes, it has been an emotionally draining week. But we still have a peace about the whole situation. We're not sure where we're going to end up, but we know He has a plan for us! We know we'll keep doing our best to follow that plan. And we know we're flying out on Tuesday!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Road Trippin

by Eric

We're wrapping up week three of training. It's been crazy busy. (Hence the lack of blog posts and Facebook activity...) I'll chat more about training in the next post. First, some news about our trip to the West.

It's hard to believe that four weeks ago we were packing up the last things in the house and trying to get everything to fit in the car. Our goal was to get on the road around 8 on Friday morning, but even with an early start on the day, that just wasn't going to happen. We kept moving stuff to the car, the storage pile, or to the garbage can until the house was pretty well cleared out. We didn't get the floor vac
uumed, the cupboards wiped down, or the fridge cleaned out. But thankfully we had forgiving landlords!

It was awesome that we were able to visit some of Karissa's siblings along the way to training! The first few days were spent in Denver with Marilyda, Steve, and Ryker.

We played at a place cleverly
named 'Frog Park'.

There was a spinning pole thing. Karissa may have gone one too many revolutions...

She recovered well and was able to have several in depth conversations with Ryker. I believe in this picture they were discussing total depravity and the perseverance of the saints.

We left Denver on Monday morning and drove to Salt Lake City. Our hotel in SLC had a mini-water park, so we hung out there and even played a game of water basketball.

The next day's drive was from SLC to Reno, Nevada. The GPS gave us about four commands during the whole 8 hour trip. Leave the parking lot, turn on the interstate...next turn in 504 miles... Doh. Reno was fun. We didn't see any shows or do any gambling, but we did check out the downtown casinos and enjoyed an awesome buffet. That night we saw some fire dancers in the park. Cool. But definitely strange!

The next day we arrived in California. We visited Karissa's college roommate Rosie in San Jose and spent a night in the biggest suite I've ever seen!

From there it was on to Modesto to visit Derrick, Ruth, Noah, and the new arrival Gavin. Ruth was very gracious to let us crash at their place despite GIVING BIRTH just 4 days earlier! We did our best to be helpful, watching one of the kids when needed and helping Derrick pack things up for their upcoming move.

Noah and I bonded over a breakfast of Cheerios and fresh fruit. We also spent time playing with him in the pool, and playing with his cars and train.

Gavin spent most of his time being cuddly and adorable. (while also keeping up the newborn's full time job of sleeping, eating, and pooping).

And finally on Saturday we drove down from Modesto to Pasadena for the start of training. Google told us our trip had about 37 hours of drive time. The trip ended up being a great chance to hang out with some awesome people and to catch our breath before the sprint of training started.