Friday, January 28, 2011

The "Be a ______" Game

by Eric

We teach a wide range of ages in our classes. A lot of students in our adult classes are in their teens or low 20s. Most of the students in our kids classes are 8-12. And then there's First Friends.

It's a class for kids just beginning their English study at our center. A big half of the kids are 7 or 8 and have learned some English at their Viet
namese school. The rest of the kids in this course are 4-6 and come in with almost no English background. I think the parents of these students want them to get a head start on learning English.

As you can imagine, it's challenging to hold the attention of this group
for more than a few minutes at a time. To deal with this, we change activities A LOT! We sing songs, do different activities with the flash cards, and when all else fails, I break out the coloring book pages.

Emma and Tommy are hard at work. Tom is always ready for a distraction...

It's cold outside (temps in the 60s)! But you can't color with gloves on!

A class I started with a few months ago is now wrapping up the first half of the book. The nice thing about this class is that they've had me as their teacher the whole time. (sometimes we have classes added/removed from our schedules in the middle of the course) So these students know the games I like to play and I don't need to re-explain the 'rules' every time. One of the games that's become a favorite is something I call the 'Be A ______' Game.

To play this game, we added actions to the various vocabulary words we've learned (A through I). In one version, I act out the words and they yell out what they think I'm doing. But the most fun is when I call out the word and they all act it out.

How fun is it, you ask? Check it out!

The 'Be A _______' Game

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On your knees, for my knees

by Karissa

I don't have pain in my knees and I haven't my whole time in Vietnam. That's five months.

For the last few years, I've gotten sore knees every few months. Stairs, chairs and toilets were my main challenges. I couldn't squat to sit down or put all my weight on one leg to do stairs. After a few days or a week or two the pain would completely subside.

I do a lot of walking and a lot of stairs here and I have had no problems with my knees. You may or may not know that we've started running, too. Even with that, no problems.

I am really feeling that there are many, many people on their knees for us.
My knees (don't) feel it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to drive... again

by Karissa

The traffic follows very different rules than any country I've ever lived in and takes some getting used to. We're glad we had bicycles for a couple of weeks before getting our scooter because it gave us a better idea of how to navigate the seemingly disorganized chaos:

-pulling out from your sidewalk parking spot into traffic, in front of, and into, oncoming traffic
-making a left turn, but cutting in front of people to make the turn
-being so close to people while driving through a traffic circle that you can tap them on the shoulder to ask them to back up
-friends driving 20 km/h beside each other and chatting as they drive down main roads
-two or three or four or five people on one motorbike, with the babies standing up
-honking, lots of honking and none of it is out of anger
-no stop signs. None at all. Which means when you come to an intersection, you gauge your timing with oncoming motorbikes, pedestrians, trucks, cars, etc and just drive through.

Yes, seemingly chaotic. And yet, we've learned there are several rules to the road Here are some:

You are only responsible for what is in front of you. People can pull out in front of you or slow down and you must not hit them. Sounds crazy, maybe, but it also means that you basically can assume that if you have to quickly slow down or if you need to turn into a street, people will not hit you because they're watching for that.

You can drive really close to other vehicles and no one will freak out or slam on their breaks. It's really okay.

I wish you could just come here and experience it. I love walking confidently through a busy traffic circle knowing that, while it looks crazy, I'm safe and I just need to make sure I'm not in the way of a truck or van, but that motorbikes will just drive around me.

I'm great at walking in this traffic.
And I'm good at biking in this stuff, too.

I've taken the motorbike out a couple times to practice driving.

Today was the first time I took the motorbike out to actually run an errand. It wasn't practice this time. I had forgotten my helmet at the restaurant I had a meeting at this morning. Eric had dropped me off, I hung the helmet up on the helmet rack (similar to a coat rack ;) ) and after my meeting (I'll talk about that meeting another time--exciting things!) I walked home. And while I need a helmet to ride a motorbike, I don't need one to walk home.

By the time I got home I had decided that I would borrow Eric's helmet, drive myself back to Bread of Life, and get my helmet. So I did. And one of my favourite employees was on 'bike security' or 'welcome duty' so he saw me drive up. While he can't speak (he's deaf, another story) he gave me the best facial expression of shock and excitement to see that I was actually driving.

Summary statement for my blog post? I'm pretty excited about driving 'for real' today.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Extreme Blog Makeover

by Eric

Life was kinda crazy when we launched our blog. We were in the midst of packing up our lives in the states, fundraising, and crossing things off our exceedingly long to-do list. As a consequence of that, we didn't put a lot of thought or planning into the design aspects of the blog. And it showed...

Boring old blog layout

So, after playing around with the settings and design tabs, we've (re)launched our new and improved blog! We've got a few more changes to make, so don't fall off the edge of your seat as you wait for those.

Hope you enjoy the new look. And if you have any suggestions for the inspirational quote or pithy saying, please let us know!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Witnessed Today

by Eric

Today I saw three new and mildly noteworthy things:
- An ambulance driver leaving a hospital had the window rolled down and he was smoking.

- There were approximately 20 white people being pedaled down the street in xich los. A xich lo is the three wheeled bike-taxi where the passenger (aka 'tourist') sits in front and the driver pedals them around. The most I'd ever seen together before this parade was this was 4.

And I'm not saying the streets are crowded, but...
- I saw a lady get the attention of another driver by reaching over and tapping him on the shoulder while doing about 20 miles per hour.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Speaking another language

by Karissa

Two or three times a week, after we're finished teaching, we go to a foodstall on our way home from school to pick up sandwiches for supper. I've talked about these sandwiches before, (maybe on Facebook) the 10,000VND or 50 cent sub-like sandwiches. We have two places in particular that we frequent: one we called 'sandwich lady' and the other we call 'the banh mi opla place'.

This story takes places at 'the banh mi opla place' this past Friday night.

Banh mi means bread or anything related (cake, cookies, crackers, cupcakes, muffins, buns, ciabatta) If it's bread, they just use 'banh mi'. If it's cookies they might say banh mi "cookie" (I don't know the word for cookie).

It's Friday night and we're headed to 'the banh mi opla place'. Eric drops me off and goes a few stores down to get a couple of smoothies: pineapple and orange. For 13,000VND each, they're almost a steal.

I order 'hai'. The lady knows us and knows what I mean. Hai means two. She also knows that Eric likes the regular sandwich while I prefer mine without the spicy sauce or funky tasting lettuce/leaves stuff. So I tell her that tonight, both sandwiches are for Eric as I ate earlier. She smiles and I stand there patiently waiting for her to finish up her other orders and then start on mine.

An older woman drives up on her motorbike, smoking the fattest, hand-rolled cigarette I've ever seen. As I'm staring at her, she says hi, smiles and walks over to me.

Smoking lady: This lady makes great sandwiches.
Me: Yes, doesn't she!
Smoking lady: How many do you want to order?
Me: Two.
(Smoking lady tells banh mi op la lady that I want two, even though she already knows)
Smoking lady: Oh! You must be really hungry!
Me: Oh no! They're for my husband. He's up the street.
Smoking lady: Ah! Yes. Well, have a good night!
Me: You too!

Nice lady, hey?

Now wait a second. The lady doesn't know English. And I don't speak Vietnamese, yet.


I don't know her native language and she doesn't know mine.

This conversation was in TPR, the language of ESL teachers everywhere: total physical response.


Yup, it was completely acted out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hot dog! or Hot dog...

by Karissa
I was reading about healthy eating and things of that nature and saw a picture of a kid eating a hot dog. And now I really want one. The title for the image? 10 worst foods for kids and what to fix instead.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today: learning English Tomorow: The world?

by Karissa

Yes, my students want to learn English. But they're not 'America-bound', Western-culture loving people who feel confined here.

Not at all.

My students love their families and have dreams for themselves that have them in good jobs where they can provide for their families.

Some of my students want to travel and of those, some of them will be able to. One of my top students, Mary (yes, from a previous post) would love to travel to Japan. And everytime she mentions it, she also mentions money (well, maybe that's not so different than the rest of us).

So, while traveling or studying abroad is not an option for many of my students (money is an issue, or they can't take time off work, etc) I recently found out that two of my students will be studying abroad in the near future.

Mike is a 15 year old student in a pre-intermediate class. When the class ended, a group of us went to a teenager-club place (like a coffee-shop/bar with no alcohol). He mentioned that he's going to the US for three.

Karissa: Three? Three what?
Mike: Three years.
Karissa: Three years! Wow! Where are you going?

Mike: I'm going to live with my aunt and uncle in Connecticut.

Just two days ago, Julie, a 15 year old in my intermediate class was given the impromptu speach topic of traveling.

Julie: Next year I will study in Canada.

Karissa: In Canada! Where?

Julie: I don't know. My dad knows someone.

Karissa: I'm from there! I'm so excited for you.

Bill: (34 year old student, married, one child, wife is 8 months pregnant with their second): You should exchange phone numbers.

Karissa: I don't live there now. But I have lots of friends there. Let's exchange e-mail addresses.

Other students: Teacher, write your e-mail address on the board.

Karissa: Okay. And if you want to, you may share your e-mail address with me. Only if you want to.

Here my intermediate students are playing the game where they must guess who's name is on their back. We had everyone from the president of Vietnam, to famous Korean musicians to Tom Hand (oh whoops, found out later he meant Tom Hanks)

Julie is on the left in the white skirt looking thing (called an em vai, it's the traditional dress of women in Vietnam worn at weddings, etc). She's wearing a fleece over it because she's cold.
Bill is on the right. He had Isaac Newton on his back and was the last to figure it out. Finally I told him to ask if his person was dead or alive. Then he got it.

I stood on a chair to get this shot.

I have a diverse class. The student on the left is 12 years old. Very much twelve years old. The girl in yellow is a receptionist. The next guy is an engineer. Bill, the next guy is a business man. And the last girl I believe is an accountant.
These pictures are from room 102. I teach about half of my classes in here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

E-mails from a student

by Karissa

I've had several classes finish since they are about 12 weeks long and we've been here for about 19 weeks. Sometimes students take the next course, but sometimes time or finances don't allow for that.

I taught a pre-intermediate class and had a lot of fun with them: Rose, Danielle, Sarah, Megan and Mary... Sarah, especially. We've gone for coffee several times and Eric and I had her over for spaghetti, her first time eating it. Her opinion: It's good. It's very salty."

I've even eat her mom's foodstall. She makes and serves the Vietnam famous 'pho'.

Sarah recently e-mailed me to set up another time to eat. Please enjoy.The ESL nature of it is very cute and sweet. Oh, and sometimes she says things in two e-mails. I was replying by text and then having texting issues.

Date: Thursday, December 30
Subject: My dear karissa

Hi ! Karissa , how are you .my mobliephone lost 10 day ago so i didn't
get your message .i just check my mail now .this is my telephone
number ########### .you remember to save to we can contact .see you
later sarah

A few minutes later I replied and sent her our Christmas picture

Date: Thursday, December 30
Subject: Re: Merry Christmas
You and eric are a nice couple .your picture is beautiful .when do you
have free time ? I want to have a dinner with you and you husband .can
you send me megan and rose telephone number? Sarah

Date: Saturday, January 1
Subject: next week dinner with we

Hi ! Karissa ! Happy New Year !Congratulations you add a age ! How are you doing .
Today is the first day of the new year and It 's my boyfriend 's birthday ,too.
Tonight we are going out somewhere or eating something . Longtime we haven't seen I miss you ,too
Are you free time next week on Thursday evening? Does that time work for you ? I really very want we get a dinner
My mobilephone lost 12 day ago so I dont have Megan's or Rose's telephone number .
Can you send me their telephone number or e-mail ?
This is my cellphone :###########
See you later

Date: Tuesday, January 4
Subject: Re: next week dinner with we

Hi Karissa!
Do you have Megan's email address ? you will send her email about our supper on Thursday evening .
we can eat dinner at about 7:30pm .when do you have your phone number ,you send it me !
Where would you like to go for supper ?
can you lead us to a your favourite restaurant ?

I have never eaten pizza so I very 'd like to eat it .Do you know which restaurant is good?

see you later

Tomorrow evening we (Rose, Megan, Eric and me) are going to Bread of Life, a restaurant owned by an American couple. Except for their waitstaff and host, everyone who works there is deaf. It's a phenomenal "project". We'll order pizza. Can you even imagine being 24 and having pizza for the FIRST TIME?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Per kilo...

I went to the market with my landlord one Sunday morning before church and this is what I got.

A gold star to anyone who can name all of the fruit (in English OR Vietnamese).

What fruit do we eat here?

Today I want to give you a website of several fruits native to Vietnam. Many of the fruits I never even knew existed before moving to Vietnam. Enlightening!
There are pictures, the English and Vietnamese name and a brief description.

In this list, my favourites so far are rambutan (chom chom) and one of the many varieties of bananas (choui). (Read about bananas on this website to find out how many varities of bananas there are!)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I know you very well

We've seen non-Vietnamese people in our alley three times... in the entire three-plus months we've lived in this house.

One time it was definitely tourists walking "off the beaten path" through our alley.
Another time it was tourists again. That time we were on skype with Steve & Rebecca (hi!) and Eric saw them out the window "White people!" he called out. I jumped up from my chair to confirm. Yup. White people. On OUR street! Wow.

A couple of months ago I saw two non-Vietnamese looking guys inside the gate of one of the houses near our. I didn't see them after that so I started to second guess that I had really seen some other-ethnicity people.

Then a week or two ago, we got home around 11:30 from visiting some friends. I saw one of the non-Vietnamese looking guys again! I hopped off our motorbike and made a bee-line for them.

Karissa: Hi. Do you speak English? (creative opening line, hey?)
Non-Vietnamese man: Yes. I do.
Karissa: Oh! I've seen you here before.
Non-Vietnamese man: I know you very well. I own Mumtaz restaurant. Yes, I know you very well.
Karissa: (smile) Mumtaz, the Indian restaurant on Tran Phu street? You own it? Yes, we've been there. We like it a lot!
Indian man: Yes. I know you very well.
Karissa: When did you open the restaurant?
Indian man: 11am
Karissa: (smile) How long have you been in Vietnam?
Indian man: 18 months.
Karissa: "Oh! Well, have a good night!"

The Indian man and a few of his employees (relatives?) live two doors down from us, so about 16 feet away. We haven't see them again, but they keep restaurant hours, so they get home even later than we do.

Oh, and the "I know you very well part?" We figure that's his way of saying he recognizes us. We've been to Mumtaz three or four times (it IS excellent)
We have English speaking neighbors!!!