Greetings from tropical Bien Hoa, Viet Nam.
Man, this is really embarrassing, starting a blog and then waiting 2 months without posting. I won’t list any excuses because they would be 1) obvious, 2) lame, or 3) big fat lies. I’ll leave the excuses to my reader’s (readers’?) imagination(s).
I have much to report, both about teaching ESL and about living in Southeast Asia. However, I will have to feed it into this forum in small doses, because nobody will read a 20,000-word blog post, and, well, I won’t write one. For this post, I will try to tell the tale a bit with pictures, since each one is worth roughly 1K words. Including the captions, that’s a lot of words.
Believe it or not, this building is actually quite new, at least its latest renovation. My boss, Thom Comfort, says that after 2 years, every new building in Vietnam looks like it’s 25 years old. He’s a wise man.
KTV English School has around 800 students. Most are ages 7-16, and the rest are predominantly college students. They generally share the common goal of passing the TOEFL or another, similar test, which will allow them to compete for better jobs both in Viet Nam and internationally. The rest of the adult students are either self-motivated to learn English, or they use the school as a way to meet chicks/dudes.
Even though Bien Hoa isn’t starved for available land, most middle-class and up houses are built on narrow lots, and they are 3 or 4 stories high. The typical style of architecture seems to be to take six copies of different architecture magazines, clip all the photos, throw them in the air, and then glue them together so that the details shift eras and elements every five feet or so. The Viet Namese love them some gables and balconies and arches and columns and doodads of varied description. It’s jarring at first but has its charm, like a 3D Picasso you live in.
These single-family houses all have the garage in the basement, and the angle of incline is very steep. You get out of the car and climb up the incline to enter the house on the ground floor. The other day while walking, I heard kids splashing around and thought “Hey! A swimming pool! Haven’t seen one of those yet,” and I looked through the wrought-iron gate of a house to see. Nope, no pool. Somebody had filled their garage with water, and the kids were loving it. It was 6 or 7 feet deep. I hope there weren’t too many critters in that garage, alive or dead. The water wasn’t exactly sparkling blue with chlorine. Garage dirt and grunge doesn’t really sparkle much, but the kids were having a blast.
We get cable TV and have Wi-Fi in the apartment, which works more than half the time, easily. The only channels we watch are HBO, Cinemax, something called Starz Movies, and one news channel from Japan that broadcasts in English. The movie channels all have VN subtitles. The rest are native to Vietnam, except for the odd sports channel that broadcasts American baseball games. I will investigate this further, but I don’t watch TV much. MTV here is even more grotesque than it is in the States, believe it or not.
As for the Internet, it’s pretty good, but can be spotty at times. A couple of weeks after my arrival, a fishing vessel in the East Sea (That’s what the VN call the body of water you see on maps as the South China Sea, which really REALLY doesn’t sit well with the VN) apparently dropped anchor, or was dragging the bottom for something, and it clipped a fiber optic cable to pieces, causing countrywide Internet havoc and mayhem. I don’t even think it’s fixed yet. Slows things down a bit, and we have the occasional outage, but eh, it’s not life-threatening.
Dear reader, I hope you’re beginning to get a feel for the beginnings of my ESL-teaching experience in Viet Nam. There is much more to come, including an examination of the chaos and beauty of motorbike traffic in Bien Hoa, advice on what to do if I get pulled over by the cops (this hasn’t happened, but I’m prepared now), and more photos of stuff like my students, fellow teachers, an amazing cafe that cost 5 million bucks to build, and my very own motorbike. That’s just a taste, so please sign up for an email notice when I post, which should be within the next six months, or sooner. I send out blessings and love to those who view this, both known and unknown to me. Mai mốt gặp lại.