Thursday, 20 March 2014

My Tho, Tan An and a big decision!

Sorry this one is a bit long, but there is just so much I want to communicate!

Thursday 13th March

It's an early start (5am) as we make our way to Tan An to meet the school and see where we will be living. We arrive hot and tired, but are immediately handed a worksheet and given 15 minutes to prepare a lesson to deliver to the staff. My lesson is on the family and with a few ideas up my sleeve I think I did a good job considering I had little more than the student handout to work from. I'm sure we will have the teacher notes and opportunities to prepare when we are doing the job for real.

By the time I come out 30 minutes later, Mark has been told that we are not staying here long, but are going to My Tho 40 minutes drive away for our training. Its not a great start but we suck it up, another town visited and more of the region explored right?

We arrive to our basic house and are given our schedule for the weekend; a list of classes and references to textbooks. Eventually we find the textbooks which are designed for the students to fill in, no lesson plans and no resources. We ask if we need to design the lessons and we are just told to get them talking.

Our anxiety levels begin to rise again. We've been looking forward to delivering exciting and engaging lessons. The goal posts keep moving and its becoming more difficult to keep up.

Friday 14th March

Today we enjoy a lazy morning and review the class content for our first lessons this evening.

By the time our first lessons come around we are a bag of nerves. Will the children like us, what will our purpose be alongside the Vietnamese teacher? Are there any other native speakers around? The staff at the schools speak very little English so we are finding communication very hard.

We soon realise our role in this class is just to correct pronunciation, but at least the teacher has what looks like a plan, yippee!

Saturday 15 the March

Its our first full day of classes, another early start and a day of mixed emotions.

By the end of the morning classes I am emotional again, and this time I can't keep it in. Its pretty clear now that no one is expecting us to teach any grammar, just drill pronunciation and lead classes with only seconds to see the lessons teaching objectives. This leaves us having to think on our feet and I find myself making mistakes.

I don't feel like this place is quite right for us and I desperately wish there were some other native speakers we could talk to. We feel alone in this new place and job and need support.

The afternoon is a little better and I optimistically think we might be OK, but its not long before we are talking about whether a different location might be better for us.

We really are taking each day as it comes, but the rollercoaster of emotions is beginning to take its toll.

Sunday 16th March

Today is another long and emotional day. (I know you are most likely getting bored of me saying this, trust me I am too!). We have another full day of classes.

The morning goes well as thinking on my feet gets a little easier, but in my heart I wish I had more time to create a great lesson instead of a good lesson. Anyone can drill pronunciation!

We have a long break in the afternoon and use this to research places we could reach on our time off. The closest beach is Mui Ne, a short 8 hour drive away. A quick look in the guide book reminds us the best sites in Vietnam are nowhere near us.

Back in school I have my worst class yet; have they remembered anything from their last lesson? The teacher in the class says most of the classes get to meet a native speaker once a month, and in her year at the school she has known more than five different native speakers.

I confide in my mum about how hard its been and how I'm not sure this is the right place or school for us. Its good to finally admit this to someone other than Mark who is feeling the same. As always she is supportive and understanding.

Perhaps things will be better when we arrive in Tan An tomorrow.

Monday 17th March

Surprise surprise we are picked up later than planned, 7 hours later! At half three we are on the road again and praying the new location will be better.

Arriving, the new house is larger, but there are less facilities in the kitchen; just a sink, fridge and kettle so it will be impossible to cook at home. Hopefully there are some nice places to eat near by.

There isn't and we are disheartened as we take our seats in a rather dirty establishment for dinner.

When our schedule arrives we find out that we will in fact be teaching another 40 mins up the road for the week. After a little back and fourth via email we confirm that we will be teaching in a different location each week. We knew we would be visiting different schools, but we expected them to be closer by. Our main frustration with this is that we never get a chance to build a good relationship and rapport with the students as we will see them so infrequently.

The disadvantages of this school and location are beginning to mount up to the point where we aren't enjoying ourselves at all.

I did meet this lovely pooch though!

Tuesday 18th March

We wake up and decide to explore the city more, perhaps we've missed an important area which could change everything. We make for district 1 with true hope in our hearts but find nothing; no park, no scenery and no sights of interest.

Today is also our first day of real paid for lessons. It doesn't start well as the man meant to drive us to Ben Luc is 45 minutes late. When we arrive we are handed a folder with the register and shown to the rooms. The staff member who shows me the way then goes to close the door and leave before I get to ask her about the computer and if there is any supporting material for the class. It takes about 15 minutes for them to find the password and a working mouse for the PC. After all this I'm told there isn't actually any supporting material for this class. With the last 35 mins of my class I rush through the workload and leave the rest for homework (not that I will be able to mark it!)

On the way home, Mark and I finally admit to ourselves that this is not working. There aren't enough positive aspects to keep us here. As I write this now, I can't think of any. Even the teaching experience will be minimal as we won't be assessing or monitoring our students progress.

We draft our resignation letter outlining the issues we have been having and explaining that we would like to leave.

It isn't a decision we make lightly; we wanted to make a new life here in Vietnam and were completely invested in it. We trained for months, sold everything and left all the comforts of home and its just not been what we wanted. We are exhausted, depressed and craving to see more of the country.

I am so worried about what you might all think, and I hope you will be understanding. A close friend said "there's no point in doing all this if it isn't making you happy. You have the world at your finger tips". This was echoed by our family which has helped us feel so much more comfortable with the decision. We might never get an opportunity to travel the world again, so we have to make this time count.

What's next?

It's now Wednesday 19th March. 2 weeks into our trip. We've made our arrangements and will be heading back to Ho Chi Minh in a few days and then on to Mui Ne for a relaxing few days on the beach.

Our plan now is to make our way up the country to Hanoi, taking in the sights. Afterwards we will consider our next steps, and whether we feel we want to find work in Vietnam, or continue our travels.

We already feel much better, planning our itinerary and digging out the guide books from our bags. This is where our adventure resumes, with the open road and a few tickets!

So there you have it! I'll leave you with the song I've heard most in my first two weeks in Vietnam, enjoy!