Yes, I’m aware “English” is spelled wrong in the title. It’s just the way they pronounce it around here.
Day three of orientation was a tasty one! We split up into two groups, with one group learning how to make chicken dumplings and the other group making marble cake and chocolate mousse. Friends at home should have no problem guessing which group I was glad to be in. 🙂
The few of us in the baking group went to one of the kitchens at the college and observed a class that was already in session. Two of the volunteers here, Peter and Nancy, are fluent in Vietnamese and they have been considerably handy so far during this trip. Nancy was in my group and was able to translate everything the head chef was saying to her students. Then soon, after paying careful attention to her directions, it was our turn to craft a marble cake! It took a little longer to prepare than it should have because everyone wanted a turn at doing something. I was perfectly fine just observing. That is, until the end where I had to crack eggs, stir the cake mixture, pour ingredients, and spread the cake batter.
The best part was, of course, the tasting part! One of the volunteer coordinators gave me loads of chocolate mousse and jokingly said that I must finish them all or I can’t leave the building! No problem by me! The cake was pretty scrumptious as well. All I needed was a little ice cream to go with it and I would have been all set! That same day, we were giving a crash course in “decorative vegetable carving”. I’ve never even heard of such a thing. We were each given gigantic carrots and green pumpkins and the instructor guided us into carving them into fancy flowers. It’s really more difficult than it sounds. I didn’t take any pictures of my veggies because they looked horrid. As a matter of fact, everyone’s veggie carvings looked pretty bad! The instructor was a master carver and put us all to shame when he was able to carve the head of a Neanderthal in mere minutes, right before our eyes. None of us completed any of our carvings, and ended up mostly carving random things into our veggies.
Day four of orientation called for another trek through HCMC as we made way to the Vietnam War Museum and then to a traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet show. It was definitely interesting to see. Puppets were being controlled via long sticks in the water…I think. I’m still trying to figure out how that worked.
Finally, orientation was over. We became official members of the college!
My group of volunteers was divided into four different placements: disabled children, medical, orphanage, and teaching English. Lucy worked with the disabled children and I taught English to the students at the college. We were all also given snazzy blue shirts to wear during class sessions. Five days a week, I would be placed in two different classes a day that would last for about two hours each. Each day is always a different class and a different teacher. This week, I attended all my classes with Shantai and Allison. We met with our first teacher, Ms Duyên, who showed us to our very first class. The grins on these students faces widened ear to ear when they saw us. Their ages ranged from 18 to 23 years old which was perfect for me. Since this is a tourism college, these students will eventually be dealing with a lot of westerners who have different English accents. Our goal was to converse with these students as much as possible, strictly in English, and also help them with their English written assignments. It was super easy to converse with these guys because they wanted to know EVERYTHING about me! Even when they couldn’t understand some of the things I was saying to them, they still tried their very best to comprehend. I just had to speak slow and use simpler words. It also didn’t help that I had an American dialect because most of these students are used to British accents.
I could really tell that the students were really looking up to me based on all the positive attention I was receiving from them and all of the questions they were asking me. Pretty much questions about what I do at home, how I like Vietnam, what’s my favorite food, am I married, etc. They also asked me what my Facebook account was so they could add me as a friend. I only just met these guys and they already wanted to befriend me. Of course, I didn’t mind at all so I accepted all of their requests. I may regret it later though! Anyways, for the remainder of the class we played games to help expand their English vocabulary. Time actually flew by and it ended up with the students wanting to take tons of pictures with us volunteers. Afterwards, I made sure to tell them that if they see me walking around the college at any time, feel absolutely free to say “hi” and to let me know if they needed help with any of their courses.
The next class and the classes over the next few days were pretty much the same. The students were keen to know all about us and laughed when we pronounced a word in Vietnamese wrong. Some of the pronunciations in Vietnamese sound very similar, but have barely noticeable differences. You have to move and use your whole mouth for this language. They wanted to give me a new name in Vietnamese, so they started to call me “Duc”. There are supposed to be little accent marks and symbols, but I can’t figure out how to use them on this keyboard. It’s pronounced like “Duke” and it means Germany. Beats me!
After classes, I took a taxi to Saigon Tax Center. It’s a mall area in the nicer part of HCMC and the only place in Vietnam where you can buy camera equipment that isn’t a fake or knockoff brand. You see, the only thing I forgot to bring with me from the U.S. was one of my lenses for my Nikon. I went to the camera store and investigated the lens and even tried it out before I purchased it. As far as I know it’s real! You guys don’t even know how much research I did to find a proper one! You have to be very careful when buying electronics in third world countries.
I’m very satisfied with the teaching here and I’m looking forward to every class session with these camera savvy, Facebook requesting students. I’m also pumped that my Nikon is ready for action; just in time for when some of the volunteers and I make our way to the majestic Mekong Delta this weekend. 🙂