Thursday, July 29, 2010

From the Back of a Motorbike

Vietnam is such a beautiful country - the people, the land, and the way of life here is truly beautiful. I don't always appreciate it the way i should, but every time i ride on the back of a motorbike to and from the classes i teach in the factories here, i really fall in love with this country.
Here in Bien Hoa every inch of the streets are used. Traffic buzzes constantly and horns honk as motorbikes and cars whiz through the streets, and bicycles and people weave in and out of this pattern. Shops line the streets and small roadside stands dot the sidewalks - and there are always people. People in the shops, which are open to the road, people squatting on the sidewalks talking and smoking, people walking, little children laughing, people eating. In Vietnam the people here are always with each other, and genuinely care about each other. I will miss the hub-bub of people and noise when i come back to America in just a few days.
Today as i was riding back from the company class it started to drizzle, and small streams formed on either side of the street. As i was watching the people on the streets i saw two little boys run out from a shop, laughing and talking, to place two small paper boats in the stream and then stand back to watch them sail down the little river. It was the cutest little thing. I love seeing all the different sorts of food they sell here: the long bread (about 2 feet!) sticking up out of baskets on a cart, whole ducks hanging from their necks inside glass stands, ducks being roasted on spits over open coals, fresh corn roasted in garlic and butter, rice, noodles, cafes, and so much more that i haven't gotten to taste yet! Small markets sell fruit stacked in pyramids: pink dragon fruit, green Vietnamese apples, Jum Jum, and other colorful greens vegetables. These food stands dot the sidewalks, and behind them are shops selling clothes, furniture, hardware, and wedding gowns. I love taking all this in from the back of a motorbike - it's a wonderful ride...i wish you all could experience it as well. I will really miss this.

I only have two more days of teaching here, and then i'm off to Ho Chi Min City for a few days with my team before we fly back to California. This summer has been incredible, and i can't believe it's almost over. There's definitely been some low points, and i miss America, friends, and family alot, but i'm also sad to be leaving this place and these people.

Well, i'm off to teach another class! Leave me some loving!!!
Love from Vietnam!

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Have Been Blessed.

The people here in Vietnam have beautiful hearts. I have been so blessed to get to know the staff here at the school i teach, as well as everyone else i have met, beginning with my housemom.

Our housemom is the landlady of the hotel, and is beautiful both inside and out. She always welcomes us with a warm, genuine smile and waves good-bye when we leave for school as if we were 10 years old getting on the school bus :) Even after I locked my keys in my room twice, she still laughed and got me a new set (after fake scolding me haha). She lets us borrow her dishes and hangs our laundry up to dry when we don't have time to take it out of the washer. I can always smell her amazing cooking wafting upstairs from her little outside stove and hear her talking to her husband and her son. I wish i could speak her language - she laughs at us when we attempt Vietnamese :)

My motorbike driver here at the school.
Today it was raining when he came to pick me up, and i had forgotten my poncho, so instead of just letting me get wet, he gives me his (he insisted!) and drives me to the school. And he doesn't just give me the poncho, he puts in on me - he's such a wonderful fatherly figure, and he doesn't know a word of English. I wish i could speak his language. The most i can tell him is Com on. Thank-you.

The owners of restaurants that we frequent. They always laugh when we come back...again and eat their delicious (and safe!) food. They show us how to eat it, because here food is eaten in steps, and laugh when we do things the "wrong" way.
Today a teammate and I ordered "Hot Pot" which is a soup on a burner with spices and vegetables. This also comes with raw meat that you cook in the boiling soup, vermecelli noodles, and big vegetable leaves (sort of like spinach). We kept turning the burner off by mistake and the owners laughed at us and just kept helping us turn it back on. They are lovely people.

There are so many other people who have blessed me here, and it's sad to know that once i leave i won't see them again. I can only hope that i left as much of an impression on them as they left on me. I hope that they can see Him shining through me.

Just a few thoughts on this rainy day here in Bien Hoa.

Love from Vietnam!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Rain here in Bien Hoa is not like rain i have ever seen before!
It doesn't just pours! The streets flood, and everything seems to shut down except for the motorbikes, cars, and taxis that chug their way through the small rivers.
Today a motorbike came my hotel to pick me up for my class this afternoon. I wondered why the school hadn't sent a taxi, but didn't question my driver and obediently donned a poncho and helmet. I ducked my head behind my driver and braced myself for the torrents of rain. We sloshed through the alley into the main street (i mean river) and began slogging down the road. I had to lift my feet up off the motorbikes pedals to keep them semi-dry. Rain penetrated my poncho and i could feel myself getting wet. A few minutes later my driver turned around and said, "Taxi?" I nodded dramatically, "YES! Taxi." We slogged back to my hotel and i continued my trip to the school indoors in a taxi. Ah, the joys of life in Vietnam. I actually love the rain here, though. I love hearing it pound on our metal roof so hard that i can't hear myself talk. I love hearing the thunder and watching the rain pour down onto Bien Hoa from my balcony. And the rain brings cooler weather, relieving the hot sticky days here.

Last weekend my team and i made a trip to Ho Chi Min City for a river boat trip - very touristy and very fun!
We rode a bus to HCMC and from there took the tour bus into the country with our tour guide, Dang (and the name says all! haha). The sky scrapers faded to rice paddies and small country houses nestled in green foliage. In amongst the rice fields we saw workers in the traditional pointy hats, squatting down in the fields. Here they bury people in large stone tombs above the ground right in the fields - so we saw many tombs. It was kind of creepy, i mean who wants Grandma and Grandpa right in the front yard?
We arrived at a small river and took a boat to Unicorn Island where i saw how they make coconut milk, get the meat from the coconut, and make coconut candy. We tried some fresh candy - delicious! We also tried coconut wine and snake wine! The snake wine has snakes inside the bottles. Creepy! I also saw how they make rice paper over open fires! So cool. We took motorbikes through the island and stopped now and then for some tourist attractions like holding Michael - the snake - hearing traditional Vietnamese music, drinking tea with honey made right on the island, and eating a delicious meal for lunch! I had elephant fish served whole and upright as if it was still alive! It was actually good! I'll try to post the pictures on Facebook soon, so you can really see everything - words don't do the countryside justice. It was so beautiful...
Well, i hope all of you avid readers are having a wonderful time in the good old USA!

Love from Vietnam!

Friday, July 9, 2010


Well, I'm just finishing week two here in the bustling, crowded country of Vietnam.
I must say that the newness has been wearing off as i fall into a routine of teaching, eating, lesson prepping, and coping with language and cultural differences.
Somehow reality is much different than how i had imagined this summer to be. For some reason i had expected this summer to be one great fabulous adventure...and while it is that, it's also stretching me in many ways. For example...
I get stared at, whistled at, and hit on ALL the time. The staring that at first seemed so innocent and that made me smile has become an annoyance. I feel like something on display in a shop window, and force myself not to glare back into the dark eyes of these Vietnamese people.
I miss the food from home...noodle soup for breakfast and rice for almost every meal is becoming repetitive.
Some of my classes have been quite a handful and i am forced to play the part of a strict disciplinarian - a part i don't really enjoy playing. BUT despite all of this, i have been learning to rely on Him for my strength, my courage, and my perseverance. He has supplied me with faith when i have doubted that i have a purpose here in Bien Hoa. He has supplied me with strength to face each day. And He has provided me with some amazing people here. But please be thinking of me...
On a more positive note: I have had the pleasure of teaching a few classes at the Nike factory here in Bien Hoa and have enjoyed it immensely! The adult classes are much easier to manage and i have begun to form relationships with them, even in the few hours i am at the factory. I have gotten to know the staff better at VMG and have had some fun time in the office late at night when we're supposed to be lesson prepping :) I have eaten chicken feet, cookies with pork in them, and have tasted moonshine. Overall i have to say that i have been blessed and can only hope that i will be able to touch the people's lives here as well.

Well, off to lesson prepping for some classes!

Love from Vietnam!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The First Week

Well, I've spent about a week here in Bien Hoa, and it's been an interesting one to say the least!
My classes on Saturday went well for the most part. My first class of "teens" were actually 9-12 years old and mostly boys, which made it crazy! i felt like most of my time was spent on discipline, so i was a little disappointed. But my next class went much much better and i was able to actually get through my whole lesson plan! I have learned to be tough on the students the first few days so that they will respect me and i can maintain order in my classroom!

On Sunday my team and i visited a local orphanage and it was overwhelming...
There were about 150 kids and only ten workers. The poor little infants looked so sad and limp because they do not get the touch that they need. Once we held them they perked up and started moving a little.
The children were all so beautiful, but you could see the sadness in the older one's eyes. We played games with them, danced to music and met some of the staff. Some college students from Ho Chi Min City were also there and we were able to talk to them a little since they knew English. We're going back next Sunday so please remember me while i gather emotional and physical strength to return to the orphanage.

Sunday afternoon we shopped downtown by VMG (the school) and i found some amazing teaching clothes and some gifts for people back home. Everyone stares at me here - they stop and line up to stare and point. They tell me i look like a doll because my skin is so white. Lovely.
Sunday night Nu and Huong - two of the Vietnamese teachers - took us to a night market, which reminded me of a street fair at night back in the states. It was so fun! I had my first experience bargaining there and have discovered that that's not my forte!

Last night the girls and i lesson planned at the school and then we went to see Knight and Day at the theatre and got popcorn! (That's one American food i have missed so much!) The popcorn here though is sweet like kettlecorn. Salty popcorn does not exist.

Fun Fact of the day: I love riding on the Sami's here! Sami's are like taxis but are a motorbike. I ride on the back of them to and from school. It's so fun, but slightly scary because of traffic!

Today i will be teaching at a factory for a couple hours and then will teach at the school after that.

Oh, and i have big news: I have raised all my money!!! Thank you all who have been so gracious and generous - i appreciate you more than you can know! Well, i need to go and finish lesson prepping! Thanks so much for reading this blog - leave me some comments!!!

Love from Vietnam!!!