We are finishing up our week volunteering teaching English in the industrial zone outside of Hanoi with CVTD, and I am thankful for the greater depth of understanding of the Vietnamese way of life and culture that the experience has given me (not to mention all of the delicious food). I hope our students had as much fun as we did. Tomorrow morning we are jumping on a ($30) flight to Hoi An, to spend some time chilling on beaches and exploring the town. Here are some last quick thoughts before heading down to the central coast.
1) It is awesome to be in a place where the late-night street food includes piles of fresh Vietnamese lettuce, herbs, and vegetables (our GI tracks thank us when they have been at least briefly rinsed in potable water). The pork belly isn’t bad either. We did our best to work our way through the Old Town Restaurant Tour provided by our friends at ZINK year and agree with all of their choices.
Walking the streets at night in Hanoi.
Street food in Hanoi.
2) After just a few days in our volunteer house, I developed callouses on my fingers from using chopsticks to stir fry peanuts, vegetables, and meats over the high heat used in Vietnamese cooking.
3) Check out this electrical wiring. The power is incredibly reliable.
Today, we had to travel in towards the city to teach our kindergarten and high school – age English classes. Which meant (as we are still too chicken to get with the program and get a motorbike), taking the bus. Interesting thing about the public buses in Vietnam (or at least around Hanoi), they don’t stop. They slow down, and you are expected to run alongside them and jump to get on. Same thing when you are getting off, the bus slows, you jump out and then run a few meters (that’s right, meters, not yards) while you wait for you momentum to slow. It’s basically like Divergent (the audio book we listened to while driving across the country). And, we have survived. Our French roommate informed us that we are now off to a good start in Vietnam.
On the way home, however, we were so proud of our new bus boarding skills that we jumped on the first one we saw, which was, unfortunately, going further into the city. We looked like the confused gringos we were, pointed at a couple of things written on a piece of paper, and then began to actually freak out as the bus got on the big bridge headed into the city. But then, a nice man in the back of the bus saved us by using his English skills and familiarity with the bus schedule to redirect us. They didn’t charge us for that first ride, and the gentleman told us where to get off the bus to change lines heading back out of the city, and another man even jumped (yes, jumped) off with us to ensure that we didn’t mess it up again — gesturing to where we needed to go. Boarding our next bus, we said the name of landmark by our stop and everyone nodded indicating that we were in the right place. They gestured for us to take a seat by them and proceeded to take care of us the whole way — helping us get the right bills to get the fare, and making sure that the bus slowed down so that we could get off at the right stop. Thanks to the English-speaking gentleman on bus 53 headed into Hanoi this evening, and his friend who got off with us, and to the entire group of helpful folks on bus 56A — you all rock, and we are so grateful. We wouldn’t be sitting in our apartment drinking a beer (which you can buy from apartment #206 downstairs for 10,000 dong — 50 cents) right now without you.
We arrived at our volunteer week with CVTD outside of Hanoi. We are learning a bit about how to teach English. We have students of various ages from kindergarten, highschool age, and adults learning English to improve their careers.
We have had to put together some lesson plans, and given some resources and guidance. We think our classes have gone OK.
We are staying with some women who work at CVTD, along with other volunteers in a hostel or group dorm room like apartment. Chores are shared and assigned on a schedule and Vietnamese lunches and dinners are cooked together as a group lead by our house hosts.
It has been interesting to get out of the city a bit and see a more calm and more rural Vietnam, where you can watch the rice harvest out the apartment window progress through out the day.