Return of the not so subtle blogger?

It’s been a long time, blog. It took a fair few whacks to remember the right combination of email and password. Anyway, here I am, suddenly wondering what the hell I am going to write. Maybe I’ll start with what put me off blogging in the first place. It was a combination of being busy and not feeling like my blog was up to scratch.

My blog had an inferiority complex. It seemed like all of a sudden everyone owned their domains, everything was shiny and professional, and people were blogging as a career. All the while I was struggling to figure out just how to get my pictures to damn well align. It kinda took the fun out of it, you know?

Then there were the travel bloggers. A specific type of travel blogger which saturated the blogosphere. You’ve read them, the ‘I quit my boring office job to travel the world on a shoestring and you can do it too!’ types, who are actually getting most of their flights paid for by sponsors, who rarely write about their brush with gastro death, encounters with bed bugs, or the moments when they’re plagued with terrible insecurity about their future. Fakes. It made me angry, it put me off blogging. I started to feel like I was too snarky, sarcastic, and …honest, for people to want to read what I had to say about living abroad. Now I realise, I don’t really care. I seriously doubt anyone has visited my blog for years now so I’ll just be writing for myself and perhaps a few friends who I might direct this way.  If you want to read fictional accounts of a perfect expat life you’ll find plenty elsewhere.

The Catch Up

I’ve been in Spain for over two years now. I’m currently living and working in Salamanca. Got a boyfriend, he’s tall and British and doesn’t like tea. I’m teaching English at an academy which I enjoy a lot but talking to my friends back home about their cushy salaries makes me feel physically ill. I potentially have a thyroid problem and I’m broke. Okay, you’re up to date now.

 

“Ahhhhhhh Spanish!”

The title is my reaction to a bartender speaking to me rapidfire in Spanish yesterday. I lost all ability to coherently ask him to slow down because my Spanish isn’t very good. So, I just made my ‘panic face’ and said ‘ Ahhhhhh Spanish!’. Smooth. My Spanish isn’t actually as bad as that, I just tend to freeze when I’m not expecting a conversation to arise.

I’m back in Spain, as you may have gathered. I am extremely happy about it. I’ve had plenty of awkward and embarrassing encounters, made some great language errors, but it’s all a part of getting used to being here again. I’m not sure how regularly I will update this blog.

Here are a few photos from my trip to Gijon. A beautiful seaside town in Asturias, well worth a visit.

IMG_20140901_173156 IMG_20140901_173334 IMG_20140901_220742 (1) IMG_20140902_115524 IMG_20140902_211142

Same old songs

Well, I’m back in Australia but only for half of the year as I have decided to go back to Europe.

The decision has been very difficult but the job market here in Melbourne has ended up making it for me. There are just no High School jobs for me, I have applied and applied and applied to no avail. So, I’m hightailing it back to Europe. I have a job here in the meantime, teaching ESL to adults, and a summer position waiting for me in the UK. It’s just a matter of teaching and saving (and surviving living with my parents) until June. I’m all over the place, literally.

I would be very surprised to discover this blog still has readers – but I just can’t seem to abandon it for good.

Getting a Vietnamese Work Permit and Visa

My year-long working visa which I was able to acquire with my brand spanking new Vietnamese work permit arrived exactly two days after I made my (final) decision to leave Vietnam in December. Yes, I am leaving and I am extremely happy about it. It will be heart-wrenching to say goodbye to my students, who I absolutely adore, but I really need to get out of here. I’m not going to rant about the many reasons (and the main reason) I have decided to leave just yet because I promised to do a Work Permit/Visa post. Two whole people have e-mailed me about it, but who knows, maybe there are more of you out there who’d like some information on this tedious process.

How I got my Vietnamese Work Permit/Visa (Hanoi)

I needed a number of documents/items:
1. Passport with valid (tourist) visa.
2. University Testamur – to prove I have the specific qualifications necessary for the work I would be doing in Vietnam (in my case, a secondary teaching qualification).
3. A national Police Check (Mine was from Australia, if you have been in Vietnam for more than six months you must get one from the Vietnamese police – have fun with that).
4. Position application form – given to me in English/Vietnamese by my employer and used only for the Working Visa.
5. A full Health Check Certificate.
6. Two passport photos.

First I had to make copies of everything and take the copies and the originals to my Embassy (Australian Embassy Hanoi). At the Embassy I showed my originals and paid the steep price of around 500,000 per document to have the copies of my police check and testamur certified.

Then I made a COPY of the Certified Copies and took everything (copies, certified copies, and originals) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, 40 Tran Phu, Hanoi. I don’t think I actually ended up showing them the original documents but better safe than sorry.

Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 40 Tran Phu:

Once at 40 Tran Phu I was directed to Counter 1 – where I wrote my name on a list and was given a form to fill out about the documents I wanted notarised. I then waited (about 2 hours) for my name to be called. While I waited I observed numerous middle-aged Western men come in with young, female, Vietnamese friends who conveniently pushed in for them.

When my name was called it took all of three minutes to hand over my form and the COPIES of my certified copies, and for the guy to check the original certified copies and my passport. I was given an invoice and told to come back tomorrow to pick them up. A colleague of mine was able to pick his up the same day so they must have been particularly busy when I went. I recommend going as early in the day as possible.

I returned the next day with my invoice and went straight to the cashier counter to pay (only about 60,000 for both documents) . Then I went to Counter 4. There were quite a few people and I was confused as to what to do so I just copied the other people who put their invoice receipt onto a spike at the front of the counter. I don’t think this was the right thing to do, but the woman working at the counter saw me do it and nodded at me and took my name off the spike and put it to one side. She called my name twenty minutes later and I was out of there, with my nice doubly-certified copies of copies. The Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts a red sticker/stamp on the documents.

The last thing I needed was a Health Check Certificate. Only a number of hospitals offer the health check specifically for the Work Permit so make sure you check before you pay to have one done. Because there are so few options the English-speaking places can charge ridiculous prices – I paid 2 million but I have been told that at Vietnamese clinics you can get it done for 600,000. My appointment was at 11am and the whole process took about three hours. I was ferried from ‘ station’ to ‘station’ within the hospital – eye check, blood test, urine sample, chest xray, blood pressure/weight/height, and a short consultation with a French doctor. You can choose whether to return to the hospital to pick up the results after three days or to have them sent to your workplace. I had them sent to my school and it took seven days (I called after five to hurry the process along).

Finally, I had all my shit together. Or so I thought. I returned to my school and gave the office all of my documents and they sent them off to Labour and Society (they also paid the 400,000 fee) . Three weeks later they were all returned, accusing me of being two different people because my university testamur does not have my middle name while my passport and police check do. ARGH!

I then had to go back to the Australian Embassy to write a Statutory Declaration that the documents do, indeed, refer to me and only me. I also had to pay (again, I think it was about 500,000) just to have my signature witnessed. I guess even if I’m not paying off my student debt yet Australia is still getting  money off me.

So, I handed it all in and waited… with baited breath…not really, I forgot about it even when my tourist visa expired.

It took another week after that but finally the work permit arrived. Now, a work permit is not the same as a working visa – it’s what you need to apply for one. Once my work permit arrived, the nice ladies in the office (who were rather sick of my shit by this stage) took the process completely into their own hands – which is what any business which has hired you with the promise of a work visa should do. I just had to sign some forms and then they sent my work permit and passport off to get the visa.

So, finally, after four tourist visas (seven months in Hanoi), and three weeks after my last tourist visa had expired, my passport arrived back at the school with my one-year Working Visa….which I will only be using 70 days of. Oh, but look at all the adventures I’ve had.

What could you possibly see in me? Is it my soul hung out to dry?

If I had to choose the one thing that scares me the most in Vietnam it wouldn’t be catching sight of my reflection after a nice walk through the humidity, it wouldn’t be my feral year six class, it wouldn’t even be the disgusting squat toilets at the Bia hoi (although they rate highly)…it would be the traffic. The infamous Hanoi traffic.

Crossing the road is bad enough, there is no way in hell I am getting on a motorbike and getting out there into that shitstorm. I get taxis everywhere and it’s a bit of a pain. One great thing about taxis, though, is being able to watch the chaos and insanity out the window. I’ve started collecting photos of the interesting things I see. Usually motorbike situations that are interesting to me, and possibly other non-Vietnamese, but to the locals they’re just everyday sights which I probably look like an idiot for photographing. So, here are a few of my favourites so far…

He’s got a Rolling Stones Tee but he only knows one song. They think they’re from the 60s but they were born in 1991.

July has been the month for big decisions. I am now biting the bullet and officially staying here until the first day of June next year. Ten more months in Vietnam. Staying until next year rather than leaving in December is the most practical decision. I’m no longer in my ‘early twenties’ so it’s time to act like a grown up. I am really lucky in my job: I adore the kids, my boss and colleagues are great, and it’s usually a pretty laid back workplace. That’s reason enough to stay until June.

I have actually started to feel a bit more comfortable here lately; I’ve seen some more of the city and countryside, found some new restaurants, and I’m starting to enjoy my area despite its distance from the centre of town. The weather is still ridiculous – hot and humid every day – but I know that come October I might actually get to wear my favourite jeans again so I can soldier through the sweaty summer. Seriously though, it really is intense, the other day I tried to wipe my sweaty face with my sweaty arm – which was gross – then tried to fix the problem by wiping them both with my sweaty t-shirt. There is no beating it. Someone should invent an air-conditioned bubble suit for Westerners who can’t hack the humidity. I would pay for that shit.

Yesterday we took the summer school kids on excursion to the ASEAN Cultural Village. We drove into the country and then took a 40 minute boat ride down a river to the ‘village’. It was crazy humid and by the time we even arrived at 9:30 everyone was so sweaty it looked like we’d all taken a dip in the river. ((Side note here to say that Vietnamese kids seem to give no fucks about littering – I told off more than one kid for nonchalantly throwing empty drink bottles into the river and they just grinned at me)) We were then taken around a few of the buildings and the guide spoke to the students about their significance; five out of forty children listened to her, it was embarrassing.  I stood there silently looking at the guide, when I wasn’t telling off disrespectful children. One of my students said ‘ You can’t even understand but you still listen!’ and I said ‘ Yes, because unlike you I’m not rude’. He had a point though, I had no idea what was going on until one of the older kids came over and offered to translate for me – renewing my faith in my students. After a couple of hours even I had had enough. One of my year 7 students made me laugh out loud when he came over and whispered to me ‘ No 1 currrr’.  It was too hot to function.  I was even considering throwing myself into one of the many filthy looking lakes just to wash the sweat off. One of the year 10 students offered me the first sip of his iced tea and then took a sip himself and said ‘ that was a kiss’. AWKWARD! I rolled my eyes.

On the way back to Hanoi we stopped for lunch at a very traditional Vietnamese restaurant. What I thought were chicken wings were apparently frog legs. Sometimes I am very glad to be a vegetarian. Afterwards we sat around for ages waiting for….well, I’m not sure what we were waiting for as the Western teachers sort of just follow the pack on excursion…but we were treated to numerous displays of early-teen flirting. Oh, so much slapping and kicking and screaming and insults. Fascinating.

After lunch we stopped at the ASEAN Resort so the kids could use some of the rides and games they have there but it turned out that they all required expensive tickets, so the students just sat there for an hour playing on their phones. There was a jumping castle which I wanted go on so badly; sometimes being a grown up sucks.

I haven’t worn a shirt since 1993 that’s the year I moved my operation to the beach

Recently I had a friend from Australia come to visit. We spent a couple of days enjoying Hanoi, wandering around the streets and drinking cheap beer on street corners. I also ran into a group of my year 11 students in a night club, to my horror, but that’s another story.

We went on a Ha Long Bay cruise which was sweaty, very sweaty. I look at the photos now and think ‘ oh what an idyllic long weekend’ completely forgetting that at the time I was dreaming of air-conditioning. The boat was lovely and the food that the staff prepared for dinner looked truly amazing but I am now at the point that if I take one bite of Vietnamese food I feel ill. It’s ridiculous. I can’t even stomach tofu.

It was really nice to have a friend from home here. I felt like I could relax a bit and just enjoy this city. I didn’t realise that I had been lonely but I guess I so. I have met people here and if I want company when I go into town its easy to come by but I don’t really have anyone to just sit in a café with and chat for hours.

Annnnyway. I have decided to stay here until the end of my contract in May rather than breaking my contract and going to Europe in January.  Having my friend here, who is also a teacher, made me realise how lucky I am in my job: I adore my students, my boss is great, and my workplace is generally more relaxed than an Australian school. In order to survive here mentally and emotionally for another 10 months I have decided to spend Tet (Vietnamese New Year) in Europe. It’s expensive, and I only have 10 days but I figure the cost and travel fatigue is worth it if it means I can make myself stay here until the end of my contract. Then I can go straight to Europe in June and hopefully find work in an international school. Ugh, I feel like my whole life is made up of holding periods when I’m waiting for the life I want to begin. I guess this is what being an adult feels like. Hooray.

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing, I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

I’m in Saigon. Back in Vietnam after 12 wonderful, brunch-filled, days in Melbourne. I also spent 11 days before that travelling down the coast from Hanoi to Saigon. Hoi An was beautiful, and I had a great time in Nha Trang (despite some serious sunburn), but unfortunately the holiday didn’t convince me that I love Vietnam, as I had hoped it would. I start back at work (summer school) in a few days and I’m looking forward to it. Rather than ramble on I think I will do a photo spam/journal of the first twelve days of my holidays. Here we go:

Hoi An

 

…Eleven hours on the train to Nha Trang

 
Flight to Saigon
 

With the fire we make, it’s getting hotter and hotter

I know this is supremely shallow but one of the reasons I’m not happy in Hanoi is that I can’t wear my favourite clothing. I love my Melbourne teacher clothes: dresses, stockings, boots, cardigans, blazers, smart trousers, a variety of scarves. The only exciting thing about clothing here is ripping it all off when I come home for my lunch break. Sure, it’s hot but it’s the humidity that’s the killer. It’s like walking around in an invisible sauna. So I have pretty much been wearing the same three dresses on rotation for the last three months and the same shoes every single day. My hair looks like total shit and my makeup melts off before lunch. Then I go down for lunch and it’s hot rice, again. Give me a fucking salad, Vietnam. Princess wants her baby spinach and cherry tomatoes.

I have known for years that I am not a ‘summer person’. Sometimes, after a long winter, I fool myself into thinking oh, I can’t wait for the beach days and to get a tan and to walk around in singlets. WRONG! I then remember I hate summer clothing, sweat stains, and exposed thighs. The only decent thing about summer is siting on my parents’ balcony or a rooftop bar drinking mojitos or sangria with my friends.

Ahem.

Stay tuned. In a fortnight I’ll be back in Melbourne for a bit and complaining about the cold. At least I’ll be able to dust off the boots and blazers.

Photo: The Sartorialist

I let you reach me one more time. But that’s enough.

Today I’m on-call. If any prospective students show up at the school I need to scoot over to interview/test them. So, I am just sitting in my apartment under the air-conditioning, listening to old Rihanna tunes, and organising what to pack for my three-week vacation. Not a bad work day, really. Packing really sucks, though. Next time I make a big move I am throwing away The Beast (I have fit 30kgs worth of stuff in it before) and travelling light. Yeah right.

So my travel plans: Hanoi – Da Nang – Hoi An – Nha Trang – Saigon – Melbourne – Saigon – Hanoi.

Top of 20 degrees in Melbourne today. 36 degrees here. Over the next three weeks I am going to experience Summerish beach days in Vietnam and Winterish city days in Melbourne. Keen. I hope I get to see some awesome scenery on the train journeys.

I love these by Peter Guenzel. I think I’ve posted a couple of them before; they’ve been sitting on my desktop for ages. They’re of different places, but I think they look nice together.

Pursuit of happiness, again.

Flower says I am overdue for a blog post so here we go (a lot of text to follow):

Time has been passing here in Hanoi and sadly I am not growing any fonder of the city. However, I still really enjoy my job despite the chaotic past month of writing exams, giving exams, marking exams, calculating marks, writing reports, attending multiple, torturous, assemblies.

 The High School kids here love to perform and every assembly gives two groups of students the chance to strut their stuff in front of the whole school. At first I watched these performances agape, impressed, sometimes a little disturbed by all the teenage hip swinging. Now I sit there glowering, thinking ‘ so this is what you were doing when you missed three of my lessons last week’. The other teachers and I were told that we weren’t allowed to show films in the last week of school (even though all the Vietnamese teachers seemed to be doing just that). So I planned games, fun activities, let’s just say things that took a lot more planning than putting on a damn film. What happened? First year 11 lesson of the week four of eighteen students turned up. Next three lessons = nobody. I spent a lot of alone time in my classroom singing along to One Direction.

A couple of weekends ago one of my brightest students and her mother took me out for lunch. Usually I would politely decline any such invitation (clearly it would lead to a world of awkward) but since the student is leaving to study abroad I didn’t have a problem with it. It was a really nice day, I’m sure it must have been exhausting for my student as she had to interpret for her mother and me for five hours! I was really proud of her. It was also quite tiring for me, I never realised how difficult it is to be friendly, chatty, casual me with an adult whilst still being in ‘ appropriate teacher mode’ with my student. A lot of my best students aren’t returning next school year which really saddens me. I am excited to get new classes in August but I am going to miss my old students, even though I’ve only taught them for a few months. I hope this connection with my students, and actually caring about them, doesn’t fade away as I become an older and more bitter teacher. I can see how it happens.

So, I seem to be talking a lot about school. I guess it’s because that’s the part of my life I have been focussing all my attention and efforts on lately. I have spent many a late night wondering whether I really want to stay here in Vietnam and the honest answer is that I don’t. However, there’s the other question of whether I want to stay in my job and the answer is a much stronger yes. Job wins out. I know a lot of people feel they have failed when they move abroad and decide they’d prefer to go home. I guess for me it’s different, I don’t feel like I chose Vietnam and it’s also not an issue of wanting to go home. Sure, I’d rather be in Melbourne but I could also be happy back in Europe. One of my late-night, over-analysing, anxiety-inducing, decision-making sessions led me to decide that I will leave Vietnam earlier than planned but not before I have seen through an entire teaching semester from start to finish. So, the first semester begins in August and ends December/Jan. Closer to Christmas I will reassess but as of this moment my prediction is that I will go to Europe in January and try my luck there once again.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what it is that makes me a bad fit for Hanoi and Hanoi for me. Plenty of people I have met consider Vietnam to be something of a paradise for expats. I’m not completely odd; I recently made some friends who, after six months here, have decided it is not for them and are heading off to Australia. I suppose it really is all a matter of personality and unfortunately mine is at odds with everything around me. So I wrote a list. A list of things that I want from my career/lifestyle. All of the things that will hypothetically offer me contentment. It’s list time, bitches.

1. A teaching job in a High School with agreeable colleagues and students who don’t like to set things on fire/potential to teach my specialised subject areas.
2. My parents only a few hours travel away/potential to easily reach them if there’s an emergency
3. Some disposable income/potential to save money/potential to never borrow from my parents again.
4. Low goddamn humidity/potential for my hair to not look like shit
5. Friends/potential to meet people with similar interests to me
6. Local cafes/pub/somewhere to go and just read a book for a couple of hours
7. Live alone but not in isolation
8. Interesting travel destinations nearby
9. Easily accessible public transport/potential to be independent
10. Some free time but not too much/potential to pursue hobbies/interests/studies.
11. Inspiring scenery/landscapes/buildings/history
12. Potential for romantic interests (What? even if I don’t want to chase it, it’s nice to know it’s there)
13. Easily accessible doctor/healthcare
14. Ability to stay healthy/eat well/exercise without having to join a gym/potential to not feel sick all the time
15. Low pollution/potential to actually see a blue sky during the day and stars at night

So that’s my list, I don’t think it’s exceedingly unreasonable. Hanoi only checks four of these points for me. Obviously everyone has different opinions on what interesting travel destinations are or what kind of scenery is inspiring. For some expats Vietnam is probably the whole shebang. Sadly, I don’t think there is anywhere that would check all of these ideals for me at the moment. Melbourne comes close, but the chances of finding a job as good as the one I have now are slim and I’d never be able to afford to live alone. Europe comes even closer, but my parents would be a thousand-dollar and 24-hour flight away. I don’t need it all to be happy, though, but I’d like at least twelve. Maybe I can revisit this list twelve months from now and see where I’m at. Maybe then I can whinge some more and continue to piss everyone off. Sorry. Not sorry.

So texty. I really need to start taking more photos when I’m out and about. I do get out and about, you know. I’m just scared that if I take my camera out it will melt within seconds; it’s not an irrational fear.

Anyhow. Next weekend I will be leaving Hanoi and heading off to actually explore some of Vietnam. I think I am looking forward to it. My trip involves two eight-hour train journeys, which I am particularly excited about. There will also be ample historical town time and relaxed beach days. Then I’m heading back home to Melbourne for a couple of weeks before I return to Hanoi to teach Summer school. I will be sure to take a lot of photos and write updates on my Vietnam adventures. I really hope to change the whingey tone this blog has taken of late and I feel like this trip is just the ticket.

Hmmm, I feel that after reading all of this you really deserve a photo. However, I’ve only taken two pictures this month which aren’t of my students or the school. They’re not very exciting…

 The stairwell in my apartment building. I’ve seen multiple blankets and towels and even underwear out to dry but never veges. These were there for three days.

 The street next to my apartment building. It doesn’t have a name yet nor is it paved. Owners buy the land and build the shell of the building. Then they leave it unfinished indefinitely until they have a pressing reason to finish the construction.

Where you think you’re going, baby?

Since I have nothing happy and exciting to say about living in Vietnam I am going to focus on my students in this post. I have two classes in particular that I just adore, year 8 and year 11. I set both classes the task of writing a list of 100 things they want to do/achieve in the future. This is a surprisingly difficult task considering how many things people generally want from life. I’m sure we each want thousands of things, but the process of writing them out is a challenge. I suppose we all have our own secret goals, too.

I had very different reactions to reading the goals and dreams of each class. Reading those of my year 11 students made me feel a bit teary, remembering the feeling of being 16 years old and having so many plans for the future, everything seemed so far away but also very possible. I don’t have that feeling anymore. My goals have become more realistic, I only bother yearning for the things that I perceive to be attainable. I became more realistic but also more cynical.

I’ve definitely given up on the dream most young people have of being ‘ wealthy’. Totally given up and I don’t care. I suppose it’s because my idea of what it takes to be happy has…matured. My profession is not a money maker. Law is. Medicine is. High class prostitution is. I want to be a teacher so one goal has cancelled out the other. Anyhow, after getting all nostalgic over my year 11 students’ goals I read those of my year 8 class – and laughed my arse off (it would be awesome if one could really laugh one’s arse off since I’ve put on 5kgs in the last three months).  They had written stuff like be iron man, marry superwomanblow up a house with TNT (worrying), learn to shoot a gun (also worrying),  shoot an insect with a machine gun (errrrrr), take over the world, become a vampire (screw you, Twilight),shrink the sun and eat it (my personal favourite), and  take a shower every day (admirable!).

When I was in year 8 all I wanted to do was get the hell out of High School, grow taller, become an actress, and marry David Boreanaz (as Angel).

When I was in year 11 all I wanted to do was get the hell out of High School, grow taller, live in England, and meet the man of my dreams (a real one). I had no idea what I wanted to ‘be’.

I have achieved two of those goals.

Ten years later, my goals are to improve my Spanish, get a Masters or PhD in History, work in an international school, and to eventually own my own home (yet to decide which country it should be in) that looks something like this:

 Photo:  errr…somewhere on tumblr…

Post Script: an update on my last teaching post/insane rant: my students have now come to terms with their project and are working on it like a boss. Like, a class of bosses. Boss class, yo.

Much as you blame yourself, you can’t be blamed for the way that you feel.

I’ve heard it said many times that every relocation takes at least three months to get used to, so no big decisions should be made before you’ve been somewhere for twelve weeks. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you can’t easily leave after three months and also don’t decide you hate everything and want to leave before the first three months. Well, considering I’d signed a 15-month contract before I’d even left Australia I wasn’t too wise about the first part but luckily, as I approach twelve weeks in Vietnam, I’m happy to stay.

It’s possible I’m starting to like Hanoi. I won’t make any grand statements because a good weekend does not a perfect life make….but things look promising. Ah, yeah, I’m being a dick. I had a good weekend and I’m relieved that I managed to make more of a connection with this city. It seems that public holidays here are few but not far between. Three days this month and no more until September. Because it was a long weekend I decided to treat myself and get a fancy hotel room in the city (four star hotel, $60 a night with free breakfast). My apartment is in the outer districts so staying in the city centre made socialising a lot easier than it normally is, sometimes I feel like I’m living in expat exile.

A few photos: My hotel room, the view from my hotel, a pool at another resort on the lake, and a delicious drink in a lovely little café (a respite from the chaotic streets and humidity).

It poured down with rain last night and there was some pretty impressive lightening going on. Now the temperature is blissfully low, although the smell of piss keeps wafting into my room. Hmmmm. Trade off?

Time to go and mark forty exam papers before I go back to work tomorrow.

Just another brick in the wall

Teaching can really be a thankless job sometimes. Wait. What am I saying? That’s not right. Teaching is a thankless job all of the time. I haven’t been teaching for long in the scheme of things so I’m not constantly bitter about it yet, in fact most days I don’t really care, I like my job so I don’t need people thanking me for doing it. There’s a reason why teachers talk about moments when students approach them and tell them they appreciate all the hard work – they are rare moments. I’ve had a few and they’ve been lovely. I keep them stored in my memory to pull out when I’m having a rough class. I had such a lesson this afternoon.

Due to the way my school works, the students studying English subjects have already sat their final exams despite having a month left of school. They’ve finished the work in their textbooks and apparently thought the last month was going to be a holiday. It’s a challenge to keep up motivation when they’re not working towards any official grade. I get that, it seems like work for the sake of work. They’re not at the stage where they want to learn just for knowledge.

I decided to create a project where they can choose from a list of varied tasks (computer stuff, art, music, writing, speaking etc.) which are all worth a different amount of points. I spent aaages putting this bloody list together. Sitting there alone in the office after school thinking ‘ Now, if I were sixteen, and I had to do a task for English, what would I want to do if sleeping and watching films were out of the question?’. I’ve gotten to know these students pretty well over the last two months and I tried to cater to their interests.

How did they react? Screwed up faces. Groans. Complaints “Oh but we have exams for Vietnamese this month” and “this is too much work” and “but we’ve finished”.  SULK SULK SULK. It’s not fair. Lots of epic sighs. Before they’d even read the tasks.

Oh no, my poor babies, you have to make a poster…or write a short story….or compile some inspirational quotes….or write a list of goals…..or make a powerpoint on fashion. YOU POOR SOULS! Ugh, I was so mad. What made it worse is that it is a class which I generally get along really well with. They’re good-natured and intelligent kids. They just thought it would be easier to take advantage of me. That is the downside to being a friendly teacher. Sometimes they forget that you are not their friend.

Such a small thing, I know, but it has put me in quite a foul mood. I’m wondering whether to even post this. Ah, what the hell. If you think it’s boring you’ve probably already stopped reading anyhow.

There is some crazy lightening going on outside and I am waiting for the nachos I ordered 45 minutes ago. It’ll probably start pouring down and my food will arrive soaking wet…and then the power will go out.

To brighten up this teaching post I will…nope, I’ve got nothing.