Well, the ol’ blog is just about back to normal now. The strange weather from this past week is still with us. I’m blaming it on the typhoon that is about to hit the central coast of Vietnam. I just read on the news that 180,000 people have been evacuated by the Vietnamese government. I also received an email from the U.S. Consulate warning all American citizens in Vietnam to be cautious while in the center of the country. Here, the effects of this huge storm are simply overcast skies for most of the day, light rain most days, and a lot more breeze than normal.
I’m just settling into a nice relaxing Saturday afternoon. I can’t decide if I want to watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie or just lie down for an hour or so. A few days ago we were possibly talking about going to Can Tho for this weekend, but because of this weird rain lately, I thought that it would probably be best not to try to drive anywhere. I’ve pretty much all but decided that I’m going to Ho Chi Minh City next week. I have a couple days free and it’s about time that I get by pizza fix.
Well, something happened with this here blog of mine and I lost all of the custom things that I had added over the years. This morning I spent most of my time editing the site and getting frustrated with the slow internet. But it should be back to normal soon.
We’ve had several days of lots of rain here. It’s an unusual rain: it drizzles for hours on end. Luckily it didn’t rain this morning for the opening ceremony of AGU. There were a few songs and speeches, and it seemed to be shorter than last year. But the real fun of opening ceremony is after everything is over, when students come running up and say “Teacher! Teacher! Take a picture with me!” Tyler and I were accosted for at least 15 minutes before we could make our way off of campus.
Last night was our second evening of Movie Night this year. However, workers had moved all of the benches from the room outside in preparation for the opening ceremony. This meant that students had to sit on the long tables in the room. However, when this happened the students in the back of the room couldn’t read the subtitles then. Not long after I looked behind me and students had started stacking tables on top of other tables to see the subtitles. Just another example of students here at AGU taking a problem and working around it.
This morning I grabbed a quick coffee before my 7 a.m. class. Then I taught for an hour and a half and met some colleagues for breakfast and coffee. Then I was driving to my room to get my computer and heard a yell: “Eric!! Coffee!!” So after getting my computer, I went for coffee. After that coffee I went to the office and sat down for about 15 minutes, when another guy poked his head in the door and said, “Hey Eric, you want to get coffee?” How could I refuse? I was on a roll. I should note that “Going for coffee” in Vietnam does not always mean that you’ll actually drink coffee, there are many other options available, and I usually stick to lemonade, lemon tea, or some drink made of ground-up leaves (I’m not really sure what they are or look like, because I’m always just drinking the stuff, not eating it). And, as any person that’s been to Vietnam knows, most drinks come with lots of sugar. Sometimes when I’m at cafes that are notorious for adding too much sugar, I’ll tell the person there that I just want a little sugar.
After my “lunch hour” which is usually more like three, I came back to the office and one of the first things on the agenda was to go and drink coffee.
This is Vietnam: Students, regardless if I know them or not, kind of abbreviating a bow, that looks like a big nod, when they see me as part of an old tradition of respecting teachers. Students signing up for free credit cards on campus this past week because the East Asian Bank of Vietnam has a promotion. The old and new smashing into each other at high speed.
It’s approaching noon on a Sunday and my balcony door is open and rain is falling outside. Sunday is the one true weekend day that we all have in Vietnam, and it usually ends up being a rather lazy day. I’m slightly worried about the fact that I have to start teaching a new class tomorrow and I’m not really sure what I’ll be teaching and I surely don’t have much time to prepare, but this is Vietnam after all, and I should be used to these changes out of the blue.
Last night was the farewell party for an Australian girl, Racheline, who’s been working here for about a year. Unfortunately, the other “university” foreigners and I have never spent much time with her, but the times we have spent together and really fun. She has the kind of personality, that no matter how bad you feel, you’ll have a much better outlook on life after a few minutes of talking to her. So, even though we didn’t really spend much time together, I’m going to miss her not being around.
One issue here at AGU is the size of the classes that we teach. You may or may not know that students here study in cohorts, that is, their class studies every subject together. Students here can’t choose their classes like we’re so used to in America. However, these classes can get pretty big. One of the biggest classes of English majors has 44 students, and I think the smallest class has 30 students. But all teachers end up teaching multiple classes, which means lots of students. It gets difficult to remember all their names, much less remember any information about them. I think it’s harder for the foreign teachers to remember names because the names are so strange at first. But even lots of the Vietnamese teachers can’t remember all the names because there are just so many students.
So I’ve been making an effort to combat this phenomenon of forgetting students’ names. I guess it started when Sharla was here: she took pictures of all her students, then glued the picture to a card, and then had the students write their names, birthdays, email addresses, and some other information on the cards. I’ve copied this trend and I’m trying to take it a step further. I downloaded a program to keep track of birthdays, and so far I’ve added more than 100 student birthdays. I’ve decided to send emails to students when it’s their birthday, and if their birthday falls on a day that I teach them, then they’ll get a card in class. I see it as just a little reminder to the students that the teachers care about them.