It’s made international news at this point, so you might already know, but yesterday morning a huge bridge that they were building in the Mekong Delta, only about 60 km from Long Xuyen, collapsed. This was in Can Tho, where I’ve traveled for pizza on occasion in the past. However, one of this international news sites made a mistake, and now everyone is copying this little mistake, and now it’s being disseminated throughout the world. These sites that I’ve seen refer to the Hau River (the same river that flows next to Long Xuyen) as a tributary to the Mekong. It’s not a tributary you morons! It’s a branch of the Mekong! Just look at a map!

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Sometimes I wonder why I’m still working here. I’ve already written about my lack of motivation in classes and my impending return home (which is something I’m about 60% positive about), but I’ve been trying to look past all the negativity and get into teaching and helping my students learn. And then a day like today rolls around.

I was meeting my American Literature class at 2:45 p.m., and a small group was giving a short presentation on The Scarlet Letter. I had arranged last week to borrow an LCD projector, and I was going to bring my laptop for them to use. So 2:45 comes around, and the classroom is locked and the man with the LCD is nowhere to be seen. So I call the guy with the LCD and he told me that it’s broken. I asked him if there was another, and he said no. Then I asked my students if they could present without an LCD, and they said it would be too boring. So we arranged to meet on Friday morning. Then, I went on a quest to find an LCD projector and a free classroom for Friday morning. I went to the library, where they have three LCD projectors available for teachers, but usually one teacher books them everyday for months at a time, and there wasn’t even anyone in the room, so I found nothing there. Then I went looking for the man in charge of a meeting room that already has an LCD projector, and he wasn’t in his office. Finally, in desperation, I went to the new vice-dean of the School of Education, who studied at Bluffton at the same time as me.

She jumped up and agreed to help me. We went to the equipment office, and they said I’d have to type up a formal request in order to borrow a projector (I hate this asinine bureaucracy). Then we went looking for the guy in charge of the meeting hall again, and Nhiem, the vice-dean, pulled him out of a meeting. “They’re repairing the air-conditioning in that room,” he said. So that option was out. Finally I went to my office and just said I would borrow their projector, which is rarely used. Now, I think I’m mostly set for Friday, but we’ll see what happens when it rolls around.

So while administers have computers and air-conditioning in their nice, cool offices and do little or nothing in terms of actual, you know, education, the actual teachers who are trying to innovate and do things a little differently are forced into small corners and have to struggle just to find equipment for effective teaching and learning. Vietnam wants rapid development, and I want it to happen too, but too often the administration is in the past. It’s like that Bob Dylan line:

“Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changing”

The Indians have clinched the AL Central Division!! They’re going to the playoffs for the first time in six years!! Why am I living in a country that doesn’t care about baseball?!? Man, this wonderfully awesome news makes up for the lack of power at home today…

Yesterday I slept in late and woke up to find that there was no power at home. Minh and I decided to go out to a wifi cafe near the lake (Cafe Bo) that also had air-conditioning. We spent a good chunk of the day there wasting time on the internet and sipping tea. After finding some food and driving around and drinking more coffee at another cafe, when went home a little after 5 to discover that the power had just come back on. And then it was getting to be time for movie night. I lost the remote to the DVD player at the last minute, but then found it again, and almost all of the foreign teachers and I walked over to campus A. Lillian took some pictures while we were setting up the equipment.

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Then I should’ve gone to bed early, but instead I stayed up with Minh watching stuff and talking, etc. This morning was the opening ceremony for the new school year here at AGU. I still don’t understand why it takes place at the beginning of the sixth week of the semester, but after so much time here, you just don’t ask those questions any more and just accept things. We sat there as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky and the air became hotter and hotter.

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There were a few speeches, a few songs, and then Dr. Xuan, the rector of AGU, pounded the ceremonial drum to open the school year.

And after all of the speeches were over, and a few scholarships had been presented, and we were dismissed, students crowded around to take pictures with me. A number of the girls in 6d1, my experimental class, had just gotten their first ao dais made, and of course wanted to have their pictures taken. The picture taking took almost as long as the ceremony itself, but it wasn’t too bad.

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And then I left the main campus to discover that the power had been cut in our ward, which means that my room will slowly turn into a sauna over the course of the day…

It’s an overcast day here in Long Xuyen.

Someone told me that there is a tropical storm somewhere and that’s the reason behind all of the cloud-cover and drizzling rain. I like the cooler temperatures, but of course rain leads to mud in this area, or at least lots of wet sand.

I’m beginning the fifth week of the semester, and I’m just about exactly three months from going home, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing nothing productive with my time here. I don’t have the motivation that I had last year, and I seem to just be going through the motions of everything. And I can’t pinpoint the problem. I thought it might be frustration, or maybe some parasite that’s sapping all my energy, but I don’t think it really comes down to those things. Or maybe it’s just this time of year when I seem to consistently feel down. Maybe it’s even the plea for communication with my younger brother that has gone unheeded and left me feeling frustrated. I suppose it could be numerous things and I’m no psychology major, that’s for sure.

There still remain many great things that come from living in Long Xuyen, like making students giggle or understand something in class, or having a good conversation with one of the other volunteers, or just running into an old friend that I haven’t seen for awhile. It’s this lack of motivation in terms of my work that is bothering me the most though.

Things seem slightly better this week. It’s still really hot and I don’t like suffering through it in the classrooms, but at least the power seems to be staying on more regularly and a bit of rain has fallen to cool things down at times. Sometimes, even while driving the motorbike, I can feel the intense heat of the sun burning into my skin even though the air is flying by.

Also, now there are four new people at AGU living in the guest house. Will, Michelle, and Minh are teaching in the same department as me and adjusting to the teaching lifestyle (if I can call it that). Also, another German student, Bich, has arrived and is living in Hendrik’s old room (now sometimes referred to as “the German room”). Last night Minh and Bich were over in my room, hanging out and watching T.V. shows and chatting and what-have-you…


here’s Minh

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And Bich…