Last night I attended a concert by Canadian pianist and composer Alain Lefèvre at the Vietnam National Opera.The event was part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Vietnam.It was awesome…I had my own ‘opera box’. It all felt very posh and we all tried to forget that it was still 32 degrees at 9pm.
Also, as you can see from the blog title, I’ve started my Vietnamese lessons. WUSC has provided a private tutor for five two-hour lessons. I must say he is very good and, so far, I’m learning how to pronounce things…as in “th” sounds like “ch”, “t” sounds like “d”, “c” sounds like “g”, and “d”, “gi” and “r” all sound like “z”….This could take awhile…
I could have kicked myself for not taking my camera last night, but then I remembered…I have a new iPhone! (Did you know the iPhones account for more pictures on Flickr than any other camera?)This is the Vietnam National Opera…
Today is the day that students in Vietnam are taking their “short-form” exams…
All students in Vietnam are required to take the national Leaving Examination at the end of grade 12 to get a diploma. The Leaving Examination is administered by the MoET (Ministry of Education and Training). Students still have to pass their regular end-of-term examinations, along with passing the Leaving Examination.
The Leaving Examination includes six subjects: mathematics, Vietnamese literature, foreign language, and three alternating subjects determined by the Ministry. This year office technology is being tested. Each exam has a maximum value of 10 points and, in order to graduate, a student needs to achieve a minimum total score of 30 points. A score below this will also disqualify a student from taking part in the national University Entrance Examination.
Nearly 1 million students sit for the Leaving Examination in late May or early June every year. Seems the “long-form exams” were written Saturday and today’s the day for the rest. For me, that means that all of my office mates are proctering exams and I am working at home doing research…and that I have a little time to post some pictures from around the neighbourhood.
I now have a cubicle, a bank account, a bus pass, and an apartment…I no longer have a Blackberry because I wasn’t smart enough to listen when they told me phones get stolen on buses…lesson learned.
While I have an apartment, I can’t move in until the 21st, so I’ll be in the old quarter until then. I opted for a ‘western’ style building…to me, that means ‘with windows’. I also opted to live by the lake and travel an hour by bus each morning to the VACC offices. It won’t be so bad as some days I’ll be at the WUSC office and that is within walking distance. I’ll also be spending several weeks visiting some of the Colleges in the south of the country.
I know I’ve only been here for a few days and it may be presumptuous of me to try to explain traffic in Hanoi but I think I’ve pinned it down to a few unwritten rules. (There certainly doesn’t seem to be any written ones!)
The lovely wide sidewalks are for parking motorbikes. Pedestrians cannot, and should not attempt to, use the sidewalk. Pedestrians are part of the traffic flow. As such, they may walk either way on the street or cross at any point. (This is also true for motorbikes; only cars need to abide by the one-way signs.)
The motor bikes will not hit you. (A miss by ¼ inch is still a miss!)
Most hotels give tips sheets to visitors on “How to Cross the Street”. I love this advice from a lady who is obviously from a cooler climate: “Imagine yourself skiing. The motorbikes slalom through the streets. You need to put yourself into the flow.” Great advice, except for the motorbikes that are ‘skiing’ uphill; you gotta watch those guys!
WUSC hooked me up with a local volunteer who is a student in the tourism program and the University of Hanoi. So, today, I had a private guided tour of the city. We toured the first University in Hanoi, the Museum of Art, and the Museum of Military History. We also had lunch at an authentic “sidewalk” diner that served only spring-rolls, grilled pork, and noodles. The food was amazing, but I’m pretty sure you don’t get served there unless you speak Vietnamese…Then there was the Lake View Cafe where I finally found the yogurt with coffee I was looking for. This cafe is only accessible through a sewing shop called Gallery Monet…Who’s going to know this stuff???
After a day at the WUSC office getting information on their operations in Vietnam, I spent a few hours exploring my new neighborhood…a walk around Turtle Lake, dinner at Le Pub, and a wonderful outdoor evening market that was a pedestrian zone. After a day of Hanoi traffic a pedestrian zone is like heaven! There are absolutely NO traffic rules in this city. How can a city of over six million people function with NO traffic rules??
The first accident I saw happened just as we were leaving the airport yesterday. In the middle of the highway a cart was loaded with so much wood it tipped backward, lifting the hind quarters of the poor, sad horse that was pulling it, high into the air. The horse was definitely in trouble. Strangely, the whole scene was kind of familiar; we’ve all seen this on Saturday morning cartoons. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a cartoon and there was nothing funny about it. I hope the horse survived and wasn’t too badly injured.
Today in Vietnam most people are starting a five day weekend. There’s the weekend, plus a Monday that can be made up somewhere, then Tuesday is Reunification Day (celebrating the fall of Saigon in 1975) and Labor Day (which is celebrated on May 1st in over 80 countries in the world). I was well advised not to try to get out of the city (since that’s what everyone else is doing and they had a head start) so I’m planning to explore old Hanoi and enjoy some downtime. One day in the office and I’ve met people heading to Burma and Bangkok…and, as quick as that, I’m the one staying home for the long weekend.
The last time I was in Hanoi was in May of 2007. Tomorrow I will be moving there. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m going to love the 33 degree temperatures…the 85% humidity? Well, we’ll see…
I’ll be working with the Vietnam Association of Community Colleges as a Curriculum Development Advisor. I hear Facebook is unofficially banned in Vietnam, so please follow this blog. For the next ten months, it will be my link to home.
This was a very different day…short on work (only 5 stoves) and long on ceremony. Today was the official opening of Joe’s Clinic in San José Cajagualtan. We were thrilled to hear that there will be a doctor coming to the clinic once … Continue reading →
Today we finished the remaining stoves in ChimaChoy and, of course, built a playground…Two playgrounds actually…one for the smaller children near the laundry and one for the school. I hope this video gives you just a taste of what it’s like to install playground equipment when it’s the first playground most of these children have ever seen…