Friday, February 12, 2010
Hanoi University and Hanoi International School
In Vietnam, I taught at the University of Hanoi, Tourism Department, and I also substituted at the Hanoi International School.
The English program at Hanoi University was in its embryonic stage. The program had recently been developed by a Canadian woman, who then returned to Canada before overseeing the implementation of the program at the university. It was left to the Vietnamese staff to get it up and running, so it wasn't very well organized. After they hired me to teach, there were no books, there was no copier, there was no printer, and there was no support from the other staff. I almost tore my hair out in frustration a few times, and if it weren't for the students, I would have quit my first week.
The work was grueling because the physical conditions were also so tough. With no air conditioning and almost 100% humidity, I felt like a lobster being held over a pressure cooker: the temperature was well in the high 90's. Sweat poured down my body and my feet slid around in my shoes. The ceiling fans spun weakly around and around, just enough to cake the desks in a fine layer of dust that blew in from the construction site next door.
Earth-moving machines prowled around the grounds, shaking and rattling the windows and creating duststorms that billowed into the classrooms. At times I had to shout so the students could hear me. The windows, which also had no hooks to keep them closed (or open), banged incessantly against the building and I had to jam them closed with rolled up wads of paper so they would stay closed. We suffocated and sweat. One day, when I stood up too quickly, I almost fainted and toppled over my desk. Alas, I came down with a bad case of sinusitis from all the dust and pollution and I could hardly breath for my typhoidic coughing and sputtering. I just couldn't take it anymore, so I resigned. As a result, I received a nasty email from the woman in Canada criticizing me for dumping 'her' program and screwing 'her' students mid-term, and chastising my work at the International School, as if I were using Hanoi University as a stepping stone to better things. It's always sad to leave the students, and I didn't take it lightly, but that comfortable cow in Canada could kiss my can and come enjoy the experience for herself.
While in Hanoi I also subbed at the Hanoi International School. It was a world away from the conditions at the university. On my last day at the school a deluge hit the city and within minutes, the streets were flooded.
Posted by Nancy O.