Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm in Vietnam!

I haven't written in awhile because my days consist of waking up and skyping with Michael, biking to school, teaching, biking home and working for a few more hours. This is the reason why all of the teacher shows get canceled: there are moments of inspiration and connection, but mostly a lot of reading student work. The reality show of teaching is about as lack luster as a reality show about accounting--a stack of papers doesn't lend to drama. 

Sometimes I have to pinch my skin to remind myself of the fact that I'm living in Vietnam. Most often, I feel as if I landed a gig in Florida: palm trees, motor bikes, restaurants and stores on every block. Yesterday, my friend Dyana and I went to visit Katie and Audrey (the student teachers) in the dorms. The dorms are about a mile away from my apartment and house visiting teachers. The benefit of living in the dorms is full access to an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts, and I have access because I've befriended the student teachers. I've been trying to swim 25 laps every day to keep in shape. I start at about 5 pm and then pretend I'm on a water ballet team at about 6 pm. In Vietnam the sun rises at 5:30 am and sets at 6 pm, so when my water ballet show begins, a frantic flurry of bats dive from the sky, skimming the water. I'm in awe of the bats. I watch their graceful water show for a few minutes, then exit the pool convinced that I've been bat bitten. I love the daily grind of school, but am thankful for the time I am able to spend under water.

Speaking of R and R, on Saturday I am leaving for the  land of "eternal spring," Da Lat. The bus ride is a total of 16 hours, eight there and eight back. I should have pictures of waterfalls, hikes, elephant ride, and hopefully a book or two read when I return next Wednesday. Which reminds me, I need to start packing!

Tomorrow, marks a month of living in Saigon. One month! When I travel or live in a new place, time slows. Like a child, I discover new people, new places, new ideas. The progress of life is delayed, and I am able to watch and explore rather than wake up wondering where all of the days have gone. Time doesn't fly here, it glides, which is one reason I decided to explore the opportunity of teaching abroad. I wish I could put all of you in my pocket and take you on daily adventures with me!!! I hope all is well in your world. 

Much Love,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bike Trip Part II

After buying my bike with a few teacher friends a week ago, I went on another adventure to help three more teacher friends purchase their bikes. Biking form Phu My Hung to District 1 is not that mind-blowing when you consider the surrounding motorbikes are only moving at 25 mph, but the busses and SUVs rule the road here like a giant crushing trees in his path, so the trip is not necessarily mind-blowing, but there are moments where you question your sanity. And really, what kind of fun would this be without a little adrenaline adventure? I plan on getting a helmet to appease my boyfriend, Michael (and I'm sure my parents), but no one else bikes with a helmet on (how's that for an argument)!!!

I once read a story about a man who did not know he was the god of rain, but everywhere he traveled the rain followed. At the end of the story he puts two and two together and ta-da, he learns how to control the weather and the sun appears. I, have not yet learned to control the weather, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I have something to do with the amount of rain we've been experiencing. It has rained non-stop for two days, and it's not the Aberdeen drizzle I know so well, but large, pounding, bone soaking rain. If it doesn't stop soon, I think we may be in for a large flood, and believe me, the last thing I want here is a flood. Luckily, my classroom is on the fourth floor, but others are not as lucky. I can't believe I brought a constant flow of rain to Saigon. I know, you're thinking "egomaniac," but you would feel this way too if you grew up next to a rainforest and twenty minutes from the ocean! 

Thanks for listening to my Monday rant. Enjoy the pictures and thanks for all the communication. I appreciate hearing from all of you. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Binh Thanh

Today is my first Saturday off in two weeks--time for an adventure! Dyana, a kindergarden teacher from Canada, and I took the 102 bus to District 1. Our mission was to book a trip with a local travel agent to Da Lat for the long holiday. The long holiday is September 1st and 2nd, and it seems that most of the teachers take off for the long weekend. The bus dropped us off in District 1 and we walked down to the travel agency in the backpackers district--many westerners. No luck! I needed the original paper ticket to change the reservations (long story), but the most exciting part of the adventure began when we ducked into a small Vietnamese restaurant, ate a bowl of Pad Thai, talked to a dude from Ireland and then, it began to rain. Rats ran for shelter, children ran barefoot in the streets, bikers covered themselves with ponchos, and I sat and observed. Mesmerized by the children laughing and stomping in the rain and the mud, I must have watched for a good twenty minutes. After watching rain, the size of marbles, I looked up. As you can see in one of the pictures below, there are about 100 electric wires bunched up in the same place. I didn't notice this fact at first, but when I did, I started to laugh. Laughing because I see something surreal everyday. 

After the rain stopped, we walked to the Binh Thanh market. This was my second visit to the Binh Thanh market, so this time I knew how to navigate my way through the women "madame, madame  a shirt, a hat..." I made my way back to the food market to browse through the seafood, fruits, beans, rice, coffee. I love looking at all the different colors and shapes, colors and shapes I have not seen before. Today I saw a basket of frogs, water snakes, women getting a pedicure on the street, and weasel coffee. If you have been to Saigon before, I'm sure you know the sounds and the smells but if not, look at the pictures below and imagine walking through crowded rows of goods to be purchased.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

When I Say Jump...

Welcome to English 10, 11, and A.P. Language! I have sixteen desks set up in the infamous horse-shoe and depending on the day, eight to sixteen students fill the desks in five different classes--this is where the magic happens! 

In the picture above you can see my windows and if you look outside of my windows, this is what you will see... beautiful. 

My students are the most a-Mazing students and people I have ever met. Most of them speak three languages fluently and one language so-so. They come from all over the world, they are respectful, they listen, they laugh at appropriate times. Most importantly, they laugh at my dumb jokes. They are ready to learn every day, and they say goodbye and thank you when class is over. I think someone replaced my students with robots. Amazing robots! I am grateful to be teaching at this school, it is such a welcomed change. I have enough time to ask my students to write, to correct their papers, to engage in discussion, essentially, to teach. 
The photo to the left is of our atrium. This is where the kids hang out before/after school and at lunch. Our lunch is catered by Black Cat and is delicious. I could not eat the full meal they provide, but they do have Pho and smoothies, which I (as I previously hinted at) am addicted to.
The field and trees in this picture are located at the front of our school. I park my bike right outside this area and am able to enjoy the scenery before class begins. So, to sum it all up I am very content. And thank God for Imodium AD!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They're Afraid of Bugs Too!

Every year during the first week of school, I ask myself why I teach. I'm not sure I ever fully answer the question, but sometimes I think it is so I can laugh every day. This year is not an exception. My students are already making me laugh, and although I raise my left eyebrow with disapproval at inappropriate comments, I often find them funny. I don't have any pictures of my school, but I will take them tomorrow so you can see my classroom and the view from my classroom. 

After meeting my students and reviewing the rules and expectations I asked them what they fear the most. Oddly enough, most of the students, 15-17, fear bugs. I've been playing it cool since I arrived, "Oh, a rat, there's two cockroaches, and three more geckoes on my wall--that's cool." Inside I jump and when no one is looking I leap from one end of my apartment to the other, but I'm not alone. I'm not alone! My students are afraid of bugs also and they've lived here much longer than I. After school today I biked around Phu My Hung to see the sights. It was a beautiful day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Bike=A Whole New World

If you're viewing this blog you either know me or find me absolutely fascinating. Since your reasoning probably leans toward the first, hello and welcome! I, Karinna Elizabeth Jones, am living in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) teaching at Saigon South International. This is my first International teaching position, so I'm experiencing the emotional and intellectual equivalent of an adolescent with too many pixie styx. (Side note)I cannot say I'm a true fan of the blog-sphere, but e-mailing multiple people everyday is quite a job, so here I am. And even though I am trying to down play my acceptance and addiction to this blog, I was so focussed on downloading pictures that I just burned a pot of rice. 

First off, I miss you. I miss everything about you, so I had to go purchase a bike and see the land, Vietnam-my new home, so I could stop missing you. My bike, seen below, is the new love of my life (sorry Michael). I plan on riding her to school, around Phu My Hung, the area where I live, and to town. I took the 102 bus to District 1 and rode her all the way home with three Australian 
friends of mine. On the way home we stopped for some food and a few drinks, so we could sit down, breathe a little, and admire our new purchase. We-Angela, Mal, Julie and I-biked home to finish our readings and syllabi before the big day (first day of class) Tuesday!

My bike is truly exciting, but so is my living space! This is My Cahn. I live in 5-2A above a Korean Herbal Remedy Shop, across from a park, and right around the corner from my favorite Pho restaurant. The staff at the Pho restaurant know me by name. I can't stay away: pho for breakfast,pho for second breakfast, pho for lunch, pho for second lunch. I'm a hobbit for pho.

This is the front of My Cahn. There are quite a few kids who live in this complex, so we have swings in my front yard, and there's noting better than a swing and an ice-cream cone. I'm still searching for the ice-cream cone.

Below is the park across the way from my apartment. I haven't had a moment to sit down and enjoy the lovely view, but I'm sure I will soon. P.S. I've been hanging out with a bunch of Australians, so read this with an Australian accent, it sounds better!

I love you. Yes, this means all of you, so keep in touch and let me know when you're getting married, having children, going camping...