Five weeks have gone by. I will admit that time is picking up much more quickly, the days getting more and more predictable, though I try my best to do something differently each day. I got much sleep the night before, sleeping nearly eight hours for the first time. No more nightmares, no more odd sounds in the night, just soothing sleep. I slept so much that I woke up with twenty minutes to spare until my first class of the day. Bolting out of bed upon seeing the time, I quickly grabbed all my things, forgetting breakfast, and running to open the library.
To my surprise, this class would actually only compose of two people, though one was actually not a student of the class, but one of the older brothers who wanted to see how I taught this particular class. This class was the Duy Kem class for the lower scoring children. Hien and Thuy were busy this morning, leaving only Loi to take the class. Loi has the lowest average grades of the whole center, Hien and Thuy only being under by a few percentages. He has a good heart, loves to have fun, and smiles, but lacks the work ethic at the moment, something that I am hoping I am teaching to him. Ron, one of the children who is attending his third year at the Hue University of Economics, decided to join us. He practiced speaking with Loi extensively, asking him about the vocabulary I had given him the month before, and getting him to speak to me in English. Things were definitely getting better, his memory doing rather well. After two hours of tutoring Loi, I decided it was enough and went back to my room to put away my things.
I thought about Vung, who had left the other day, wondering if she would show up at lunch. I spent an hour in my room, working on my lesson for my brothers at the baking school. Today, one of the volunteers of the center, Mr. Tam (pronounced "Thum"), who holds a masters in linguistics, asked me to teach the brothers how to say different fruits and vegetables in English. I spent this morning and afternoon looking up all the Vietnamese words for more than sixty terms. Before walking over to the older sisters' house, Leticia, one of the french employees of the baking school (she is a key liaison between job employers and the brothers), asked me to check her English for two pamphlets she was making for the center. I noticed various mistakes in the pamphlets, correcting them for her, which brought a smile to her face. "If there is anything I can do to help out here, please let me know" I said to her, before waving to my brothers busy at work to head over to lunch. Vung did not return, at least not yet. The sisters seemed to be over it, though not wanting to discuss the situation at lunch. This lunch, also being my last lunch with the Anh Dao house before I move to the next house, the Phung Vi house with the little children, was definitely the most talkative we have been. I talked a lot about what life was like in America, its struggles, and my feelings about how I see America in comparison to Vietnam. Three of the sisters, Ly, Lan Anh, and Yen, who all were accepted to universities, came to lunch late, as they were being interviewed and filmed by the local television center (this center has been filmed many many times I was told). "You're famous!" I told them as they walked in. They blushed, giggling a little bit, and one of them fist pumping. It was a good lunch. I thanked the sisters for their kindness and for the meal, walking over to see my brothers from the nearby house eating their lunch. "Well, Ben, do the girls cook well?" said Long. "Everything is good here" I replied, to which Duy said, "liar, you know this house cooks the best." I nodded, smiled and walked out. I decided to make a trip to the small store right outside the center to buy some sweets for my final dinner with the Anh Dao house this week, and also some cartons of milk, having not drank any for so long (milk is my favorite drink, other than water).
I tried to nap after returning, the weather extremely humid and sunny, but was unable to, leaving me just laying in bed. I brought Min, the little white dog, into my room. Min had no home for this and the following week, as Mrs. Hong is on her trip to Hanoi to travel with her daughter and also check up on the status of the surgery for her daughter. Min was quite the energetic little dog, always running around in circles around me, gnawing at my fingers, feet, and everything else. While I lay on my bed, it kept trying to jump onto it, though failing due to its small feet. It eventually just curled into a ball on a mat I brought to Vietnam and slept, beating me to nap time. Finally I said it was enough, and got up with an hour to spare before my next class. I thought over my next lesson for the high schoolers, many of whom were from many different levels of English language proficiency. I turned to the next chapter of one of my teaching books, deciding that a chapter on clothing would be appropriate, especially because the children have been beginning to receive new clothes, shows, and school materials for the coming school year (which is starting for many on the 15th of this month!).
It was a crowded class, the students filling up a row in the library. They teased me as I wrote up all the vocabulary, which was nearly sixty words, on the board. Many of them had not known the names of the articles of clothing, so I went over with them not only the word, but how to use it in a sentence. I asked them questions about all the vocabulary as well, hoping to stray away from the passive learning that they endure in school. During our break, many of the students ran down to the office of the center to pick up new shoes, all of them showing them off to me and asking me if I was jealous. "Of course, I only have two pairs here" I said, laughing. We continued with some grammar, up until four. Time to prepare for my third class of the day!
I told the sisters that I would be eating late at around six, to which Ly, one of the older sisters, said "We'll just eat dinner when you are ready." Before I headed back to my room to prepare for my next class, Mrs. Minh and Eve called me down to their office to discuss many ideas and issues with the center. They asked me about what I thought of it and any suggestions for the center. They also asked if I needed more work to do (which I have been asking for for a long time) and many many other questions. I told them my intentions to do many more projects with my time here and also when I leave, and that I would do what it takes to make sure my work here is meaningful for the long term. I feel that I gained much more responsibility today, Eve telling me that there are many new projects for me when Mrs. Hong returns, such as visiting hospital directors to ask for orphans for the center. After, I headed back to my room, looking up the rest of the vocabulary for my class at five o'clock with my brothers from the baking school.
I had a great class with the brothers, their English speaking being very advanced compared to the children. They got lessons every week, nearly everyday of the week, from outside volunteers. Their pronunciation was rather good, and they understood all the fruits and veggies that I told them. Mr. Tam thanked me for my help and told me that he would have more work for me in the coming week. I nodded and headed off to have dinner with the sisters, bringing along the candy and sweets I bought after today's lunch.
What an exciting final dinner, everyone was cheery. The sweets were a bonus, but also a payment for them not being there for my birthday (the whole house had gone back to home villages that week). I stayed around to talk with the sisters a little bit after our dinner. They were getting comfortable with having me eating with them, especially being a male, which, between the older children, usually eat in their respective houses. I decided to go back to my room to work my blog entries, but was met with many many knocks on my door. There they were, the little children from the houses near the entrance. They wanted to come in to check out my room and cool off with the air conditioning. "Wow, its so cool here" the children said, jumping onto my bed. About ten of them came, all of them running around my room while I typed like a maniac. At last I told them that I finished, and walked with them down to their houses to let them finish up their Korean Drama.
Today was special, as there was supposed to be the television program on the center on the local television channel for Hue at nine o'clock. It was supposed to be thirty minutes long, and apparently, I was in it for a large part. Before nine, there was a program on the most intelligent students in Vietnam, all high school students, all who tested against each other (hundreds of the top scoring Vietnamese high school students), to narrow down to a group of four. This group of four would have to go up on television to play a game show like contest, where the winner would get a full scholarship to attend a foreign university (a tremendous honor and opportunity for a student in Vietnam), and the losers would get a monetary award (my heart sank when I found out how little these amazing students were given for coming in 2nd and 3rd place). I watched along, seeing the best and brightest of Vietnam go at in many different tests. There were questions of many different types, testing the students knowledge across all subjects, even American Jazz, which I found rather surprising. At the end, the program on the center actually never came, saddening all the eager, waiting children, and causing us to just go to bed. What a pity, I was looking forward to watching the program that night. I walked up alone, waving off to the children, many of which were telling me that ghosts would meet me on the way up.
Nothing met me on the way up, except for a cold wind. I stepped into my room and read my way into the night, sighing a breath of exhaustion, and finally going to bed. "Let's hope that program goes on television tomorrow..." I thought.