Time is winding down. Every now and then I think about how little time I have left to make an impact here. Over night, the dog decided to sleep over in my room, Mrs. Hong saying that Min was now my responsibility and even jokingly told me to bring Min to America. Its squeak-like yawn in the morning woke me up, right about half past six. Mrs. Hong again, going for her morning stroll around the center, called for me to let Min out, to which I did, and went back to sleep for another hour. For breakfast this morning, I ate a pack of chocolate cookies and a carton of Ovaltine chocolate milk, typing away on my laptop and looking up ideas to teach my first class of the day, the high school students.
This morning was cloudy, the center quiet, and still. I went around to check up all the houses, wondering why there were so little sandals outside of each house. "Most of the children have gone to school this morning to pay off fees and receive paperwork," said Than, one of my brothers from the Thanh Truc house. So many people left that I essentially didn't have any high school students to teach, as all of them left. Instead, I went around to each house, asking children individually if they wanted me to teach them any form of English grammar. Three of them were free, and joined me. They included: Yen, Bang, and Van, all university students now, except for Bang who is now a junior in college. There goes another preplanned lesson I have to move on to the next day...
The class was fine, me spending a great deal of time on tenses, as many of the children told me they had trouble understanding some of them, and also coming up with sentences using the different tenses. The difference between the Quoc Hoc students, Yen and Van, and the non-Quoc Hoc students was dramatic. The QH students' understanding of English was essentially five times more than that of their peers at the center, the students knowing how to read, write, hear, and think in English, something that all Vietnamese now wish to have. Bang, having not been a QH student in her high school days, suffered from years of low quality English teaching, thus coming to me for the last couple days to help her prepare essays and speeches for her English class at a language center. During the for the second half of the class, Yen, who is attending the Hue University of Foreign Languages, asked me to explain the differences between American and British English. Oh goodness... Other than the difference in pronunciation and dialect, I knew nothing about the differences on the spot. Good thing there's the internet, as I pulled out my laptop and taught from the web. There was way too much to teach, and so I told them I would plan for next week to pick out some of the more important differences. Right towards the end of the class, two cameramen walked in, asking to interview more of the children that got accepted into college (the children told me that this happens all around Vietnam, as getting accepted to college is a big deal in Vietnam). "Well, famous people (referring to Yen and Van), go on and get changed for your interview, class is done for the day" I told them, organizing all my stuff to head out of the library.
"Can I have your autograph!?" I told Yen, joking with her. "I don't want to be famous, not for the wrong reasons" she replied, laughing at me. Yen has been interviewed many times over this last month, telling her interviewers that she plans to devote her time to philanthropy, especially to this center, after settling down with a job. She wants to travel to other countries, hoping to understand the cultural differences between East and West. In some ways, she is similar to me, wanting to travel to here and there to truly develop a sense of humanity, a sense of understanding, and a sense of compassion for the world's people. There are so few overseas opportunities for the Vietnamese students, money of course being the biggest factor. If only I could think of something... As much as I try not to factor money into the equation of philanthropy, it always comes back into the argument. However, my goal will ultimately not be won by money, but by inspiration of others to adopt the problems of others as their own, much as how I hang a large debt over my head for tremendous luckiness in every aspect. I let them have some privacy to their interviews, walking back to my room and relax.
By this time, many of the students had begun coming back, plastic folders in their hands with documents and clothes patches to put on their school uniforms. "High school starts in two weeks, and junior high starts in next week," said Long, "summer's almost over..." My two brothers walked back into their house, me walking on down to the house of the little children to spend some time with them.
"Ben!" the children yelled from inside their houses as I walked down. I hung around until lunch time, playing with the children and chatting. "Ben, its so boring right now..." said Man, laying down with his broken arm in a cast and a electronic game device in his other hand. Many of the children tell me that they wish they had more freedom, noting that the college students have the most freedom of all of them, and rightfully so, I guess. We finally set up for lunch, the Phung Vi house and me, and had another nice meal with one another. I told the children that I would not be able to eat for Thursday night and Friday, since I have to attend the wedding of one of my many uncles, uncle Thong, who is wedding a woman from Australia. They made fun of me, telling me that I left too often, and didn't spend enough time with them. "Don't worry, I'll make it up by coming back on Sunday!" I told them. Upon finishing the meal, I waved the children goodbye, walking up towards my room. Two of the children begged their mother to come nap at my room, Phe and Phi, and with luck, were granted permission.
"This room is so amazing" said Phe, jumping right onto my bed. We napped for a bit, though eventually their brothers called them back down to pick up some new clothes and backpacks for school. The center here provides them with just about everything, clothing to scholarships for college.
With an hour or so left to spare before my class with the primary school students, I worked on my lesson and thought about some more ideas for my speech on the 25th.
Pronunciation was the name of today's lesson, and I spent a full hour with the primary school students, explaining how to pronounce many different words, especially the one's I know they have problems with, like like and school. Today was actually a special day, as after finishing the first hour of the class, all the mothers of the center came to the library, asking me to teach them how to use email. "Oh right! I planned this the other day!" I thought, shaking my head a little bit, but then closing my books and telling the children that today was an easy day for them. They all cheered and ran back to their houses. All five of the mothers came, Ms. Be, Ms. Hen, Ms. Dua, Ms. Lang, and Ms. Nga (the newest mother). They were quite the cheery group, all great friends (who go on walks during the night together to talk and exercise), and joking with each other for much of the class. For the next hour and a half, I spent the time walking them through how to use a computer, how to go onto email, check the news, and made accounts for them. "I don't know how I'm going to remember all this information, much less get on the internet, as I don't even have a computer" said Ms. Be. They were so funny, making fun of each others' usernames and passwords, saying they could use their emails for find lovers and keep in touch with them. "It's getting late Ben, let's call for another lesson next week, okay?" said Ms. Lang. I thanked them for their time, and headed back to my room to relax until dinner.
My house ate the latest of that day, eating at around six fifteen that day. The children begged me for another movie night, and so I agreed, inviting all twelve of them into my room. They were fans of horror films, and so I showed them two episodes of Supernatural and one of my personal favorites, REC. I had originally planned to go down and tutor more children in English, but it eventually got too late, and I had plenty of work to work on. At around twelve, I decided to call it a night and along with the dog, slept peacefully for the night.