We made it from Thailand where we finished our TEFL/TESOL course and now it's time to become an ESL Teacher in Vietnam. We had to take two different flights. Sometimes when taking a dog, certain airlines will not allow you to take it inflight. So to save some money, I took a cheaper flight from Bangkok and Shelly took another carrier. I got to Hanoi first and checked in to the Splendid Jupiter Hotel in the Hoan Kiem district of the old quarter Hanoi. It's about 1 block from Hoan Kiem Lake and one ally over from St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Shelly showed up about 4 hours later on a different flight with Buddha and I hired a private car to go pick her up.
View From The Splendid Jupiter
Mini-Bus From The Airport To The Old Quarter
I took a minibus from the airport because it was only 4 dollars, although I had to pay 8 because one of my bags had to take up a seat on the small minivan. It beats paying 30 dollars or more for a taxi. It took forever. We drove through the town dropping the passengers of the packed minibus here and there. I checked in and relaxed a bit in our nice little room. The staff at theSplendid Jupiter Hotel are great and the guy at the front desk arranged the private car to the airport.
Kevin the Chauffer
There were two guys in the private car. One guy was named Kevin, although I am sure that is not his real name. On our way to pick up Shelly, they pulled over and Kevin took over the wheel. Apparently he wanted to come so he could get some driving time as he is learning how to drive. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about riding to the airport with Kevin driving, yet his average speed was about 20 miles an hour. We had bicycles passing us.
Getting Pulled Over From The Police
I was also getting a little anxious because at the rate we were going, Shelly would arrive and wouldn't know we are there. I really wanted to get there before she went outside, as I assured her I would arrange something for her. We get about 5 km from the airport and the police wave us over. I believe it was the toll booth that Kevin passed where he didn't stop. They stopped us for a few minutes then told me and the original driver to get back in and leave. We did and Kevin stayed behind. WEIRD! We made it and found Shelly and headed back home. On the road walking back to the airport was Kevin. We picked him up and he told us he had to pay a 500,000 Vietnamese dong fine. Which is about 25 dollars. No license and blowing the toll booth. An expensive driving lesson for Kevin.
Becoming an ESL Teacher In Vietnam
We started looking for work and I found a job as an ESL teacher in Vietnam at a place called GreenWorld Kindergarten. I completed an interview and a 20 minute demo lesson with the kids and it went really well. They ended up hiring me and I started on the 20th of August. Shelly ended up getting a job with Vietnam American International School. We met a guy named Matt the last time we were her in Hanoi back in November. Matt was a friend of a friend of our friends, Ashley and Scott. He was a good guy, and we knew he was still here and we had dinner with him one night. He gave us the principal's number for the school where he teaches part-time as a PE teacher. Stan was the principal. We ended up calling him and having dinner with him.
Vietnam American International School
Shelly Gets A Job
He talked to us about our adventures and told us a little about the school. Shelly then went to an interview and they gave her the job of 2nd grade teacher for 7 students. VAIS is a school that has an American curriculum and affiliation with a school in St. Paul MN. The students graduating from this nearly All-American staffed school, get a US diploma when they are done. Shelly loves her job. They told her that she would be there a month as a trial to see how she does. Although challenging, she is doing great with a class this is touted as the most difficult in the school due to having 3 ADHD kids. They are really happy with her, and we think they are going to offer her a full-time contract for a year soon.
Problems At GreenWorld
My job however, isn't all it was cracked up to be. I was hoping to come in and have control of what I teach the kids. It seems that I don't have as much leeway in what I teach as an ESL Teacher in Vietnam. Vietnamese employers are task oriented people. They give you a task and expect it done like they ask. No thinking outside the box here. Maybe it's the socialist style government, or simply the culture. I love the kids I am teaching for the most part, but the management seems to have a little too much control over what I teach.
Examples: I have various groups of kids. The "Little Steve Jobs" are 16 months to 2 years old. We have the "Little Beethovens" which are 2-3, The "Little Picassos" are 3-4, and the "Little Kennedys" are 4-5. The "Little Newtons" are 5-6. The Kennedy and Newtons speak some English and are great to teach. The little Picasso are an unruly bunch, the little Beethoven are actually better students than the Picasso, and the little Steve jobs, are you serious!?
How do you teach babies to speak English when they don't even know how to talk? Impossible. I mentioned that we should move their times from 20 minutes to 10 minutes per day but, I am not sure if that is going to fly. It's a complete waste of my time. The themes I am required to teach to the children are also not working for me.
First week was safety, the second week was fire safety. How much can you really say to children that don't speak English about safety and fire safety. Does this really require a week of instruction and is this even really appropriate for an ESL class. I should be teaching them English, not fire safety. So, long story short. I am leaving my career as a kindergarten teacher two weeks in.
Starting At VAIS
Stan called me from VAIS and offered an interview at Shelly's school, teaching ESL there to all the children with complete leeway in how I teach. I would be working for Americans for the most part who understand and value, thinking outside the box. I start on Tuesday next week. I can't wait and it will be fun to work with Shelly.
Evening Communication Class at E360
Evening Communication Class
I also have an evening job with another language school called E360, that I got on the New Hanoian Website (which is great for ESL jobs). I teach adults in a Business Communication Class for 16-25 years olds. Monday, Wed, Fri 7 to 8:30pm. I love this class. I have a great book to work from, but have complete control over how my class goes. I am only two days into it now, but really like it. The only problem is that it's in a school building that is on the other side of the city. The motorbike ride from the old quarter is about 45 minutes in sometimes horrible rush hour traffic in the evening. It's great practice for riding in a sea of motorbikes.
Our New Place In Hanoi
Life At The Splendid Jupiter
Shelly and I also started looking for a place to live. We have been living in the Splendid Jupiter Hotel since we arrived. It's nice and local to everything and they are good with Buddha and know about him and really like him. We get free breakfast everyday which really helps with our finances and Buddha even gets carrots and cucumbers every morning from the staff too. One day they brought him an entire salad for breakfast. We really love the location of the Splendid Jupiter but it's time to go. We have been living out of a hotel long enough and now that our job situation is improving we need to find an apartment.
The Apartment Hunters
We found a number in the New Hanoian for property hunters and found someone. They go out and find apartments for rent from local landlords and for a fee, they find foreigners to rent them. The wife's name is Mai (Vietnamese) and she is married to a Belgian guy. They have a pretty good business since they speak both Vietnamese and English. Mai showed us a couple of apartments and found a perfect place or us in our budget. We wanted to live in Tay Ho, which is around the big lake in Hanoi called West Lake, and we wanted something with a lake view, close to work, and OK with Buddha. We found it! We wanted a 2 bedroom in case we had any visitors from friends and family, but we settled on a one bedroom apartment on the 5th floor of a 5 story small apartment building.
There are 15 units and it has a great lake view. The roof is a terrace that has 180 degree views of the city and lake. It's what they call a serviced apartment which means everything is including; water, laundry, house cleaning 3 times a week, ironing, cable TV, internet, fully furnished, they will even replace your furniture if it's not up to your standards or tint your windows if you want. 450 dollars per month all-inclusive. The only thing we pay for is electricity. We signed the lease this week and we move-in this weekend! They also know about Buddha and said it was fine!
View From Our Terrace
Change In Perspective
We are really loving Hanoi, the people, food and the our jobs. We both have motorbikes and get around town well. Our plan is to be here for another year. We are going back to Ohio for Christmas this year for a couple of week as we have about 3 weeks paid break during this time. One thing we realized coming here and finding jobs is that we can do anything we set our minds too.
This is the change in perspective we needed. There is always doubt. Will I be able to do it? Will I find a job? Will I make enough money to live on? All these questions go through your head before heading out to do something like this. We have learned that we can do it. It's a confidence booster for us to know that we can work as ESL teachers in a foreign land, find a home, and live. Why do we limit ourselves mentally thinking that we might not be able to do something? If there is any doubt you can or can't do something, you are right. So why not stop thinking you can't do something and start thinking you can.