David James – English Teacher, Vietnam

"I am typing this in the staff room on the slowest internet connection in the world... literally. I am in my placement at Hung Yen University with Paul (my English teaching partner).

The English staff are all really great, with good intentions though miss-communication is frequent. I have thirteen 45 minute lessons a week, and a couple of hour long lessons. Last week was introduce myself week. Basically I talk about Australia and myself, then show around pictures of the Townsville calendar from home and get them to describe what they see. Then I write their descriptive words next to the images I have stuck to the board. The students in general are very keen to learn English. One of the girls and her friends cooked us dinner the other night, as they can still not fathom that we are competent in domestic house work. Ms Houng (our uni contact) even showed me how to wash up as my skills were apparently not up to her high standard.

Food here is dirt cheap (10,000dong/80 cents for a coke and a massive meal at the canteen or 1000dong/8cents for a French baguette with marinated chicken and salad). It is freezing here, 14 degrees in the middle of the day has being the coldest temp (scarf and two jumpers). I taught my first class last Tuesday, the students were so much fun and they told me they "loved having me in their class" - go me.

Our apartment is very French looking with a marble stair case though, as is the case with all of Vietnam, it has jaded grandeur about it (needs painting and mildew control).

There is a market near by and Ms Hung our administrative connection told all the sellers to give us a good price (it worked - a week’s supply of fruit and veg was 90cents Australian). There is no supermarket here though fresh food can be bought. We have weekends and Wednesdays off so we took the bus to Hanoi which is beautiful and met the other Lattitude volunteers for Australia Day drinks at a horribly overpriced Australian bar, then went out for dinner (a welcome change considering our main food is rice and noodles three times a day). We crashed at our friends place on Friday night and spent Saturday shopping and exploring. Everyone is so friendly and though poor (a teacher earns less than $150 Australian per month) share everything with us.

Other random stuff I have done in Vietnam:

1) Eaten a bowl of marinated flowers that had petals (they were quite nice)

2) Eaten dog (maybe) was a result of pointing at the non-English menu

3) Crossed a road (BIG DEAL) with two hundred million trucks, motor bikes and cars (no traffic lights or rules)

4) Drank fresh 10cent beer at a beer house."

Quick facts
Capital: Hanoi
Government: Republic
Language: Vietnamese
Population: 88.1 million
Religions: Buddhism
Timezone: GMT +7
Climate: climate, with humidity averaging 84 % throughout the year
Currency: đồng
"Discovering Vietnam and how radically different it is from England (I really did fall in love with it) has also made me want to travel more and explore the world and all it has to offer. I would never have been this adventurous had I not been on this placement; it’s really opened my eyes to the world."

Marianne, English teacher