My second guest blogger is Laura Ponting, who is currently doing a DELTA course in Vietnam. We’ve never met, but when I saw her name on twitter, I wrote to her to ask if … well, she explains below.
By way of an introduction: Well, well, well. Isn’t it a very small world?
As a complete newbie to Twitter a few months ago, my third or fourth received tweet was a DM from mine blog host asking if I was related to “THE Clive Ponting.” Well, in a kind of ex-student, ex-wife way I suppose I am. It transpires that my infamous ex was at Reading University (the breeding ground of many infamous folk) at the same time as Ken. Several DMs then weeks later mine host and various other chaps (including the marvellous @Marisa_C) gave me enough confidence to start my own blog about teaching/training in Vietnam. Now, 565 tweets later, I’m well chuffed to have been invited to write this guest blog.
I’m always anxious that there isn’t enough techno-teacher-speak going on in my blog…(and there are… er…NO gizmos) but I can’t do that very well. So…I’ll just do what I do… rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…[i] (See first link below)
Rabbit 1: I have my own pronoun (kinship term). Better live up to it.
Today, I have been immersed L2-wise and chatting in my awful Vietnamese to various people (hotel staff, peanut sellers and a chap on a park bench). After the usual questions about age, nationality, marital status etc. I volunteer the information that I am a teacher. I’m not sure if I would do that in the UK. Why do I do it here?
Well, firstly, there’s a language point. In order to converse with someone politely, it is necessary to know their relative age, status etc… I would usually be chị (older sister) or, sadly, even bà (grandmother) due to my advancing years. But teachers have their own pronoun and instantly female teachers become cô. This brings me to the second, related, reason why I volunteer that I’m a teacher. Teachers are held in high esteem here. I tell people I’m a teacher because I’m as proud as punch of the fact. The hotel staff told the taxi driver, the peanut seller told the pineapple seller. (I never noticed where the chap on the bench went.) But for me there has to be total reciprocity. You give me your respect. Now I’ll earn it. So…there we are…motivation to become the best teacher you possibly can, summed up in two letters, cô.
Rabbit 2: I earn more money than many people around me could ever dream of. Yes, even as an EFL teacher!
Of course I don’t earn a lot by Western standards. But I can have massages, High Tea at the Metropole, jaunts to Cambodia, have clothes tailor made (to accommodate my Orang-utan-length arms!), buy a new motorbike etc… without thinking twice about it. What a great place, eh? Yes. But my Vietnam is not ‘the same place’ most Vietnamese folk inhabit. Well, actually, it IS the same place and THAT is what I should always remember. It is also what I really hope other teachers here and elsewhere don’t forget.
The grandmother of one friend and the mother of another have recently had to sell their beautiful, long hair in order to pay for a wedding present and help pay for a funeral. Apparently, it’s not as shameful as it used to be because some women choose to have their hair short now. But everyone in the village KNOWS why they’ve had to do it.
We can set up small schemes and plans. They are great and probably the way forward. But when it comes to the big schools, like mine, feeling pressurized to tech-up…that’s just going to price even more students out of the market. Not want we want to hear. But true. Sorry. Let’s also not put first-rate young teachers under pressure to leave places like this for fear of ‘getting left behind forever’ in some great technology race.
Rabbit 3: I rented, bought and sold a Minsk motorbike and have wild times. ‘In Minsk We Trust’
It’s a fact that many of my colleagues here are a bit odd (it’s a regular topic of conversation- they won’t mind me writing it here!) Many of them are adventurous too (they walk across the roads and everything!) So, hey, why not hire a bunch of clapped out Belorussian 125cc Minsks and take the six-day trip in rainy season to Sapa and the Chinese border?
Why not, indeed? Fabulous times. Not a bike went unscathed. A personal highlight was towing my colleague Brian (pictured) through the mud after a spectacular fall did for his bike’s spark plug! But a bike which can have its exhaust re-attached with a cigarette packet and superglue, as mine did, wins my heart over.
Other trips to Cuc Phuong national park, Ba Vi and Tan Dau soon followed. If it’s bike trips to beautiful countryside you want, this is the place for you. If it’s a reliable bike to get you there…a Minsk isn’t your bike. But it’s jolly good fun to get repaired!
I could rabbit on…and on…but I’ll save that for those of you who mean to read my blog rather than you poor souls who accidentally stumbled across this when searching for Ken’s erudite wit and…(sorry chaps!).
Laura Ponting blogs at http://lauraponting.edublogs.org/