Nha Trang, you win.

A party town, Nha Trang certainly is. 

Just a brief note before I try to do some work today. Rosie and I met up with Erika, her friends Katie, Joss, Jason, and another Katie (from Seattle) to have dinner and drinks and dance. Joss and Seattle Katie just finished obtaining their PADI diving certification and we all wanted to celebrate. It was quite a celebration.

We went to Ciao Vietnam! for dinner and a few drinks. After dinner, we walked over to the Oasis Bar about three minutes walk away. At the Oasis, Rosie had a most impressive dance-puke. Canadian Katie followed shortly with her own dance-puke. The two spent the next little bit in the bathroom in neighbouring stalls having a grand time. 

Jason took Katie home and I took Rosie home after that stint. We put them to bed and went back out to find Erika and Joss to continue with the night. We capped the night off at the Why Not Bar, a place run by Australians I believe. A couple of sunburnt guys made sure I had to be topless on the dance floor with them. (I don’t know how it happens but I end up topless on a dance floor far too often.)

Needless to say, our ragtag bunch looked fantastic this morning when we met for breakfast at 11:30. I got some good videos of the little Asian guy who was feeding us free shots (dangerous). When I’m back home in Saigon, I’ll be sure to put the videos and pictures up. For now, I have to try and get some lesson planning done.  


Nha Trang, I’m back.

I’m trying to write more of my essay for my TESOL class in Nha Trang as I currently write this brief blog post. It’s due at the end of the month. Along with another 1,500 word paper on motivation and how to get children in a classroom environment motivated to learn English. I guess you could say I’m screwed. You could also say I shouldn’t be in Nha Trang. No big deal.

The reason Rosie and I are in Nha Trang (one of the party capitals of Vietnam) is because Erika Kanduth and her three friends, Joss, Kate, and Jason, are also in Vietnam. We wanted to rendezvous and have a good time together so we did so this weekend in Nha Trang. It’s also a good time to come together and celebrate because Rosie and I secured our first teaching job at the International Primary School of the Asian International School. We get evenings and weekends off. Best case scenario. If we had gotten jobs at language centres (which is also good and can pay quite well), the bulk of our teaching hours would be in the evenings and weekends.

Anyway, the weather in Nha Trang is great. It’s a great leave from the smokey city and the fresh sea breeze is definitely a big welcome. The only downside of this are the two papers (each 1,500 words) that Rosie and I have to hand in by the end of this month. Along with two more teaching practices where we have to plan for the four remaining hours of teaching we have to do as part of the TESOL program. It’ll all be done in the end but I’m sweating a bit right now. It’s why I’ve locked myself in my hotel room for a couple hours to hammer out a few more paragraphs. I may walk down to a local beachside cafe to continue my work but I’m not sure if that would be a good idea.

Here’s a picture of where we were lazing about enjoying several cold $0.50 beers yesterday.


I’ll throw up some pictures and a short video when I’m home and not getting boned by coursework slash teaching practices.

Some more photos to go with the video below.

Here’s a few photos I snapped along with the video of our seafood hotpot (lau) dinner below.

At this point, the shrimp was still alive on the hot rim of the pot. You can barely make it out but in the middle is the lid of the pot with amazing broth simmering inside. The entire metal contraption is heating up and slowly cooking the shrimp (while it’s still alive) on the outside rim. When the broth in the middle is hot enough, everything is shovelled into it to finish cooking.

ImageThis is what it looks after it’s been cooked. The shrimp is taken out of the simmering brother in the middle so it doesn’t get overcooked and laid back on the hot rim around the pot. ImageHere’s Mere looking much more pleased with the outcome and more at ease. She ended up eating quite a few shrimps so I think it turned out OK.

ImageAnd here is my cousin’s son’s two month old baby Bo (pronounced “buh). According to Vietnamese culture, he refers to me as great uncle Alex. Kinda sweet.

ImageThat’s all for now, folks. 

Meredith MacNughton comes to Vietnam.

It was quite a surprise when I came home the other day and Rosie told me Mere was in town and would like to meet up for drinks. It’s always an uncanny feeling when you hear that someone back home is now halfway across the world in the same city with you. It’s an even greater uncanny feeling when you see them in person outside of a familiar environment.

So, last night, Rosie and I took our motorbike from the Go Vap District, where we’re studying for our TESOL certification, and went to the Pham Ngu Lao area (backpackers’ area) in District 1 to meet up with Mere and her boyfriend, Jeff.

The four of us had beers at this bar called Go2 Bar on 187 De Tham Street before making our way over to the night market at Ben Thanh, which is about a 10 minute walk away from the bar. The restaurant in the market where we settled for food is called the Hai Lua restaurant where you can have beers for as cheap as approx. 0.65 cents. We also decided on the seafood hotpot dinner (called lau in Vietnamese) that would feed the four of us. We did not, however, expect how fresh our food would come.

Check the video below to see what we ended up getting. Class was cancelled today so I was able to quickly edit and upload the video. (The full 1080p HD version was being encoded by Vimeo while I wrote this, so hopefully it should be done by the time you guys see it.)

Seafood hotpot dinner in Saigon.

A couple of pictures to come soon.

A few early photos.

Here are some pictures from early on in the first couple weeks of our trip. 

This is Khai, my cousin’s son. He’s five years old and just loves to stir the pot. I like him a lot because he reminds me of me when I was his age.

ImageThis is Vy (pronounced Vee), my other cousin’s daughter. The last time I saw her, she was a tiny toddler. It’s crazy to know that she will soon be starting year one in high school later this year. ImageThis is Vy, Rosie, Nhi (pronounced nhee) and her son, Bo(pronounced buh). Nhi is married to the son of one of my cousins. According to Vietnamese culture, she must call me Uncle Alex (because even cousins’ kids must refer to me as Uncle Alex) even though she’s older than me by two or three years. ImageThis is Dat. One of my cousin’s son. He’s a year younger than me. He’s a really good kid. ImageThis is Soi. I call him Anh Soi (the “anh” means big brother). We use to cause a lot of shit together back in the day. Not much has changed since then. Except maybe that we’re now older and craftier. Maybe.ImageAll of these pictures are taken from my cousin’s daughter’s baptism party. There are many others to come but I’ve only got time to put these up for now. Stay tuned. 


First teaching practice done.

I had my first teaching practice for 2 hours this morning from 9:30am to 11:30 am. The class had kids between 4 and 6 years old. The place that I’m doing my teaching practice at is a language centre, so the bulk of students come here in the evenings and during the weekends to get extra English exposure.

All I can say for my first experience dealing with very young Vietnamese students is that they are gems for the most part but they bounce around like maniacs and lose attention quite quickly. One of the first things I saw when I entered the class is one boy (Jack) chasing another (John) and throwing kicks at him. Jack’s kind of a special case though and had to be spoken to a number of times.

I also did not prepare myself enough for the huge hurdle in getting very plain and simple instructions across. Of course the idea of translating simple ideas and instructions would be difficult and I realized that, but in this particular case, I didn’t realize how big the barrier in front of me was until I stood there in class trying to get them to do fun learning activities. My teaching supervisor said it was a necessary confrontation in order for me to learn and revise my lesson plans for next time. Overall, I felt I did a lot of things well, and the kids seem to love me. I made an ass of myself dancing to the Wiggly Woo song and I think that let them drop their guard down a bit for an unfamiliar face.

Speaking of face, I guess I had a five o’clock shadow and for some reason the students were mesmerized by it. One kid got up to point to my face then rub it. Several kids tugged at my arms and rambled on about random stuff as if they had known me for awhile. The experience reminded me of working at Petticoat Creek Daycamp and it was really nice. Except unlike camp, I had to make sure the kids learn to say “a circle”, “a square”, “a triangle”, “a heart”, and “how are you/I’m fine, thank you” before the end of class.

My next teaching practice involves older kids on Tuesday. From what I’ve seen in my in-class observations, the older kids are just as nuts but they grasp instructions better. My fingers are crossed that after having been thrown to the wolves, I can better prepare myself this time around.

First post.

I’ve been in Vietnam since January 3rd and somehow I’ve only found time to make a first post now on January 18th. And even for my first post, I will have to be very brief because I have a shit ton of work to do for this weekend and the following week. I guess I’ll do it in point form until I have time to sit down and really put something together.

* Rosemary and I landed safely on the morning of January 3rd, 2013 at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Jetlag ran its course and we didn’t really get use to the 12 hour time difference until about 5 days later. Before that, we were waking at odd hours in the middle of the night and forcing ourselves back to sleep.

* My dad thought that getting me a motorbike would be a great Christmas gift. I agree. But, I’m also well aware of the increased risk I now pose to myself. Whatever, I have a sweet bike.


* My extended family here has been ridiculously gracious and welcoming. They’ve kept us well fed, well entertained, and even invited us to one of my cousin’s restaurant grand opening and his daugther’s baptism party. All I can say is that Vietnamese people party weird. There is no shame when it comes to your karaoke skills and these guys, despite being generally smaller in frame, can drink. A lot. I thought I was going to get break from beers and get a bit of a detox from drinking in Canada. Nope. You can also get a 24 of beer for $10.

* Rosie and I started our TESOL course with the Australia-Vietnam School of English on January 7th, 2013. The course is going well so far. We’re about the halfway mark now. We’ve done our 10 hours in-class teaching observation and are about to commence our 10 hours in-class teaching practice. Our first teaching practice class is tomorrow morning and runs for two hours. I should be doing my lesson planning right now but I’m procrastinating.

* I ate 3 baluts one night while drinking aggressively with my many cousins. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. Although I must say that Google images of balut makes it appear worse than it actually is.

* Rosie and I had an informal chat with an HR manager at the Asian International School of Vietnam earlier this week. We were subsequently brought in for an interview on Thursday morning at the International Primary School campus. The manager seemed quite impressed with us and spoke to us as if we got the position. We now have a demo class next Thursday afternoon where we must teach part of a class to highlight our teaching abilities and negotiate salary. I’m told the school pays a fairly decent competitive salary. The school is also quite prestigious; years 11 and 12 pay a little over $4,700 annually (tuition and meals included) at this school, which is incredibly ridiculous given what the cost of living here is and the average salary is for a Vietnamese family. Apparently, only the wealthy can afford to send their kids to this particular school. Needless to say, Rosie and I are hoping this all pans out. It would mean teaching in the morning and afternoon, Monday to Friday, with evenings and weekends off.

* The Tet festival in Vietnam is quickly approaching and Rosie and I plan to decompress a bit in the Phu Quoc islands for a few days during that time. We have plans to go squid fishing at night, which is supposedly a very cool activity to do there.

That’s it for now. I will posting pictures and videos soon when I get more time. I’m currently in the thick of things trying to complete the TESOL program so updates will be a bit far and few for now. I plan to get the majority of my work done, then Rosie and I want to go to Nha Trang (8 hours north of Saigon, right on the coast) to meet up with Erika Kanduth and her friends on the weekend of January 25th.

PS – I have compiled some pretty rad footage of the traffic in Saigon on my GoPro HD Hero 2 camera. I will post that as soon as I can.