As I’ve settled into the area of Quang Tri the past 2 weeks, my lifestyle has taken a rapid change. Although their are plenty of differences, they all seem to share a common trait of just having some good vibes.
First of all, let me talk about my roommate Bao. Bao is a student at Hue University, where he is majoring in Vietnamese Studies. He’s actually the only student from his department at school, which makes him a baller. Most (the rest I think, actually) are majoring in some English-related field such as English, Interpretation, Linguistics, etc. However, this does mean that English is not his primary focus, so his English skills are not on par with the other Vietnamese roommates. Of course, I was not expecting this at all coming in and the first couple days communicating were definitely a bit tough. I had to speak very slowly, we had to write down a lot of our sentences, and we even resorted to Chinese when our main languages failed! But day after day, Bao was always happily smiling and going about our duties, even if he could not speak very well to us, the American students. Whenever he needed help with English or needed correction from me, I would always oblige and he would practice for a bit until he got it right. In just a week, Bao has improved so much! His speaking, listening, and grammar has advanced so much and we can talk these days with ease. Although it’s far from perfect, I know the next couple of weeks will bring about much more improvement. Good vibes.
At the workplace, we work with two masons: King Mason and Bling Mason. King Mason is this middle aged to older man who has masterful mason skills and Bling Mason is a younger guy who wears this silver chain around his neck. They both run the construction show and instruct us in our mission. They are both hardworking and are always willing to teach us the right way to do something on the worksite. In the past week, we’ve actually established solid communication with them. If we call out “King” or “Bling”, they respond. Also, if we mess something us, they yell “NO!” or on the flip side, they say “OK” and give us a thumbs up if we complete a task they deem acceptable. I’ve come to admire not only their hard work, but everyone else’s hard work as well. Besides the break in the middle, everyone is doing some job or another. Seeing everyone work hard only makes me want to work harder. I also get to DJ most the time with the speakers at the worksite. Good vibes.
At school, my class of all girls is always excited to learn. They’re very attentive and do not cause much trouble at all, so it’s not too tough teaching them. Me and Bao always prepare a solid lesson plan beforehand and we always try to strike a balance between new vocabulary, grammar, speaking, and listening. So far, I think they’ve really enjoyed our lessons as we try to make it as fun as possible by facilitating a lot of interaction between the students among themselves and with us. We always sprinkle in a game to start the class and a game to end the class so we can have a bit of fun while we’re at it. And of course, who can forget smoothies every Friday? I was a bit uneasy teaching at first, but my students have been so well that I look forward to seeing them everyday! Good vibes.
In general, the people here are just seem more…..nicer? The other day, I wanted to buy some English textbooks of the 9th/10th grade level so I know what my students are studying at school so I can see what they’re learning and model my lessons around it. I ask the lady at the counter (rather, Bao did) for the books and she comes back, puts the books in my hands, and walk away. Bao said it’s because we are volunteers, she offers them for free even if I was more than happy to pay for them. Earlier this week, me and Bao visited a shrine in the area and I wanted to burn some incense and place it in the shrine. It was early evening so no incense was being sold. Yet, this lady that was walking by offered us some of hers to use. Whenever we bike anywhere, it’d be odd not to hear a “Hello!” being yelled at us attached to a wave and smile. Also, don’t get me started on how polite Bao is. Nice isn’t just something good to do here, it’s a lifestyle. Good vibes.
Although the town that we are volunteering in is very small, it’s filled with good vibes. The people here lead such simple lives and it’s quite incredible to be a part of it all for a couple weeks.