Wednesday, November 2, 2011


School here is so so different to school at home. Unlike my school, it's all in one building. There are 6 levels, all identical, and all containing different classrooms. This school is much smaller than mine, they only have 600 students, from kindy to year 12. Because this is the Vietnam Australia school, they teach English and most of the students can speak it pretty well (but lots of them are still afraid to approach us). Everyone's really nice though and they try to keep the staring to a minimum. They have no recess, but 10 minute breaks between classes. They have an hour for lunch, where they get given lunch in the cafeteria, then, wait for it.... NAPTIME! Yes, naptime! They have big rooms upstairs full of bunk beds with doonas and pillows and everyone goes up and has a quick sleep before finishing their lessons. It's incredible and I personally think that Australia should adopt the idea too. We had out first day on monday and partook in a Halloween party with the primary school where they went trick or treating in the classrooms and everyone was hyped up on sugar. It was a raucous. The noise at this place is unbelievable. There's no carpet in the entire school and Vietnamese people are very loud people, so it echoes like crazy! There's also no grass, only concrete and a synthetic football field. Us girls are spending our time in classes in the primary school helping out the kids, or in the senior school talking with the students and teaching them about our culture and helping them with their English. It's so much fun. Our other time is spent roaming the nearby streets for good places to get lunch or wifi or snacks.

VAS (Vietnam Australia school) is like, surrounded by guarded gates (everything here is guarded though), and students aren't allowed to leave the grounds, but being exchange girls we are given special privileges. We get to go to the many cafes (most of which have free wifi) and grocery stores where we pick up our essentials items. For me, these include toilet paper, Oreos and little Hello Panda snacks. So good, and comes to a grand total of about $3.50. We went to a cafe for lunch the other day and got a beautiful, good sized lunch for 50,000 vnd, or about $4. Everything is cheap here and I'm certainly making the most of it.

Our walks around the school neighbourhood are... interesting. It's much quieter than in the city and while there not as many people or cars or bikes, there's still a significant amount of people who gather along the footpaths, selling their various items or foods, who... well, 'notice' us as we walk past. Unlike Aussie culture where checking out is subtle and you might give a slight head nod and wink if you're game, the art of subtlety isn't one that translates well into English, and frankly isn't apart of Vietnamese culture. If you want something, you say "I want this". If you hint, or suggest, it doesn't happen and they'd think you were weird. This same principle is applied with the gentleman who see us as a rarity and call out from their little huddles or off the back of motorcycles. They ask us where we're from, offer us a lift or tell us what they think of us, often accompanied with a sleazy wink. I mean, I don't blame them. We are 3 exceptionally attractive young women, and I'm used to it at home *heavy sarcasm* but boys, blonde hair isn't that exciting! Haha

One thing I'm really struggling with is the weather. In Australia, the heat burns you from outside in, you can feel the sun burn your skin. It's hot here too, but a different type of heat. While it might only be 25 or 26 degrees, the humidity heats you up in a way that moving too fast causes you to start panting and sweating. You sweat so much here, no wonder the girls here are all go skinny. All you have to do is walk up stairs and they break into a sweat haha. I also miss the sun so much. As I've previously said, it's very polluted here, so there's so much smog. Im yet to see any part of a blue sky, or god forbid, the sun. I miss it. You don't realize how nice the sun on your face feels till its gone. I really felt this heat when Gab, Ange and I joined in on a soccer match. We played for about half an hour before quitting because we were about to faint. That humidity is a real killer.

However I'm realizing that it's these differences that make this exchange so amazing. It's not about finding the similarities, but finding the differences and not just accepting them, but embracing them. Even if it means risking my life on a motorcycle, or getting laughed at when I use my poor Vietnamese. It's worth it.

Speaking of my poor Vietnamese, my vocabulary has improved ten fold! As in, i can now say 10 more words... I can say hello, goodnight, thank you, sorry, here (learnt that while playing soccer), oh my god, you're crazy and say about 3 of the numbers from one to ten. All I need to get by, really.

I'm attaching a photo of the school and this morning we saw the sun for the first time, so I'm putting up a photo of that too.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Katie, thanks for writing this blog. I'm in awe of your ability to express yourself so well, and very thankful that you're taking the time to document this amazing journey you're on. It really makes a difference to be able to read your thoughts and impressions, and to realise just how incredibly maturely you are handling this exchange.

I really look forward to everything you write, and I love hearing what a great time you're having over there.

Love you lots, Take care,

PS: Beware of 9 year olds with secret weapons to make you like them!