REVIEW OF LUKASZ
Date: March 2016
Program: Teacher Gen 3 and Gen 4
I lived and worked as a pronunciation teacher at Touch The World (TTW) for 3 months and it was a significant experience. I learnt a lot about Vietnamese culture (mentality, way of thinking, worldview, values) and myself – kinda ‘learning by teaching’. Therefore, I’m not going to describe my personal experience and impressions. I’ll try to describe the TTW reality and I’ll try to be as much inter-subjective and intelligible as possible.
It’s not a paradise but it’s more or less impossible to find an ideal place and this project has much more the positive aspects than the negative ones.
First of all, we (volunteers) are supposed to support and develop the project. If you think we just hang out together participating in a permanent party and you would like to take a part, it’s not a right place for you. Teaching at TTW is enjoyable and satisfying but it’s a demanding job as well – you’re supposed to be punctual and well prepared for your lessons. People around are tolerant and sympathetic, they apprecite your effort even though your performance isn’t perfect but if you ignore your responsibilities, you’re in trouble.
Your adventure with TTW could be a meaningful and significant experience but you need to open your mind and be ready to assimilate. You’re supposed to share your daily life and cooperate with Vietnamese people – your neighbors, colleagues and ‘pupils’ (mostly university students; there are other foreign volunteers around and we create kind of micro western diaspora, nevertheless you mostly deal with locals). Their mentality, way of thinking and communicating, value system and diet is different than yours. You probably decided to join the project cause you have a desire to discover and ‘touch’ Asian culture and to experience something new in your life so be tolerant, try to understrand cultural differences and adapt.
Teaching at TTW is really satisfying, it could be even enjoyable and funny (I was responsible for pronunciation classes – not the most entertaining around due to its technical and repetitive character but my students and tutors made me happy with this subject). Students have desire to improve their English ability and they respect and admire a teacher. They appreciate each unit of time we spend with them and you can see significant progress in most cases. You are (double space) also supported by tutors – dedicated, friendly, kind and helpful young people. They check a homework, manage a class and translate your words if necessary. You’re supposed to participate in a weekly (Sunday) meeting with the tutors to discuss problems, compose lesson plans and to organize a teaching process. Basically, ‘You’ll never walk alone’ – you can also rely on your buddy, one of the TTW members is responsible to help you coping with everyday problems in Hanoi – the language barrier and cultural differences make our life complicated but everything is easier with your buddy – they’ll give you a hand if you need it.
We need to organize, at least once a month, outdoor activities for our students. They usually prefer to wander around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter and interact with foreigners but you can also visit a museum, one of the culture villages around Ha Noi or any other potentially interesting place.
You also have an opportunity to teach children (different age; you’ll cooperate with the project partners in that case – schools and kindergartens) and disabled people at Hold the Future (adults with physical disabilities and learning difficulties; it’s a workshop and education center – they create and sell hand-made souvenirs; we teach basic English and how to deal with potential customers).
Volunteers also participate in extra activities, like food distribution in a hospital, teaching orphans and cultural exchange events – it doesn’t (no space) happen very often
Everybody is supposed to participate in house chores: house cleaning and cooking (all tenants have a lunch and dinner together; you need to organize your breakfast – all products in the kitchen are at your disposal). If you’re ready for a rice based diet (usually twice a day – lunch and dinner), boiled vegetables, meat, fried tofu with tomatoes and fish sauce you’ll be happy there.
Something bitter in the end cause life isn’t always sweet and gracious. You’ll probably face some tensions, arguments and misunderstandings. Therefore conflict is an immanent aspect of human relationships and you can always resolve it if you’re communicative and ready to compromise.
JOURNEY IN VIETNAM OF LUKASZ