Monday, August 25, 2008

Thank God for antihistamines

I am feeling quite a bit more comfortable in my own skin today- thank God for antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream! Still mourning the end of my seaside seafood diet, but all good things come to an end.

I did get a good evening swim in. I felt consoled knowing that I wasn't going to develop a greater rash with each stroke I was taking. The pool water is warmed by the sun and cooled by the rain, and despite the fact that the clouds have been heavy with hopes of rain they have held off. This was the first morning the sun was shining during my bike ride to school and the first day that it didn't rain at all. The air is oppressively humid. Hope it rains tonight!

After school I went to a favorite coffee shop to read for fun. I finished Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God." A beautiful book- and one that challenged me to consider the ways which language succeeds and fails to capture the human experience. More thoughts to come on this...

I'm drugged and drowsy and off to bed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stear clear of shrimp: A weekend update

The weekend is coming to a close which means it is time to gear up for another week at SSIS. I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom but wish the weekend wasn't over just yet...

Saturday morning a group of new teachers traveled to Song Be to visit a pottery village. Our group traveled from stall to stall where various families were selling their wears; life-size German Shepards, Snow White and her dwarves, elephant tables, large flower pots, and various table settings. It was fun to get out of the city and people watch. My eyes were tired (we left at 7:30) but also hungry. There are few things I enjoy more than taking in the sights of a country while riding in a bus (and good thing because I have 12 hours of bus riding ahead of me this weekend).

Saturday afternoon found Audrey and me meeting our Taiwanese friends from our dormitory to venture downtown. We spotted some of the famous sites- The Rex Hotel, the Post Office, and the Notre Dame Cathedral- while searching for running shoes, a tailor, and a travel agent.

Saturday evening we met up with two of my favorite teaching colleagues- Dyana and Karinna- for Singapore Slings, frozen yogurt, and refreshing conversation. I am still discovering many nooks of this suburb and enjoy doing so in the company of these ladies.

Our cabinets at school arrived this weekend so Nancy and I spent the morning planning lessons and rearranging our classroom. I sure do enjoy working with her!

On a more frustrating note, I spent this afternoon in the emergency room diagnosing an allergy to shrimp. This sounds more dramatic than it is- as all medical offices are closed on Sundays with the exception being the emergency room. I simply could not stand to remain untreated until Monday. I have been really itchy since Wednesday and trying to determine if my skin was being irritated by the chlorine in the pool, my laundry detergent, or a number of other things including an adventuresome diet. When the doctor saw my rash today she immediately asked if I had been eating shrimp. Yes! I ate shrimp for Wednesday dinner, Thursday dinner, and Saturday lunch. No longer- my doctor has ordered me to stop. This is so unfortunate as shrimp here are found in many foods and are really tasty!

I just finished watching the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. It has been really fun to watch the games every evening while unwinding at the dorm. I guess I'll need to get a new hobby now.

For all of my Minnesotan friends- please do me a favor and enjoy the "Great Minnesota Get-Together" for me. I've been clicking my heals in hopes of teleporting myself to the Fairgrounds but I have had no luck in doing so. What I would give for a cheese curd...

Monday, August 18, 2008

In awe of owls

This evening I was enjoying a my routine in the pool when I spotted the largest bat I have ever seen. I was doing the elementary backstroke (one of 5 strokes included in my routine because I don't need to put my face in the water) when this bat with a three foot wingspan tried to dive bomb me. It wasn't until the creature was within a few feet of my face- and nearly pooped on me- that I realized this was no bat, but rather an owl. I raised a commotion and the owl decided not to try and snatch me from the water (though there is part of me that would have liked to see that happen). It flew to a poolside coconut tree and perched there.

We maintained eye contact for an unmeasured time cocking heads and checking one another out. I reluctantly returned to my "workout" but kept an eye on the owl- and good thing 'cause this guy tried to dive bomb me again. He/she repeated this twice more before finally retreating to the trees. I kept my eye on him for the remainder of my swim and tried to get a better look at his features while toweling off. In the evening light it was hard to decipher coloring and specific markings, but I am sure there were no ear tufts and upon using the "New Holland Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia" (which I'm borrowing from a fellow birder at SSIS) I've decided this owl was either a Barn or Grass Owl. Majestic. I was awestruck- and glad not to have actually come in contact with the bird. As I entered the dorm I heard him let out a loud screech.

In other news, Shel Silverstein was a huge hit with the kiddos! I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but they were so giggly that we read for about forty minutes. They specifically enjoyed "The Whatifs" which was a favorite poem of mine as a fifth grader. It's fun to see kids so enthralled with books.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Xin chao from Vietnam

Phu My Hung District: My new home

The view from my room

Vietnamese wraps

Saigon South International School- SSIS

Audrey and me with our new bikes

Xin chao (Hello) friends and family,

Well... my first week of school as a student teacher is coming to an end. I'm working in a third grade classroom at Saigon South International School in a new district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There were many complications this week as the building is new, the rooms haven't been furnished with white boards or cupboards, there is no cafeteria, and much of the curriculum is still lost in transit. But you know what? I don't think the kids have caught onto a lot of it. They are too busy being kids. School continues; teaching and learning still occur. To be honest I think a lot of the teachers are spoiled because they are so accustomed to being well supplied. It's a good time to experience the changes of a growing school.

This week I've been leading some class activities and I am always in charge of read-aloud. Today I read Dr. Seuss' "The Butter Battle Book" and tomorrow I'll be reading from Shel Silverstein's "A Light in the Attic." I read-aloud when the kids have returned from lunch and recess. They are incredibly attentive and well mannered, though they can be silly too. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of the day. (And while writing this I am reminded that I should choose a few poems and practice my read-aloud voice).

My biggest challenge has been learning to pronounce the names of my twenty students. With names such as Ying Ying, Ye Jin, Nhu, Nayli, Jung Keun, Moeno, Jeric, Gia Hue, Dinh Anh, and Hang I had my work cut out for me! The kids are really sweet though, and we have an Olympic themed classroom which lends well to the international makeup of the class. The majority of students are Chinese and Korean. A couple students are Malaysian and Vietnamese. There's one Swede and one Japanese student. I think only 3 were born in the US. They are really sweet kids. I am already learning a lot from them!

A big announcement- I just booked my tickets for a trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Audrey (the other student teacher from Luther) didn't apply for a multiple entry visa, and so she and our other close friend Dyana decided to go on their own trip here in Vietnam. So... I'm solo trekking! I'm anxious, but really looking forward to having some time to myself. Should be an exciting journey- and perhaps the trip of a lifetime (Traveling alone is on my list of 100 things to do before I die)!

In other news I have taken up biking and swimming here in the 'burbs of Ho Chi Minh City. Audrey and I purchased our very own Vietnamese bikes to take us to and from school. For $53 you too could own your own one-speed cruiser with front basket and lock. It's been a nice means of getting around town. My room overlooks the dormitory pool and I have taken to swimming most nights. The only problem is that there are 7-10 bats who also enjoy the pool during the evenings. At first I was quite startled to have bats flying within a few feet of my face, but I'm trying to be like Bruce Wayne and face my fears. I've been thinking of Batman's need to face his fears to gain the courage and strength necessary to become who he is destined to be (can you tell I just watched the Batman movies?!). It's not the bats I'm afraid of, but rather coming in contact with one and needing to get rabies shots. Anyhow, I never liked swimming much as a kid but I'm coming to really enjoy the way my body feels in the water. I think the Olympics have also inspired this renewed desire for sport... did you know that every four years (coinciding with the Olympics) enrollment for kids' gymnastics classes nearly double in size?

All for now- I'm planning to enjoy a big bowl of cereal and watch the Olympics (though it's not nearly as fun when the commentary is in Mandarin or Vietnamese).