(posted Friday morning, Oct. 17, 2014)
The Vietnamese coffee is great, the jet lag not so.
The lack of Portland drizzle in October is wonderful, the heat/humidity here.....
And we are here for the people, for the students. So that is what today's blog is about.
First, why are we here? This is Eastern International University, a relatively new Vietnamese university in Thu Dau Mot, just north of Ho Chi Minh City. Loi Nguyen's vision of EIU is to improve his country, do that with education, do that by teaching in English, with English speaking scholars from around the world. We came for a month in Autumn 2012, and this month Jean is working with the spoken and written language, working to develop a modern English language lab. My task is simple: I teach one HRM class, and one Leadership class. Jeanna is in class with me, telling stories. She is a storyteller.
Giang picked us up at the airport midnight Tuesday. A month earlier she had excitedly written to Jeanna when she found that we would return. Jeanna has this impact on people: they look forward to her words, her touch, her built in gentleness. Giang and a friend, another former student from our past trip, greeted us, the driver drove to the apartment. We listened as they explored their dreams of being in the Honors Program, interning in the local hospital, part of the new Health Sciences program here. We listened as Giang proudly spoke English so much better than when we had departed two years ago. Her accent: a purposely cultivated British accent which will suit her for the rest of her life.
Dinner with Loi Wednesday was a trip. Loi is this bundle of energy who runs the university while flying to Singapore or London for weekend business (he will be in Portland, visiting my PSU class, while I am teaching here!). Dinner was at the local golf course resort, almost completely empty, we were joined by Hanh, a former PSU HRM student now working here. Loi was surprised that we preferred Asian food, he having seen most Americans eating western food.
We spent good time listening to his vision for EIU, listening as he described how his elders had said the dream of an English speaking university was absurd. I was reminded of how Hewlett and Packard were derided by their elders 75 years ago for stating that the purpose of a business is to improve society.
Giao came to pick us up Thursday morning. As Loi's secretary, her job is to keep track of him as he juggles all the balls in the air. She is the kind hearted person who takes care of me in the classroom, makes sure all the background things are carefully prepared so I can perform my magic. Her smile relaxes all of us, even as I occasionally become frantic when something does not work as I had planned.
At the university An greeted us with a big hug. She is from here, has her masters degree from Australia, is serious about her teaching. We brought her books, the best gift possible. She took us to lunch, listened to our complaints about the heat, bought us a delicious meal, got perplexed when we said we couldn't find real milk to drink. I woke this morning to find a picture of milk that she bought for us. My guess is that if the situation were reversed I would be laughing uproariously at the foreigners who could not buy milk.
So we are off for the day. More in a few days. And yes, in case anyone cares, I have remembered how to cross streets here. Jeanna.....?