So much has happened since the last time I wrote anything… let me tell you about the end of my time in Vinh.
During the week before I’d had a lovely evening at the cinema with the boarding students, where I was treated to a ticket and my popcorn by the secondary teachers.
My final week in Vietnam flew by so fast I barely had time to notice or enjoy it. I had lots to do, seeing people before I left, marking, a few reports, sorting things out I wanted to take/ leave there and pack.
I went for coffee on the monday with my friend Phoebe. We decided to go to Ho Chi Minh Square to people watch and get some coffee, though it was drizzling. The bike-parking attendant reminded us that there was some kind of fair on in the park, so we headed along there to have a look.
It was the spring fair, and was busy, brash and noisy – like many things in Vietnam. There seemed to be a select number of different types of stalls, with numerous stalls of each type. At the back of the fair they had some game stalls where you had to throw darts at balloons and pop them. I’m not sure how many you had to pop, but we had a quick look and moved on. Some stalls were selling these odd shower heads which had beads inside them, neither of us could figure out what they did, maybe filtered the water, who knows. Most stalls were selling cheap kitchen wear or clothes. Neither of which I wanted! I bought some big swirly lollipops for the boarding students, and we got a rice pancake stuffed with sugar cane, sesame seeds and coconut on the way out (bo bia) – that was really good! We found somewhere for coffee away from the noisy fair and sat and chatted for a while before she took me back to school.
My evening class that night was taken by another teacher as it was a test and that’s another new thing, that test lessons are taken by a different teacher. I didn’t know that the Friday lesson was cancelled due to the Nghe An Province’s meeting for the Lunar New Year (or something along those lines), so my last class with those MENTAL children had been and gone and I hadn’t even realised.
The first Monday of each month the school hold a birthday party for everyone whose birthday was that month. There were some games and cake and general embarrassment at having to stand at the front of the hall while being sung to in Vietnamese.
The remainder of the week was rounding off things with classes and taking photos. Oh, and the packing. Even a seasoned traveller like me STILL HATES PACKING!
One of the boarding students had their birthday on the Wednesday and I went along to their party in O’Nest (the school’s after school cafe). It was good fun and they were playing different games (all in Vietnamese) until a couple of us English speakers chimed in and changed the games to English. There was also a cake fight!!!
The English Maths teacher was there, who I had originally found pretty annoying but, as time went on he seemed more relaxed and easier to talk to. He found out the school weren’t giving him a contract so that ended up being his second last night in the school. He wasn’t there for our leaving lunch on the Friday, he’d already flown out to Laos to come back in on a tourist visa.
Thursday was the start of my tears. I felt pretty gutted I was leaving already and suddenly felt like I could actually stay a whole lot longer. The first goodbye was to my ADORABLE 2 year old class. On the Thursday night we had a good chat in the living room whilst he really should have been packing (as should I have been!). I had planned on having a party on the Friday night (with the boarding kids), but changed it to the Thursday night, then they had too much homework so I chilled out with them when they were finished.
I got a photo with each of the classes that I teach at the end of the last lesson with them.
The Friday was pretty emotional. Lots of hard goodbyes in lessons and to most of the staff. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the kids are all at school on a Saturday. I wanted to try and avoid them the next day but it’s not always possible. School put on a leaving lunch for the Maths teacher and I, but obviously he’d already left so it was just me and the rest of the staff from admin and the English department. We had all sorts of food, but the main thing was a big pot of soup on a gas ring in the middle of the table. In the pot was eel, tofu and banana soup. NOT as horrible as it sounds actually. Not my first choice in food anywhere in the world, but I’m not one to turn down food so I had a little bit.
In the afternoon I had my last couple of classes and that was it. Done. No more classes at Blue Sky. I felt pretty deflated. I didn’t go to the team meeting after school, instead, I spent the time getting all my documents back from the admin staff, my passport, degree certificates etc and getting on with packing and clearing out the huge amount of stuff I’d managed to accumulate over the past six months.
The evening was made up of the Nghe An Province’s meeting of something and someone and international friends. Basically it was a bunch of local councillors, politicians, and CEOs of companies ‘doing good’ in the province. For example, an Australian man boasting about how fantastic his sugar crushing business was for the community and how a farmer had come to him to tell “I used to grow sugar to make a simple living, now I grow sugar to make money.” Good for you. There was some traditional dancing and music and some horrendous karaoke where the people read the lyrics from their phones. some food and wine too… that was the best bit 😉
It was possibly the most unexciting evening of my life. Even less exciting than watching Netflix in my pyjamas and drinking tea.
We left pretty sharp after that and headed to school and I did some packing before we headed across to a bar that I had become more and more regular at towards the end. It was easier to go out and socialise once there was someone to hang around with I suppose. So we went out few times over the final couple of weeks and drank way too much beer. We rolled in around three in the morning after some noodles at the night market.
I’d sent a message to the boarding students to come up to the boarding room to see me before they went home for the weekend, and to say goodbye. One of the girls who had become particularly attached to me started sobbing, and that just set me off. One of the girls gave me a stunning gift box and told me to open it later. She said I’d always think of her when I saw it. (I opened it later and it was a water bottle! Random, but admittedly very useful) They were such a lovely, lovely bunch of kids and I already really miss them. I’ve had the odd email here and there from them and yesterday the same girl tried to call me. Luckily I had a weak signal or my phone bill would be through the roof (and so would hers).
Whilst waiting at the gates for Phoebe I saw the principal coming down the stairs so I went to say thank-you for everything and goodbye. I was emotional already, but saying goodbye like that just made things ten times worse and I started crying like a right sap. She started sort of laughing, sort of sneering in disgust at my lack of emotional control. I’ve always been like that though.
Anyway, Phoebe collected me on her bike and we buzzed along to the beach. It was pretty cold on the back of her bike, even with my big thick jacket on my hands and face were freezing.
We found somewhere to stop at the beach. Not many places where open since it was off season. We ordered some food and sat and chatted. It was really cold but I still wanted to sit outside and look at the beach. I do like a good beach 🙂
There was only one other table taken up in the restaurant and the man came over and said something (quite long) to Phoebe. She translated what he said- they are famous folk singers and they are going to perform for us. While they are singing we are not allowed to eat. I thought that was an odd request, though I did as I was told and listened to them. The song she sang was more of a high pitched squeal and she repeated the song two or the three times. I’m not sure if it was because I said I’d enjoyed it or what, but I wasn’t going to say it was horrible, was I?
After our lunch of clam soup, rice, squid and fried shrimp we went for a walk along the beach. I was feeling a bit sensitive and was getting sick of teenagers coming up and trying to make conversation. we managed to avoid most of them, though there seemed to be hundreds on the beach, all digging for something though what for I don’t know.
We walked back along the road after I’d had a paddle and found some pretty shells to take home with me. We headed for a market and had a nosey around. I still get excited about going to markets though they are all the same really… more junk and tack that I really don’t want. We had a smoothie and some popcorn and headed back up the road towards school, where I said yet another teary goodbye – to Phoebe at the gate.
The night was saved for karaoke and I’d invited a few people from school – everyone from the English department and a few from primary and kindergarten. There was an ongoing conversation on Facebook in Vietnamese about who was going and judging by the amount of exclamation marks and bad translations from Google, I didn’t think any of them were going to be coming.
I asked one of the girls who used to work at the school to come along and she was really happy that I’d got in touch and excited to come and see me, so after a quick dinner we headed to the karaoke.
The karaoke was a great night. Four of the kindergarten teachers came, plus a couple of their partners, most of the English department except the two Filipinos (who had both said they’d love to come, but if one doesn’t do something then then other doesn’t either. Plus, I found them both quite rude and nippy, so it wasn’t the end of the world they didn’t come… maybe even a good thing), and some other people I’d got to know while out there.
In karaoke (in Vietnam… not sure what it’s like elsewhere) you get scored for each song, out of 100. One song I scored 98, not going to tell you what I was singing… cough ** BOYZONE ** cough 😉 Pretty proud of that!! I sang quite a lot at the beginning but once our room started filling up with friends etc I got stage fright and let them get on with their Vietnamese songs. Of course I got pressurised into singing some more but managed to avoid too much.
After the karaoke I headed back to school to do some more packing/ sorting out my junk, but only after saying goodbye to some people and promising to meet others at the pub later.
I headed along to the pub later on and ended up having a good few drinks, followed by some noodles at the night market on the way home.