Two days ago I had a one day job in a small city 2 hours outside of Hanoi. In this job I was to stand around, smile, look Anglo-Saxon and speak English. No, really. Luckily for them, they’d hired a professional….I can do that stuff with my eyes closed. I was picked up by the administrator…..or something…of the school. We also stopped and picked up a teacher named Neil (also from California) on the way. The drive out to this small city (I can’t remember the name) was the first time I’d been outside of Hanoi. I finally got to see some nice countryside. Banana trees, the Red River, rice fields forever, beautiful mountains off in the distance, old houses….every one of which I wanted to stop and photograph, but didn’t want to slow down the drive. We made it to the town and met another gentleman named Tom from New Zealand and last but not least, Gerra, a really great, nice young woman from the Philippines, both of whom were there for the same reason.
We all had lunch together, eating an incredible array of unusual and delicious foods. Then we waited….and waited…..and…. What we were waiting for was the Opening Day ‘Ceremonies’ of a new English school. But it wasn’t going to start until 5 in afternoon….and I’d been picked up at 10 a.m. Now, a girl can only smile and look decently Anglo-Saxon for so long before she needs a cuppa ca phé….so I went for a walk in search of a bit of the magic elixir. This was not Hanoi……there was not a café at every other business site along the street. I walked and walked and walked and was looking much less decently Anglo-Saxon than I had when I’d started out….I’m in Vietnam, for heaven’s sake….it’s HOT!! I finally did find a café and cooled down a bit, then went back to the school…..and continued with the waiting portion of the job.
FINALLY at about 6:30 (five o’clock, schmive o’clock….) the program began. The administrator had a Powerpoint presentation prepared. All he needed me and the others to do was stand there and basically represent the school. I was happy to do so. I was being paid for this, I’d had a wonderful meal, I’d agreed to do the job. I was happy to do my best for him. No problem. Okay, maybe a problem…. I and the other English speakers were requested to stand at the front of the class while he gave his presentation. Sounds simple, right? Well, he talked and he talked and he talked and…..the very small room was stifling with the heat of, easily, 35-40 people. Occasionally he’d ask one of us to read some English wording from the presentation. When he’d look around to choose someone to read, I felt like jumping up and down, screaming, “Me!! Pick me, pick meeee!!” Something, anything to do besides just stand…..even the seated audience was wilting. While he talked, the other teachers and I would stare at each other, wide-eyed with that look that says, “If he doesn’t stop talking soon….really soon….I’ll tackle his feet, you grab his arms and we’ll just cart him right on outta here……we’ll get a standing ovation….” Actually, he was a really great guy…..just a tad chatty….
The presentation was supposed to have ended at 7:00 p.m. but I guess we’ve established that didn’t happen. Finally, ultimately, mercifully at around 8:00 p.m. the presentation was laid to rest. They had an array of fruits and cookies, crackers and soft drinks for all to enjoy. The kids asked questions and we talked with them. Great, great kids. Around 9:00 p.m. things were winding down. Tom was staying in a hotel in the town, but Gerra, Neil and I needed rides back home. I and Neil live in Hanoi, but Gerra lives in another town. So, we all piled into a small car for our ride home. At the turn for Gerra’s town, Neil, the administrator’s assistant and I were dropped off at a, well, I’ll call it a beer house. Then the administrator took Gerra home while we waited. It was nice, actually. I was ready for a beer….or three….or four…I don’t remember – Gerra lived pretty far away…. We had some snacks and chips n’ stuff and watched a couple of puppies playing and chewing each others’ ears while we talked about all sorts of interesting things. Actually, it was a really great time. For a job that was supposed to have been from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (including the ride home) but actually ending at nearly midnight (by the time I got home), it was a pretty good day. I met a lot of very nice people. It was…..exhausting…..but fun. Here are some of the staff of the school, plus Gerra who’s in the middle…..
Great girls…..check out the gang symbol!!