by Paul Whymark, Greenheart Travel English Teacher in Vietnam
I have arrived in Vietnam and I am working on a TEFL/ TESOL program in Hanoi 2012. How did I get here? How did all this work out? Almost sounds like early 1980’s lyrics from the group The Talking Heads, track ‘Once in a life time’, only this is really happening.
Before setting off from the UK, people told me lots of reasons why this was a bad Idea and why it was not ‘safe’ or ‘wise’ to do, one such anecdote put to me was this is a mid life crisis, but my thoughts are that it is more related to the global, economic, credit and financial crisis!
At my time of life (mid-40’s), a flood of newly graduated people and a whole new generation of younger people has tightly squeezed the job market. Across the board, general employees and those people holding Doctorates are working part time in national minimum pay. These circumstances make any conventional moves out of reach for my self and many others, even though we have a lot to offer. It was not so long ago that people of my age were viewing forms of early retirement in less than 10 years or even only 5 years away. This is clearly no longer the case.
For the last few years my life had been spiraling uncontrollably downwards as I carefully and diligently ‘followed all the rules’ and tried all the ‘safe’ options in life/ education, to make a living. However these ‘safe’ life paths amounted to nothing, like the pursuit of a Masters in Environmental work. Finally about one year ago it came to me that this ‘whole thing’ was not working and there had to be an alternative way forward. But what and How?
Following a ‘taster’ weekend into TEFL / TESOL training in Devon, in the UK, teaching English as a foreign language became a real possibility. However, I did not have enough to really go out there so I took a month long TEFL/ TESOL course and improved my own English at the same time. Yes, another expense that part of me did wonder if it would really help find work?
Next problem was how to find the right TEFL /TESOL job to gain experience and open up possibilities. Where and who would enable this next step? Like everyone, else my searching was online using a well known search engine until stumbling across Greenheart Travel and CCI. I liked the ethos and outlook they conveyed and found some more links on YouTube so considered their programs with the amount of time I was seeking and other general personal requirements.
On talking with others and acquaintances whom had worked abroad in TEFL /TESOL work, Vietnam often came up as a good option. This is a personal thing and it may not suit everyone, but if you seeking to keep costs down whilst on placement and want to see something of southeast Asia and don’t want the most pressure (as in Japan) on your first place abroad it is probably a good bet, but some other challenges are also inevitable. A range of time scales also offers more than some other countries.
Now into my 3rd week, I have had jet lag and mixed health since arriving, and the noise has been a bit of an issue at times to sleep. However, am starting to get sorted and have established mini routines to peg the rest of the day around, and some strategies to cope better with some of the noise at night. Some things have stopped disturbing me as much as they did on arrival.
The house I am staying in has other CSDS members who work in an array of different tasks from teaching ( the range covering all ages) to policy writers to social projects. The local Vietnamese volunteers also are around, if not actually living, in the house. This provides the English speaking support community that makes a venture like teaching in Vietnam possible for someone like me who doesn’t speak any Vietnamese. Que and Phong who organize the house from CSDS and individual projects are caring and considerate people who look after all their ‘volunteers’ really well like a big family.
Even though this is only my 3rd week I have still managed to visit Hanoi old quarter on two occasions and have a weekend at the beautiful Ha Long Bay world heritage site. This weekend we went for a meal of snake meat presented in a traditional Vietnamese way. This may not be my first choice but it is part of the cultural experience, and the big jars with pickled snakes make an interesting venue and an opportunity for some novel photos.