Posted by: Richard Marshall | September 23, 2009

Farmville and Fishy Confectionery

I’m sitting at work feeling that I can’t really leave. It’s not that I have to teach – I don’t – but if I don’t harvest my strawberries on farmville they’ll wither before I can get to a computer again. So I thought I’d write a post about my first weeks teaching at ila. It’s actually quite an appropriate moment, because I had my first observation feedback today which kind of ends the first phase of my teaching career – that of total inexperience and near panic. In fact, my first observation was largely positive – I was told I “looked the part” – so I’m feeling happier about my career choice, if choice is quite the right word. In fact, when I’m actually teaching I increasingly find myself getting into the swing of things – it’s the days when I’m sitting in my hotel room doing nothing that doubts assail me and all that …

On thing teaching in this place seems to do to people is get them addicted to various fatuous computer games. Especially over the weekend, we have shatteringly long days interspersed with fifteen minute breaks during which nothing productive can be done – it’s too uncomfortable in the “teacher’s support centre” i.e staffroom even to bring a book to read. (They love that kind of jargon here – the library is called the “independent learning centre”). Tetrus is very popular, but I have succumbed to farmville, a facebook based farming game. Although it does occur to me that every piece of virtual earth I cultivate and enrich represents a piece of my mind and soul impoverished, it nevertheless is pretty compelling – the sight of one’s crops growing fills one with a wierd satisfaction, while fruits and veges withered on the vine are deeply distressing.

Mostly I have taught over the weekends, since that is when most of our classes are. The first class is at 7:45, so we have to get up pretty early. The school provides pastries for breakfast, but these are bought by the Vietnamese staff and tend to be a bit odd. They are either cloyingly sweet with great gobs of cheap jam gumming them together, or contain meat, fish or seafood. The western staff tend to avoid these, and often are about to take a bite out a bun when they see a prawn tail sticking out of it! We then have to go off to face the kids. I have two  juniors classes (5 – 11 years old) and, as of this weekend, two seniors classes (11 – 15). By and large I get on much better with the older students – they’re hellish noisy but at least can do slightly more complicated tasks. The kids are quite sweet, but I like one class much better than the other, which is full of little monsters. They really like games, so I’m gradually building up a repertoire of activities to get kids occupied and, if they must howl, at least howl in English…Bizarrely, Sunday evening is everyone’s favourite moment of the week – the feeling of elation after the completion of two days of teaching is wonderful.

Since my sleep is disturbed by worries of how to keep five-year-olds entertained (though that’s already wearing off),  I decided I needed make sure I got back to pursuing activities that were actually rewarding to me. I joined a gym and have gone a few times to see how hot I can get before I actually pass out – I haven’t quite reached that point but it’s touch and go sometimes. I also found a good bookshop that sells books in English at very reasonable prices. I still haven’t found a place to stay, but have reconciled myself to the idea of hanging on until the right place comes up. Otherwise, I’m just getting used to living in Vietnam…

I’m going to take some pictures of the school this weekend and post them so watch this space…


  1. Hello Rich – keep the posts coming! I am thrilled to hear of your adventures. Rather you than me looking after 5-yr-olds! It would also give me sleepless nights thinking about how to entertain them… *gulp*

  2. Kids are straight from hell, I know!! Good luck!

  3. I guess the gym there is even hotter than the gym in Jinja!!

  4. haha I love this! Sarah is also addicted to farmville!

  5. tell me! tell me, Richard!
    where is that bookstore?

  6. All very interesting Dick, but what about the beer man!

    Seriously though, Vietnam sounds good!

  7. hi R, it’s great when you said you’re getting used to living in vn =) there are a lot of interesting things here which you havent discovered yet. take your time to enjoy vn. i’m sure you’ll like it and then love it. can you tell me where the bookstore is? have a lot of fun tonight =)

  8. hey Richard, i’ve just found this blog and thought you may find it interesting. 🙂

  9. Hey Richie, when’s the next entry? Was talking about you last night, and how we miss you!!
    Love t

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