Finding out about Hai Phong

This morning I received an email from the company in Vietnam who handles all the internship placements at the schools over there and I’ve found out that I’m going to Dangtuan Language Center (DTLC) in Hai Phong.

I was honestly relatively confident that I’d land up in Hanoi as that is where the vast majority of teachers are placed so I haven’t read up that much on Hai Phong. So far the only familiar place in the vicinity is Cat Ba Island which a friend of mine went on a SE Asia trip a couple of years ago and really enjoyed so that’s exciting. It’s also not too far away from Ha Long Bay which I’ve only seen in the hazy mist fog, so would love to see it in the sunshine.

So far I’ve learned that it’s 120km from Hanoi so not too far, although I’d imagine with public transport you probably wouldn’t get there in an hour. That it’s the second largest city in the North of Vietnam . And that it’s a coastal city located at the mouth of the Cấm River. Thanks Wikipedia!

It looks like the weather is pretty reasonable, only dropping to a low of 13 degrees celsius at its coldest and getting over 30 in the summer.

TEFL Internship costs you didn’t think about

So when I started planning this properly, I obviously made a budget taking into account the key factors:

  • The cost of the internship program (which covers your orientation week activities, food and accommodation, placing you at a school, as well as all the admin that they do in the run up to start of the program)
  • Flights
  • Spending money for the first month before you get your first pay check
  • New goodies for the adventure (camera tech, a laptop, suitable clothing for the weather etc)

There have however been a number of costs that I didn’t originally factor into my budget which have resulted in some of my less vital items on the list above falling by the wayside. These include:

  • Vaccinations – there are a variety of things they recommend, some of which are obviously a definite requirement and some of which are up to you. Considering that I’m going to Vietnam and that even though I’ve been there before I’m uncertain of the quality of the medical facilities but am fairly certain they’re not first world so my philosophy on the vaccination front was very much better safe than sorry. This means that (because I already had a yellow fever vaccination which is valid till 2023) I had the following vaccinations:
    • Hepatitis B (even though I had this before I went to Nigeria in 2013, I completely forgot to go back three months later for the booster shot which should have given me lifetime immunity, so we had to start from scratch)
    • Rabies (because the recommendation I heard from someone else’s doc that you should avoid rabid dogs and if you do get bitten by one you must catch it, kill it and take it with you to the nearest clinic really did not appeal in the slightest)
    • Meningitis (because who wants a potentially fatal brain inflammation situation when you’re half way across the world)
    • and Typhoid (because, again, death)
    • I couldn’t get the Hepatitis A Vaccination because apparently there is a world wide shortage of it and the doc isn’t expecting to get any here in SA before April 2018. His recommendation – be very very careful.
      This little lot cost not only severely saw arms for several days but also an unexpected hit to my budget. You can check this awesome website that doctor at the travel clinic gave me to see recommendations and travel health advice for just about anywhere in the world: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home.aspx
  • Legalisation of any and all certificates that were issued in the UK. In my case this included my TEFL certificate itself. This has to go through three different entities before it is finalised and can be quite time consuming to do even if you live in the UK, apparently, but felt overwhelming to try and achieve from South Africa. The placement company recommended the Hague Apostille, who provided a discount to us people who did their courses through specific companies so that it would only cost GBP 120. Plus a GBP 50 cost if you need it couriered internationally. (Luckily my brother lives in the UK and came to the rescue on the courier front.) If you convert that lot though it’s another healthy chunk out of the budget. (I only sent my order form through 2 days ago so will try and update with the user friendliness of this service when I’ve received my actual certificate and it’s ready to go.)
  • Clothes that are appropriate for teaching. While you’ve definitely thought about the weather, how hot and cold it gets and how flipping humid it’s going to be year round, and considered which clothes you can take that aren’t going to show up how humid YOU are, you may not have thought about the fact that you have to dress modestly in Vietnam and especially as a teacher. Shoulders and knees must be covered which obviously means no strappy tops and no shorts. No jeans or slip slops allowed so smart-ish trousers, long skirts and smart sandals or closed shoes. This also requires a good re-think of what’s going into that suitcase in the very small amount of space there is to cover yourself for 4 – 6 months. It’s a tricksy one.

So far those are the three things that, rightly or wrongly, I hadn’t factored in to my original budget or really thought through properly. Hopefully this helps you in your budget planning!

The countdown

In just 6 weeks today I’ll be climbing onto that plane to head across to Vietnam to start a new adventure as a teacher. No, I haven’t actually booked a spot on “that” plane that I’ll be climbing onto yet. I should really get on that shouldn’t I?

6 weeks and I still have most of my to do list un- crossed out. And not only that but it’s grown a whole hell of a lot longer too. Having found out about extra things that are required in order for visas to be approved, dress codes that are still uncertain (and might require a serious re-look at my wardrobe), vaccinations that had to be done and paid for and weren’t in my original budget (and were not cheap) and so on, it’s been an interesting week.

I’m a little stressed but now that I’ve started listing things I’ve realized how much I need to get done in a very short space of time. I think it’s time I start panicking!

Getting there. Slowly.

So, I had to wait till November before I could pay for my internship because I was aware of a serious discount that was coming up. I did start getting a little anxious around mid-October, I won’t lie, because that didn’t leave with all that much time to get everything organised.

Anyway, I booked and paid in the first week of November only to discover that it wasn’t actually a done deal and that I had to provide all sorts of documents to another company before I would be officially accepted onto the program. Which obviously makes perfect sense – they put stipulations, like you have to a Bachelor’s degree, in place for a reason. They aren’t just going to take your word for it. So I had to send them a copy of my degree certificate. And a head shot to prove that I don’t have tattoos all over my face, my TEFL certificate to prove that I had actually completed it, and a copy of my passport. All very reasonable. I didn’t hear back from them for a week so that also stressed me out a tad. But anyway, I got my acceptance letter on Saturday so at least that’s sorted.

Now I find out I have to get my TEFL certificate legalised in the UK which is either going to cost someone I know over there a lot of time and effort, or me over 100 pounds. Plus I then have to get it couriered to me here in South Africa which is another 50 pounds.  Which is quite a big additional expense that I hadn’t factored in. So that just means I can’t buy the noise cancelling head phones that were on my wish list. Tough lucks. (Unless I can find someone who’s coming over from there for Christmas and convince them to bring it for me.)

I’m waiting till Friday to book my flight because Black Friday. Am hoping that might save me a couple of grand to make up for the certificate legalisation cost. And maybe those headphones will be on special too.

My police clearance is with SAPS still and should really be done by the end of this week as they say 2 – 3 weeks and it went to them on the 6th of November so we’ll see. I’m not holding my breath.

And I’ve started clearing out my place. Mainly just clothes at this stage but I’ve chucked a whole bunch of clothes from the shelf side of the cupboard into tubs for donating. Now to go through the hanging stuff, shoes, drawers, ottoman and so on. So I guess on that front I’m really not very far at all. Plus I still need to get the toiled fixed, put a fresh coat of paint on the place and do something about the blinds before anyone’s going to want to rent it out! It’s going to be a busy 7 weeks. Yup, 7 weeks. In 7 weeks I’ll be in Hanoi.

Crap!

 

Olives, postcards and flights

Seeing as we were only in the Western Cape for the weekend we really wanted to do as much as we could fit in without stressing ourselves out. So on Sunday, even though we had a much more leisurely start than our early breakfast and 9.40 wine tram from Saturday, we were up and about and heading out of our accommodation by about 10.30.

Knowing that we had lunch booked at the Postcard Café in Stellenbosch for 12.30, we made our way to Tokara for a quick tasting and to stuff our faces with olives, on the way to lunch. The olives were freaking delicious in case you were wondering.

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Olives from Tokara
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The tasting room at Tokara has a sensational view

Next we meandered on to Postcard Café which has yet more spectacular views and is aptly named. I didn’t get any shots of the food, which was nothing short of mouthwatering, but I did get a couple of the surrounds.

I had beef medallions which were just melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with a light peppery sauce, baby potatoes and baby veggies. We drank, you guessed it, more wine and also indulged in dessert – I can highly recommend their carrot cake. It came close to as good as mom’s and that’s high praise!

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The view from the parking lot at Postcard café
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more parking lot views
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panoramic parking lot Postcard Café

After we were full of lunch and dessert and wine and everything we could get hands on, we headed out to find our last stop before we needed to start thinking about heading to the airport. The thinking was to hit High Constantia for a quick look, but it turned out that we were running out of time so instead we stopped in at Spier for one last tasting (because we needed more wine, obviously).

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Spier tasting
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Spier tasting area
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Spier tasting area

And then we made our way to the airport with not many minutes to spare and hopped on the plane back to Jozi. All in all, a beautiful and delicious weekend. Franschhoek (and Stellenbosch and Cape Town) is a feast for the senses.

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Flying home

 

 

Wine Tram – Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa

This weekend past, I went to the Western Cape, South Africa with some friends to visit the wine lands. I’ve popped into a couple of wine farms on a whirlwind visit after the Loerie Awards one year, 2010 I think it was, but have never actually spent any real time down there, enjoying it. So we went on Friday night and came back on Sunday night, which is by no means enough time but at least was more than a couple of hours.

On the Saturday we had tickets for the Purple Line of the Wine Tram which meant we got to visit a bunch of different wine farms that were on that line and do tastings and then get delivered back to town and none of us had to drive anywhere.

Farms on the purple line include:

Vrede en Lust 
Plaisir de Merle
Alée Bleue
Noble Hill 
Babylonstoren
Backsberg
Glen Carlou
Solms Delta

There are only 6 hours, with one hour per farm so you have to be relatively selective and you aren’t able to visit every farm on the line. Backsberg was closed that weekend which made that selection one less difficult. We were luck enough to have some seasoned veterans with us who helped with the other decisions based on past experience. In the end, we decided to skip Alée Bleue and Solms Delta, and we spent an extra hour at Noble Hill and booked a table for lunch so that we could make sure we lined our stomachs again.

There aren’t really words to express just how stunningly gorgeous that part of the world is so rather than ramble on about it, have a look at some of the pics I took.

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The view from our accommodation – Hannepoot Cottage
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The braai pit at the accommodation
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The Wine Tram
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Stop one
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Vrede en Lust
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Leaving Vrede En Lust
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A little panoramic looking out from the balcony at the tasting room on Vrede en Lust
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Plaisir de Merle
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Plaisie de Merle
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The ladies
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Add some bubbles
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To the veggie garden
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Noble Hill – veggie gard
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Crates of bottles
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Crates round the back
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Behind the Noble Hill restaurant, Cosecha
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They made the guacamole that we had for lunch, at the table. Perfect avos. So good.
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Noble Hill Tasting
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Down by the lake
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Babylonstoren
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Between the vines
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Babylonstoren Shiraz
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Babylonstoren
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Babylonstoren deliciousness
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Wine tram heading out
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Views from Glen Carlou

On Sunday we did a bunch more – next blog post!

The Happy Planet Index

So I came across this website the other day (I can’t remember how but I can only assume that someone shared it on Twitter) and was excited to discover that Vietnam ranks 5th happiest on the Happy Planet Index.

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South Africa, where I currently live, ranks 128th, out of 140 and is in the most unhappy portion of the planet. Life expectancy is low while inequality is really high. And aside from the things they measure the Happy Planet Index on, the quality of driving is getting worse and worse on a daily basis.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to rant about South Africa but rather to celebrate that I’m soon going to be somewhere really happy!

Keeping an eye on flights

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So, even though I haven’t been able to pay for my internship package yet because they’re going to be having a discount on it next month, I have started looking at flights. Naturally I’ve been checking out fare comparison sites to do this, because even with my Diamond Vitality status, which gives me 35% off the base fair on flights from Emirates, British Airways and Quantas, Emirates works out substantially more expensive than some of the smaller, less luxurious airlines (sadly).

Anyway, considering I’ll be away for almost 5 months, I was trying to figure out whether it would make more sense to just get a one way ticket, or if I should get an open ended one. I still need to do a bit of research on that and find out what the best, most cost effective, option is going to be,

I’m kind of already dreading the trip. Having been there a couple of years ago I remember how long and far it is and how shattered you are when you get there, even with the assistance of sleeping tablets. It’s very hard to feel refreshed after traveling for 17 – 20 odd hours! Especially when there are really good movies on and you don’t want to sleep so that you can watch them all 🙂

Anyway, I’ll be posting about what I discover about the open ended versus one way flight when I have some information to share. In the mean time I’ve started cleaning out cupboards (in the very very early stages, and only because the office was doing a collection of clothes etc for people who were affected by the terrible storms here in Jozi and in Durban, so it was the perfect solve for my “I have so many clothes I don’t wear, I need to give them away” thought. But that’s pretty much all I’ve done so far. It really is time I start getting my butt into gear!

Hurry Up and Wait

So after having a mild panic a couple of weeks ago about how little time I had left before my internship begins I finally got my butt into gear to get sorted with my application. When I jumped onto the site to check that everything was still in order and that there were spots available on the internship I noticed that the special deal that was on in September has ended.  Sad face. So I popped an email off to the consultant who I’ve been communicating with, on and off, since February 2016. Honestly. I’m sure the guy had lost any hope of me actually signing up. Anyway, he gave me a call back from their London based offices and let me in on a little secret that they’ll be having another special on the package in November so if I’m prepared to wait till then, it’ll cost me a whole bunch less. I also discovered in that call, when I worried about how long visas would take, as well as all the other things I need to do, that visa assistance is included in the price paid for the internship. All I’ll need to do is fill out a form apparently, which is a bit of a weight off my mind, I’m not going to lie.

So I guess I probably should have gotten moving last month so that I had a bit of extra time to wrap my head around everything once I’m registered and signed on, however, I’m happy to wait if it means saving a couple of grand.

I should probably keep an eye on flight prices, considering that’s going to be my next biggest expense. I’m thinking I should probably get an open return ticket as the internship ends on the 31st of May and I’m really keen to do some travelling from there – preferably Europe in June, but if not Europe, then there’s a plethora options near Vietnam that are also on my ever-extending bucket list. I assume I need to go through a travel agent in order to do that as I’ve never seen that option on any online booking sites, not that I’ve ever looked particularly hard. I’ll find out about that though and keep you posted.

Flight bookings, here I come!

Time’s moving hella fast

I can’t believe we’re already more than half way through September. This means that I only have 3 and a half months before I head off on the beginning of my epic adventure. It feels like it was just the other day that I’d decided to do this and gone ahead and paid for the course. It was actually about 10 months ago already.

Things I need to do before I go:

  1. Make a things to do list
  2. Pay for my orientation week, 20 hours practical and accommodation etc
  3. Decide where exactly I want to go – Hanoi, Hai Phong or Hué??
  4. Book flights
  5. Organise a work visa
  6. Organise travel insurance (any suggestions?)
  7. Get my police clearance document
  8. Sort out my finances
  9. Cancel things like cell phone and gym contracts and insurance polices
  10. Figure out what I’m going to do with my car
  11. Buy a laptop and a new phone
  12. Book a gynae appointment
  13. Sort out my house (plumber, painter, curtains, security etc)
  14. to be updated as more things come to me…

There’s a metric crap ton of things that I need to do in very short space of time, while I’m also working 8 – 5 as well as taking on freelance projects (I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself to be honest) so I really need to get my butt into gear. Come this payday (25 September) things will need to start moving at a rapid pace!

Hold thumbs 🙂

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My last trip to Vietnam – we had a pyjama party on a junk boat in the middle of Halong Bay. As you do…