Vinh Bao Saturdays

Once again this morning we had the 6.25am bus out to Vinh Bao for Saturday morning classes. Classes start around 8am but Vinh Bao is a solid hour and a bit drive away so off we trek bright and early. Well, not so bright, but definitely early.

I only teach two classes on a Saturday morning while the other 4 teacher have 4 classes each. This means that I teach my two lessons and then have about an hour and a half to wait before everyone else finishes and we can all go home. Because we’re so far out, the bus only does the one trip each way. While this is not my ideal Saturday morning, it does mean that I get to see some things that not many other people have had a chance to see.

Last time we came out and I had to wait around, the bus driver and my TA took me to a really famous pagoda (I need to find out the proper name and will update).

It’s also the perfect place to get pictures of the iconic scenes of people working in the fields with the conical Vietnamese hats on. Last time we came out I tried to get a pic of two women in a field with their hats on but they insisted on taking them off to pose for the pic!

This morning I spotted a couple of people down the road from the school so I took a wander and got a few more photos.

It is so incredibly green once you get out of town! And I also snapped this lady who was selling treats to the kids as they came out of class.

Slowly, slowly

So it’s 9am on Tuesday, the second day of the new year and I’m lying on my bed looking at the chaos that (still) dominates my flat. I’ve made huge progress but still things lie all over the floor, waiting to trip an unsuspecting person without a moment’s hesitation. Yes I’m speaking from experience and have the bruise to prove it.

There’s not much appealing or edible food in the fridge or cupboards which means that there have been a lot of takeaways lately. And seeing as I sold my car back to the dealer on Friday those takeaways have been via delivery. What we do without Uber Eats and Mr. D! (Probably lose some weight but that’s beside the point.) I just had left over pasta for breakfast. It wasn’t that great the second time around. I found a couple of cappuccino sachets in my lunchbox, from taking them to work last year in an attempt to spend a little less money at Vida (I know someone who’s wallet might benefit from this tip…André) so at least I have an almost decent cup of coffee.

I spent most of yesterday horizontal after an awesome evening with friends, which went on till the early hours for some of us and then the next day started much earlier than I may have liked with a skylight and people up and about in the lounge (not to be ungrateful for somewhere to stay or anything). I got hooked on Frontier on Netflix and couldn’t stop the “Play Next Episode” button from sucking me in. I did, however get a decent amount of sleep last night and in spite of the chaos I’m confident that, if I can just be ruthless and get rid of some more clothes (they’re not all going to fit in my suitcase), I will get there in the next day or two.

It’s not like I have any choice. Someone’s moving in here on Saturday and it kinda needs a good clean before that happens as well. So, maybe just one more episode to kick starts the morning and the it’s on to the task of the day. Or the next few days really. Finish clearing/chucking/packing and making this place spotless before I jump on my one way flight to 2018’s first adventure!

Packing up your life

With less than two weeks to go before I jump on my one way flight to Hanoi to go and teach English in Hai Phong, I still have a lot to do here at home. I’ve been in my (very) little flat for over 5 years now and have managed to accumulate an unbelievable amount of stuff. I would never have said I was a hoarder but after the last few weeks of clearing, chucking and consolidating stuff, I’m on the verge of being appalled.

I’ve got life insurance policy documents for a policy that I cancelled over three years ago. Clothes that haven’t fit me since my glory days of university, over ten years ago, which means I have not only been hoarding them in this flat, but have managed to hang onto them through a trip to the UK, living in Durban, in two different houses and moving back to Joburg back into my parents’ place, and now here. That’s some next level attachment.

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One of the problems is that the flat is so small that if you’re not getting stuff out the door it’s only making more of a mess. I need to get to that critical mass point where enough stuff has gone in the bin, been donated or been transported that I can actually see the woods for the trees. Or in this case, the floor for the clothes.

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Unfortunately it seems to be going from bad to worse

I’m hoping that once the chaos subsides a bit (I also have three loads of washing cycling through various stages of getting clean and dry floating around the place) that it’ll feel more cathartic than disaster.

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At least we’re getting beautiful sunsets in Joburg

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!

 

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!

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…