IESC: Ho Chi Minh City

traffic in hcmc.jpgWe are back in Saigon, a city of more 7 million people. Where as Quang Tri is a small sleepy town, Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is like a modern day western metropolitan area. Like big cities everywhere, there are internet cafes, multi cultural restaurants, music clubs, and of course traffic everywhere. There always seems to be traffic no matter what time of day or night. Then there are the motorbikes. This is just me talking, but I think there is as many motor bikes as there are citizens. The riders vary from the elder to the young, from women in business attire to families of four. On numerous occasions we saw complete families on the same bike. How you ask? Well the smallest child sits nearest to the handle bars, then the dad, the second child sits behind dad, and mom behind the child. Everyone drives in the same rhythm.

Another difference is our teaching environment and students. Whereas in Quang Tri we taught at an orphanage, Ho Chi Minh City we are teaching at an education center named the Tu Xuong learning center. The building structure is little more than 17 feet by 7 feet at best. The room has several posters with sentence structure, job descriptions, and food all written in English. There are five older desktops in the room also.

The students are also different than their brethren in Quang Tri. These students have a choice to attend our teaching sessions. They voluntarily come in to get training on our classmate PCs. They are a little more hardened also. For some, after attending class they must go out to make a living as much as a child 14 to 21 years old can. They perform in street jobs like selling lottery cards and cleaning shoes. They obviously don’t have the same naivety as the students in Quang Tri. They are trying to survive as best as they can given their personal circumstances. Based upon their personal life stories, I have nothing but admiration for these young people doing what they can to utilize able technology to live a better life so they don’t have to continue living as they are. God bless these children.

Despite their painful stories of life, they enter the class with a joyful and polite ‘Hello, Teacher’ as they find an available seat in preparation for the day’s learning activities. The students will be sharing 9 classmate PCs. There is a lot of laughter in the class as my partner Ly and I go through the sessions. We use only a small amount of translation because Quynh, their true teacher, wants the children to learn English. Ly and I teach the students how to use ePals, focusing on the email portion of this internet education and communication tool. Ironic for me, the student are writing introductory emails to students in Arizona. It’s a small world. The students correspond to their peers in the US in English. They are learning to compose letters and email them out. The next day the students are extremely excited because they know that the will receive replies from their first introductory emails. They then learn how reply to email and attach short videos and pictures to respond to those kids in Arizona.

It is pure joy to see how a little Atom can cause so much joy in kids at home and aboard.

Pictures provided by Todd Carroll.

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