Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

By Cameron Brtnik


      On May 27, 2017 I jumped in a van – joined by my fellow teachers Peter from America and Marty from Australia, both living and teaching in Vietnam, and Toby, a winemaker from California and one of the sponsors, – and rode the hour long trip to Tien Hiep Secondary School in Ha Nam. This was my second excursion to a rural school in the countryside with BLV – Better Life Vietnam – a non-profit organization that promotes learning and reading to students who attend schools that don’t receive enough funding for school materials or resources or even programs like a library. BLV does this by visiting these schools, often located in rural areas of Vietnam, and providing English classes and activities taught by foreigners, an opportunity that students in these villages would not normally get. BLV also does this by donating books to those children who don’t normally have access to an abundance of learning resources.

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{BLV’s wonderful team of supporters and volunteers from USA, Canada, NewZealand, Australia and Vietnam}

      On my first trip to Hà Nam, I had such a great experience bringing joy to these underprivileged children I had to do it again! When you arrive at the school, the students’ eager looks, the excitement in their voices, their enthusiasm to speak and learn English – If you’re an English teacher in Vietnam, you understand that these are all the reasons we teach in the first place. This is an experience you may not find teaching at schools in the larger cities. It was no different this time around. When we arrived at Tien Hiep Secondary School, we were greeted by bright, smiling faces excited at our arrival. The students were very shy to speak to us at first; keep in mind their speaking level is at the “Hello, what’s your name?” level. We split up into various classrooms and each volunteer teacher taught the students a 30 minute class. They were so well behaved, they made us forget all about the naughty kids we had back in Hanoi!

See here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qUsEgl0qHg&feature=youtu.be

      We then hit up our second school for the day, Trinh Xa, where we played activities and handed out books to nearly 300 students! The organizers, Thinh Nguyen and Nhung Nguyen, hosted the school’s event and introduced each of the volunteers. One at time, we took to the stage to talk with the students, play games, perform magic tricks, teach English and give them advice – namely sharing with them the importance of reading – all this to 300 students!

Watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPnYx9Ws2ew&feature=youtu.be

     Then the best part: Handing out the books. It was like a hundred Christmas gift-openings at once! The children tore open boxes, reached inside and hurled out books, choosing a book that perhaps caught their eye or had a familiar title. Lots of photographs and video were taken throughout the day to document the day’s events. After all the fun and games, the organizers again took time to talk about the importance of reading, and encouraged students to keep learning no matter what their education or family’s situation is.

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After a full morning, we joined the school principal and teachers for a lovely locally-prepared  lunch, enjoyed with a toast with their local rice wine. What a splendid way to end an already awesome day!

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     Started by Thinh Nguyen in 2017, Better Life Vietnam was established as a way to reach underprivileged areas of Vietnam, and to help less fortunate children and families in Vietnam: “Better Life Vietnam was founded with the belief that access to education, food, healthcare, clean water and a decent quality of life are basic human rights.” BLV is an outstanding organization that develops programs to sponsor schools, provide educational material, donate books, and organize events – all geared toward underprivileged schools in rural areas of Vietnam. They also initiated a superb program that interviews students’ families about their family and financial situation, choosing one of those families (based on various factors) to sponsor by providing livestock so that they, typically farmers, can earn money. Visit their website www.betterlifevietnam.org for more information.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED!

BLV is currently looking for volunteers to help with teaching classes, hosting activities, taking photographs/video of the event and video editing, as well as other jobs. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to donate your talents and time to a worthy and fun cause: providing better living for students in Vietnam! Note: Some organizations in Vietnam make the volunteer pay for their time. This opportunity is free for all volunteers!

If you would like to get involved please contact Better Life Vietnam at
Email: betterlifevietnam@gmail.com

Cameron is a freelance writer, English teacher, and volunteer living in Hanoi, Vietnam

Poetry Corner – China Poem Part 3

China Poem
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo."

China Poem Part 3

Woken from firecrackers like gunshots

Every morning at one o’clock

Town alarm blaring: warning of ?

Seemingly coming from above

Spitting in the streets, it's disgusting!

Broke-down machines, neglected, rusting

Young men bored, a daily routine

They smoke and drink and KTV

Outdoor table ball and table tennis

Do it all over when day's replenished

River dirty like the shores of Venice

Wish people here could afford a dentist!

Boys out-number girls and all of’em get married

But if they’re not, they’re probably scary

Men are generous but very jealous

At first they cheers you, then act zealous

....

Gentle wind, slightest breeze

Polluted air makes me sneeze

(Achoo!)

I feel congested, so unrested

Bed of wood makes rest so restless

Bug-infested when neglected

Noise is hectic, chest arrested

Everything here is queer and foreign

And when it rains it's f&*$in pourin’!

Old, mould, cold, fool's gold

Fake shit going once, twice, three times - sold!

Typhoon's on its way, heavy downpour

Devouring whole town, torrential sound sore

In my thoughts I drown more…

China's about twenty years behind us

But in kindness their generosity

can remind us.

-Lingxi, China, 2010

Poetry Corner – China Poem Part 2

China Poem
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo."


China Poem - Part 2

Eating rice and noodles a lot

Streets lined with stroodles and oodles of shops

Teaching classes, reaching masses

of children still in teeny baskets

People sleeping, amputees begging

Young girls squealing, old bags haggling

Age is keeping, time is lagging

but never runs out so we keep on dragging

While we’re treated like celebrities

a person’s life here is never free

Sidewalks, streets are used as bathrooms

Pollution looms, witches brooms, no vacuums

Umbrellas, umbrellas – everywhere!

Shield from rain and protect from glare

On a sunless morning The Sun is scorching

Try to feel inspired but fun is boring

Feel like I might evaporate, I’m exasperated!

Need a nap or break, hot like a pasta plate

Hot and muggy, feel sluggish

Draught is coming, revealing rubbish

Old folk exercise, keeping healthy

Many are poor, but hide the wealthy

Girls get married, still so tender

Having babies, frill and slender

Starting families so young

When's the time come just to have fun?

Motorbikes racing traveling fast

“Out of the way!” Better make a dash

Horns honking, breaks screeching

Salesmen preaching, constant beseeching

My ears are bleeding!

....

Gloomy day, cloudy weather

A ray of hope holding on by tether

There's always next day to feel better

So for today, I’ll just endeavour


-Lingxi, China, 2010

Poetry Corner – China Poem

China Poem
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo."


China Poem

Everything is old and new

But new is old, and old is new

Rickshaws, BMWs, Shaolin temples

Strict laws, streets in rubble, flower pedals

Car horns, “corn for sale!” 

kids crying, birds chirping

The sound of construction men 

constantly working

Muslim noodles served in huge bowls

Rice and chopsticks, spice and hot spits

Milk tea, milk drink, egg milk, hot milk

Silk scarves, silk sheets, rag silk, not silk

Polluted river, chicken liver

Cold shiver, hot quiver

Rain, rain, rain, rain

Again, again, again, again

Sun! Humid, hot, wet, damp, dirty, sweat, AC! 

WC no seat; both feet

Good people, look feeble

Paint a portrait on wood easel

Fun times, vent rhymes

Lifetimes into bent spines

Sun climbs, then shines

Rays upon spent minds

China: Sign up!

One year, I’m stuck

But with my luck

Won't last five months


-Lingxi, China, 2010