Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our last Outing: Lang Lua Van Phuc

Visit to Silk Village

16th November

Today, we had our last outing together with our English club. This morning, we have arranged to meet to go on motorcycles to the silk village in Ha Dong. Ha Dong is to the South of Hanoi and is famous for their silk product and of course the very famous movie “ Ao Lua Ha Dong”( The silk dress of Ha Dong). Daniel and I had watched it last month and it was really good. Daniel liked it especially for he love the traditional silk dress also known as ao dai. But this movie is good for celebrated the tenacity of Vietnamese women. I think everyone should watch it really. : 0

Daniel and I were surprised that none of them have been to the silk village before. This was actually my third time here. Ironically, it was me who showed them the way to the village. The journey passed by our school. I realized that most of them have never really been out of Hanoi before, I think that is because of the price of fuel. So I am really glad that they had agreed to go to the silk village. We got lost someway while already in Van Phuc so we asked around for directions. Before hitting the shops that many tourists and Vietnamese bought silk products, we wanted to see the silk making process.

working on the loom

Most of the workers inside the silk factory were middle aged and old ladies. They were either tidying the raw silk so that they could be used as threads. The smell was suffocating as they have to keep oiling the raw silk to make it smooth. In another corner, someone was spinning a cloth from silk on the loom. Some tourists were busying snapping pictures away. However, they don't seem to pay attention to what their guide was explaining. I talked through the club members and understood from them that most of the youngsters in the silk village had abandoned the traditional craft for other economical opportunities in the cities. The silk craft used to be enough to sustain the village, but now with the cheaper imports from China, it was difficult to match the price of the goods from China. Furthermore, the village stopped making top notched products as it was not profitable, few tourists buy them as they were too pricey as it took a lot of time to produce. All of us felt sorry to hear that and we were not so sure now if the things selling in the shops were actually from Vietnam or China anymore. However, we were quite sure that those silk bags with embroideries on them are from Vietnam as they are really local designs.

We were very excited to see the mulberry leaves and of course the silk worms themselves. We tried carrying them and feel them crawling. But we were sorry when the guide explained that after the silk worms ate to their fullest, they will then sleep and formed a cocoon. Where they were inside, they transformed and attempt to break out of the cocoon. However, to prevent them from spoiling the silk, this is the time that they have to be dropped into hot water so as to retrieve the raw silk! Ouch, so how many silkworms have had die for me later when i go get my silk scarfs?

Goods on sale in Lang Lua Van Phuc ( Silk Village Van Phuc)

I realized that the club members were more excited then me to see the shops as this was their first time here. They walked up and down the streets and went into every single shop. While I would say that everyone of the shops look essentially the same, they seemed to discover something different each time. I would have prefer that they speak in Vietnamese so that the shop keeper would not have raised the price, thinking we were all foreigners. But it was the last chance that they could practice their English so we spoke in English. I tried to speak my best Vietnamese to convince the shopkeepers that I am a student in Vietnam so I should be given the local rates : ) haha, but of course, it is still easier watching how my friends do it. It was really fun seeing them bargaining, getting very unimaginably low prices but walking away with the 2 sides all feeling satisfied.

I was feeling hungrier earlier than normal as the weather was turning cold. Finally spending close to 4 hours at the silk village, we decided to go for a late lunch. However, as it was the last time we would go around Hanoi together, they decided to take me on a tour around Hanoi, so we ended up going around the different streets that we have had much memories together. When we finally stopped at a little shop to have lunch, everyone was so hungry that we have 2 sets of lunch each. Even though it was only the usual fares such as my xao ( fried maggi mee), com rang (fried rice) or pho bo (beef noodles). It was still very good. They told us they were sharing with us their favourite hang out when they were junior college students as it was near to most of their colleges. It was cheaper than most stalls too as it catered to students.

We chatted away last time in English and drew a lot of curious stares from other people in the shop. It was the last time I could help them with their English, telling them how to say this and that and helping them to express themselves. One of the Has asked me (there were 3 Has in the club), “how do you say you are super hungry?”. I told them I usually said “ I am so hungry that I can eat a cow!” and everyone was laughing until some of them practically fall off their seats. We ended up talking about dentistry and the importance of having good health care system as Ha is a student in the University of Dentistry. Half of the time I couldn't understand the technical terms but at least I knew that it was possible to have teeth braced. I felt really at ease with them as we could just chat like friends on all possible topics. : )

It was really hard to say goodbye after the lunch. They promised to teach me to ride a motorbike the next time I come to Hanoi. I told them that I would really like to so that I could get around Hanoi easily. They joked that once I learn how to ride a motorbike, I would not ask them out anymore. But I told them that would never happen, course when I came back and learn how to ride a bike, I would ask them out to race down the streets of Hanoi with me : 0

Till then, let's just take care and hope to see again!
shi lei

Monday, November 3, 2008

English Song Night 2

Today, we organized our own English Song Night, which I thought was a good way to learn English through songs and karaoke singing.

The 2 songs I prepared was "Your Beautiful Soul" and "Beautiful" , playing around the theme of beauty, both on the inside and outside.

Basically, I borrowed a guitar so that I could play and get the students to sing along to the tunes, and again, I gave them sheets where they needed to fill in blanks, and I would provide the general meaning of the song later on.

I would say that this is an effective way of not only learning English, but learning the popular culture of music in other countries, as well as understanding their culture through the songs.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Night

We got invited to participate in Bach Khoa University, Parable English Club's Halloween Night session. I was quite surprised to know that Halloween is quite widely celebrated in Vietnam~~, even though it is very much a western cultural celebration.

The experience was great, the place was well decorated, with some students also dressed up for the occasion. It began with a discussion on whether we believed in ghosts, and from this discussion I noticed that a majority of the Vietnamese students do believe, not so much in ghosts, but in spirits, something very related to certain aspects of their culture, such as anchesteral worship, something very close to Chinese religious culture. Also, they also celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival, thus, having very close links to Chinese culture..

This was followed by the telling of a ghost story in Vietnamese. Apparently, although I didn't understand it, but judging from the faces of the students, I think it wasn't that scary. I decided to be brave after that and went up to tell my own ghost story, but yea, its either they didn't understand my Singaporean English, or it wasn't scary, maybe because of the cultural context of the story as well, which was more Singaporean. Anyway it was a joke told in a scary way.

After that we had a competition to paint faces, and I so happened to be the model for one of the students to see who could paint the scariest face. Overall it was a fun experience and I got to learn about the hybridization in Vietnamese culture, and the foreign cultures that they do embrace, such as Halloween


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Women issue

25 October Club Meeting

Hi everyone! This is late but still I hope all the beautiful girls in my club have a happy and memorable 20th October and that you have received lots of gifts etc. While the excitement for Women's day might have left you as everyone geared up for the preparations of the mid term exams,(I know that exams is coming soon in 2 weeks time and everyone is busy preparing for it) I would like to call the club together this Saturday in my room at 9.30 am!

We will be discussing about issues related to women.
As there will be no one in charge of presenting this session, I encourage everyone to think of a 10 min "speech" that is related to any issues on women. For eg you can talk about education for women, job opportunities
for women, or what you think about being women in a patriarchal society etc, even prostitution (controversial topic!) or maybe the lack of women representation in different organizations in Vietnam, and the possible developments in the future.
Hopefully we will have a fruitful discussion and hope to see some new faces around!

Cheers shi lei

Daniel prepared a very good presentation on “mail order brides”.

Singapore – the role of women has been changing throughout the years by varying degrees. These days, I feel that women really carry a heavier burden in the past. The roles that women do have now include :

1)Taking care of the household , being a caregiver in the family
2)Working in a duel – income family.

Also, as the standard of education among women rises in Singapore, this has led to a decrease in the marriage rate among Singaporeans, as it is harder for an educated women to find a husband as he more or less needs to be of the same equal standing as him.

Vietnam – Vietnamese brides

My personal opinion of this phenomenon of the increasing roles and demands of women is because of this, the men has to step up and be counted. Ultimately, women do need to feel a sense of security and in a family, they do want to let the guys take the lead in the household. Thus, this has led to varying degrees of definition in marriage. One such example is Vietnamese brides, as can be seen in the video, the men cant provide or take care of them, hence, they have to look for other alternatives for themselves.

Is marriage
1)a commodity – to attain certain privilages not attainable by marriage to a poor Vietnamese.
2)A sacred entity formed out of love
This really get the class into a heated discussion. Linh shared with the class how one of her relatives married a korean and she is very happy after her marriage. She also talked about her friend who have an American boyfriend, but out of love too. However, some of the class disagreed with her and said that her friends were just some of the luckier ones. Indeed there were some who married for money and there were many who were abused in their marriages. Many agreed that it is impossible to fall in love at first sight and agree to marry. But not because they are greedy, they just want a better chance for the future. Somehow the conversations drifted into the direction of the recent murder case that shook Hanoi. A korean student killed and burnt the corpse of his Vietnamese girl friend who was two timing him. I was surprised that everyone in the class do not sympathize with the victim, saying that she deserved it for being “too loose” and bringing it onto herself. I was a bit shock by the words of them, but it really reveals something about their mindset. The students from this club are all younger than us, around the age of 18.

The role of women in Vietnam – chronological order
1)heroic, indomitable, loyal and resourceful - Anh hung, bat khuat, trung hau, dam dang
2)trung hau, diu dang, thanh lich, te nhi, dam dang” or loyal, gentle, elegant, tactful yet resourceful
3)Tac phong cong nhiep va hien dai” is defined as the rise of the modern and industrial women, spending more time outside homes, beyond parental supervision, having more freedom and able to express individualism

According to the values of Dnaiel's Church, the role of women is to be a helper, and a caregiver. And the role of the men is to be a leader in the family. Women can work and have a duel income family as well , as long as, the men are responsible for the family, and are the head of the household, this is how the family progresses.

And to end the session off, daniel decided to tell a joke : )

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.
''House'' for instance, is feminine: ''la casa.'' ''Pencil,'' however, is masculine: "el lapiz.''

A student asked, ''What gender is 'computer'?'' Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether ''computer'' should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that "computer" should definitely be of the feminine gender (''la computadora''), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine (''el computador''), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

It took me really long to explain to the English club before they finally understood the joke. It was funny for they started asking me the gender of the different objects in my room!

shi lei and daniel>.<

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Relieving Stress

English Club Meeting at Bach Khoa University
“Relieving Stress”

21st October

Today we went over again to Bach Khoa University for English Club meeting. The topic today was on “Relieving Stress” since mid term examination is just around the corner. Also there is a Women Day celebration and it was so sweet that everyone has a gift for all the girls in the club. : ) On women day, it is hard not to feel special. There are gifts for women and everyone is extra nice too

Meeting was interesting and I think Daniel have the most fun of all. He was selected to act in a role play and I think he really acted quite well. Truong was the main lead in the first role play when he had to persuade his friends out to play with him despite having exams just round the corner. Scenarios were simple but their aim is just to let students use English in a fun way.

Then there is also sing along session! Like usual, English club in bach Khoa ended with singing as everyone just love to sing. But I realized it is a good way to train pronunciation. And even the shyest person can just sing along too, so it is really a good way to train English too. In fact, Daniel got so inspired that he is going to hold an English Karaoke session with out club.

I think it is a successful meeting and the objective is met. Through all the fun we had, it gave us a break from our work, my Vietnamese and ISMs. If only my Vietnamese lessons can be this fun too! I am sure I will pay attention in class then without always wanting to fall asleep P
-shi lei

Today was another guest meeting to ITEC, or Information Technology English Club at Bach Khoa University, the focus being on dealing with stress, at first, we got into groups to discuss what stress is about and what are the various methods to deal with it, following which, there was a play in which each group had to send a representative to act as a stressful person while the other groups had to act out ways to help the person destress.

My group's task was a student who has having stress from studying for her exams. It was quite hilarious in that some of the ways we suggested was to go for a picnic , where there was a foreigner native English speaker (myself) who can teach you, and who is handsome as well. Another situation discussed was if a Father was in a bad mood, how would you persuade him to lend you money to buy a present for your girlfriend, which the other groups came up with a many reasons, most of which has elements of respect for the Father, something Vietnamese culture has a great emphasis on, the values of family respect, even in the midst of stress and this is something which I have learnt about Vietnamese culture. Overall I would say their English is really of a commendable level and it was a very interesting discussion.

Apart from that, as it was Women's day, the 3 women present at the meeting were role played as princess, and we would be contestants to see who could get the hand of the 3 princesses , we played games such as guessing the names of English songs, and seeing who was the best singer in English songs. It was fun, certain English songs are very popular among the Vietnamese students, and although I lost the singing round, not because of my voice I would think, but because the other contestant was more sincere in his song. I lost with a vote of 1 to the rest of the students present. Sincerity and Faith being shown by the Vietnamese student contestant competition against me, some of the values that Vietnamese treasure and believe in a great deal of.

I had a very enjoyable time, and I learnt alot from this session about Vietnamese culture, in terms of dealing with stress, receptivity of popular culture in English music and personal and relationship values of love and sincerity which Vietnamese people hold highly, a key aspect of family values.

Daniel Foo

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Visit To Bat Trang

Today we visited Bat Trang ( Pottery Village ) together with the Information Technology English Club. Bat Trang is an area on the outskirts of Hanoi, around a 1 and a half hour journey from Hanoi.

At Bat Trang, we got learn and got to see how to make pottery! Right from scratch, something the people of Bat Trang are very familiar with. It was quite a difficult experience I must say. Ended up that I let the owner help me to make a very beautiful cup, which I also told him to write the words "Hanoi 2008" in it~~ The first step was to mould the clay ino the shape that you want, burn it if you want it to be harden, and burn it again for up to 1 week if you want it to be glazed and made like a real pottery.

Apart from making pottery, a favorite among people who visit the place, we also went to the pottery market, the highlight of the place, where there were many craftsmanship pieces, mostly made of pottery, including teacups, accessories, paintings, and many other things. It was quite an eye opener experience seeing how many and how creative things could be made with pottery. The whole place was filled with things, mostly pottery, something that these people are very proud of. One of the interesting things I noticed about Vietnam through this was the naming of streets, which are related to what the village is about , be it in the past or the present, such that Bat Trang literally means pottery village in Vietnamese. Another example would be "Bach Khoa" which means many faculties in Vietnamese.

At Bat Trang Market

Giant Vases
Pot luck lunch at Bat Trang
Making Pottery
The wall design of a ceramics house

Daniel Foo

Saturday, October 18, 2008

day trip to museum of ethnology

Today we are going to the west of Hanoi, Cau Giay district where the Museum of Ethnology is located. We have heard of the museum as being the best in Hanoi and Ha had suggested that we should go on a day trip there.

The Tay Stilt house at the back with Thuy playing on a swing like structure : )

With some of my friends at the front gallery

Traditional weaving of the Cham minority

It is really tiring but a fruitful trip. We got to know much more about the different minority groups in Vietnam, their style of housing, what they eat, what they play and what their believed etc. It was good to see that all my Vietnamese friends are as interested as me in the ethnic minorities. I remembered one of them asking me how many races Singapore has. I told them we have 3 main races. She said that they have around 54 and the best thing of all is that they learned to live peacefully together. Even though there are still a lot of things to do to improve the lifestyles of all, at least they can accomplish things better and faster in an environment of peace and hope. Which I totally agree : )
However, I also enjoyed myself as it was fun wandering around playing different games with my friends in the club.

Thuy and Ha skipping rope! I really forgot that skipping ropes can be so simple but fun: )

Turn out that there are many couples taking wedding photos, and I really like this one! see how happy and bless the bride looks. Because of her, I decided that Ao Dai is the prettiest traditional costume!

-Shi Lei

It was a full day at the museum, learnt many things from the Vietnamese students, as well as from the various exhibits at the museum, got a glimpse of what are the various ethnic minorities there are in Vietnam and where they come from, and what their lifestyle is like, particular among the groups on display which I noticed is the Hmong ethnic minority, located at and around the region of Sapa, which there are many kinds, 2 of which are the Black Hmong and the Flower Hmong. At the museam, we got to see the machines which they work with to produce their beautifully decorated clothes, the traditional houses that they stay in, as well as got to play some of the games that they would play at leisure.

These games include skipping rope, and an interested game involving a ball and chopsticks, whereby you would throw the ball in the air the take the chop sticks, something like 5 stones, a traditional Chinese game.

Also on display are some of the religious sculptures of the ethnic minorities, that had a wide variety of symbolism, such as fertility.

Overall, we had a very enriching experience. And this visit had helped developed my understanding of these ethnic minorities in Vietnam, particularly with my visit to Sapa as well, which I got to meet first hand, these ethnic minorities, lived at their villages and got a description of what how these minorities lived. Here's a short video presentation at Sapa on the life of a particular group of ethnic minority, the flower Hmong.

As a tourist destination, at Sapa, I got swamped by people from these ethnic groups asking me to buy things from them, following which they would follow me and the group all the way to the various villages in order to sell their things, which are clothes and other traditional items, mostly made out of cloth and sewn. It is quite disheartening to know that some of these sellers were children, being told by their parents to sell these items, instead of going to school, which they could not afford or was too far away from their houses. My friend told me that buying from these children was not the solution as they would be encouraged to continue on with the types of jobs they are doing now instead of going to school to develop a more promising future.

In turn, we also got the chance to visit the weekend flower Hmong market at Bac Ha province near Sapa, where villages would gather there once a week to trade goods as well as find prospective partners. It was a very busy atmosphere, with a huge crowd of people everywhere. The tour guide recommended us to go eat some of the local delicacies of the region, but when we found out how it looked liked and what it was as we didn't know the English translations for the names of the food, we decided not the eat it, as it didn't look too appetizing, perhaps its our differences in food culture and taste likings..:)

In all, the museum trip, coupled with the visit to Sapa, deeply enriched my understanding and situation of these ethnic minorities. And I really feel that their lives can be improved a great deal through humanitarian help. Something that can be achieved through funding and greater developments. At the area, I decided to give away some pens and my friend followed up with some notebooks as I was told they had to keep reusing notebooks and didn't have enough pens. When I gave them the items, their faces of these children from the ethnic minority groups started beaming with joy and happiness, which gave me a deep sense of fulfillment as well. Simple items to us, but yet meant so much to them and their future. It touched me deeply and I would in future, consider doing humanitarian work in this region. :)

Daniel Foo