What a Difference

As the old song goes, what a difference a day makes.

Day 1, May 4, back at school and Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance. I started thinking seriously about resigning. Day 2, and problems disappeared like Vietnamese puto cakes.

Day 1

The rolling train-wreck started the previous day when my laptop decided its number was up. The damned thing refused to boot into windows, and the Linux install gave me no WiFi. So, all told, next to useless.

The train-wreck continued when my bike died on the way to work. The smallest Mercy was that it happened at my planned Cafe stop. I quaffed my coffee, left the bike there and ‘taxied’ to work. On the pillion of a motorbike. Clutching as I was, a laptop, a backpack bag, and a 6-litre water bottle.

At work, I learned that, as feared, no aircon was allowed in classrooms. Nowhere in New Zealand even approaches that heat. It’s like Venus. Hot enough to begin a weight-loss programme by going outside for an hour.

On arriving home, a 15-minute bike-ride, I cranked up the aircon, flopped into a chair, and stayed inside for the rest of the day.

Day 2

School admin saw sense, and allowed aircon in classrooms. Without it, myself and foreign teachers from South Africa, the US, and Canada suffer so brutally that survival is uppermost in mind, and teaching ( almost ) nethermost. Ahh, the sweet relief of cool air!

I put a patch on the bike issue by renting another short-term. Taxi-ing to work each day while I fix the Old Dunger bike would be clumsy, and expensive. I was able to rent a good bike for 80k VND / day.

I discovered the laptop would at least boot into Linux.

And, students, perhaps picking up less of a scent of blood ( and sweat ) in their nostrils, seemed to go easier on me.

Day 3, May 6

After getting through my 3 hours’ worth of lesson, and home to Sweet Shelter, the Head Teacher asks me to take his Wednesday afternoon class May 13, for 90 minutes. It’s a vote of confidence from him, and I’m thinking it’d behoove me to be in his credit column.

Back to School

I learned an hour ago that my school is back from next Monday, May 4th!

I’ll be teaching Monday – Friday, 8.30 a.m. to 11.45 a.m. You might think this is cause for celebration, and it is. But, the news comes with a large dollop of nerves.

Here’s why;

  • Rustiness

    It will have been more than three months since I last stood in front of a bunch of teenagers playing the role of teacher. Yes, I’ve been teaching online, but that’s a cakewalk compared.

  • Heat

    Hearsay, and a website, has it that air-conditioners won’t be allowed in classrooms. Covid-19, you understand. It’s coming up toward the middle of summer here, with temperatures feeling like mid-30s °C by late morning.

  • Covid-19 changes

    Students and teachers have to wear masks at all times, and keep a(n anti-) social distance of 1.5 metres. I expect there’ll also be rigorous washing of hands etc. All told, a different game to when I last played in January.

  • Moving

    Ramping up the pressure a little more, I’ve committed to moving apartments. I have to do it a day or two before school starts.

On the Other Hand

This is what I signed up for. I’ve done it before. Buy the ticket, take the ride.


It’s work, Jim, but not as we know it.

I got a job at a Language Centre here in Nha Trang. It’s a McJob because;

  • Right now, it’s a zero-hour job. I’m basically on call. So far I’ve done 4 sessions on Sunday. I went for the interview on Saturday.
  • The working conditions aren’t great. The classrooms put me in mind of cells. Concrete walls and tiny. The equipment ( e.g. overhead monitors ) doesn’t always work.
  • The centre is chaotic, managed on the fly. The manager / head teacher couldn’t tell in advance which room I’d be in for one of the four sessions.
  • The pay is low by industry standards. About NZD $10.40 per 45-minute session.

But, it’s a start, and will go toward making the rent without having to further deplete savings.

The kids are a delight. Keen to learn, and sometimes with pretty good English. Ages 6 to about 12. So no horrible adolescents.

It’s all grist for the mill, teaching experience.

That all might change quickly, and I may get no further teaching hours.

I find that out tomorrow. I think.

The State of It

Since this is my blog, consider this advance warning of blatant self-regard.

I do have an excuse, which is that the Nerdy Boy picture was used in a Facebook group job-seeking post. The other is just self-indulgence.

Nerdy Boy

The group post did garner some interest. I’ve got two tentative offers from Can Tho, a city near HCMC, but inland, on a river.

The wages for both are OK, liveable, but near the bottom of the barrel, apparently. But, the city itself doesn’t appeal for the following reasons;

  • The climate , er , sucks. Average relative humidity of 84% ( versus 79% for Nha Trang ). That’s muggy. Which is bearable if it’s cool, but it isn’t.
  • It’s inland, on a river. Which from reliable reports is dirty and / or silty, and isn’t safe to swim in.
  • The variety of food on offer. I hear there are two choices. Noodles or rice, or rice or noodles.
  • I’m told by a Facebook contact that during his week or so there, people were often rude / bad-mannered. That’s something about Thailand I don’t miss.

So, I may be shooting myself in the foot, but for now, I’m stalling, and holding out for an offer from Nha Trang, or Da Nang. Both coastal cities with good climates and food.

Mr. Atlas up there

The full-body shot is from my apartment, in my typical about-town garb.
Many people habitually get about in shorts and a t-shirt, and it serves well enough.
It’s also a snapshot of the state of the carcass after months of almost no high-intensity exercise, for example, running.
For one, the ankle injury still hasn’t fully healed. It’s on its way.
And for two, it’s ferking hot.
Despite that, I’m hoping to attempt an Old-Man waterfront jog sometime in the next coupla three weeks.

Day 2 Teaching

Much better today – better prepared, with a clearer idea of subject. Plus I got to pad out the lesson with a 15-20 minute introduction, using Google maps and images to talk about myself and NZ.
Five classes today, all of them the first time with that particular bunch of kids, so I did the intro in each. I met with Thai teacher Film before each to confirm lesson subject. Some of them were repeat lessons with the same grade, but a different stream, so just repeated and honed a previous lesson. Plus getting used to projecting the computer onto the whiteboard, and using apps within Google.
Relearned an old lesson – bribery works. They have a credit system whereby they earn academic points for good class performance. So I give them away for good answers, and suddenly there are a lot more hands up.
Another beginners trick is to avoid spending the entire lesson talking, instead include an activity or get them talking.
Most Thai kids seem to know a combination of these things about NZ – sheep, and kiwi ( birds ). No-one knew about the All Blacks ( Thailand it seems is a football nation ). One class knew a helluva lot including Maori being the first people,the dairy industry, seafood, etc,etc.
That class was older, year M4, about 15-16. The school is M1 to M6.
Film ( Thai teacher ) is always there in lessons, so he’s a good safety net if I start fumbling the ball.
The kids are really well disciplined and respectful, so easy to keep class control. I did have to raise my hands with a loud ‘thank you’ class to close off a paired group discussion session, but all good.
I also discovered that the school canteen is dirt cheap. Bought 6 hard-boiled eggs for 40 baht ( < $2 NZD ). I can't cook in the hotel rooms, so a wee stockpile never hurts.