Margaret, Tinh and I came to Tinh Khe last Thursday by taxi. We checked into the same hotel where Pat and I stayed last year. I'm even in the same room. Some of the staff from last year are still here and greeted us happily. Walking around the beachfront and in town we do not see much damage from Typhoon Ketsana which hit late last year. Lots of trees were downed or lost their tops, especially near the beach. We see occasional damage to houses. However, one of the receptionists at our hotel assured us that no lives were lost -for which we are all thankful! The young man, Tho, who worked at the hotel last year has now moved his family to Danang where he has opened a computer shop. His wife was pregnant last spring and now they have a healthy baby boy. He must be jubilant.
Mrs. Luu, the English teacher we worked with last year in the primary school is on maternity leave, having just given birth to her second child, a girl. They have a boy already. So I think they must be happy too.
After checking in to the hotel we awaited our 'transport' to the middle school. Right on time at 2 PM, three teachers from the school arrived to take us on their motorbikes. We strapped on our new motorcycle helmets, climbed on, and I, at least, sent up a quick prayer that we'd be safe from whizzing trucks and busses. We had a meeting with the principal, Mr. Tanh, two representatives from the District Board of Education, a vice principal, and several English teachers.
Tinh Khe Middle School was split off from the high school in 2000 and currently has an enrollment of 1075 students in 6th thru 9th grade. Half of these students come in the morning and half in the afternoon. This is a common pattern throughout much of Vietnam as most places do not have the resources to permit students to attend school for a full day. The school has a staff of 62, 54 of whom are teachers. Subjects taught are: math, physics, literature, history, chemistry, biology, English, and physical education. There are 6 English teachers. We have met all of them and have participated in a class or two with three of them. All the students are very excited to have foreign teachers in their school. We have already met a couple of students whom we taught last year in Tinh Khe Primary School.
We finished our first day by strolling home from school, past the market, the nursery school, and one of the town's small sawmills. After we crossed the bridge over the estuary where many fishing boats are anchored, we saw two women roasting ears of corn over a small charcoal stove. It smelled good and whetted our appetites. The restaurant attached to our hotel, East Sea Restaurant, which was closed last year is open so we gave it a try. As dusk fell, we seated ourselved at a table in the open air pavillion. The breeze from the ocean was picking up. The waitress took our order and disappeared into the restaurant building. When she brought our food, she was accompanied by a frisky male cat who proceeded to rub against our legs hopefully; reminding us with clear 'meows' that dropped morsels would be promptly dealt with. When we proved impervious to such clear hints, he wandered off to the only other occupied table to try his luck there. Our meal finished, we crossed the street back to our hotel, hot showers, and welcome beds.