Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hot Lemonade for Breakfast

Margaret and I have been enjoying Quang Ngai cuisine for over a week now. But I still yearn for some familiar foods as well. I usually have orange juice as part of my breakfast. The closest I can come here is 'nuoc chanh' - lemonade. That is, unless I want to buy oranges in the local market and have fresh squeezed orange juice. Haven't felt the need to do that yet. The last two days we were buffeted by strong winds from the north. If it had been hurricane season, I would have been seriously worried. So for the past two mornings, I ordered my nuoc chanh hot.
We can get shrimp [the tiny ones and also large ones] freshly harvested from the sea in front of our restaurant the night before. Also squid. Now when I lived in Quang Ngai 40 years ago we had squid but it wasn't nearly as tender and tasty as what we get here at seaside now. Another favorite dish is 'sour fish soup'. The fish used is a small relative of tuna and very tasty. We sometimes eat rice and sometimes rice noodles or wheat noodles with vegetables and seafood. Of course, I have brought my own decaf coffee because no one here has heard of such a ridiculous thing...why drink coffee if you don't want caffeine?
We can buy shelf-stable milk in single serving boxes and single serving cups of yogurt which also fill another niche of 'back home' food. But the fruit! Mangoes that melt in your mouth. Several kinds of bananas; I especially like the little tiny fat ones. They are so sweet. Custard apples that also melt in your mouth and right now is watermelon harvest time so there are lots of them in the market and for sale along the roadside.
On an entirely different note: this morning we had an In-Service session with the six English teachers we have been working with this past week. We spent half a day yesterday working on our presentation then doing a 'trial run' to make sure it would fit in the time we had available. No students in school on Thursday mornings so we could use an empty classroom. When we arrived, Mrs. Kim Thach had decorated the board with a beautiful drawing of a flower and a quote from Ho Chi Minh that I had not heard before: "Unite, unite, great unity, success,success, great success!" Margaret and I went through the three units we had designed: Word Endings, Word Beginnings, and Middle of Words Problems. We used words we had heard teachers, students, and others we encountered stumble over. We drilled pronunciation and then asked individual teachers to use the problem word in a sentence. In between each section, we introduced them to "Tongue Twisters"; e.g. 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?' We explained that American children also sometimes had problems with pronunciation and this was a fun game for them to use to practice pronunciation. As we had hoped the teachers were tickled by these. We were also pleased that the Vice Principal for Curriculum sat in on part of this session and seemed pleased with what he saw and heard.
At the end we opened it up for questions on any topic related to English that they wished to ask. There were lots of good question. One was: A sentence in a textbook says, "They were in P.E. class." That led into a discussion of how to handle abbreviations. Then they stumped us with e.g.! I said that this stood for an abbreviation of two Latin words and most people nowdays don't know those two words (including me, although I had studied Latin in school) so we just say, "Eee Gee" Another: "Washington, D.C. -is it correct that this stands for District of Columbia and what does that mean?" Their middle school texts cover a myriad of pertinent subjects ranging from good health practices to information about other countries to need to protect the environment. We closed the session by singing three songs: two in Vietnamese and one in Vietnamese then English. Now we are midway in our teaching visit here and look forward to the second half.

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