It's been a very busy ten days since the rest of the Madison Quakers Inc. "team" arrived on March 9. I will try to recount some of our teaching and 'wrap-up' activities since then.
Weds. morning we got up early and each had our own make-shift breakfast in our rooms (the restaurant doesn't open until 7AM) then left by 6:45 as we needed to be at Vo Bam Middle School to meet with Teacher Chi before her 7:30 class. It's a pleasant 20 minute walk: across the bridge over the estuary, past the market and along a side street rather than the main highway road. We arrived about 7:15. By 7:30 - no Teacher Chi. Tinh called Teacher Kim Thach, who phoned Chi. Chi commutes by motorcycle some 15 km. from Quang Ngai city. Traffic on that road is hair-raising during rush hour. Chi had been delayed but fortunately, no accident.
When she arrived we started for her classroom. The students who had been playing in the schoolyard streamed up the stairway ahead of us. When we entered the room, they all stood and shouted in unison, "Good morning, Teachers."
"Good morning, Class". Then Chi began her lesson calling on Margaret and I to read the vocabulary, dialogue and questions following the dialogue in the book. Students then answered us in English. Mr. Loc, the Asst. Principal whose responsibilities include curriculum, had rearranged the classroom schedules to allow us an "extended session" of 90 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes. So, lesson finished, Teacher Chi invited the children to ask us questions.
"Do you like My Khe Beach?"
"Yes," I replied, "I like the beach but I do not like the trash people throw on the beach. So if you go to My Khe Beach, please collect your trash and put it in the trash bins."
"Do you like to swim?"
"No," said Margaret, "I like to walk."
"Could you sing a song?"
So we taught them 'Row,row,row your Boat', which they seemed to like.
"Do you dance?"
"No, I don't dance but Tinh dances very well." I replied.
Tinh asked them to sing a Vietnamese tune which they knew and she did a few graceful turns to their accompaniment.
We left that session feeling very good about the interactions with that class.
Tuesday (the day before) we had gone to Tinh Khe Primary School in the afternoon to help with four classes with Teacher Luu. She has been rather ill with something that looks suspiciously like influenza to me. That day she had us teach all four of her 35 minute classes while she sat in the back of the room to supervise. The three of us managed to cover in 35 minutes what Luu could do by herself! We left tired but happy to have been able to give her at least a slight rest and cover all the material.
So on Thursday, March 10, with Rick Burnson of U. of Wisconsin English Dept accompanying us, we set out for Primary School again. A call from Mr. Do had alerted us that due, to some complications in paperwork somewhere up the line, Rick would be allowed to observe only from outside the classroom. He could meet with teachers in the teachers lounge however. So we arrived there a few minutes early so he could meet Teacher Luu and chat a bit. Some other members of the MQI 'team' were also there to observe. As we went up to the classroom, Luu introduced our 'visiting professor' while he stood at the doorway then he and Mike Boehm settled outside to observe through the doorway.
Teacher Luu taught the first class with us assisting by reading the English dialogue. Then she retired to back of the room for the next three lessons. "Now I am the student, you are the teachers." she said. Early in the second of the three lessons, a television crew arrived. Rick was still sitting outside the doorway but the TV crew came right in and began filming us and the class as we worked. They were circumspect in their business but I reflected how ironic it was to have them working there while Rick had to sit outside to merely observe.
As we left to go to the last class of the day, two women journalists with the group approached us and asked for an interview.
"After class." I replied.
"Just five minutes?" she queried plaintively.
"After class." I said firmly and kept moving. We weren't going to deprive the children of five minutes out of a 35 minute class. Publicity is fine but has to come second to our primary task which is helping teach English. I saw Asst. Principal Toan sitting on a bench in the school yard where he could keep an eye on all of us.
When we finished that last class, the TV crew came inside, placed a chair in front of the class and asked the children to all remain in their seats! They interviewed me first - wanting to know what motivated us to come volunteer here.
I replied in Vietnamese, "Two reasons. First, I wanted to see the work of Madison Quakers Inc. as I had given money for their work. When I first came 3 years ago, I met Teacher Luu. Later I volunteered to return and help her teach English for 2-3 weeks the next year. Second reason: I worked in Quang Ngai Province Hospital 40-some years ago treating civilians injured in the war. I know the suffering of the Quang Ngai people and they have a special place in my heart. I am so happy to see these students able to study in peace. They can become doctors, nurses, teachers - anything they want."
I turned to the students, "I know you want to go home. I'm sorry you can't go yet. Thank you."
They then interviewed Margaret in English and then a couple of the students who had been very quiet and patient through this all. Finally, they could leave - about 25 minutes late.
My goodness! This interview along with shots of us teaching has been shown repeatedly on local Quang Ngai TV station over the ensuing days. Everywhere we go in town, people say, "I saw you on TV!" It has had an incredible and very positive impact on our work here - opening a lot of doors. We hope to get a CD of it from the TV station to bring back to the U.S. Then maybe as we give talks, we can bring you right in to the classroom with us!