Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My job, my passion.

Camp- Day 1

The air is cool with a thick layer of humidity. And when I say cool, I mean around eighty...but it's still better than Miami by this hour of the day. We leave our campsite at 7:00 am and head to the Hoa An (Huh-way Ahn) Center about five minutes down the road. The road is a single lane, with mostly mo-peds going to and fro. The occasional truck will blast its horn, each driver has perfected their own tune. Our driver goes with a louder start and a consecutive beep that lowers in volume over time. The blast usually lasts about eight sounds. Definitely a nice change from the blaring horn of the Hummers in Miami.

We pass by a marketplace before turning down a gravel road. People are standing outside preparing for the day. Some are throwing fresh fish into a bucket of shallow water. A woman sits beside a bucket, takes a fish out and lays it on the ground. Then she takes a wooden paddle and smacks its head, killing it instantly. To her left, a girl is selling chom-choms. Across the street, a fruit salesman is lining up his watermelon and mango while a woman slices it into halves and quarters. On the other corner, women are selling fish nets alongside hats and trinkets. We beg the Directors to let us walk to school one day
so we can stop by this place, but a quick 'No' tells us it won't happen. Anna, our American Director, quietly tells us that last year a visitor was robbed on these roads and now the policemen doesn't want us in this area. So that means we may not be able to visit our students homes towards the end of camp.

Arriving at camp, we cross a bridge and enter the gate. The building matches the gate, a pale yellow, the color of my favorite daffodils. Scraps of trash blow across the blacktop and on one side of the buildings I see a pack of bicycles parked under a covering. In the center of the school, a group of older kids are playing a pick-up game of soccer while a few others play basketball. A young boy in a red tshirt runs up to our pack and jumps on Anna to say hello. Clearly one of her own from last year...I can't wait to have that happen, I think to myself. Wait, did I just say that? It's day one and I'm already thinking
of a next year? A few boys I met at our campsite came up and said hello.

One boy, named Lihn, we call him the naughty one, or the trouble-maker, and an older boy named Phar (not sure on the spelling, I just make a sound to get his attention!), and then one of my own from Sunday's orientation, come up to say hello to me. Law-Wren. Hell-oh Law-Wren, is what I hear. So I say hi back and ask how they are and what's up. Their response is always, 'Fine thanks,' or, 'Not much,' guaranteed. The Directors hand us our team boxes, a plain white sliding door drawer with some tape, paper, chalk and string inside.

I head up the winding stairs, first twelve steps, turn left, then eleven more, and wander down the outdoor hallway until I find the door that has an orange piece of paper hanging on the window. Turning inside, I see my AM kids, bright-eyed and smiling. 'Gud Mare-ning!!' they shout, and I can't help but giggle and say, "Good morning!" back. Ricky-Bobby, Jenny, and Amy all join me. Can you guess which one is the American coach?

Here's a hint...none of them are American. Ricky-Bobby and Jenny are Vietnamese. Ricky-Bobby is really just Ricky, but I already nick-named him. Jenny's Vietnamese name is Huong, but she's so adorable that either one works. She is studying to be an English teacher and Ricky is studying biomechanical engineering. Both attend Can Tho University. Amy is from England, and plays tennis at FSU while studying sports management and psychology. The four of us make up the Orange Team Coaches.

After attendance has been taken and orange shirts are given out, we come up with a team name and cheer. The kids decide on the Orange Tigers and our cheer is, "ORANGE! TIGERS! RRRRRR." And we make claws and grit our teeth while growling. And then we taught them to come together in a circle, put their hand in, and yell "GRRRRR!" on three. The first life skills lesson involved discussing what a team is, and what all the important parts of a team are. The kids really listened to what we were saying, and even when they didn't have a response when we asked a question, they gave an effort in the discussion.

I immediately noticed a little boy in the front who paid attention to every detail, even when it didn't make sense as easily to him as it did to the other students. Newly registered for the camp, Dat joined our team a little late. A very small boy of eleven years old, his smile lights up the room and his eyes sparkles every time he speaks. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I can tell there's a spark about him. He's energetic and attentive, and really tries hard to learn what the Americans are saying, instead of just relying on the translations from Jenny and Ricky-Bobby.

After lifeskills, I headed to Yellow Team for English & Sports. I teach English with Jenny, Truong, and Sophia. Truong is attending Can Tho University as well. Sophia goes to Duke and is a 400 meter hurdler from Asheville, NC. She is studying cultural anthropology. Together, we all have an amazing chemistry. The lesson started off with greetings and introductions.
Sophia explained how to say, 'Hello. My name is _____.'and 'I am __________.' Then she taught, 'What is your name?' The translations were perfect and the children knew exactly when to repeat what we said. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and goodbye were also taught. We went over pronunciation, and that's where the fun began.

"Good morning."
"Guud more-neeng."

::clap clap clap clap:: "Good job!!"

And that was the pattern of pronunciation. Harsh 'or' and 't' is a very hard sound for them to make. The 'th' sound is also pretty impossible. I think most of their sounds don't involve the tongue, so having to press their tongue against their teeth is very difficult. So, being the badass woman I am, I taught them to stick their tongue out when they were learning how to say, "I am thirsty". Saying 'turr-tee' at first, I managed a few giggles and even fewer actual stuck out tongues. But there was that golden moment when one of the kids actually stuck their tongue out and made the 'th-sound', and an even more golden moment when an 's' snake sound was made for the 'sty' part of the word. But we had a few good laughs on the way.

My role came mostly with numbers. I had the kids count to ten, if they were able. And then I went over pronunciation. One and two, elementary. Three, we played with our tongues some more. Four, I showed them how to make an O with their mouths. Five, I emphasized the ending more than the beginning, and really slowed down the word so they could see how the mouth works. Kids really are incredible beings. They interpret a lot more than adults even consider, so I made sure that the visual cues were more than enough for them to follow. Six, piece of cake. Seven, a slight struggle. Seh-ven. Over and over again. Eight, hard 't' gave them a run for their money. Nine, money. Ten, golden.

Then, I asked if anyone could count from eleven to twenty. Fewer said yes, and those that did, struggled past twelve. So that's where the fun really began. All of the numbers were written out on the board, with the English words next to them.

11- eleven [ee-leh-ven]
12- twelve [tuh-wel-ve]
13- thirteen [thir-teen]
14- fourteen [for-teen]
15- fifteen [fi-ff-teen]
16- sixteen [six-teen]
17- seventeen [seh-ven-teen]
18- eighteen [ay-teen]
19- nineteen [nihne-teen]
20- twenty [tuh-wen-tee]

Eleven starts off as uhlebben, and then became mostly eleven. Thirteen was fun, mostly because they kept looking to the Vietnamese Coaches to see if it really was okay to stick their tongues out, or if the American girl was just oober-American and'ding-ding com-com' (double crazy). It wasn't until twenty that I had to really over-enunciate my lips. I showed them my teeth with my tongue right up against it, and then for the "wen", I literally grabbed my lips and showed them how to widen them. They played along a lot, but didn't pick it up much. Too Western for the day, I supposed. They smiled a lot though,
so I'm calling it a success.

My first volleyball lesson was with the Red Dragon Team. I teach Volleyball with Morgan, a swimmer from Virginia Tech, who studied Elementary Education. I also teach with Blue, a volleyball player from Can Tho University, and Dui, another boy from Can Tho. We lined the kids up for a quick warmup of arm swings, straight-legged stretches, and jumping jacks. Then we explained the first volleyball hit, the bump. We had them make a fist, wrap their other hand around the fist, and line up their thumbs. Bending their knees, they moved their arms upward, and bumped for the first time. Then we handed them a ball and walked over
to the building walls. We had them toss the ball up, bump it to the wall, and catch it. Rinse and repeat. After a few minutes, and a little bit of translated instruction, we went back over to the court to try some partner bumps. (No, that's not what she said...) They tossed the ball to one another, bumped it back, and then switched roles. Once they mastered that part, they began to bump back and forth to each other.

Van, another boy with an award winning smile at the ripe age of twelve, is a stud at volleyball. he picked up bumps right away and even moved on to sets and digs within the first ten minutes. He's got swag too, which is suprisingly hard to find in Vietnam. The first lesson went by pretty slowly because so many of the students did not want to bump the ball after about ten minutes. The red marks on their arms were insane, but Blue, being the collegiate volleyball player she is, told them all to suck it up and get used to it. Very nice...

The rotation continued one more time I taught another English lesson and another volleyball lesson and then at the end of morning camp we had "Coach/Team Relationship" time...which is supposed to be used for getting to know the kids in
your group even better. We asked them each to write down a goal for school and sports...and they are to look at the goal every week to make sure they are keeping on track with their progress.

We got back on the bus and headed back to camp for lunch; rice, vegetables, pork soup with winter melon, a whole fried fish, and fried bananas. I of course, had a 7-Up, and a ton of rice...smothered in plumb chile sauce. And I ate a lot of vegetables. But unfortunately I did not have any fish. And still haven't. Nap time soon followed and we were up by 1:15 to head to afternoon camp from 1:30-5:30. Orange team, English, Volleyball, English, Volleyball, Coach/Team Relationship. With a brand new bunch of smilling kids ready to learn and play.

**Afternote: Not going to lie, the first day was probably the longest day of my life, and the thought of having to teach the same lesson four times was only made worse when I realized that we had to teach the same lesson eight times because we only see
two team colors per day...But now we just finished day three and I already feel like the hours are flying by. The children are adorable and are starting to learn my name better and better. I've even picked up a few more phrases!! I will now be able to call you all crazy when I get home, and then if you try to call me crazy back, I can tell you that you have no sense. So boo-yah, I'm basically Vietnamese now.

I also learned a Vietnamese game's called 'Kickin' Chicken'. You stand inside of a square with someone else. You hold one leg behind your back and the same arm up to your ear and then hop at each other until one person falls out of the square...and then they lose. So kind of like tsumo wrestling, but not in Japan?

Until next time...peace, love, and little smiling kids. (And yes, I will probably throw away all my clothing so I can fit one, slash two, Vietnamese children home with me)

PS: Tomorrow we're apparently going to be dropped off at the corner marketplace and if we are stopped by anyone, we are to say that our "bus broke down and had to be pushed away so we're waiting for another one..." So please expect a blog entry about the Vietnamese marketplace full of our wild camp children chopping fish in half. =)