Sunday, October 17, 2010

CELTA mode

Sorry I've been MIA for a while. I moved to Saigon last Thursday and started the CELTA course on Monday. I've probably mentioned it before but I'll just say this again. CELTA is an initial quailfication for experienced/non-experienced teachers of the English language. It can last from four weeks to over a year. I'm doing mine at ILA Vietnam (51 Nguyen Cu Trinh St., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City) and it's supposed to last for four weeks.

Week 1 was a whirlwind of activities. I met 10 participants and some ILA people in a welcome dinner at BBQ Garden last Saturday night. 845am Monday morning we were in school to meet the rest and start the course. Day 1 was the easiest day of course.  Orientation, a sample of a foreign language lesson and we met our tutors for lesson planning. There are 18 of us all together and we're divided into 3 groups. We do input sessions together but lesson planning and teaching practices, we're with our tutors and 5 other groupmates. The whole group is great, not just the "A-Team" which I'm on, but all 18 of us. Benita, one of our tutors, mentioned that we're a strong group. It might partly be because some of us are experienced teachers, but I think it's because everyone is so into doing the course and everybody's helping out everybody. There's no competition to speak of, which is great, because it's not high school. We all have the same goal and we're being assessed individually anyway.

The youngest person in class is Ginny, a fresh graduate from Pennsylvania. The eldest might be Viviene, a Filipina who's worked in China and Saudi Arabia as a teacher. All 3 trainers are British, the trainees are 3 Filipinos (including me), 1 Canadian, 1 Polish, 2 Australians, 5 Brits and 6 Americans. Everybody's so different, it's interesting to see what everyone does. Teaching styles and approaches vary and we see something different everyday, even from tutors, so I get different ideas all the time. Whenever friends and family ask me how it's going, I say that information overload's difficult and can be overwhelming. At the same, though, it keeps me on my toes and wakes up my neurons which I feel has been dying in my 2 years in VN.

This week I only taught twice but next week I'll be doing 3 teaching practices. That means 2 lesson plans that I need to pass and show my trainer--written lesson plans are required from TP4 to 9. First assignment is due in the middle of the week so I want to finish that by Monday night. Starting Tuesday, I'll be in the Pre-Intermediate class along with my groupmates. We started out teaching Elementary level but we're switching to Pre-Intermediate class after my TP3 then Intermediate class the following week.

It's not all work and no play by the way. I've been doing yoga and I've been out with some of my CELTA mates. After teacher observations Thursday night, I was out drinking and playing drunken darts till 3am with some other people. It was funny the next day because they were so worried that I might miss school. One of the guys was so woozy, he went home for a nap at lunchtime. Friday night we went out for a bit then last night we had yogurt at Penguin's then Karaoke at Pham Ngu Lao. It's supposed to be an advance celebration for Ginny's birthday on the 19th. Oh yeah, last night was the first time I drank Korean soju. Candice and Jamie, who worked in Korea, said that they needed some shots before we could head to the karaoke place. We walked past a Korean restaurant and they figured soju would do the trick. They even had a drinking game--Submarine, shot glass floating in a mug if beer, you use your other hand (left for righties and vice versa) to pour some soju in. If the shot glass sinks, you have to drink it all up. I had to drink 2 mugs in a row. Aargh! We had just come from the yogurt place where I had 2 or 3 glasses of tra da (local iced tea) plus I don't really like the taste of beer. It took me a while to finish the 2nd mug but after a bathroom break, I got back into the game. Todd drank the last shot of soju because he lost in a Rock-Paper-Scissors game to Jamie. After that, we went to 357 Karaoke and stayed for 2 hours. Anyway, drinks or no drinks, I was trying to get away with not singing much but Ginny and Richard kept at it till I held the microphone again. We ended the night with Bohemian Rhapsody.

OK, that's it for this week. I have to go to the bookstore, buy some pens and head over to ILA for lesson planning and possibly starting my assignment. =)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hunting for Accommodation in Saigon

I'm moving to Saigon next week to get ready for my CELTA course on October 11. Last Sunday I stayed overnight in Saigon so I'd have time to for apartment/room hunting. I was busy meeting friends for lunch and dinner on Sunday so I started Monday morning with a light breakfast then I was off.

I found a couple of agents with websites and narrowed it down to 3 who had a lot of listings for serviced rooms in District 1. The first one, Jon directed me to a place in Nguyen Canh Chan St. He wasn't around to meet me personally so he just called the maid who let me in and showed me around. The house was in a quiet alley and seemed like a nice place but it costs $300-330 without electricity and I don't think I'd like to walk to school from there. The other two agents I spoke to, said they'd get back to me after I said that I'd prefer a room within walking distance, gave my budget as $250 a month but said I'd consider something a little higher if utilities were included. 

After Nguyen Canh Chan St., I went to ILA at 51 Nguyen Cu Trinh St. so I could start looking around for guesthouses nearby. The hotels/guesthouses I found within 500m-1km from the school ranged from $340-500 a month. All had wifi, fridge, ac and cable TV. Some of them let me look at the rooms and some turned me away. Others that were a little bit further in the backpacker district cost $180-320 a month. If I were just staying for a day or two I wouldn't mind a room without a fridge but a month without one ---- where would I put food, hmmm.... There was one rude lady who said she had a room available but when she found out I wouldn't be moving in till next week, she pushed me away and said that all her rooms were occupied. I was a bit miffed but after more than 2 years in Vietnam, I've faced worse than that, so rather than let it ruin my day, I just shook my head, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

I had a quiet lunch on De Tham St. then met agent number two, Tony Ngo. He's short, about my age and seemed like a nice, mellow guy. He showed me two places around District 1, the first one was at 69/22 De Tham St., $300 all utilities included. I was showed an occupied room, it was big and airy, everything was well kept and the bathroom was nice and clean. Second one was on a side alley connected to Tran Hung Dao St. It has an elevator, available rooms range from $260-320, electricity not included. If I had a roomate, I probably would've chosen the first one. 

The last agent I met was from VNRental, Tin sent over a guy named Alex to take me around. Can't remember the name of the street for the first house, but it was quite far and the house had a weird smell. The place was clean, I guess, but the walls were a bit dingy and the place was cluttered. It seemed like families lived there, not sure how big the house was because it had a lot of rooms. The room I was showed had a small window, own bathroom, wifi, TV, fridge and even a small kitchen with an exhaust fan. It costs $200 a month, electricity not included. It was a good deal, I guess but it was far from the school and I'd have to pass under a flyover to get to it. The second place he found for me was the same place on Tran Hung Dao st. that Tony showed me, however, he said it would only cost me $250 a month. I apologized to Tony and decided on the Tran Hung Dao room.

Wednesday morning I went back to Saigon to meet the landlord and sign a contract. He speaks a little English and mentioned that a Filipino used to live there, too. He said that since I was a teacher, he won't ask for a deposit anymore. I paid the $250 up front and he said that that was it.

If you want to see pictures, click on this. I can't tell which one is mine because they look the same because of the sheets but I have a small room because I got the cheapest one. Anyway, the pictures are pretty accurate, the house is newish and very well kept.