Holly Jolly Christmas in Vietnam
My month of December at the Halong university was very colourful and active, I experienced so many different things. First, we finished teaching regular classes, as the students had to start preparing for their exams. The university gave us some tutorials/seminars with the students who were actually interested in improving their English and were motivated to actively participate in class. That was very refreshing compared to my experience during regular classes, which sometimes can get very challenging due to the language barrier and lack of interest from students’ side. Our seminars were very productive, and I greatly enjoyed them: we had group discussions in a small circle and this is the best way for us to interact with students.
After teaching in the new format, we had a short holiday to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam! We agreed to meet other volunteers who live in the North and try have “real” Christmas just like at home. It was very nice, we had a really sweet blend of our and Vietnamese cultures: we cooked traditional foods from our countries, dressed up in traditional Vietnamese costumes (Ao Dai), did the Secret Santa thing, met with some students and, all in all, had a real blast.
After the Christmas party, we were invited to attend an English Christmas camp where we had to work with local kids and help them learn about Western Christmas traditions. The camp was quite fun, although, as I am nor used to neither trained to work with children, I found it quite challenging and a little tiring. However, I also met a lot of great kids there and had a chance to compare working with secondary school and university school students, and, to my surprise working with pupils sometimes was even easier, as younger students are more eager and curious.
We had lots of activities at the camp, such as treasure hunt, dancing and singing performances, games, competitions and so on. It all evolved around the Christmas theme, so thanks to the atmosphere and singing of Christmas carols my mood got even more festive.
Right after the camp we transferred to Hanoi to celebrate the New Year’s Eve (another extremely important celebration in Europe that we couldn’t miss), that night we got to see the public party in the main square of Hanoi and even gave an interview to the national news. That was a very memorable and fun night!
These were the true highlights of December, in addition to that, we kept exploring our province – Quang Ninh – we hiked to a very famous pilgrimage destination – Yen Tu pagoda, which is located on the top of the mountain, at the height of 1,068m. It was a wonderful and very exhausting day trip, we had to climb hundreds of stairs to get to the top, but the view was absolutely worth it.
We also revisited Halong city, which is famous for the Halong Bay - one of the top tourist destinations in Vietnam. It is located 40 km from our village. We had a short hike to the Poem Mountain, one of the major tourist attractions in the city because you get to see the view of the famous Bay. There are still so many things left to explore in our province.
Another important thing – we had my colleague Alicia’s birthday, which we celebrated with our students and it was great fun!
In December, I started feeling in Vietnam even more like at home and also started realizing that the project is coming to its end. Although, I’m still here, I already feel sentimental and nostalgic which makes me start appreciating the kindness of the locals, the beautiful landscapes that surround our Vietnamese home and the incredibly tasty food even more. Let’s see what my last two months in this astonishing country are about to bring. 😉