11 September 2005
To date, I haven’t written much about the other American teachers who live in the same house as I do, and with whom I teach. Mainly it’s because I have this desire to remain anonymous, and fear that I might be found out. But with over a million blogs out there, and probably a couple thousand in Vietnam alone, the chances of THEM finding mine are relatively low. And at this point, I no longer really care.
Part of my contract includes lunch and dinner, cooked by a lovely woman who also cleans and shops and does the laundry, seven days a week. She puts the food out for the teachers and reserves some, but not a lot, for the four or five Vietnamese people who also live here, and always eat after us. In other words, the leftover teachers’ food feeds quite a few more mouths.
These other teachers arrived two weeks after I did, so I had been used to quiet meals with the people of the house. Now, I just try to avoid meals with the teachers and am sometimes lucky enough to eat with the other folks.
Tonight was a typical night. At around 7pm, I went down to eat assuming that the others had finished. I walked into the dining room/kitchen to see a table littered with empty plates and one of the teachers with his dirty feet resting on the only available chair. “You’re late”, said one, “we finished all the food”. They all laughed.
My cook friend, having gotten used to this scenario, had a stash of food which she keeps aside for the others. She came in and brought me the various dishes. I don’t usually eat beef, so left it in the dish and ate fish. As I was eating, the one who’d had his feet on my chair, got up to get a clean pair of chopsticks. He grabbed the full bowl of beef and proceeded to eat straight from the serving dish. I left the table as he was eating the last piece. That had been dinner for four other people tonight.
It’s not as if we had not eaten today. We had all been invited to a wedding, where five separate courses had been served. The wedding was that of a Vietnamese co-worker/teacher. It was a large affair, and must have been quite costly. Teachers here make very little money, and I wondered how many years he had had to save up for his wedding and this occasion.
It is customary to give money as a wedding gift. I asked around and was told that between 100,000 and 200,000VND was the going rate. That’s around US$6 - $12: a lot for the average Vietnamese, but nothing for Americans even we English teachers who are at the bottom rung of the foreign, professional workers market. One of the teachers, in the car to the wedding, needed change saying that “50,000VND is all I can afford”. That’s around US$3.
When we got home from the wedding at around 2pm, I went immediately to work on my lesson plans for the week. I assumed the others, who were watching DVD’s, had yet to even look at the upcoming weeks lessons, as they simply don’t see the necessity to do so. This is what happens when you hire “teachers” who have had a five week training course. Lesson plans? Professionalism? Caring about anything other than being a tourist with a salary? Never.
Knowing that they are inexperienced and under qualified, I have offered my help on countless occasions, with no takers. As some of the others teach the same high school grades as I do, I thought it would be a good idea to share my plans with them. Last week I spent hours writing out lesson plans geared for a new teacher, did it on word and printed it out. The result? They looked at them and walked out of the room.
Down at the dinner table tonight, it was what I had expected. They were discussing what they should teach tomorrow and where were they going to get photo-copies at 9pm, Sunday evening.
If these insensitive, garish Americans, were simply your run-of-the-mill, quick-course English teachers, I might not be so upset by their behavior. True, I would still loathe being around them, but whoever hired them would know what they were getting and know what to expect. But these individuals are here on a “mission” sent by some evangelical group to enlighten the masses, or some such crap. They are getting fairly well paid, yet refer to themselves as “volunteers”. They only teach part time, nevertheless complain that an extra “hour” is not in their contract. They spend their money on restaurants, Karaoke bars, water parks, and DVD’s, yet cannot afford an inexpensive wedding gift for a fellow teacher who has nothing.
Where is their generosity of spirit? Where is their compassion for their fellow man? Where is their concern for humanity and the world in which they are now living? I have yet to see one instance in which they thought of someone else before themselves.
I will stop the ranting and raving now. I DO NOT want to get emails from people who are “worried” about me. I am having a wonderful time here. I go out, do my thing, teach my classes, and hang with the local people. I live in a huge house, have my own large room, and when I shut the door am completely cut off from the hypocritical weirdoes.
In the big picture, those who are a positive force in this world know who they are. Some of us don’t have a religion, and some of us do. Some of us hold conventional beliefs and some of us don’t. What matters is that we care. What counts is that we contribute to the betterment of this world, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. If we are to be “judged”, then let us be our own adjudicator. Let our actions be the measure by which we are held accountable.
I, for one, will sleep well tonight.