My instinct is to say ‘I survived!’ but that implies that my first week of teaching was this dreadful ordeal or death-defying act, and it just wasn’t. And yet, it kind of was in my mind.
We were here for over 2 weeks before we actually started teaching, so I’d become really, really nervous about it.
Then I saw this video. It’s actually for dealing with panic attacks, and although I can’t say I know what a panic attack feels like, the rising sense of being out of control — in a bad way — which I experience any time I do anything other than reading* is a bit of a pain, so I found myself trying to apply the advice when I was being shuttled to my first teaching job with a slightly metallic taste in my mouth.
I live in perpetual fear of being found out. Now, hold the violins, I’m not asking for pity. Thirteen years ago, pity might have been nice, because I earnestly believed that I was the only idiot having to fake it. The simple, gradual realisation that everyone and their aunt feels the same way lifted a weight off my shoulders. The world isn’t divided into people who cope and people who don’t. It’s divided into people who seamlessly fake confidence and those who don’t.
So. I told myself I was excited — or rather, I reminded myself. Because the sad thing about the panicky feeling is that, for example, here I am at the beginning of a fantastic adventure, a totally new and exciting way of life for a few months, something I’ve wanted for so long. And yet I’m thinking — just 5 months. You can get through it. By Christmas it will nearly be over. By February it will be over….I DON’T WANT IT TO BE OVER!!! What kind of numpty would?! What I want, dear reader, is to know that I can make it through the next 4.5 months without a big, red arrow landing on me saying ‘You! You’re the fake! Get out!’
I have this in everything. The red arrow is there in my head all. the. time. It’s the reason I hate taking permanent jobs. It’s probably the reason I shirk relationships (uncertainty) but fantasise about weddings (validation). It’s the reason I clock watch at parties. And it really, really has to stop, because although I was perfectly happy being 22, the onward march of time has other ideas and I really need to start ENJOYING life, rather than SURVIVING it.
Yawn, Beccy, I hear you say. I wanted to hear about life in Hanoi, not your C- Philosophy essay.
All right, keep your hair on.
Luckily, we get TAs in all our classes (well, in theory!) So mostly the disciplining is left up to someone else. The TA also translates which can be a blessing and a curse. It’s helpful when you’ve got 40 rowdy six year olds who don’t all understand ‘Ok, sit down!/Look this way!’ But it also means that the rowdy six year olds just ask the TA to translate everything rather than beginning to understand English. Our job, mostly, is to get the kids using English, copying our pronunciation and playing games. It’s A LOT of fun. Even when the kids are jumping out of their seats and chattering and every five minutes the TA or I have to quiet them down, I still think they’re brilliant. Kids don’t know how to be ‘cool’ or artful. If they love something, they go nuts over it. They march up to us foreign teachers and say ‘hello!’. They high five their friends when they win stars. Each class has four teams and at the end of the class the team with the most stars gets a smiley face stamp on their hand or in their book. Some kids look at the smiley face on their hand and start giggling with excitement after I’ve given them a stamp and I just love them for it. There’s plenty in this world to be grumpy about if you want to look for it (and even if you don’t). Kids expend the same effort looking for things to be excited and curious about. It’s really not a bad idea. But I would say that — I’m basically a big kid. Smiley faces make me want to dance a little bit, too.
Before you want to punch me for sounding like a motivational poster, obviously it’s not all a montage from the credits of a Roald Dahl film adaptation. Kids hit each other. Sometimes they’re more interested in toys and sweets than what I have to say. My throat hurts from shouting. Worst of all they can be cruel to one another. Possibly verbally, although obviously I can’t tell for sure which is a problem in itself — but they also hit one another. The TAs hit the kids too. And I hate how SEN kids are kind of ignored here…but I’m seeing this all as an opportunity to learn to deal with new challenges, to become a kinder, wiser, more capable person. To adult, basically. Or try 😉 (remind me of that when the company I work for takes me to the wrong school in the morning and I’m on the verge of tears 😛 !)
Anyhoo. One of my lovely fellow interns and housemates volunteered herself for the collossal task of organising a group trip to the Perfume Pagoda, a couple of hours drive outside Hanoi (I’m pretty sure that this is the company we went with, if you’re interested, and they were nice, gave us free water and the guide spoke really good English) to be honest the fact that it was a couple of hours outside of Hanoi was probably many people’s motivation for going but it was a wonderful trip…watching the concrete get sparser and the views get greener in the bus, then the slow, relaxing (but rainy!) hour long paddle boat trip to the pagodas was an experience in itself, and the trip to the Perfume Pagoda and Perfume Cave (so called because of the flowers that grow in the valley in spring, apparently) was fascinating too. A welcome change of pace, and our guide told us a little bit about the mishmash of Taoism, Confucionism and Buddhism which many Vietnamese people practise.
Shout out to the ladies who paddle the boats between the bus stop and the temples. They’re so strong and if they were born in G8 nations they’d probably all be medal winning rowers.
*Just kidding! Sort of…but it feels like that sometimes.