When staying up til 1am at Duke University, it's hard to imagine how our parents arise sometimes before the sun has even risen. Yet here in Ben Tre, life is different. This past week, I added 5:45am runs to my schedule. Bedtime is usually before 10pm and there's a certain repetitiveness in day to day activity that college life seems to avoid. Is this real life then?
This past week we have seen progress at both house sites and in our teaching abilities. The house that I am working at - the one owned by the blind lady and also inhabited by her blind son, his wife, and his daughter - is almost done with the process of laying bricks. This process requires patience and is both harder and easier than you'd imagine (I'm not sure how to explain this...just try it sometime). The language barrier of course makes it harder: the contractors insist to our Vietnamese roommates that we should be standing on the other side of the wall even though we've been doing it the same way since day one and our line of bricks in the straightest somehow resulting in our bricks being deemed the least straight and professional looking. Frustration ensues. The other house is not quite as far along - the foundation is coming along nicely though no bricks have been laid and a small money issue seems to have popped up that threatens the size of the house. Yet the atmosphere at the worksites is upbeat and friendly. The owners of the houses serve us jackfruit or coconut juice or tea or durian flavored crackers, and the children love to help us by loading our bikes with bricks or holding the bag for us while we shovel sand into it.
In the classroom, we are beginning to find a steady stride to our teaching. In dance, we have shown the kids salsa, hip hop, jazz, israeli dance (turkish kiss!), and kbop (a popular korean style of dancing). Some classes work well and other seem slightly over the kids heads, but every day we have had lots of kids seemingly eager to learn. The art class has made masks and oragami and amazing pictures of their houses that have 3D elements I never could have mastered in elementary school. PE is completing their soccer unit and finding that the girls here are more than willing to play despite some misgivings on the part of our roommates. English had a review day on Friday that went quite well - the high schoolers have even been taught "what's up," "yo," and a few well chosen pick-up lines. In science class, animals were the focus on Friday, which is quite a cool topic considering I know almost no animal names in the foreign languages I took.
Yet it might be the 5:45am runs I enjoy the most. When I start, there's a mist all over that is the promise of the day's humidity, and the small dirt road I run on still has puddles from the daily thunderstorm of the night prior. The people watch me, a white girl in running clothes, and laugh and sometimes yell hello (which I must admit still irritates me). Sometimes dogs threaten to jump up and bite me but they always seem to lose interest at the last moment. Half an hour later, I return to the guest house sweaty but satisfied and ready to face the day.