Final Update….really late!

Hi Everyone,

I sent this letter out to a bunch of people but I realize that I might not have gotten everyone’s email on that list, so those of you who might be wondering about how my trip ended, here is a final update/summary letter. Thanks for your support! :)

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Dear friends, family, and supporters,

As you probably know by now, I have returned safely back from Vietnam a few days ago on Thursday August 4. It is so nice to be back home surrounded by friends and family. As the plane was landing at Pearson Airport, I looked at the aerial view of Toronto and felt so thankful that I call this place home J.

Through your support, God has blessed me with an incredible five weeks in Vietnam where I have learned so much as I’ve lived and worked there, getting to know the people and the country. There were definitely challenges to be faced, from culture shock and team dynamics to homesickness; but overall, I have been so blessed by the experience, and I pray that as short as my time there was, that I was a blessing to the people I encountered.

Throughout our one week of training in California, the focus and theme Teach Overseas upheld for us teachers was the verse from Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” This trip was unique in that it was not a missions trip of outward evangelizing (which would not be possible in many of the host countries). Rather, the vision of this trip was for our team to go in as educators, to fulfill a need of the city we would live in, and at the same time live out the gospel as we lived and worked amongst the people.

For example, one man I met in Da Nang city who is developing an English centre in Vietnam describes himself not as a missionary, but a “model of integrity.” For him, his way of sharing the gospel is through everyday life—the way he interacts with his colleagues, his students, the policies he implements in his school, his way of thinking, the comments and words he chooses to say to the people around him—essentially, in every way he lives his life, in the minor details or the big decisions, he hopes to do so in a way that is faithful to the gospel he believes in.

I went into Vietnam wanting to be available to God and what he was doing in the little corner of Da Nang city I would be working in. I went in with realistic notions that five weeks was a short period of time, and that I shouldn’t have high expectations about being able to share the gospel. Even so, I couldn’t help feeling discouraged when Jessica (my roommate) and I found it hard to get to know people outside of the school enough to develop a relationship of trust. Most days were a daily grind of teaching and lesson planning. What we learned from this, however, was that this was real life. Ministry is not always smooth rolling and excitement—but there are the mundane moments of everyday life and work as well. Jesus himself healed many and brought many to believe, but he also lived amongst the people, with the tax collectors and prostitutes, and dealt with everyday life as well.

I had always known this in my head, but this trip allowed me to actually taste and understand what long-term ministry entails. Not only that, as Jessica and I strove to be present in each moment of our time there, being intentional in living out the gospel through all of our actions and words, I was challenged about the way I live back at home. Why only live like this in Vietnam? Why not everywhere I go, even in the familiarity of home? Sometimes I think home is the hardest to live out the gospel, because you are so engrained in old habits and ways of living.

After this initial bout of discouragement, I was encouraged by the message at the local international fellowship church to just pray. Prayer is one of the fundamental ministries of the church but it is also one of the most neglected. I felt challenged by this and decided that if there’s anything I can do here in Vietnam, it’s to pray for the people around me. So I made it my goal to pray as much as I could for my students, fellow teachers/workers at my school, and whoever else I came in contact with. I would even pray during class when my students were doing individual work.

The last couple of weeks in Vietnam were probably the best but also the saddest because it was when I was leaving soon that I really started to get to know my students and fellow teachers. For example, I had the opportunity to spend some time outside of school with a Vietnamese teacher named Ngyuet, who is always eager to learn more English from foreign teachers. I found out that she is a devout Buddhist and we had some opportunities to talk about Buddhism and for me to share a bit about my faith. She wasn’t very receptive but she wasn’t hardened to it either. My heart went out to her as she opened up to me about disappointments in her life, and I knew that only Jesus could heal those disappointments. We exchanged emails, so hopefully I will be able to continue the conversation with her. Also, Jessica and I were also able to get to know Jessica’s seventeen-year-old student Quyn, who is a Christian. We were able to talk with her about her experience as a Christian in Da Nang city and to encourage her and also to be encouraged by her heart for the people in her city.

I think one way in which I was really blessed through this trip was just how God deepened my understanding of the salvation He gives us. Being amongst people who do not know Him and living in a place that is spiritually dark, as well as seeing my own weaknesses, pushed me to really seek God and to hold on to what I knew about the gospel. In that way, the gospel became that much more illuminated and precious to me.

Thank you so much for all your financial support that made this trip possible, and for your prayers that went with me to Vietnam and gave me strength and protection during my time there. I couldn’t have done it without this community of believers! May God bless each and every one of you. Please remember Ngyuet and Quyn in your prayers.

In Him,

Liz Kim

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,

the forgiveness of sins.”

 

-Colossians 1:13-14

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Update

Have you ever watched Dead Poet’s Society? One of my favourite scenes in it is when Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) takes his class out to the hallway and recites Robert Herrick’s poem “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”. In other words, he teaches them a lesson on Carpe Diem–he urges them to seize the day.

As I start my final full week here in Vietnam, that’s how I’m feeling–that I need to seize the day and experience and do as much as I can before I leave. At the same time, I’m feeling an odd combination of homesickness and excitement at going home and seeing people and places I love again, mixed with sadness and regret that just as I have started to build relationships and get used to the culture and way of life here, I will be leaving.

The past couple of weeks have been full of exciting new experiences as well as a feeling of finally getting settled. No longer did I have that uneasy feeling walking into my classes, because my students weren’t strangers anymore but people I have come to know and appreciate. We have slowly developed a relationship and rapport with each other and it was not only easier to teach but to joke around and have fun with my students–all the more sad that I’m leaving so soon!

Funny story about my advanced English class today. There are only five students (all around 15 – 23 years old) in this class and it’s one of my favourites because we always have interesting discussions. Well, I walked into class and was talking with one of my students when a plump little mouse skittered by my foot. Of course I freaked out and jumped on my desk. I was yelling for the students who had come early to open the door to let it out, but instead they proceeded to corner the mouse and one of my students straight up took off his sandal and whacked it unconscious. Then he proceeded to pick it up by its tail and take it outside. I was laughing so hard. Then, halfway through our class two fat geckos started chasing each other across the wall where my whiteboard was and then proceeded to mate in front of us. Let’s just say that today’s class wasn’t the most productive, but it was the most fun I’ve had teaching here in Vietnam.

Last week I met a Vietnamese teacher (N.) who teaches at my school on Saturday mornings. We started to chat during our recess breaks and later we planned to go to the beach together in the evening after we both finished teaching. N. picked me up on her motorbike and we went to Pham Van Dong beach together last Wednesday. Here in Vietnam, people go to the beach either really early in the morning or in the evening/night. So when we got there around 7:30 it was pretty busy. We had some good conversations and I had a brief opportunity to share about my faith, but everything I said was completely foreign to her and she quickly changed the subject. I had another opportunity to hang out with N. just yesterday. She took me to a famous pagoda on the mountain, about half an hour from where I live, which has the largest statue of Buddha I have ever seen. In my conversation with her I found out that she is a pretty devout Buddhist. However, I found it interesting that when I asked her to tell me more about Buddhism, she didn’t know much about it–she only knew the rules but not the meaning/purpose behind what she did.

We spent the whole evening together and I got to meet her family and she took me out to eat Banh Canh, which is noodles and various types of meat in broth. We had some really great conversations and I had some more opportunities to bring in my way of seeing things in light of my faith. This time she was a bit more open to it, but she changed the topic again. I’m sad that I will be leaving so soon after we have started to hang out, but she wants to keep in touch so hopefully we can keep our conversation going through email.

Jessica and I also got to spend some time with one of the secretaries that works at our school. She is just one of the sweetest people I have met here and she is really concerned with Jessica and I’s well being. She randomly brings us food–I think she believes we are poor starving foreigners! She and her younger cousins took us out to breakfast. We had something called Bahn Beo (tiny round rice flour pancakes with a sauce mixed with minced meat and peanuts) which was absolutely delicious! Then we went to a cafe where Jessica and I had a drink made of a fruit called Chanh Day (not sure about the spelling) which is directly translated as string lemon but I think is something like passion fruit. It tastes almost like Sunny D but ten times better! We then went to the market where T. bought us loads of fruit and afterwards went to her house. T. is super talented at crocheting and so she taught us and sent us home with needles and a bag of yarn. She says that I should learn so that I can make sweaters to ward off the cold in Canada :).

This past week I also got to learn how to ride a motorbike! One of the teachers here is staying a couple of weeks extra and thought it was worth it to rent one. Trust me, after biking in this heat for over a month, I was half tempted to rent one myself. We went out in the afternoon when traffic is minimal because everyone is napping or inside to escape the heat, and had a few practice sessions. I’ve got to say I was pretty hooked after that. There’s nothing like having the wind in your hair and zooming down the road :).

This past weekend, the central Vietnam teachers got together once again and made our second last weekend trip together. This time it was to Ba Na Hills. It is actually in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest and highest cable car ride. You don’t know how wonderful it was to get up on that mountain and have the temperature drop literally 20 degrees–it was great!

Well, this week ahead of us is jam packed with meeting up with students and friends and packing and cleaning up our house. It’s going to be busy and tiring. Please pr*y that I will be able to make the most of my time and that He will give us strength to do so.

Until next time!

-Liz

With N. at the Pagoda

With T. and cousins

At Ba Na Hills

Motorbike lessons!

The most exhausting day: field trip with 122 kids from the school to a mountain in extremely humid weather where Jessica and I led games for kids who barely understood what we were saying!

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Halfway Point

Hello dear friends :)

I can’t believe that it is already past the halfway point of our stay here in Vietnam. A month sure goes by quickly. It’s always that the first two weeks are the slowest, and into the third week the days start to go by faster and faster until before you know it, it’s time to go home. This past week has been a mix of wonderful tourist experiences and some discouraging moments, but I’ve been learning lots through all.

This past weekend, our group of teachers took a trip to Hoi An, an ancient city considered a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was such a lovely place, small and cozy with a lot of friendly people welcoming foreigners with smiles and pretty decent English. We got a great deal at a hotel called Hai Au and paid only $15 USD per night, and it was a pretty nice place!  We had a great time just walking around the city, shopping at the markets, and indulging ourselves at a day spa…my first experience getting a body scrub and massage as well as pedicure/manicure, and it was all for only $30! The best part about the trip was learning to bargain with the ladies at the market. It was unusual at first because I’m so used to buying products at a fixed price, but once we got some practice it was actually quite fun. We even befriended some market ladies who applauded our bargaining skills :).

Back home in Da Nang, Jessica and I got ready for another week of teaching. I was a little discouraged because I realized just how difficult it is to get to know my students in such a short period of time that I am here, especially if I only see them twice a week at the most. But at the same time there were moments of encouragement. For example, Mai, Jessica, and I met someone this week who is starting up an English school in Da Nang. His vision is to have the teachers there be “models of integrity” to the Vietnamese people, living out the gspl rather than simply preaching it. This kind of mnstry takes a long term commitment. It takes actually settling down in a place, becoming part of the community, getting to know the people and developing deep relationships. It made me think that, although what we are doing will not reap immediate results, it is teaching me about what really living out the gspl means.

Another moment of encouragement came today at the international fellowship where the speaker talked about pr*yer and how it often takes a backseat though it is an integral part and important work of the church. I felt that He was reminding me that though I am limited in the ways that I can reach my students, I can always pr*y for them. Paul tells us to pr*y unceasingly, and I was challenged to use the final weeks of my time here to really pr*y–for the city, the people, the students and people I come in contact with.

On a lighter note, Jessica and I got our ao dais (pronounced “ow zai”) today! They are traditional Vietnamese outfits that are custom made. They are so beautiful and elegant, only we will probably never have an opportunity to wear them back home…! I couldn’t help getting one though because they are so unique.

So far, there have been some more encounters with geckos. And I’ve also discovered that the funny noises I hear outside my window in the morning are, in fact, geckos. During class one evening I heard the noise (sort of like a strange, raw, ticking sound) and stopped the whole lesson to ask my students what that was. They only knew the name of what was making the noise in Vietnamese, but I drew a somewhat decent picture of a gecko and they affirmed that geckos were indeed the ones making that noise. Arghhh…great, now I have geckos hanging out on my walls AND I have to hear them in the morning. This is something I will definitely not miss when I go back to Canada! :P

Until next time!

Liz

The market at Hoi An

Central Vietnam teachers in Hoi An

Jessica and I in our Ao Dais with our friend Bi

Helen and Jolly performing a dialogue from my Pre-Intermediate class

Me and my GE450 class on our last day together.

Boys in my Saturday kids class playing a game during recess

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Broadening Horizons

Our weekend off (Sunday and Monday) was most welcome for Jessica and I. We slept in and met up with four other teachers, two from Da Nang and two from Tam Ky. We checked out Bread of Life, a Western Bakery and Restaurant that is also an International Fellowship Chrch on Sundays. Jessica and I had already been there earlier in the week, satisfying our craving for some good old American food….the burgers definitely hit the spot! :) Going to the International Fellowship was so great. We met other foreigners and had a much needed time of worship and focusing on His word. Afterwards, we went to the IRT (Indonesia Riverside Towers)….this place has an amazing food court with Vietnamese, Japanese, American, AND Korean food! I was so excited. I had been really missing some good Korean food in the past few days, and so I didn’t need to think twice to order some Kimchi-chigae. It was a little too sweet and definitely not as good as my mom’s, but it was still good.

Monday was a roller coaster of emotions to say the least. The morning started out great when all six of us went back to Bread of Life to have brunch. Toast and eggs never tasted so good. Afterwards Jessica and I went back home and had a slow afternoon, doing some early lesson planning and waiting to meet up with one of Jessica’s acquaintances. Here’s the back story: Jessica goes to a manicure/pedicure place back at her hometown, and the shop is owned by a Vietnamese lady named Mindy. Well, Mindy told her family back in Vietnam that Jessica was coming and set up a plan for her sister to take Jessica and I out for dinner. The problem was that neither her sister or her husband speak English. But we figured we would get by with body language and gestures like we always did. Mindy acted as the”middleman” by calling us then calling her sister. We ended up planning to meet at the corner of our street at 6:00 PM. We went out 10 minutes early and waited. 15, 30 minutes went by and still no sign of Mindy’s sister (Lynn). Finally we got a hold of Lynn, and out of the barrage of Vietnamese Lynn managed to say “no dinner, no dinner.”

We were really disappointed to say the least. We decided to go to our usual “Bun Bo” and have dinner there. As good as it is, there is only so much “Bun Bo” you can take… After our Bun Bo we bought ourselves some “nuoc mia,” a blend of sugar cane juice and lime in ice. Walking back we got a phone call from Lynn again and it was again a frustrating conversation where no one understood each other. A few seconds after we hung up we ran into a man and woman on motorbikes. They stopped us and started talking rapidly in Vietnamese. Long story short, it turned out to be Lynn and her husband! We still don’t know why she said “no dinner” and then came anyways, but we hopped on their motorbikes and had such an awesome evening. First of all, riding motorbikes is an experience in itself. It was so much fun! Speeding through the night air with the wind in your hair, as cheesy as it sounds, is so exhilarating

They took us to a seafood restaurant on the beach and we had the freshest seafood I’ve ever had. We literally picked live seafood we wanted to eat and 20 minutes later there it was on our plates. Luckily Lynn brought along her son’s girlfriend, Bi, who speaks English. By the end of the night we had made plans to meet up with her on Thursday.

Now it’s Tuesday and we are back in the rhythm of teaching. Today I had my smallest class ever…three people! But it was really great because I got to give a lot of individual attention and got to dwell more on problem areas. Teaching English is definitely hard sometimes, but I am really enjoying it. I am also really enjoying talking to my students and getting to know what little about them I can glean during class time. It is difficult because I teach so many different classes, but I am hoping and pr*ying that I will at least have a chance to get to know one or two students really well.

Alright, it’s off to bed for me now! Thanks for reading and please pry for me that I will be able to be %100 soon …haven’t been feeling so well because of the water here. It’s hard to avoid the ice. Also, please pry that He will continue to strengthen me to teach to the best of my ability and to always be open to ways I can serve and love my students and those around me.

Much love,

Liz

With Mai and Laura at GMC school’s welcome dinner
Kimchi-Chigae! :)

 

The crab before it became our dinner...

A stop along the way home from our seafood dinner: Jessica and I on Vietnam's longest bridge

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New Experience Continued

In front of our house

Getting Jessica's bike fixed!

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New Experiences

Xin Chao! (that means “hello” in Vietnamese)

It’s been about four days since we’ve been in Da Nang, Vietnam. It was a long day of travel, about 24 hours of traveling and layover time in total. We took the plane from LAX to Taipei, Taiwan, and from Taiwan to Ho Chi Minh City and from HCMC to Da Nang. By the time we got to Da Nang (around 5 PM) we were all very exhausted. We were greeted by a small crowd of people waiting for loved ones, and in the crowd was a petite smiling lady named Hoa who was holding up a sign that said AVIEC, which is the school Jessica and I will be at.

First impressions of Vietnam were interesting. We had always heard about the heat and the seemingly chaotic traffic, but to actually experience it was something else. When we stepped out of the airport and as we walked towards our taxi, the heat and humidity seemed to rush over and surround us. Seconds later Jessica and I were sweating. What bewilders me is the fact that many of the Vietnamese seem untouched by the heat. Here we were with flushed cheeks and our clothes sticking to our bodies and Hoa and the taxi driver seemed perfectly fine.

Then came the traffic. As soon as we hit the road, it seemed chaos was unleashed. Everywhere were motorbikes, cars, and trucks, weaving in and out, going and stopping, cutting in between, with no rhyme or reason. Everybody was honking, which Jessica and I later discovered is their way of warning other cars, motorbikes, cyclists, and pedestrians to get out of the way. All we could do was look at each other and smile incredulously.

We arrived at AVIEC in a matter of minutes, and met the administrator, Ms. Trang. She talked to us about a few important details and then off we went again, this time to the house we would be staying at. Hoa and the taxi driver took us there. The house was also not too far from the school, and we later found out that we would be given bikes to travel back and from the school….which in itself was a whole new experience! The landlord’s mother-in-law met us there and gave us a tour of the house, which was interesting because she didn’t speak English at all so we all gestured our way through the tour. The house was beyond anything Jessica and I imagined. The house is five stories high, with a room on every level. We have a functioning and clean kitchen and each of us has our own room with washroom. The very top floor is a balcony that overlooks the Han river.

That night Jessica and I crossed the street for the first time, which is a big deal for us North Americans. Crossing the street requires faith, because it literally looks like motorbikes are going to hit you, but at the last minute they will drive around  you, so it’s almost like wading through water. We then found a small nook of a restaurant where a lady was boiling a huge pot of broth. We had Bun Bo, which are thin rice noodles with grilled beef. It was really delicious, and that has been our go to place for food ever since.

The are we live in is a thin strip of cracked cement road with houses all squished together. Everyone has houses that on the first floor entirely opens up to the outside, and so you can see families watching TV or eating dinner as you walk by. There are small dogs everywhere and at night you can see lizards covering the walls of houses. We get a lot of attention here because Jessica is Caucasian. People stare and point, and it’s been a bit awkward for Jessica to say the least. Many people assume I am Vietnamese and I get spoken to in Vietnamese a lot. It’s been really stressful to buy basic things because the only communication we have is through hand gestures. Sometimes they can write and read English so we’ll communicate through a pad of paper and pen.

There have been a lot of moments that are funny and frustrating at the same time. We found a lizard in our garbage and we avoided doing anything about it for the whole day until we decided to tape the garbage lid shut and carry it all the down the street to a dustbin and dump it in (we got that done thanks to Jessica. For those of you who know me I am terrible about anything that is creepy/crawly). We’ve ridden our rusty bikes onto a main intersection only to have my bike chain pop off leaving me coasting helplessly through traffic. This happened twice! Jessica and I joke that we will be incredibly fit when we get back because we bike everywhere several times a day in the scorching heat sweating buckets.  It took us forever to even figure out where we lived. We asked our landlady what our address was and it turned in to a twenty minute conversation of her and her husband drawing a map and telling us complex and half-clear directions. We found that it’s better to carry around a map and point.

We started to teach yesterday evening. Both Jessica and I have ten classes to teach throughout the week and we have Sunday and Monday off. It was great to finally get into a classroom and meet the students. All of our students are eager and interested to learn about where we are from as well as many personal details. For example, “are you single?”, “are you married?’, “how old are you?”, etc. I am teaching a range of ages and levels. I taught the kids today, youngest age group being around 5-6 years old. They are absolutely adorable and I would rather be playing with them then forcing them to sit through an hour and half class watching a strange teacher speak to them in a language they don’t understand, but it’s what many of their parents want. Teaching has been a mix of enjoyable and frustrating moments. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to communicate with the students, and other times there is a connection or point of understanding and it’s wonderful. That’s teaching I guess–it’s hard work!

Well, I think that’s it for today. Jessica and I are hanging out in our kitchen, planning lessons for this evening and avoiding the heat. Please pry for me that we will be able to adjust and adapt quickly, that He will give us strength to overcome homesickness and a critical spirit, and that we will be able to immerse ourselves in the culture and be able to love our students and be open to to the opportunities He presents us to serve the people around us.

Love and blessings,

Liz

The whole Vietnam team took a walk to Eaton Canyon falls during training.

At Ho Chi Minh city Airport

Boarding our last flight to Da Nang


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Training

Hi everyone!

I arrived Saturday night at LAX where my aunt and uncle picked me up. Here I am now at training at William Carey International University in Pasadena for a week. I am having a really great time getting to know my teammates as well as teachers going to other countries. It’s been a whirlwind since Sunday evening, and even thought it’s only been a couple of days I feel like more has gone by. Our days are packed from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM and we are learning a lot about teaching, our host countries, and fellow team members.

It’s seems like only now, what with lesson planning and practice teaching, that going to Vietnam is a reality.

Thanks once again to all of you who have supported me. My thermometer on the side says I still have a ways to go, but in reality I raised more than enough (just haven’t been able to update it yet). Praise Him! :)

Please continue to keep me in your pr*ers and that even amidst all this busyness of training and prep that I will continue to keep Him at the centre. The theme verse at Teach Overseas is from Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Please pr*y that all of us teachers, through our actions, words, and ways will be a light to all of the students we teach.

Blessings,

Liz

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