Pascal Secondary School is located approximately 30 minutes away from the volunteer house, near the airport on the other side of the Red River. Overall, the school has 9 classes with 229 students aged 11 to 15 years. The children are easy to spot outside as well, with their white and blue school uniform and red neckerchief.
I teach there, together with a Swedish lady. Every day in the morning the headmaster picks us up and takes us back again in the evening. This personal commitment illustrates excellently, how well the community of the “Pascal Family” – as the school’s students and teachers often refer to themselves as, works.
At the end of May, the school year comes to a close and therefore I get to attend exam week. The kids are understandably exhausted after a long school year and enjoy the approaching end of school.
We seize the opportunity not to adhere strictly to a curriculum, but to playfully involve the children – whose English, by the way, is excellent- into discussions.
We show episodes of the British television series, “Peppa Pig” or play songs from different countries, have the children guess the language and talk about Europe and the world.
School starts at 7:30, with the lessons and breaks, unlike in our country, not being heralded with a bell reminiscent of an alarm, but by a man banging a large drum in the school yard. After 5 units the children lunch, eating together in the classrooms. We, too, eat with the students and thus have sufficient opportunity to get to know them better.
After a playtime the next drums indicate the beginning of the sleep period. The children disappear into their classrooms, get blankets and lie down on the tables, where they can rest. For us volunteers cots are also provided with implicitness, to allow us to sleep a little. Often we steal away, however, to enjoy an excellent Vietnamese-style iced coffee in a cafe at a nearby pond.
After three afternoon lessons, school buses take home those children who have not come by bicycle or on foot. The school days are really longer than those in Austria, but the children seem very relaxed and happy and appear to enjoy school with their friends.
Although I worked at my second project only for few weeks, I experienced a very emotional farewell with homemade gifts and super sweet little notes.
The farewell was not easy. With some candy and stickers of the Austrian flag (Many thanks to Ms. Le of the Austrian Embassy in Hanoi, who made the stickers available on very short notice and helped to put a smile on the children’s faces!) I left with a heavy heart.
I do not know how many times I was was priviliged to answer “When do you come back, we will miss you” – in saying “In November or February, hopefully”, I gave the kids as well as myself hope that after all, we would (soon) see each other again.
I now understand why one of the girls wanted to teach me a new sentence in Vietnamese in the very first session: Tôi yêu Việt Nam! Yes, I love Vietnam.
Translation from German: Serena Nebo