Today is my 3 month anniversary of arriving in Hanoi. I have made major steps in this to say the least. After "living" in a hostel for 2 weeks I moved into a place of my own. It isnt exactly my own, I live with a teaching Canuck couple and a weird German computer guy. I have the 3rd floor to myself, which is my room, a bathroom with no toilet and a balcony. Everyone else lives on the 2nd floor with a bathroom and the first floor is a full kitchen, bathroom, TV area with actual Western couches and of course there is our patio (which is home to 4 motorbikes). The hostel was a great way to start out in Hanoi because I met people, had computers all the time and an awesome staff to help me with any questions. I was not exactly asking the basic tourist questions but like where is this road I have a job interview on? I could have moved into a cheaper room but my house let me move in on the 15th but all others wanted the end of the month. I could not live in a hostel for another 2 weeks.
My job search started immediately. There is a great website, thenewhanoian.com which is in English and provides reviews, job boards, rentals and much more in english! I found most of my jobs and my room too there. In about a month I had 4 jobs and had turned some down. They are all part time jobs but together are about 25 hours a week. Some jobs are at Kindergartens, most are private and very nice, I teach a group of about 15 for 30 minutes and then do the same thing for 2 more classes. Another job is at APEC, Asian Pacific Education Center, this is probably my best job. APEC is a center for people that want to learn English, so after the school or work day is over or on the weekends are the class times. I teach 6 - 12 year old children. I forgot to mention I have a Vietnamese teacher with me who speaks English very well in these jobs. Usually about in their 20s and they all LOVE practicing their own English with me, asking questions and learning words they never learned in school. This is true for many Vietnamese people, I get stopped on the street, talked to on buses, come up to in bars and even spent an extra 2 hours in a DHL office. I have been asked some pretty funny things, do some white people have black hair?, does snow hurt when it falls on you?, have I ever been shot in America?, did I drive a motorbike from America to Hanoi? Back to Jobs, at APEC I teach out of a book. Typical Vietnam, most of the children buy the photocopied version instead of the actual book, so some exercises involving colors are always a failure to some. Another job has been at a place called LESH (Learn English Seattle to Hanoi) It is small and new but growing fast. One office run out of their house (that is not strange at all in Hanoi) and the other one is an actual office. The guy who runs it studied in Seattle and wanted to teach English lessons to the large Vietnamese community in Seattle. He came up with the idea that he could do this in the form on online courses and start a English center in Hanoi. I teach small lessons out of a book to about 10 university aged students. In addition, they have set up English clubs, so these same students come to a relaxed and fun conversation class, I work at these just talking to people, helping them learn new words and help pronunciation. These are very fun and I have become friends with many of those students. I also take free Vietnamese lessons at the LESH offices two times a week for two hours each, taught by one of the English Club students for free. We learn Vietnamese about 75% of the time and speak English for 25%, both side get something. My Vietnamese from 2 years ago stuck for at least some key phrases so I was able to jump right back into Hanoi no problem and now I can go the whole day interacting in public in Vietnamese, going about my life. When Vietnamese comes out (that I think is pretty good) I get some hilarious looks. Most phrases are not ones the normal tourist would know so they know I am a local and it feels great. The children I teach LOVE it when I use my Vietnamese to teach them new words. I remember one day at APEC we were learning animals. I knew a few but then I used my knowledge of food to think of some and their jaws dropped. Another job has not started yet but I am preparing with a Vietnamese teacher at her house. I think this is at an actual school because I am teaching ESL math and ESL science (English as a Second Language). So far I have just been writing transcripts from short education videos. Typing the word thousands 20 times in 5 minutes is awful. My last job is very different. It does not even have a name yet and is run out of an office that does not even have chairs. It is teaching children very basic English for just 50 minutes and then 2 more sessions to different levels. Age doesn't matter and there are 3 levels. I would describe this one as a place parents send their kids to trick them into learning English, which over here is definitly towards the top of any resume. It is mostly fun and games and learning a few words. All in all about 25 hours a week and I am being offered more by my current jobs so I am happy to build relationships.
After 50 days of walking, taking buses and motorbike taxis when I had to, I saved up enough money to buy a motorbike. It is the ultimate sign of being a local with freedom and I love it. Hanoi traffic is crazy during rushhour so I try to avoid to unless going to work and it is AWFUL in the rain but everything else I have under control fine.
I am putting up some photographs from my life and Hanoi. I do not think I can describe life over here properlly. Hopefully you have been looking at my pictures from my trip but if not here they are http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/pmyerson/
Check back because I will put more up.