New Year, New Job, New Country

1 January 2018. A fitting date to begin an incredibly unique and life changing chapter of my life.

As mentioned in my Christmas post, I was lucky enough to land myself a job as an English teacher in Vietnam. I am now working at a language centre called APAX English; a relatively new but rapidly growing English education company in Vietnam. I got a position as an “iGarten” teacher (APAX’s kindergarten equivalent) where I teach 4-5 year olds their ABC, phonics and the beginnings of how to read. I work 18 hours a week, in the evenings and on weekends, and get two days off.

After a week of training in Hanoi, I was dropped straight into the deep end subbing other teachers’ lessons for a week. I faced classes packed full of little monsters and attempted to get them to behave and listen to me. The experience was overwhelming; I questioned a lot of life decisions but ultimately learnt a hell of a lot about being a teacher (and the powers of Peppa Pig).

Following my time subbing, on the 1st January, I moved to a small city in Quang Ninh province called Cam Pha, where I will be spending about 4 months. For those of you who have heard of Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province, you are probably picturing stunning scenes of the natural wonder, Halong Bay; a hub for tourists and travellers full of exciting things to do, places to eat and beautiful scenery to admire. Just down the road from all this, overlooking the incredible Bai Tu Long Bay, I was hoping for something similar in Cam Pha. Unfortunately “coal mining city” and “stunning scenes” don’t actually come hand in hand.

The first couple of weeks in Cam Pha were a big shock to the system. I found myself living in deep, dark, Vietnam. Cam Pha essentially consists of one long road; the city’s lifeline. The rest of the city and life in Cam Pha revolves around this.

There are only a handful of foreigners living in Cam Pha and as such, there is a complete absence of English. The closest supermarket is a 40 minute bus journey away. The city suffers heavily from air pollution (it’s worse than Hanoi!) and has a constant sprinkling of dust courtesy of the coal mining industry. I’ve started wearing one of these masks to protect against the pollution.

Arriving in Cam Pha in the winter means the sky has a constant cover of thick grey clouds. I spend day and night wrapped up in numerous layers and my big winter coat to fight the cold. I didn’t think it could get this cold in Vietnam! I also feel somewhat like a local celebrity. I get shouts, stares, a lot of pointing and even a few laughs of disbelief every time I walk down the street. Perhaps performing monkey is more apt than celebrity…

While this post hasn’t started off on the most positive foot, I assure you it isn’t all bad. Being out of my comfort zone, I have found it important to value and appreciate the positives….

When the clouds clear and the sun makes an appearance, Cam Pha presents the beautiful Bai Tu Long Bay.

The limestone karsts aren’t isolated to the bay. They reach onto the land and sit up amongst the buildings. I can’t say I’ve ever lived anywhere with such a dramatic rooftop view before!

There is a huge fruit and vegetable market where I buy the majority of my groceries from. So my diet is now predominantly vegetarian, I am eating significantly healthier and I feel much better for it.

No complaints about getting to crack open a fresh coconut for breakfast every day!

My working hours give me plenty of free time. I intend to do more yoga, exercise as much as possible, get creative in the kitchen, blog more frequently and make a dent in my ever growing reading list.

I am enjoying my new job as an English teacher. While teaching the wee ones can be exhausting, the kids are super cute, enthusiastic and a lot of fun (most of the time!). As a new teacher, I have found APAX a great company to work for as they provide an extensive curriculum and plenty of support. The hours are relatively short but a lot of extra work goes in at the beginning to get familiar with lesson prep and structure.

The centre has a great group of teachers who have welcomed me into Cam Pha and helped make it feel more like a home. Having a social life with a great bunch of friends definitely keeps me sane.

So somehow, I managed to move from Aberdeen, a small oil and gas city in the north east of Scotland, to Cam Pha, a small coal mining city in the north east of Vietnam! It may be a bit more challenging than I had initially expected but at least my life isn’t even close to being dull. Whilst I am out of my comfort zone, I am proud to be able to say I am having a truly Vietnamese, once in a lifetime experience!


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