The second week began in a much better way than the first. Our lesson plans were written, PowerPoint’s made, flashcards printed, and teaching supplements purchased before the end of the weekend. We went to sleep on Sunday night feeling better organised and slightly more confident about what the week would entail.

Whilst we’ve still had a few mishaps throughout the week, it would be fair to say that it has been a far more enjoyable experience. We have had evenings free so have been able to explore more of the city. On Thursday we went to Hoan Kiem Lake to experience the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon at night. Thousands of people were out on the street, taking part in a variety of games and ad-hoc tug of war contests. It’s also known as Children’s Festival because of the event’s emphasis on kids. In the past, the Vietnamese believed that children, being innocent and pure, had the closest connection to the sacred and natural world. Being close to children was seen as a way to connect with animist spirits and deities. During the lead up to the event, shops are brimming with toys, lanterns and lots of moon cakes, a delicacy that can only be purchased during this time of year.

Lawrence was fortunate enough to be invited to one of his school’s Mid Autumn Festival production. The show was a combination of traditional Vietnamese singing and dancing, and a person dressed in a dragon costume dancing to Gangnam Style. Unsurprisingly, the latter was better received. He also met some very serious looking folk from The People’s Committee whom he has had a nightmare about since.

When a kid makes you put her hat on your sweaty head.

Although it has been a better week, there have still been the low moments. We’ve both come back from school having had lessons fall flat on their face, and questioned the reasoning behind this whole trip. Neither of us was prepared for how physically draining this job would be. We’re constantly on our feet and bouncing from one class to the next, singing, sweating, dancing, and screaming over 40 babbling children 5 days a week in order to be heard. A combination of the heat, the uniform, and the big satchel of equipment and teaching materials that we carry around have sapped our energy. Lawrence is falling out of his clothes, which isn’t helped by the meagre lunches we’ve been having.

As we’ve been eating out for dinner each night, we’ve decided to stay home for lunch. Lunch consists of scrambled/boiled eggs, a slice of bread and some watermelon. It’s not the most imaginative combination but the last thing you fancy doing after a morning of lessons is whip up a complicated meal and right now, eggs are still hitting the spot.

However, now that we’ve settled into our apartment and lesson planning is starting to feel more under control, we’re looking forward to exploring even more of Hanoi. We spent Saturday evening on a Street Food Tour in the Old Quarter. We enjoyed Bun Cha, dumplings, Banh Mi, donuts (Vietnamese style), rice pancakes and egg white coffee. There were 7 stops in total so we took advantage of each one to make up for the lack of calorie intake mid-week.

Cà phê trứng: A classic Vietnamese coffee made with condensed milk and egg yolks.
Lawrence delicately having a go at flipping some rice pancakes.