Monday, November 21, 2016

The End Of My Classes

Well, I finished up my French and Vietnamese classes. Unfortunately, I threw my Vietnamese class under the bus for the last week, because the French class had oral and written exams that I had to pass to be certified to get to the next level, and the Vietnamese class didn't. There was a final review in the Vietnamese class that was sort of like a written exam, but it wasn't graded or anything. We just completed it in class, like we would an exam, and then the teacher just went over it with us. But the last couple of sessions, I was just getting farther and farther into the wilderness. In the last session, before the review, I was completely out of it on the stuff that we were supposed to cover and I hadn't done the homework. But it really didn't matter. I have the book, and I took notes on everything the teacher covered that I was able to discern, but there was in the last week sort of a perfect storm of befuddlement for me, as I covered less and less material, and got lost anyway in the barrage of rapid-fire French that the Vietnamese class was taught in. I'll still be able to go over it and absorb it better; I just won't be there to ask questions if I don't understand something. And I hope to go through the textbooks for both classes and see if there is any additional material that I can glean from them to add to my flash cards. I use Anki, which is a great open-source flash card program.

In the French class, there were three exams. There was an oral comprehension exam, an oral expression exam, and a written exam. On the oral comprehension exam, I had a difficult time. Sometimes I tense up when listening to a foreign language and it makes me less receptive to understanding it. It's like an immediate reaction. But sometimes I am more relaxed. I did OK; I passed it, but didn't have a stellar score. On the other two exams I did quite well. I prepared a lot for the oral expression exam, and memorized five actions and five things that I wanted to discuss. And then I memorized three touchstones of my role (I was asked to imagine myself as a volunteer for a charitable organization), and several synonyms for words covered in the text. Though the teacher tried to throw people off by having them talk about themselves first, I was able to throw most of those things out. I felt bad for the two people who didn't pass the class because that was revealed publicly.

I found out recently that if I spend time in Bangkok or Chiang Mai in Thailand, there are Alliance Franรงaise organizations in each of those cities that have cheap French lessons, so I could continue studying French in those places for a very cheap price. That is something I might do. The price of living in each of those places is a little higher than Hanoi, but still very low. I read online that you could get by in Chiang Mai for around $650 a month. I will be going to Bangkok for a few days at the end of the week, because I have to leave Vietnam briefly to renew my visa, and a flight to Thailand was the cheapest flight I could find. But I hope to spend more time in Thailand at a later time; this upcoming trip will just be an introduction.

After the last French class, I walked to the Old Quarter of Hanoi because there is a banh mi place I like there. I ordered a couple of banh mi to go, and then I was walking by a bia hoi place (a place that serves cheap beer on tap...the beer can be cheaper than a quarter a glass), when a bunch of hostelers started yelling at me on the street, so I sat down to hang out with them. We all ended up going to their hostel, which was Hanoi Rocks Hostel. There was a tall guy named Louie from England who spoke several languages (we talked in Spanish and French), and some folks from New Zealand, and a guy from Russia there. I ended up leaving before the last bus could take me home; I didn't want to walk home for an hour at night. I don't really know when the last bus is but I think it is around nine pm. I have walked back several times late at night when no buses came to the stop.

Sometimes I will stop by the hostel where I stayed when I first got to Hanoi, Central Backpackers Hostel in the Old Quarter, because they have a nice rooftop cafe with good inexpensive food, and there are always people to hang out with. Also, I made friends with some of the workers there so it is good to see them.

I was kind of taken aback a few days ago to find the dog street near the Old Quarter. I'm not talking about a cute fuzzy street where shops have pets for sale (though I have run across that street too, and it's not all that cute and fuzzy as the dogs are in tiny cages and seem very distressed), but a street where there are disemboweled, headless bodies of dogs on display to be eaten. I know people do eat dog here, as they do in several places in Asia, but seeing something like this really brought it home to me and was kind of jarring.

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