I promised myself I’d get this written in time before I went away. But I’ve already started the journey. Oh well. I’ll just say that being in the context of a situation always makes your writing better. How’s that for putting an English Literature degree to good use?
Right now I’m sitting in the middle of a food-court at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam. The sauce they put on their Chicken Royales here is questionable. In a few hours my flight leaves for Bangkok. Then, another awaits me to take me to Cambodia. I’ll be spending a month preparing for the next four in Vietnam’s liveliest city – Ho Chi Minh. And, as a fully-fledged TEFL teacher, I’ll be makin’ dolla whilst I gain cultivated career skills and spend time in one of the world’s most beautiful countries. Graduate life is starting to look a whole lot better.
So, as my first blog entry I thought it would be good to explain why I chose to go where I am going.
Reason to work in Vietnam no. 1: Culture.
As some of you may know I’m of mixed race. My father is Scottish, and my mother is from The Philippines. A good portion of my life has been spent in the UK, studying, partying and generally living it up. I’ve visited a good few countries which inhabit similar Western attitudes. On the other side, however, I’ve only visited The Philippines a few times. I want to explore South-East Asia because, in a sense, this would be an exploration of my cultural and racial heritage. In Europe people are accustomed to a certain lifestyle – how about on the other side of the world?
After the dust of countless books of the English language canon that I’ve read have settled, I am finding myself more and more drawn to the other half of me. The ‘foreign’ in the mix. The part that makes people look at you and ask “but where are you from originally?”. You realise you contain unexplored terrain within yourself, an undiscovered trove of culture and heritage that is only ever lightly tread upon. It’s easy to forget, living the life you live.
From what I’ve read Vietnam is a buzzing mixture of the rural and the metropolitan – from strong tribal traditions in the remote countryside, to seaside party towns, to motorcycle-overrun city streets. It’s custom to bow when greeting someone, and you should always take off your shoes before entering someone’s home – and under no circumstances should you sleep with your feet facing a shrine. Just as in Scotland you should never nick a man’s Irn Bru.
Reason to work in Vietnam no. 2: Opportunity.
If I could, I would probably consider getting really back to my roots and do TEFL teaching in The Philippines. But aside from already visiting the country, my services would not be needed. It all boils down to supply and demand. 57% of the Filipino population can speak English, and has the 3rd highest English speaking population on the planet. Vietnam doesn’t even make it into the top 100. I know where I’m needed.
Reason to work in Vietnam no. 3: Food.
JUST LOOK AT THIS MOUTHWATERING PLETHORA OF JUNGLE GOODIES.
Reason to work in Vietnam no. 4: Adventure.
Graduating in June I figured I was pretty much sorted to find an entry-level job in the media. Lots of television rejections. Lots of publishing rejections. Biding my time until my ship came in, I worked waiting jobs, saving money and again, biding time. So many of my friends and peers have had similar experiences – we study hard for 4 years, do all the extra-curricular activities, squeeze in an internship or two, all in the name of a job we want to do. Yet employers expect more. We lack certain skills. We lack experience. We’re not ‘right’ for the position. We’ve become a generation of cynics, let down by an education system that promises so much more than it delivers.
So, in part to escape this cycle, but more so to really just meet new people and have a little fun I’ve packed my bags and set off for a temporary new life. TEFL can only add to a person’s CV, and travel itself is a shining opportunity to become more independent.
Just yesterday, after a leaving party with friends in Glasgow and before a wee family farewell dinner I had a big realisation. I was so blessed with the foundations I had in the UK, and that I had made these relationships with wonderful people. Despite graduate frustration, I had it good at home. And for that I am thankful – because it’s something to return to.
But as Mark Twain wrote it’s time to “catch the trade winds in [my] sail” and explore what’s out there. I cannot wait to make new friends, see all those beautiful sights and have adventures. Xin chao Vietnam, see you soon!