Friday, 8 March 2013

Women's Day in Vietnam

Today is International Women's Day, a cause that is close to my heart as I think it's so important to acknowledge the positive things women do for society and recognise that women still don't have equal rights and opportunities as men in nearly every country of the world. This holiday is celebrated widely in Vietnam, as it should be everywhere but unfortunately isn't. Vietnamese women have a long history of hardiness and resilience, from the Trung sisters who defeated a Chinese invasion in the tenth century, to the so-called 'long-haired army' that significantly contributed to the Viet Minh's triumphant victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu, through to the unbelievably strong women who row sampans laden with tourists in Hua Lu and the Mekong Delta today. In her debut novel Ru, Vietnamese-Canadian author Kim Thuy recalls the old women who "carried Vietnam on their backs while their husbands and sons carried weapons on theirs" during the years of war. Cycling to the school today, bouquets of flowers were being sold and transported on the back of motorbikes on every street.

I hadn't been sharp enough to plan an activity that was relevant to Women's Day with my students today. Instead, they decorated their own maps of Vietnam, followed by songs and games outside. The students chose a patriotic song to sing in keeping with the theme of celebrating their country through their drawings. The teacher who was translating for me interpreted the song as something like 'You only have one home town, just as you only have one mother. If you forget your home town you will never grow up...".

I made a few mistakes in my planning of the lesson today. Firstly, I had relied on the assumption that the children would share between each other. I had printed off ten sheets with maps of Vietnam to be cut out and used as stencils to draw an outline onto paper. I knew there may not be enough sheets for every child, but that this did not matter as one of a pair could do the cutting and then they could take turns to draw around the stencil. But the children were very upset by this arrangement and even though the Vietnamese teacher explained to them what I wanted them to do, those who weren't given a sheet seemed to take it as a personal affront and whined like baby birds. When we had passed this stage, however, it was a little easier, although I sensed that they weren't as interested in this task as others I have set before. But each mistake is a lesson learnt to help me improve the quality of the classes. At the end of the class Yen handed me her work, 'as a gift for Women's Day', the teacher told me.

A notice in the playground to mark Women's Day

Sleepy children before the class started

I had eighteen students today

My suggestions for illustrations- finally had to reveal I'm not very good at drawing myself

Decorating the map of Vietnam

A nice design by Trang

The kids love 'duck duck goose'

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