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Vietnam :

Intro : first days

This chapter is made of several sub-chapters :

Can Tho (1997-1999) - Hanoi (1999-2000) - Ha Long (2000-2002) - Hai Phong (2002-2004)
Touristic trip from North to South (1998)

In October, 1997 I was hired by the APEFE and the AUPELF-UREF as educational adviser for the Vietnamese teachers in the "Bilingual Classes" project (505 classes in 97-98).

Vietnam, one of the first members of the French-speaking world, indeed wants to strengthen its programs of foreign language teaching. So in 1994 the Ministry of Education officialized the bilingual classes, small experimental program launched in 1992 in Ho Chi Minh City by Hervé Fayet, nationalizing it with the help of the AUPELF-UREF (which later became the AUF).

This new departure is an important step for me, because it gives me the occasion to share with the other teachers the experience I acquired as a schoolteacher and as professor of FFL / FSL (French as a Foreign Language / Second Language).

I was at first in charge of Can Tho's region (South of Ho Chi Minh City) with periodic missions to Vinh Long. Two years later, I moved in Hanoi, then from 2000 till 2002 I lived and worked in Ha Long (Along's bay).

Let's begin with the story of my arrival in Vietnam, a little bit epic (déjà vu ?) :

October 14, 1997...

I should be getting accustomed to these crazy departures...

A few days before this October 14, after having waited three months, the APEFE suggested me, in the name of the AUPELF UREF, to be leaving on this October 14 or... One week later, but that would be "really sad"...

OK, I understood the message... Last preparations in a panic, hasty good-byes and I jump into the plane to Hanoi. Jean-Pierre Outers, spokesman for the APEFE, waits for me with a rental car (what a luxury !) First contact with the traffic in Viet Nam : WOW !

At the hotel, small meeting and I'm given a big file - already ! - Jean-Pierre orders a car for me at... 4:00 am, to go catch the plane for Huê where I am impatiently waited for ! So I quickly go to bed, get up at 3:00 am, and arrive in Huê around 8:00.

October 16 : Huê

Nobody for me at the airport, but I have the address of the hotel and jump into a minibus. It eventually left me at 8:30 in a small hotel, where Serge Cao, responsible for the Bilingual Classes in Viet Nam, welcomes me and... tells me that the meeting of the Educational advisers begins at once ! I take my suitcase up to my room, and go to the meeting...

Very good reception of the Educational advisers' team (a good dozen Belgians and 4 Quebeckers) and of the responsibles, they all seem very nice. I'll congratulate myself 1000x for having precipitated my departure to be here now, not only because I shall be able to get acquainted of all the advisers but because these days will supply me with thousands of information indispensable to my future job in Can Tho. Of course, yes, it was exhausting...

But at the moment, we are also in charge of Huê's "World congress of the Education of and in French" which begins tomorrow and for which we're asked to help for the organization. After all, there are 280 guests from the 49 countries of the French-speaking world arriving, among whom around thirty Ministers... We did celebrate my birthday anyway, on Sunday the 19th at 11:00 pm in the hotel lobby : simple, but good !

October 22 : Saigon

No time to rest, as soon as the Congress closed I was back on the plane, for Saigon this time. Vietnam piece by piece... Hervé Fayet (responsible for the Bilingual Classes in the South, super-nice and effective) welcomes me at the airport, from where we go directly to his office for... A meeting of course. In the evening, finally, a nice small hotel, a shower ! During the 5 following days, we worked a little more calmly, and I began to assume my jet lag, bit by bit. Some shopping and some evenings out, a rather good moment as a matter of fact, even if was getting tired of living in my suitcases.

October 28 : Can Tho

Departure towards Can Tho at 7:00 am with Hervé, Nadine (educational adviser whom I am going to replace and who is going back to get her stuff) and my suitcases and trunks. Six hours driving for 168 km, not really a track, but a very frequented road (motorcycles...), very dangerous, and cut by two ferries to wait for...a long time. Meeting at the Service of Education to present me, then visits to the seven schools for which I am responsible in Can Tho. Later, I'll visit both schools for which I am responsible in Vinh Long, the nearby province. I am already surprised, during these first visits, seeing the capacities of the pupils to understand and to express themselves in French... It's only the beginning.

Dive in the bath !

The next day, while Hervé leaves for Saigon and while Nadine prepares her luggage, I lead my first educational meetings (weeklies).

From 7:00 am till 11:00, the 15 secondary teachers.

From 2:00 pm till 4:30, the 15 primary teachers.

From 5:30 pm till 7:30, the 6 Science teachers.

I had prepared these meetings the same morning, on the corner of a hotel table while having breakfast...

An educational meeting, here animated at the secondary level by Mariane Capouet, my colleague of Dalat who came visiting ; with the presence of Michel Le Gall, Cultural attaché of the Embassy of France.

In short, I told them about my way of working and we established my visits schedule for the next weeks : first week, all the primary classes (22) and the next week all the secondary classes and the science teachers (18+6=24).

Then ? Another round of the same... Score of the first month : 97 visits and individual meetings !

The next day, on Friday, I moved my stuff at Nadine's and met the owner. The house was not really convenient for me yet : no panes in windows, no air-conditioner of course, no warm water, "Turkish" toilet, and walls (painted in blue) very dirty and damaged (not mentionning the front door, an old acrid iron curtain). Well, with age (hem!) one wants his little comfort ! The owner agreed to improve all this for an increase of the rent.

November 15 : "Home" !

During the works (10 days) I was able to "camp" in the neighbouring house, which also belonged to him and had been freed the day before my arrival. What a pleasure, on Saturday, November 15, to finally enter "my home", after so much time spent in the temporary ! Of course it's sad I had to make the move at the end of an evening...


I spare you the story of my baptism (the cyclone Lynda passed by during my first WE in Can Tho) and other events like this.

You'll discover much more in the next pages... :)

Next page : my job

Page créée le 22 septembre 1997 -  Mise à jour le 13 juillet 2002

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