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Vietnam :

School year 1998-1999

A year full of new developments

One of my groups of Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese trainees during an "oral expression" workshop

Job stuff

During the summer, the AUF organized four trainings of two weeks for the teachers, animated by the educational advisers.

So, some 350 teachers had the occasion to complete their training during an initiation (for the new teachers) or a methodological and linguistic recycling, at the CREFAP in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hanoi.

Between the two inservices I animated with my colleagues, I was able to take one month of holidays in Belgium, where the weather was charmingly cool and rainy :)))

Students ?

They returned to school after three months of summer holidays (they have no school leave during the year except a week for the Têt).
They grew up, and so did the program :

For 1998-1999, there are 600 Bilingual Classes in Viet Nam + some "intensive French" classes for the 9th graders who did not pass the middle school exam.

In Can Tho we have 52 bilingual Classes and 2 "intensive French" classes (1448 pupils, 38 teachers); in Vinh Long : 5 Bilingual Classes (119 pupils, 4 teachers).

There is only me who did not grow up, and who am still alone: no local homologue was appointed.

Alain likes preparing rebus at home

In 10th grade, it's new, the pupils begin to learn English and they are delighted : they become trilingual, and learn with a disconcerting ease. They also discover the pleasure to annoy their French-speaking teachers in a language they often don't know ;)

November 20th

Yum-yum : snake, eel, etc.

Is teachers' day : every pupil has to celebrate his teachers, it doesn't much matter the age of the ones and the others. The teachers are themselves going to celebrate their former teachers, etc.

It is a very busy day for them, because they should be at first celebrated in their school(s) then go to celebrate their former teachers, then be back at home to receive their pupils... If you want to make a fortune in Vietnam that day, be a florist (I sometimes receive more two hundred, true and false flowers) !

As for the bilingual classes teachers, they also invite their favourite educational adviser (I do not boast : I am the only one ;)) !

At the very last minute...

"Hello? Pierre? We need you. THE AUF decided to participate in Can Tho's international Fair. It would be necessary that you rent a double stand, furniture and a cellular phone with modem cable ; that you hire some hostesses and that you take charge of the decoration, bilingual of course. I send you Alex and Jean-Pierre,who will stay with you two days. Then you will animate the last four days, all right ?"

" But... Er... The Fair begins in three days, you know? "

" Bah, you are going to manage, aren't you ? "


On this one, we made it like super champions... Of course I called all the teachers in, paid a visit to the director of the Fair (because of course all the stands and the furniture were already booked), convinced a cellular phones salesman to rent me the model which we needed, spent my evenings to prepare the decorations and signs, which my good friend Tang translated one by one into Vietnamese...

Mr Serge Degallaix, Ambassador of France, was very interested. He notably asked numerous questions (and took notes) on Can Tho's Bilingual Classes.
Since he stayed three times longer at our stand than at the others, we considered it as a victory :)

Our stand (18 m²) was ready one hour before the opening. With an exploit for the time and the place : the French-speaking Internet sites (among which this one ;)), displayed on a big screen thanks to an overhead projector and a laptop in direct connection with the Ho Chi Minh City server, by cellular phone !

It was the only way : there was no telephone at the Fair... I had tried to contact the phone company, but they answered that they could not install a 150 metres cable on a Sunday. Can't blame them !


The Provincial Popular Committee invited the representatives of all the NGOs working in Can Tho at a meeting with the authorities (educational, sanitary, economic, agricultural, etc.)

An intelligent local initiative !

And on this photo, you see only the representatives of the "health - education" branches, where I was the only representative for "education"... You can easily spot my dear friend Andrée, with her orange-coloured polo ;)

The French-speaking fest, March 20th, 1999, in Can Tho !

Rather than to repeat the modest celebration of 1998, we had decided to have a big festival in 1999.

From January, the organizing committee (I and 4 teachers, so that the fest would be their realization and not mine) prepared two activities : a big spectacle combined with an exhibition of posters on the subject "Holidays in the French-speaking world".

Have all the classes in the show ? Impossible: there are 54 of them, if we had given them 5 minutes each the show would have last 5 or 6 hours ! A preliminary selection indicated the 21 better plays, to polish up for the big day.

As you can guess on this photo, the last moments before the opening were intense...

Two hours before : we obtain the missing authorizations (relief !)

One hour before : at the height of the dry season, it begins to rain !
The television crew packs up the mobile studio which they had installed...

Fifteen minutes before : the rain stopped, we reinstall everything in the yard of the Secondary school.

The hour : our public consists only of some pupils and a dozen guests !

Fifteen minutes later: there is more than one thousand persons in front of the scene, let's go for it...

Lights on !

We're on for a three-hours show (interrupted with breaks, pricegivings...) with songs, playlets, a magician, dance, competitions...

And a nice public, sat on small plastic stools in the yard of a Secondary school, on a Saturday evening...


We did not believe in it. The night before, we didn't sleep. The same day, we wondered what was going to fall on our heads.

During the show, we feared everything... Power outage ? Rain ? Accident ? Ban ? NO.

The happy public having left, we realized that we had DONE IT ! YES ! We did not just "hold on" from 18:00 to 21:00... We enjoyed ourselves, relaxed, sang, danced, roared...

And the jury indicated the best plays, to the authors of which we handed presents of course.

All this for less than 200 dollars...
Yes, we were proud of ourselves !

Here are some more pics of this fest
(click to enlarge) :

Personnal stuff

At the end of 1998, I had the pleasure to announce Bertha's adoption :
About 100 kg (muscle only)...

No, this is not Bertha...

Here's Bertha !
A Honda XLR 250 "Degree"

I had had a lot of luck by finding an all-terrain motorcycle (very rare here), with an engine superior to 175cc (normally forbidden in Vietnam) and in excellent shape ! At first the owner wanted 3200 dollars for it, I finally got it for 1500... To bring it from Saigon to Can Tho (200 km) I drove it of course (great stroll, with a good motorbike !) having luckily found two new tires to put on. Gag (sic) : for the occasion I had bought some sun cream in a Saigon's local pharmacy. It was once again only a copy, probably cooking oil, seen the state of my skin at the arrival... OUCH !

I took it to Hanoi when I moved there (but in a truck this time - 2000 km !) and resold it there one year later, sadly, not knowing if I was going to stay in Vietnam, but especially because the traffic is such in the capital that there is no pleasure to have with a motorbike.

Let's go back to Can Tho...

In 1998, we had the immense pleasure to enjoy the opening of the "Nam Bo" restaurant . FINALLY a suitable (and even more !) restaurant with Vietnamese and French dishes.

The quality was unequalled in Can Tho and the prices quite reasonable.

The owners were Anh, French-speaking Vietnamese, who had renewed everything herself to obtain this superbe place, and her husband Benoît, super-nice Frenchman, who often came to relax there and to put some atmosphere in after his job.

Regrettably, Benoît and Anh flew away for another country in 2001, but Anh's brother stayed there ; then in 2002 Benoît and Anh came back :-)

A monk in a Mustang convertible in Can Tho ?

No... This virgin skull belongs to my cousin Frédéric Gieling, 28 years old, Quebecois. This picture comes from his selection film for "The Journey Destination World", in which he participated in 1998-1999. He was one of lucky eight candidates who went around the world, in numerous countries, realizing a short film a week for Radio-Canada and TV5...

After Japan and Hong-Kong, "Froutch" had chosen Vietnam and paid me a small visit in my deep South...

"Tabernak !"

"This is really different !" is the expression we'll remember from his stay in the Mekong Delta...

He had not planned to make one of his 17 required movies here, but the charms of the Delta and the love of my boat pilot for alcohol emptied the camera batteries of our young reporter, who was then engaged as journalist by Radio-Canada (you can admire him from time to time on TV5 also).

(Sorry, the pics are not very good)

Home, sweet home...

I was tired of first house I had rented upon my arrival, and was looking for another one for six months when I found a hidden treasure. Hidden because the house in question was very badly fitted out, but fortunately the owner was open-minded and thought that I had good ideas...

So, we demolished his new bedroom, his two new bathrooms, the bedroom of his daughter (I spare you the rest...) and reconstructed almost everything inside : a real kitchen, a real bathoom, a big living room, an office and two air-conditioned bedrooms... Garden restauration (we had to evacuate 5 trucks of various "grimes" and then call in 4 trucks of ground), new terrace ; new electric installation with halogen spotlights, boiler, new stair, paintings (all the house was pale blue with grey chassis), etc.

What a relief when I was finally able to settle down there, after an epic move on delivery tricycles, in February, 1999 !

How sad, when I learnt three months later that I was going to move to Hanoi...

What a joy for Benoît and Anh (read above) who quickly took the house :))) And for my successor, who took it in his turn after Ben's departure in 2001...


Near Hanoi in October, 1998, with Marie-Anne, Roxane and Nadine, dear colleagues and friends...:)

After a few hours on the motorbikes in the campaign, we visited the Paintbrushes Pagoda, before going to the potters village... A whole program :)

Next page : photos in the Can Tho classes 1

Page créée le 27 novembre 1998 -  Mise à jour le 21 juillet 2002

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