Mekong Organics: English for Rural Kids
Hello from Kate and Phil in Mallacoota. Kien asked us if we would like to do a weekly Zoom session with students from Vung Liem-Vinh Long Province, to help with their English conversation. After ten sessions so far, very skilfully facilitated by Khang, we can hardly wait for our precious one hour a week with these beautiful young people. Our students are 13-18 years old, some with good conversation skills, and some just beginning. All of them were very shy to start with, but we now feel we’re getting to know about each other, so that we can share some jokes, particularly about kangaroos (who hang out in the main street here and mow our grass). The students have immense courage and skills to tackle such a cultural and linguistic divide. Phil and I have no knowledge of the Vietnamese language and culture and have a lot to learn. Small cultural differences are, for example, when we ask for the names of their pets, and they look puzzled- the pets are working farm animals and not the pampered pooches of our culture. We are growing our own food here in Mallacoota, so we have common ground discussing food and what our daily meals are. Everything seems to come with rice noodles in Vietnam, and bread (homemade) for us. We are fascinated by our differences and our similarities. It would be really good if the students could visit us here, and connect with their peer group at the Secondary College. One hour a week goes too quickly! We would like to host visits from the eldest students first, as they are heading for tertiary studies, and their English conversation needs a lot of work. Because the students are bright, a few weeks of intensive language in Australia would set them up very well for working back home. Vietnam looks beautiful; and students are content with their families, work, school, nameless pets, and sporting activities. Our local Mallacoota young people also enjoy their sports-mainly soccer, surfing, and skateboarding, with boating and fishing that our Vietnamese students would also enjoy, as well as the intensive language opportunities. Meeting with the students has opened up a whole world of possibilities for us. We have always questioned our cultural practices, and find it hard to explain what Australia is about, just as it is hard for us to understand life on the Mekong Delta. But we’re all up for the learning! Thank you Kien for helping us make this connection with “our” young people, and looking forward to more time and mentoring opportunities with them.