Category Archives: Educating students in developing world

Good Morning, Vietnam!


As a history teacher, I was motivated to explore  life in Vietnam before, during and after the war. The following photos reveal my daily treks to search for some meaning in the causes and effects of this twisted, unpopular, and politically driven Vietnam War. 

Living history was right before my eyes everyday!

So many historical concepts were revealed while reading and touring Vietnam:  WWII, Communism, Diplomacy, Cold War, Domino Theory, Colonization, Civil War, Guerilla warfare, US foreign policy, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon era…

We landed in Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) where we spent 5 nights in the beautiful Grand Hotel.


French colonial rule can be seen in food and architecture


The Opera House : we attended the performance- The Soul of Vietnam

IMG_3032Steamed Prawns in Coconut Juice


The Hotel Continental is the meeting place for the characters in Graham Greene’s well written book, The Quiet American, about the French IndoChina War. (1946-1958).

Reunification Palace (name given after the War)- built by the French


Once Vietnam was independent from French colonial rule, President Diem moved into the palace and ruled South Vietnam with the support of US. He opposed unification of the two Vietnams, hence, the name after the war: Reunification Palace.  Maybe he was corrupt and not a democratic ruler but our policy was: as long as you are anti-Communist, you are on our side.

IMG_3094Strategic planning room during the war (basement of palace)

Cu Chi Tunnels

Built by the Viet Cong (Communist troops in South Vietnam)

These tunnels were constructed by the locals as protection from the US soldiers and ARVN (South Vietnam army). They twisted for 124 miles through the jungle. Hospitals, sleeping quarters and schools could be found in this underground shelter. American soldiers continuously dropped bombs over the tunnels, killing civilians and the enemy. Tunnel rats (US soldiers) were deployed to find the tunnel activity. The openings were much smaller than pics depict (widened for tourist) and about 8-10 meters deep.




Actual opening 

The area was surrounded by booby traps, mines…



The enemy used our bombs to make their own weapons

After a eating a bowl of Pho (traditional Vietnam bowl of noodles, broth, and spices) and reading the history of the war,  I caught a taxi to the War Remnants Museum. Upon arriving, I regretted eating Pho (see below)


War Remnants Museum

Pictures for all you military buffs:





Ho Chi Minh: Leader of the Communist in Vietnam

The Mekong Delta

Site of some of the heaviest fighting in the War

The Mekong River begins in Tibet and empties in the Delta, southern Vietnam.

Great Rice Bowl of Vietnam; produces 1/2 of the countries rice


IMG_3265 IMG_3295Yes, they have pythons in the jungle. Afterwards, I found out this snake squeezes its victim to death and since he was just fed, I was safe- very encouraging!

IMG_3287Mekong Coconut Candy Factory

Mary and I were invited to return next summer to the Mekong Valley and work in the village.

I just want to make sure all the pythons are well fed!



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“Have You Consumed Rice Yet?”



Taking notes in a friend’s kitchen:

Her cook is preparing Pad Thai: fried rice noodles with shrimp, fish sauce, Thai chilies, tofu, bean sprouts, egg, ..


 It’s not uncommon for Thais to greet you with:

“Gin kow rey yang?” (Have you consumed rice yet?)

“To eat is to eat rice.”

Does this hint to the fact that Thai cooking is centered around rice? Can you imagine asking a Westerner if they have consumed a hamburger yet?

Flavor is important since rice is so bland.



The dishes are spicy, hot, pungent, sweet, sour, salty, exotic: Loaded with herbs and spices.

And if the meal is lacking in spices- four little condiment jars can be found on the table to add more flavor: sugar, vinegar with green chillies, red chili powder, and fish sauce. I never saw salt and pepper- too neutral.

Understanding the culinary specialties of a culture is one way I appreciate the lifestyle of the people. It’s more than just what they eat: Where , When, and How, are all factors I observe.

The Thais are notorious for eating out, not restaurant- style but in street stalls. (sometimes a little risky for foreigners).

Bag Food


For those on the go, food is served in these little bags– thin wooden sticks are included to stab the food while walking and sauces (of course, hot chilies) are packed for the customer.


My husband is a great wok chef, but I met his match in Chinatown!


Seafood from Amwapha (Floating Market)


Where are the chopsticks?

Thais eat with a fork and spoon: the fork scoots the food into the spoon and the spoon is used for actually eating.

I asked my students to share some of their favorite dishes:

Red Curries: (hot, hot with Thai red chilies!)

Pad Thai (fried noodles usually with shrimp)

 Papaya Salad

Hainan style chicken (marinated with rice)

Tubtim Krob (chestnuts in coconut milk)

Tom Yum soup ( see below): hot, spicy and sour soup with lemongrass, galangal (root), kaffir lime, and shrimp/chicken- with or without coconut milk

looks like something is going to crawl out, but DELICIOUS!


 Staying true to my blog,

I found student  food (school lunches), while teaching at the local government school,

I observed these food trays outside the classroom. After inquiring, I learned the government provides a free hot lunch to all students. The meals are delivered to each classroom.

Now, that’s service!



 A glimpse into the exotic world of tropical fruits:

mangosteen, rambutan, mangoes, durian, papaya, dragon fruit



My favorite fruit dessert: (my daughter fell for this too while in Cambodia)



Speaking of fruit,  I have a new health secret:

Coconut Water-hydrates, nourishes, and one friend said, “It’s similar to the plasma in our bodies.”  (I thought of plasma TVs???)


Flying to Vietnam tomorrow 

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Escape from the BIG MANGO to……….


the ancient royal capital of Siam (Thailand) from 1350-1767-approximately one hour north of Bangkok.

We could only imagine the days when the 500 or more gold-coated wats ( temples) glistened on the banks of the three rivers surrounding Ayutthaya. The Khmer (Cambodian) style prangs (religious towers) can still be seen towering over the lush countryside. Unfortunately, the Burmese armies attacked and burned the city to the ground in 1767, dashing  away with the gold and leaving the temples in ruins. The brick interior and what remains of the plaster exterior can be seen in the pictures below:



One Buddha is not enough in this religious town


Floating along the ancient markets



Tea time: Thai tea is sweet, milky, spicy, and DELICIOUS!


Our Students Can Be Our Best Teachers:

The Next Day: Ko Kret Island: Home of the Mon People

My students hosted us on an outing to this ancient city (northern part of Bangkok) where the Mon people still survive today making intricately designed pottery and amazingly decorative sweets. The King of Siam settled these Burmese refugees on this island 200 years ago.

IMG_2610 Ko Kret Flower Market


Artistic Sweets


Mon Potters



Boat Ride up the Chao Phraya River (main river running through Bangkok)



After a long day sightseeing,

Thai style relaxation: facials for 1/10 of the US price



Filed under Educating students in developing world, Non-profits for teachers, Teaching

Teaching under a Bridge

“Build a bridge and get over it”

My daughter’s extraordinary second grade teacher had a collection of quips that she would use to teach lessons beyond the textbook.  When they whined, she replied, “Build a bridge and get over it!”

APTOPIX India Free School

The bridge quote resurfaced after reading an article about an Indian shopkeeper, Rajesh Kumar, who saw the value in supporting education in his poor community. In the slums of New Delhi, he organized a classroom under a bridge, creating an opportunity for his students to cross over from poverty to prosperity. The article goes on to say his students also attended a government school, but their classrooms were overcrowded with 60 or more students in one room, and the teacher would instruct by writing a problem on the board then leave the room.

In Rajesh’s makeshift classroom, A painted rectangle on a broken concrete wall serves as his blackboard. The students sweep the dirt to provide a surface to place their mats.

They attend this school to learn!


The shopkeeper is providing these students with one of the greatest gifts we can give a child: Access to a quality education!

I experienced the reality of government school while training teachers in Zimbabwe.  After visiting a rural, public school, I was disheartened by the school environment. The walls were blank; desks were in poor condition and the teachers were exhausted( up to 55 in a class). The school housed grades 8-12 with a morning  and evening session to accommodate the sheer numbers. I requested a meeting with the principal- careful, not to sound condescending…. I had some ideas to share. With a smile, The principal said his school was the best in the area, so everyone wanted to attend; he would add students to the attendance list just to give them the best opportunity. I thought, wow, I can’t even imagine what the other schools must look like if this is the BEST. He said the teachers’ salaries were so low that they would often not show up for class. I inquired,” What would the students do?” He said they would scrub the school. Hmmm, maybe I should try this with my American classes. I tried to convince him to hire more teachers. “No money from the government,” he responded. (That’s another story/post).

The principal working against all odds



As an  educational specialist with a wide range of classroom experience, I am crossing the “American bridge” to the developing world where I can train teachers who are often young, inexperienced, and overwhelmed; in return, they can make a difference in their communities,bridging their students from poverty to prosperity.

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Teaching is my profession and mission!

 Teaching is my profession.

As summer approaches, I close another chapter in my full time teaching profession with an energetic and memorable group of eighth graders. This class has been uniquely special since I taught about half of them as their sixth grade teacher- I will miss them ALL!

Teaching is my mission !

I am preparing for my third summer abroad as a global teacher trainer. This summer I will be in Bangkok, Thailand with a side trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Bangkok, Thailand

thai children  I will be working in Bangkok, teaching students English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). My intention is to gain some experience in this area since there is a high demand for instruction in English, especially in competitive schools where the goal is for the students to attend a top ranked high school.

Summer 2012


While training teachers in India, I noted the instructors would often revert to Hindi when they needed to convey a challenging concept. After the lesson they would look at me and ask,” What is the English translation?”  With a smile, I would respond, I don’t speak Hindi.” We would  work together to create a Hindi/English version. Then the students were really confused! However, I was highly motivated to learn Hindi; my school did offer Hindi classes, and I sat on the front row and just like a sponge absorbed the lessons gratefully( sponges are probably not grateful). No, I do not speak fluent Hindi, but I expect after a few more summers I may surprise myself. Saubhagya! Wow, I may be multi-semi-fluent in Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, and Shana (summer 2011 in Zimbabwe) after this summer.

Stay tuned  for summer overseas reflections before I embark on my next venture, June 7th.

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Filed under Educating students in developing world, Global Classroom, Heads of schools in Africa and Asia, Non-profits for teachers, Summer teaching overseas, Teacher Development, Teaching, Teaching in Africa, Teaching in India, Training Teachers in Cambodia, Training Teachers in Thailand, Training Teachers in Vietnam, Training teachers overseas, Valuing Education for girls, Zimbabwe