Friday, April 11, 2014

Ch-ch-cha changes

Just over two months until I head back to Europe. I can't say that I'm excited about having to pack up my life in Melbourne for the third time, but I'm optimistic about the move. In the spirit of new beginnings, after seven years on Blogger, I have decided to head over to Wordpress. Please click the link and head over there to read any future posts. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Same old songs

Well, I'm back in Australia but only for half of the year as I have decided to go back to Europe.

The decision has been very difficult but the job market here in Melbourne has ended up making it for me. There are just no High School jobs for me, I have applied and applied and applied to no avail. So, I'm hightailing it back to Europe. I have a job here in the meantime, teaching ESL to adults, and a summer position waiting for me in the UK. It's just a matter of teaching and saving (and surviving living with my parents) until June. I'm all over the place, literally.

I would be very surprised to discover this blog still has readers - but I just can't seem to abandon it for good.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Getting a Vietnamese Work Permit and Visa

My year-long working visa which I was able to acquire with my brand spanking new Vietnamese work permit arrived exactly two days after I made my (final) decision to leave Vietnam in December. Yes, I am leaving and I am extremely happy about it. It will be heart-wrenching to say goodbye to my students, who I absolutely adore, but I really need to get out of here. I'm not going to rant about the many reasons (and the main reason) I have decided to leave just yet because I promised to do a Work Permit/Visa post. Two whole people have e-mailed me about it, but who knows, maybe there are more of you out there who'd like some information on this tedious process.

How I got my Vietnamese Work Permit/Visa (Hanoi)

I needed a number of documents/items:
1. Passport with valid (tourist) visa.
2. University Testamur - to prove I have the specific qualifications necessary for the work I would be doing in Vietnam (in my case, a secondary teaching qualification).
3. A national Police Check (Mine was from Australia, if you have been in Vietnam for more than six months you must get one from the Vietnamese police - have fun with that).
4. Position application form - given to me in English/Vietnamese by my employer and used only for the Working Visa.
5. A full Health Check Certificate.
6. Two passport photos.

First I had to make copies of everything and take the copies and the originals to my Embassy (Australian Embassy Hanoi). At the Embassy I showed my originals and paid the steep price of around 500,000 per document to have the copies of my police check and testamur certified.

Then I made a COPY of the Certified Copies and took everything (copies, certified copies, and originals) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, 40 Tran Phu, Hanoi. I don't think I actually ended up showing them the original documents but better safe than sorry.

Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 40 Tran Phu:

Once at 40 Tran Phu I was directed to Counter 1 - where I wrote my name on a list and was given a form to fill out about the documents I wanted notarised. I then waited (about 2 hours) for my name to be called. While I waited I observed numerous middle-aged Western men come in with young, female, Vietnamese friends who conveniently pushed in for them.

When my name was called it took all of three minutes to hand over my form and the COPIES of my certified copies, and for the guy to check the original certified copies and my passport. I was given an invoice and told to come back tomorrow to pick them up. A colleague of mine was able to pick his up the same day so they must have been particularly busy when I went. I recommend going as early in the day as possible.

I returned the next day with my invoice and went straight to the cashier counter to pay (only about 60,000 for both documents) . Then I went to Counter 4. There were quite a few people and I was confused as to what to do so I just copied the other people who put their invoice receipt onto a spike at the front of the counter. I don't think this was the right thing to do, but the woman working at the counter saw me do it and nodded at me and took my name off the spike and put it to one side. She called my name twenty minutes later and I was out of there, with my nice doubly-certified copies of copies. The Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts a red sticker/stamp on the documents.

The last thing I needed was a Health Check Certificate. Only a number of hospitals offer the health check specifically for the Work Permit so make sure you check before you pay to have one done. Because there are so few options the English-speaking places can charge ridiculous prices - I paid 2 million but I have been told that at Vietnamese clinics you can get it done for 600,000. My appointment was at 11am and the whole process took about three hours. I was ferried from ' station' to 'station' within the hospital - eye check, blood test, urine sample, chest xray, blood pressure/weight/height, and a short consultation with a French doctor. You can choose whether to return to the hospital to pick up the results after three days or to have them sent to your workplace. I had them sent to my school and it took seven days (I called after five to hurry the process along).

Finally, I had all my shit together. Or so I thought. I returned to my school and gave the office all of my documents and they sent them off to Labour and Society (they also paid the 400,000 fee) . Three weeks later they were all returned, accusing me of being two different people because my university testamur does not have my middle name while my passport and police check do. ARGH!

I then had to go back to the Australian Embassy to write a Statutory Declaration that the documents do, indeed, refer to me and only me. I also had to pay (again, I think it was about 500,000) just to have my signature witnessed. I guess even if I'm not paying off my student debt yet Australia is still getting  money off me.

So, I handed it all in and waited... with baited breath...not really, I forgot about it even when my tourist visa expired.

It took another week after that but finally the work permit arrived. Now, a work permit is not the same as a working visa - it's what you need to apply for one. Once my work permit arrived, the nice ladies in the office (who were rather sick of my shit by this stage) took the process completely into their own hands - which is what any business which has hired you with the promise of a work visa should do. I just had to sign some forms and then they sent my work permit and passport off to get the visa.

So, finally, after four tourist visas (seven months in Hanoi), and three weeks after my last tourist visa had expired, my passport arrived back at the school with my one-year Working Visa....which I will only be using 70 days of. Oh, but look at all the adventures I've had.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I'm kind of done with this blog these days. I will do an informational post about getting a work permit here in Vietnam in a couple of weeks (assuming mine goes through okay) but other than that....meh.

If anyone has any questions about teaching in Vietnam, or ESL, or whatever you can email me at

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What could you possibly see in me? Is it my soul hung out to dry?

If I had to choose the one thing that scares me the most in Vietnam it wouldn't be catching sight of my reflection after a nice walk through the humidity, it wouldn't be my feral year six class, it wouldn't even be the disgusting squat toilets at the Bia hoi (although they rate highly) would be the traffic. The infamous Hanoi traffic.

Crossing the road is bad enough, there is no way in hell I am getting on a motorbike and getting out there into that shitstorm. I get taxis everywhere and it's a bit of a pain. One great thing about taxis, though, is being able to watch the chaos and insanity out the window. I've started collecting photos of the interesting things I see. Usually motorbike situations that are interesting to me, and possibly other non-Vietnamese, but to the locals they're just everyday sights which I probably look like an idiot for photographing. So, here are a few of my favourites so far...

Friday, July 26, 2013

He's got a Rolling Stones Tee but he only knows one song. They think they're from the 60s but they were born in 1991.

July has been the month for big decisions. I am now biting the bullet and officially staying here until the first day of June next year. Ten more months in Vietnam. Staying until next year rather than leaving in December is the most practical decision. I'm no longer in my 'early twenties' so it's time to act like a grown up. I am really lucky in my job: I adore the kids, my boss and colleagues are great, and it's usually a pretty laid back workplace. That's reason enough to stay until June.

I have actually started to feel a bit more comfortable here lately; I've seen some more of the city and countryside, found some new restaurants, and I'm starting to enjoy my area despite its distance from the centre of town. The weather is still ridiculous - hot and humid every day - but I know that come October I might actually get to wear my favourite jeans again so I can soldier through the sweaty summer. Seriously though, it really is intense, the other day I tried to wipe my sweaty face with my sweaty arm - which was gross - then tried to fix the problem by wiping them both with my sweaty t-shirt. There is no beating it. Someone should invent an air-conditioned bubble suit for Westerners who can't hack the humidity. I would pay for that shit.

Yesterday we took the summer school kids on excursion to the ASEAN Cultural Village. We drove into the country and then took a 40 minute boat ride down a river to the 'village'. It was crazy humid and by the time we even arrived at 9:30 everyone was so sweaty it looked like we'd all taken a dip in the river. ((Side note here to say that Vietnamese kids seem to give no fucks about littering - I told off more than one kid for nonchalantly throwing empty drink bottles into the river and they just grinned at me)) We were then taken around a few of the buildings and the guide spoke to the students about their significance; five out of forty children listened to her, it was embarrassing.  I stood there silently looking at the guide, when I wasn't telling off disrespectful children. One of my students said ' You can't even understand but you still listen!' and I said ' Yes, because unlike you I'm not rude'. He had a point though, I had no idea what was going on until one of the older kids came over and offered to translate for me - renewing my faith in my students. After a couple of hours even I had had enough. One of my year 7 students made me laugh out loud when he came over and whispered to me ' No 1 currrr'.  It was too hot to function.  I was even considering throwing myself into one of the many filthy looking lakes just to wash the sweat off. One of the year 10 students offered me the first sip of his iced tea and then took a sip himself and said ' that was a kiss'. AWKWARD! I rolled my eyes.

On the way back to Hanoi we stopped for lunch at a very traditional Vietnamese restaurant. What I thought were chicken wings were apparently frog legs. Sometimes I am very glad to be a vegetarian. Afterwards we sat around for ages waiting for....well, I'm not sure what we were waiting for as the Western teachers sort of just follow the pack on excursion...but we were treated to numerous displays of early-teen flirting. Oh, so much slapping and kicking and screaming and insults. Fascinating.

After lunch we stopped at the ASEAN Resort so the kids could use some of the rides and games they have there but it turned out that they all required expensive tickets, so the students just sat there for an hour playing on their phones. There was a jumping castle which I wanted go on so badly; sometimes being a grown up sucks.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I haven't worn a shirt since 1993 that's the year I moved my operation to the beach

Recently I had a friend from Australia come to visit. We spent a couple of days enjoying Hanoi, wandering around the streets and drinking cheap beer on street corners. I also ran into a group of my year 11 students in a night club, to my horror, but that's another story.

We went on a Ha Long Bay cruise which was sweaty, very sweaty. I look at the photos now and think ' oh what an idyllic long weekend' completely forgetting that at the time I was dreaming of air-conditioning. The boat was lovely and the food that the staff prepared for dinner looked truly amazing but I am now at the point that if I take one bite of Vietnamese food I feel ill. It's ridiculous. I can't even stomach tofu.

It was really nice to have a friend from home here. I felt like I could relax a bit and just enjoy this city. I didn't realise that I had been lonely but I guess I so. I have met people here and if I want company when I go into town its easy to come by but I don't really have anyone to just sit in a café with and chat for hours.

Annnnyway. I have decided to stay here until the end of my contract in May rather than breaking my contract and going to Europe in January.  Having my friend here, who is also a teacher, made me realise how lucky I am in my job: I adore my students, my boss is great, and my workplace is generally more relaxed than an Australian school. In order to survive here mentally and emotionally for another 10 months I have decided to spend Tet (Vietnamese New Year) in Europe. It's expensive, and I only have 10 days but I figure the cost and travel fatigue is worth it if it means I can make myself stay here until the end of my contract. Then I can go straight to Europe in June and hopefully find work in an international school. Ugh, I feel like my whole life is made up of holding periods when I'm waiting for the life I want to begin. I guess this is what being an adult feels like. Hooray.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Like a river that don't know where it's flowing, I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

I'm in Saigon. Back in Vietnam after 12 wonderful, brunch-filled, days in Melbourne. I also spent 11 days before that travelling down the coast from Hanoi to Saigon. Hoi An was beautiful, and I had a great time in Nha Trang (despite some serious sunburn), but unfortunately the holiday didn't convince me that I love Vietnam, as I had hoped it would. I start back at work (summer school) in a few days and I'm looking forward to it. Rather than ramble on I think I will do a photo spam/journal of the first twelve days of my holidays. Here we go:

Hoi An


...Eleven hours on the train to Nha Trang

Flight to Saigon