A Week of Firsts

Like any good adventure, every day of the past week has been bursting with first experiences! New people, places, and things. (Those are nouns. You get to learn English even if you’re not in my class. No thank you notes necessary.)

First International Women’s Day In Another Country!

Dong Hoi celebrated International Women’s Day on Tuesday. I saw lots of music, dancing, and performances throughout the day. At night, my friends and celebrated the day and our friend’s birthday. Fun times all around!

Byron and I did a great job acting like we were really into the party music at the bar we went to for Women’s Day and our friend’s birthday. He covered his ears to protect them from the blasting symphony after this picture.

First Engagement Party!

A teacher at my center was recently engaged to be married and invited me to the engagement party. The afternoon was spent eating delicious food her family prepared and admiring the beautiful dresses of the family. The family was excited that the new teacher came to the party, so many of them clinked glasses with me and made sure my glass was never empty.

What good party is finished without rumors though?! The other teachers and I walked back to our motorbikes together. Rain fell all day, so one of the teachers held my arm as we walked down a slick path. People who saw it cheered. Did they think we are dating? I’ll let you decide.

First Time Meeting An Ohioan In Dong Hoi!

I was walking home one afternoon wearing an Ohio State shirt (AKA my outfit about 94% of the time). I was walking past a hotel and heard someone at the hotel’s outdoor seats yell, “Are you a Buckeye?!” I never give up a chance to talk about my Buckeye heart, so I started an impromptu life chat with the traveler. When I told him I’m from Ohio, he told me that he used to live in Hudson, Ohio!

Buckeyes around the world.

First time teaching ages 7-50 in the same week!

I restarted teaching classes this week! Lots of training, shadowing, and feedback involved, but I’m meeting new classes! Meeting new classes every day means I introduce myself every day. I’ve developed a solid intro. I tell them my name and that I’m a new teacher. I then ask the class to guess where I’m from and how old I am. Lots of emotions ebb and flow through me with the age guesses. Guesses of 22-25 make me feel great. Hooray! I look my age! 18-21 makes me feel young. Like maybe I should get a new haircut or something. 25-32 make me feel mature. Guesses over the age of 32 kind of hurt.

My famous whiteboard introdution art.

Regardless of if I’m introducing myself in a beginner class, an advanced class, or somewhere in between, I open the floor to questions. And what interesting questions I get asked:

“Where do you live?” – Students are excited to hear I live in their city.

“How tall are you?” – Younger students get really amped when I tell them 1.80m. They look at me with wonder. One student stood on a chair today to be taller than me.

“Do you have a wife?” – I say no, and the inevitable follow-up question is…

“Do you have a girlfriend?” – I say no, and the inevitable follow-up question is…

“Why not?”

“What’s your favorite color/food/football team?” – Scarlet/seafood/the Netherlands

Working with students of all ages makes every class unique. Regardless of the age of the students though, I get compliments in my classes! The plethora of compliments I get is a small part of the plethora of reasons the new classes are great. A brief list of my favorite compliments:

“You’re so tall! Why are you so tall?” – And suddenly, the English teacher evolves into a biology teacher! Thanks for all the teaching in high school, Mrs. Wiest.

“You’re handsome. You’ll find a wife some day.” – A reiteration of words of comfort people gave me during my 4 months at home. “Wow, you’ve recovered well! You still look okay. You’ll make a woman very happy some day.” I guess sympathy for my singleness has an international Visa.

“Do the pen flip again!” – I habitually flip and catch or spin in my fingers my whiteboard marker as I’m teaching. I teach the students English, and they teach me that they like the pen flips. After 23 years of trying, I’m finally an athlete!

“Hahahah we like your laugh!” – I’ll take compliments where I can get them.



The wonderful adventure continues with vigor every day. When I moved to Dong Hoi last August, firsts were admittedly terrifying at times. I was flooded every day with firsts: new experiences, new challenges, new discomforts, and new uncertainties. I spent much of August and part of September warming up to the new daily challenges. I fell in love with them. Moving to Dong Hoi in March, the warmth and my love of firsts every day continue to grow. Every day is a new adventure.


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