My name is Elizabeth Delahunty and I’m 23, from Ireland and a teacher working for Dang Tuan Language Centre (DTLC) in Haiphong, Vietnam. A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be writing these words. For a girl who has never lived away from her parents’ home before moving to Vietnam, it has been chaotic, challenging, baffling at times, but above all; incredible. Even though I’ve only been living in Haiphong for three months, it feels like home and the other DTLC teachers that I live with are like a bunch of supportive, crazy, hilarious and indispensable family members. From live chickens appearing in my classrooms to a group of sixteen year old boys delightedly handing me a gift bag of shampoo, teaching has been an overwhelming whirlwind, and peppered with the knowledge that you are changing lives, making it the most rewarding experience I’ve ever been privileged enough to have.
I began my journey in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, where I landed on 7th January 2017, dragging my so-called “overweight” suitcase and over packed backpack through the humidity and the long visa queues. Surrounded by over fifty others in the exact same position as me, we met with the Red Team, the group responsible for us for the week, and were brought to the hotel that we would begin our orientation in. One hundred and twenty teachers in total made up the group, hailing from England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and of course, a small squad from my own Ireland. The week in Hanoi was full of adventures; sitting on a boat on West Lake sipping Hanoi beer, singing Vietnamese karaoke, getting Dominoes in the torrential rain, seeing the wonderful pagodas and temples, and most importantly, meeting the greatest people on earth; the twenty two other Haiphong teachers. It may have been a happy coincidence or it may have been orchestrated by our recruiters, but our group clicked like no other placement, since our very first dinner out together in a Japanese restaurant that forgot to give us our pizza and our mornings – drinking smoothies in the hotel coffee shop.
Early on the 14th January, after a late night on “beer street” the night before, we piled into a bus with our many bags and horseshoe aeroplane pillows and at last, made our way to Haiphong with a sleepy sense of excitement and anticipation.