Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Learning Vietnamese

I've started learning Vietnamese in preparation for my trip. I've decided I will not pull a Jeannette, and so will arrive with at least enough knowledge of the language that I will be able to ask someone if they understand English (sorry Jeannette!).

Or announce to everyone that I am American! Even though I am not American.

There is no doubt that the series of CDs I bought, Pimsleurs Conversational Vietnamese, is American. This is how a typical lesson goes (note these are phonetic spellings, because there is no guidebook that shows me how these words are actually written):

Man's voice: Imagine you are an older American man, and you walk into a café and notice a young woman from your hotel. Say hello to her.

Me: Chao Chi-i

Vietnamese Woman: Chao Aum
Man's voice: Ask her how she is doing.

Me: Chi co kray-ay krom?

Vietnamese Woman: Doi kway-ay làm, cam unh ang.

Man's Voice: Ask her if she understands English

Me: Chi co héa-ho din Ang krom?

Vietnamese Woman: Krom

Man's Voice: Tell her you are American

Me: What?! How is this normal?!

In about every lesson, the man makes me say this! It's quite funny (and typically American) that before i learn how to say 'Sorry', or ask someone what their name is, that i know how to say that i am American, and even know how someone would ask me if i'm American.

And why an older American man picking up some young girl in a café?

I'm still waiting for the man to teach me how to say that I am Canadian. Or Australian. Or British. Or how about how to order a bowl of pho?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Next Floor: Work Experience

So I have now changed the name of this blog from Chronicles of the 12th Floor, to Chronicles of the Next Floor. For those you don't know, the 12th floor is where I spent most of my time in University: the 12th floor of the Hall Building at Concordia. The change to the Next Floor represents my quest to find the next level, the level where I can continue learning in a more practical and technical way. I believe in some camps this is called experience.

In my very long search for employment following graduating, I became incredibly bitter with the fact that without experience (or sometimes more vaguely, time since graduation, as i had already some years of experience in my field upon graduating) you can't get a job. Even internships, that are meant for people with no experience, are looking for people with experience.

Luckily, I ended up finding a job, but in a field that I am just so tired of :recycling. It leaves no room for gaining more real experience. Just plain recycling. Oh and sometimes garbage, composting, and waste-free lunches at schools. There's only so much beneficial experience i can absorb by helping people figure out which plastics are recyclable and explaining that they can only put their garbage and recycling out between 5am and 8am on the day of pick-up. I don't care if you're attached to an oxygen machine that only turns off at 10am. Find a neighbour who can help. And stop telling me you don't have neighbours, you live in a god-damn city!

I've decided then that in order to get real experiences, one needs to sacrifice a little. And that is why I decided I am going to Vietnam. I will be volunteering for 4 months with an organisation who needs help, but who have very little to offer except experience.

It's something that i want to do, and need to do. Need to do in order to gain experience, become more independent, know where i really want to be (do i want to be in Montréal forever?), and know where i really want to go (do i want to break into the community sector?).

And so this blog will follow me on my journey to answer all these questions and to overcome the million roadblocks that i can see in the horizon. Hopefully i will find the Next Floor.