Kien Giang Economic and Technology College


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I am just finishing up two weeks working at Kien Giang Economic and Technology College. It’s amazing what you can fit into two weeks! There has been a lot of work accomplished. I taught IT classes, worked with various faculty, and we translated our way through several presentations and workshops.

Kien Giang is the Province; Rach Gia is the city. It is remote. It took us three hours to drive here from Can Tho airport, which is itself 170km south of Saigon. I’m not the only Westerner in town, but I haven’t met the other two.  People are sometimes surprised that I will travel alone to really remote areas to work. But, the truth is that when you work as an international volunteer, you are never alone. You are picked up at the airport, delivered to your accommodations, escorted to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You are given guided tours of the area; you are provided with a full-time translator…and you always get to hang out with the brightest and most personable people. My working visit to KGTec did not disappoint.

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Rach Gia is a seaside city; fishing is the main industry and very fresh seafood of all types is on every menu.(I tried jellyfish for the first time!) 

The city also has its share of history and temples and character..

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I got to enjoy my first National Teacher’s Day..TeachersDay8TeachersDay4 VID00020 

On the weekend, I  traveled with several staff members to the tourist district of Ha Tien. It is at the western end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn’t see many western visitors due to its remoteness. 049

We bought fresh crabs and had the seaside restaurant cook them for us and swam in the Gulf of Thailand…

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On the way we stopped at two mountains where stunning natural caves are used as temples.  At Da Dung Mountain a path goes around the mountain (a great up and down workout!) and there are several caves which serve as “cave temples”. It’s definitely a very special place and I’m so glad I got to visit..

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On Tuesday evening I was a judge for the First Annual Canadian- American Cultural Challenge. That was fun!..

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And on my last day at KGTec, I enjoyed a review meeting and a farewell dinner to which I wore my new áo dài…(What a fantastic gift!)

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Lots of new friends and lots of memories!

Meanwhile, in the south…

009So I’m off tomorrow to Kien Giang. Had I known I would be travelling to the very south of Vietnam to work at a Community College there, I may not have decided to fly to Phu Quoc Island last weekend on a 4-day vacation. But, I had planned this getaway with a friend long before my schedule of work visits in the south were set and before Typhoon Haiyan threatened to wreak havoc in central and northern Vietnam. And that’s why I got to spend last weekend on the beach.

Phu Quoc Island is, in four words: beaches, fish, pepper, and pearls. They also have a National Park where we went kayaking and hiking, and while we had a lovely day, at the end of it our consensus was “It’s hard to impress a Canadian with lakes and forests…” Now, back to the beaches, food, and pearls…

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Watch out for low hanging bananas!

 

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I finally did it! I jumped into Hanoi traffic on a bike…and survived! Okay, I cheated a bit, because I chose a day-trip to Middle Island where there are no roads, no cars, no trucks, and only a handful of motorbikes…But I had to navigate Xuan Dieu and cross Au Co at Yen Phu to get there and these are some of THE worst streets in Hanoi…(I’d tell you why, except I’d insult a whole bunch of expats.)  I can’t emphasize enough what a big step this was for me. Suffice to say, I left my neighbor with specific instructions about where my passport and medical coverage documents were…just in case.

MiddleislandSo, within only a few nerve-jangling kilometers my friends and I found ourselves on the extraordinary Middle Island. Extraordinary because it is a stretch of farmland in the middle of the Red River, in the middle of Hanoi. I’m not an expert on cities (realizing THAT more and more…) but as I understand it, not many of them have urban farms where produce can be transported to markets…by motorbike of course!..within an hour.producebikePatMiddleIslandOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pathways that run up and down Middle  Island meander through fields of corn, cabbage, sweet potato, thyme (…Oh, you should smell the thyme!) and banana palms…Bunches of bananas hanging over pathways at face level were definitely the main biking hazard. 

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For the last two weeks in November I’m travelling to the much quieter Kien Giang Province…(Yeah, I know…lucky me!) and I do believe I’ll be renting a bike…

Open and Connected, Open Access Week, NSCC Online October 21, 2013

In this presentation I review the meaning of open access and open education. I provide a short explanation of the Creative Commons licensing process, distinguish between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, and provide resource links to OERs and open courses.

[Slides]   [Video]

Workshop on Student Recruitment (In English and Vietnamese)

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This workshop was delivered at Binh Thuan Community College in Phan Thiet on Thursday, June 12, 2013  by Uniterra volunteer Mathieu Aebi. The overall purpose of the workshop is to improve the college’s capacity in marketing and especially student recruitment techniques.

The main objectives of the workshop were to elaborate a marketing plan and stress the importance of students recruitment for Community Colleges in Vietnam. The College staff has been trained to address the strengths of the College to prospective students, to improve and reduce the College’s weaknesses,  to understand the current situations and the trends in the internal/external environment, to define their service and their market share, understand their competitors weaknesses , to segment their market, to select efficient recruitment techniques for the next period and to make good use of Social Media.

Workshop Materials:

Originally posted on World University Service of Canada, Vietnam 

Workshop on Partnership Development (In English and Vietnamese)

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This workshop was delivered at Binh Thuan Community College in Phan Thiet on Thursday, June 13, 2013 and co-facilitated by Annick Levesque (Partnership Development Advisor, BTCC) and Mathieu Aebi (Partnership Development Advisor, Hoa Sua School). The overall purpose of the workshop is to improve the college’s capacity to build partnerships with other institutions.

The main objectives of the workshop were to…

  1. Define key partnership concepts
  2. Assess institutional readiness
  3. Identify partnership opportunities Negotiate effectively with partners
  4. Plan & manage partnership activities
  5. Monitor results & evaluate partnerships

Prepared and Presented by  Mathieu Aebi & Annick Levesque 

Workshop Documents:

Reblogged from World University Service of Canada, Vietnam 

Saigon Polytechnic College and Cu Chi

2W9B6407aI have been working at Saigon Polytechnic for the past ten days. I continue to be impressed by the VACC member colleges. Again, I have arrived at a college where the administration and the staff are highly qualified, enthusiastic, and engaged. With the credentials of the faculty (many have Master degrees and a few have, or are working on, PHDs)  this could easily be a University but they have embraced the Community College model and they are focused on service to students and the community. Translated, that means the College has full classes seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:00pm to accommodate students who happen to be working. They even have an arrangement with one of the local employers for a bus to bring students, who are also employees, to and from the College.

Saigon Polytechnic is only four years old and I am the first international visitor. They have a great apartment on campus and they stocked it with coffee, crackers, treats…They also gave me my own fully equipped office…

The campus is actually located outside of Ho Chi Minh City in Cu Chi District. I knew of Cu Chi because it is where the famous Cu Chi tunnels are located. Two hundred and fifty kilometers of tunnels connecting six villages that served as headquarters for the Vietcong in South Vietnam during the war. How much nerve and ingenuity was required to live (to survive!) just 35K away from the American/South Vietnam Saigon headquarters throughout that war?  I have learned a lot about the Vietnam (American) War in the past five months but I must say the perspective from Cu Chi is much different.  While there are some fascinating stories and the war certainly set the economy back, Vietnam is a country that is looking ahead and glad to be united.

For now I’ll post some pictures of our day at the tunnels because I can hear that the volleyball game between SPC and the team from the Local Authority is starting and I must go cheer for the College!

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Pho…say that five times fast

I now understand why Vietnamese speakers, and probably more broadly Asian speakers, sound to us as if they clip some of their words short and constantly seem to drop and rise their speaking tone randomly. It’s not random…The same word can have five or six different (sometimes VERY different) meanings depending on the “tone” …flat…up…down…way down…clipped…up and down (kinda  like a question).

The key to knowing which tone to use are the tone marks…For example…

pho = rice noodle soup
phơ = euphoria
phô = city
pho’ = cheese
phố = street

I live on Phố Đuc Chinh ….As you can imagine, I have NO idea how to pronounce that correctly.

Be Where You Are…

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Today I visited the Old Quarter of Hanoi for the first time in months. I needed to buy a new pair of sun glasses and I knew a street in the quarter where I could select from Dolce & Gabbana, Channel, or Ray Ban for $10 a pair. That errand done, I wandered down to Hoam Kiem Lake cursing the traffic and the crowds along the way. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Saigon, the workshop I had to give on Wednesday, tropical storm Gabriel in Nova Scotia…

As I entered the park at the lake and walked past the Ngoc Son Temple a voice in my head, (Oh, come on! We all have them…) said,…”Be where you are.” Blame it on reading too much about Buddhism or just getting weird in my old age, but, I’ve started listening more to those voices…and I looked up…The Ngoc Son Temple  (Temple of Jade Mountain) is stunning. It was built in the 18th Century on Jade Island.  Jade Island is connected to the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake by the red, wooden The Huc (Morning Sunlight) Bridge.  I’ve included pictures of the temple and the bridge to show you just how beautiful they are. Without that voice in my head, I would have walked past…head down…negotiating with locals and tourists and vendors and motorbikes for sidewalk space. Instead I sat on a bench and watched a couple having wedding photos taken, watched tourists take pictures from the bridge, watched a group of old (old!) men practicing tie chi, and became mindful of where I was.
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Mindfulness is not a strong suite of mine. No matter where I am, my mind is usually somewhere else.

And speaking of somewhere else…
Last week I was cleaning up my photos and came across several I had taken while hiking at Sugar Moon Farm in Nova Scotia last fall… I wonder where I was thinking about that day at Sugar Moon…

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