Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Archive for December 2008

Clouds pouring in over Sydney

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I was at a pub in Clovelly with a friend the other day when this storm rolled in over Sydney. I had time to snap a couple of pics with my phone before moving into the pub to continue with our beers.

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These clouds over Clovelly moved fast and looked ominous – I quite love a good storm. Which is a good thing because I gather I’ll get more than my fair share of them in Saigon.



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December 30, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Season’s greetings (and seven days to go to Saigon)

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Season’s greetings.

I’m just chillin’ after a great seafood barbie (that’s BBQ or Braai to those of you in other lands). I’ve enjoyed the day being with family and doing all the regular christmassy things.

Now I’m just watching the Vietnamese movie “Cyclo” … mmmm … great cinematography but the story’s a bit dull … does give me an idea of what Saigon was like back in ’95. Which if course is useless as much will have changed. It is making me excited to get there though … seven days and I’ll be in Vietnam. Woohoo 🙂

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December 25, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Micro-credit and why I donate to Kiva

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I don’t know these ladies above from the proverbial bar of soap. I have however lent them some money.

I’ve only lent them a small amount, $25 to be precise but then again the five of them are only looking to raise just over $1,000. Note that I haven’t donated the money just merely loaned it out. When they pay it back I’ll loan the money out to someone else. Welcome to micro-credit a way of lending small amounts of money to people who will use it to pull themselves out of poverty and into self sufficiency.

Now normally small entrepreneurs such as these would be unable to lend money from banks because of the small sums involved. With the help of KIva people such as myself can now assist those who would like to make their lives better for themselves and their families. Micro-credit itself isn’t new and it’s modern day resurgence can be traced back to the Grameen bank in Bangladesh. What is new is the non-profit web based organisation Kiva and how it acts as a conduit between people who would like to help out and those who need the cash.

So far I’ve loaned money to four groups/individuals. No-one has defaulted and as the money comes back in I loan it out again. I don’t consider it charity but more a way of giving someone a leg up in this world.

This is why the group of ladies above have borrowed money from me and others like me.

Mrs. Vu Thi Hien (ID Number 23060006), born in 1971, would like to borrow 4,452,000VND to invest in rearing pigs. Even though she is a teacher, she still performs agricultural tasks with her husband. Besides teaching in school, she rears pigs to increase her family’s income and raise her two children who are still going to school. He family’s average monthly income is about 3,500,000VND (about 219USD). Her group also consists of:

  • Mrs. Dao Thi Mai (ID Number 23060007), born in 1966, borrows 4,452,000VND to invest in raising livestock. She is also a teacher. Her family’s average monthly income is about 2,500,000VND (about 156USD).
  • Mrs. Le Thi Lien (ID Number 23060009), born in 1964, borrows 4,452,000VND to invest in rearing pigs and chickens.
  • Mrs. Dao Thi Ly (ID Number 23060011), born in 1977, borrows 4,028,000VND to sell electrical goods.
  • Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thao (ID Number 23060033), born in 1980, borrows 2,204,000VND to invest in rearing pigs. 
  • Translated from Vietnamese by Yen Thanh Pham, Kiva Volunteer

  • Vũ Thị Hiến, sinh năm 1971 (Ms 23060006), tham gia vay vốn ở mức: 4.452.000 vnđ để đầu tư chăn nuôi lợn. Là một giáo viên nhưng chị vẫn tăng ra sản xuất cùng chồng. Ngoài công việc giảng dậy, chị vẫn chịu khó chăn nuôi thêm lợn để tăng thu nhập và nuôi hai con còn nhỏ đang độ tuổi đi học. Thu nhập bình quân của gia đình chị khoảng 3.500.000 vnđ/ tháng. Cùng vay vốn với chị còn có: Đào Thị Mai, sinh năm 1966 (Ms 23060007), tham gia vay vốn ở mức: 4.452.000 vnđ để đầu tư chăn nuôi. Chị là giáo viên thu nhập bình quân của gia đình chị khoảng 2.500.000 vnđ / tháng. Lê Thị Liên, sinh năm 1964(Ms 23060009), tham gia vay vốn ở mức: 4.452.000 vnđ để đầu tư chăn nuôi lợn, gà. Đào Thị Lý, sinh năm 1977(Ms 23060011), tham gia vay vốn ở mức: 4.028.000 vnđ để đầu tư cửa hàng cơ khí. Nguyễn Thị Thảo, sinh năm 1980(Ms 23060033), tham gia vay vốn ở mức: 2.204.000 vnđ để đầu tư chăn nuôi lợn.
  • PS. Mrs. Vu Thie Hien and friends still need some help to reach their targeted loan amount. To lend to them go directly to

    Here’s another lady I’ve loaned money out to. I don’t have a particular reason for who I lend out to except that I have a preference for countries I’ve lived in (Indonesia) or am going to (Vietnam).

    Want to know more? Go to


    Ni Komang Rani owns a small food kiosk in her front yard. The earnings from the kiosk is used to supplement her husband’s income. Her husband, Nengah Jasa, works as a truck driver in the Javanese route. Since her husband’s income is barely enough to cover daily living expenses, Rani started a kiosk with starting capital of $110. Rani stocks her kiosk with merchandises like snacks, foods, drinks and others. Rani opens her kiosk at 6 am and closes at 6pm. Each morning, Rani goes tot he market to purchase goods to be sold. She goes to the market at 5 am every day. The market is not too far from her home. She earns about $55 each day. Rani saves her earnings for later days. All her children has been married. She will use the loan from Dinari to purchase more goods varieties to be sold and expand her offering.

    Translated from Bahasa Indonesia by Kresna Hartandi, Kiva Volunteer

    Hidup dikota membuat Komang Rani membuka usaha warung didepan rumahnya. Untuk membantu suaminya , Nengah Jasa, yang bekerja sebagai sopir truk ke Jawa . Karena Penghasilannya sebagai sopir tidak mencukupi untuk kebutuhan ekonominya. Maka Rani membantu dengan membuka warung di rumahnya.Dengan modal awal Rp.1.000.000,- Rani melengkapi isi warungnya dengan bermacam-macam barang dagangan seperti makanan, minuman,sembako ,snak,dan lain-lain. Rani membuka warungnya pada pagi hari jam 6 pagi sampai sore jam 6 sore. Setiap pagi Rani juga pergi ke pasar untuk membeli keperluan dagangannya,sekitar pukul 5 pagi,karena rumahnya dekat dengan pasar negara. Keuntungan yang diperoleh sebesar Rp.50.000,- perhari, Rani bisa mempergunakan untuk memenuhi kebutuhannya sehari-hari ,karena kebutuhan sembako harganya sangat mahal sekarang ini,maka Rani juga harus bisa menabung untuk masa depannya,karena anak-anaknya sudah semua menikah dan tinggal bersama suaminya. Pinjaman yang diperoleh dari Dinari dipakai untuk menambah modal usahanya agar dagangannya semakin banyak dan berkembang.

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    December 19, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Go to this website and Bayer will donate $1 to the homeless on your behalf

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    Transform Homelessness – Donate $1 by clicking here




    Click on the link above and Bayer will donate $1 on your behalf to Mission Australia. You donate nothing yourself – all you have to do is tick a few boxes and select a colourful butterfly.

    Now …yes …I know that Bayer is a big pharmaceutical company … and that this stinks a little of communitywashing (similar to greenwashing’s fake environmental concerns, for when a company decides to appear as if it cares about it’s community but is only appearing to do so for marketing reasons) …. nonetheless ..enough clicks and they will actually donate $60,o00 … which I’m sure Mission Australia can use.

    so go ahead … it’ll take less than a minute … it’s the least we can do

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    December 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    HSC Results out today

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    The HSC (the final secondary exams for the state of NSW in Australia) results came out today. As always I’m interested in how everybody in my class went. 

    This particular class was very special to me as many of these students were in the very first class I ever taught as a teacher. Many of them I had taught for the last three years and got to know well.

    In the end everyone did well. These are the highest results in Business Studies at the school for quite some time. A number of students receive results in the top band (band 6) and we were above state average for students in Business Studies in this band and the band just below (band 5). This is a credit to those students who worked well to get into those bands. To perform at those levels you not only have to be naturally able but you have to have worked well on a continuous basis.

    As a teacher I’m always unsure of how much of a hand I’ve had in the success of these students. A good friend of mine once likened it to not standing in the way of their learning. So I take pride in not having stood in their way and, occasionally, have pointed out the path should they have momentarily lost their way.

    I was very happy with how everyone in my class performed. That includes those students not in the top bands. Most often those are the forgotten students – well guys I know how hard you worked. Congratulations to you all. You made me proud.


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    December 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    My new apartment in Saigon

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    phu my an apartment in Phu My Hung, Saigon, Vietnam

    My apartment in Saigon has just been confirmed and I thought I’d throw up a photo of it. It’s currently occupied but will be ready for me by Jan. It includes furnishings which I’m pretty happy with (except for that weird eagle thingy on the wall – what’s that about?). Looks like a great place – hope the surroundings are interesting and that there’s good food nearby.

    The apartment is located in South Saigon in the Phu My Hung area. The school I’m working at is nearby.

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    December 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Paperwork, DFAT, obscure signatures and pretty girls.

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    back on the bus again 

    The paperwork, oh the paperwork. Just in case I find myself one day cursing the red tape of Vietnam let me describe some of the red tape I’ve had to go through here in Sydney.

    In order to teach in Saigon I need a teaching degree and I need a police clearance. The teaching degree was no problem (I have one of those tucked away somewhere). The police clearance was a bit more problematic. All teachers in NSW are police cleared to work with children but I didn’t have any documentation for that. No worries – the police station was just around the corner. I go in, decide to go for the vanilla version ($55) of the police clearance rather than the fingerprint version and am assured that while it can take up to 10 days it’ll most probably just take 3 days.

    11 Days later and no police clearance. I contact them to be told that it was sent out but they’d send me out another one anyway. 5 days later I have the police clearance. Seems I’m not a criminal. Well, at least not in their eyes.

    Now that I have the required documents I am advised that I need to have them either notarised or authorised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

    As a general rule, countries that are party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents require an Apostille on documents which qualify as Australian public documents.  A full list of countries that are party to this convention can be found at the Hague Conference on Private International Law website.

    I love this – this convention calls for the abolishing of legalisation of documents but has in itself some formal requirement for processing of paperwork which, incidentally costs you more than if you go to a country (which includes Vietnam) that hasn’t signed up to abolish “the requirement for legalisation” of documents – oh the irony.

    Anyway back to the story …. Now last time I dealt with DFAT (in Indonesia) I was trying to figure out which of my drinking buddies were spooks while drinking the free beer they were plying me with. DFAT have only been good to me in the past – they used to put on Friday drinks in Jakarta for all expats so I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

    So I toddle along to DFAT in Sydney. There I am told that the University degree has an unrecognised signature on it (despite the fact that it has both the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor’s signature on it!). I am advised that the only signatures from the university that DFAT recognised are some minor cogs in the wheel located at obscure campuses nowhere near me. I don’t get annoyed though for three reasons, the first is because DFAT used to give me free drinks, the second is that in my mind I’ve prepared myself for some paperwork hell in the next few months, the final reason is that the girl serving me is very friendly and quite a looker.


    back across the bridge

    So I toddle off (again), take the bus back to my apartment. Jump in my car, drive halfway across town. Pay a small fortune to park and then attempt to locate some minor apparatchik of the University. Engage in some meaningless but friendly banter – wait half an hour for four bits of paper to be stamped. Then I drive back across town. Of course now it’s too late to go back to DFAT.

    The next day I head off to DFAT. Another friendly lass but not quite the looker. Seems that the bits of paper I’m going to have signed, ribboned and waxed (that’s what authorisation translates as, it seems) will cost me $140. Ouch.

    So …. next time I find myself in some bureaucratic nightmare of paperwork in Vietnam I’ll try to keep in mind my paperwork trail here in Oz.


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    December 17, 2008 at 2:31 pm