2/3 British English, Being Black, and Self-Care

Written on July 5, 2019

Published on October 17, 2019

Written by Arria Hauldin (former volunteer from USA)


Note: Arria Hauldin was a former volunteer with C4C in Rural Bac Giang Province. Her primary service was as a Teach for Change teacher, but she also spent her time conducting research on the experiences of ethnic minority single mothers in Vietnam. This blog was originally posted on Omprakash's EdGE blog (link: https://www.omprakash.org/blog/half-my-face-on-facebook-1). This blog was written during her volunteer period.

I am the worst Ninja ever. I can’t activate s tealth mode.


What a time to be alive! From trying new foods to going from invisible to very visible, my time here has been nothing but thought-provoking and eye-opening. In the few weeks I have been here I am continually discovering new paths, trails, and trivia about the region. One event that completely took me by surprise happened last week. Our family went to visit my host mother’s extended family in the mountains and when we came back, our house/school was flooded with water. Water was pouring in from the 5th floor garden area and trickling down to the first floor, so when we opened the gate to the house/school a wave of water as high as our ankles came crashing down!  Thankfully, the water damage was minimal; we just needed to sweep the water from the main areas, our rooms, and let the house dry out.


One thing that has been very unexpected is how different teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL, is from any other subject I have taught. Teaching British English has a lot more differences than I previously thought. Not only do we pronounce and spell certain words differently, certain grammatical structures get turned on their head. For example the sentence “Annie has an apple.” in American English turns into “Annie’s got an apple.” in British English. With Andrew and I learning American English we sometimes forget to alter certain things for our lesson. When the letter “Z” turns into “Zed” you kind of start questioning your existence a bit. Interestingly enough, the two other teachers we work with are from the Philippines where they learn American English, so none of us have much real life experience with British English which I think makes our lessons fun! Who knows what we’re going to say or how we’re going to say it!


At the Sun School we teach British English.


The most difficult part of this experience so far is adjusting to being the only black person in kilometres. Many women cover their skin to avoid direct sunlight and skin lightening creams are marketed and sold at almost every store. I know my dark skin is uncommon and unwanted. I feel like a one-person sideshow sometimes because I get so much attention from just breathing in public. The amount of hands I have felt in my hair pale in comparison to the “subtle” selfies I am blurring-ly in the background of while drenched in sweat and in mid-talk. I thought after a few days I would be less of a spectacle, but I think word spread and now when people see me they take the time out to stop and take a selfie. Some people rub my skin or grab my wrist and squeeze it like I’m a choice cut at the market. Most people just stare which can be very unsettling because it feels like they are looking into my soul. Some kids have even resorted to pushing their friends in my direction as the unwilling friend screams and begs them not to go any closer to me. Although I try not to take most of this behavior to heart, it’s hard not to when you go from background character number 2,098 in the U.S. to the plucky sidekick in an impromptu Vietnamese comedy show. 


Floral and patterned sun jackets and cover-ups are a common site in Chu Town. Many women wear this form of outerwear to protect against the sun's harsh rays.

How am I taking care of myself? *Nervous laughter* I am not doing too much self-care. I do not get enough sleep, or water, some days and I constantly feel uncomfortable if I’m not in my room. I know self-care is becoming more important in the U.S., but I have not heard the term used here. I try to take some time for myself and relax when I can, but sometimes there is no where to go since I live where I work. I have taken a few trips to Hanoi since I “blend” in a bit more than I do in Bac Giang. I also visit Hanoi for western food such as pizza from Pizza Hut, which is very classy establishment here. My host family has been nothing but amazing and they have helped me adjust to daily life in Chu Town! 

Chu Town main street

For future Global Scholars: If you don't like photos just walk with a little pep in your step and look straight ahead! No one will bother you.

- Arria's Words of Wisdom


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Coins for Change Vietnam (C4C) is a nonprofit social enterprise that aids disenfranchised women and children throughout Vietnam. 

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