Sunday, July 11, 2010


Been in the USA for over a month...


No permanent job yet...but some stuff in the works, so we'll see what happens. In the meantime I'm playing professional companion and conversationalist with an 86 year old lady named Grace. She talks about life, I make her sandwiches, we watch the birds. Its all very "Tuesdays with Morrie."

The main point of this post: I finally uploaded a lot of pictures from the year on Facebook!!! Check 'em out!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Checked-in in Hanoi

Surrounded by stewardesses. Considering a new career path. They have the best uniforms. And cutest hats.

(Can you say "stewardess" anymore, or is it only "flight attendant"?)

Update: I'm too short to be a stewardess for Vietnam Airlines. What a punch in the gut...


I'm getting my car to the airport in 1 hour! I've been getting all kinds of adorable text messages from my is one of my favorites:

"Good morning Miss Madeline. I am student in 2D. I know that goodafternoon (Ed. note: "this afternoon") you will turn foreign. Have a good flight. I wish you successful and always happy. I will miss you a lot."

I love the idea that I will "turn foreign" again. Its like, "At the stroke of midnight, you will turn foreign once again...or you will turn into a pumpkin. Who the hell knows?!"

Oh, this feels so surreal...

See you in America??

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oh, the Drama.

I’ll spare you the boring details, but back when I applied for the Fulbright I wrote that along with teaching English I wanted to complete a personal project on the use of drama or storytelling as a means of cultural and language exchange. I said this in addition to many other things which duped the selection panel into thinking I was smart, worldly, and not nearly as naive and unprepared as I actually was...but that’s all in the past.

So what did this all boil down to?


A few months ago, I had my students submit ideas for Vietnamese folk tales or well known fairy tales to craft into short plays. I chose the best 5 ideas and then had a script writing workshop to help put the stories on their feet. We did story maps, broke the stories down into scenes, worked on character development, and had lots and lots of rehearsals.

Let me give you a brief run down of the 5 plays:

Cinderella at the Miss Vietnam Pageant:
I told this group they could adapt Cinderella as long as they set it in Vietnam. Instead of a ball, the sisters and Cindy were invited to the Miss Vietnam Pageant where they vied for the love of the Prime Minister’s son by walking the cat walk and a talent show. Their soundtrack was really impressive; everything from Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was used.

The Legend of Au Co:
Everybody’s got a creation story, and this is Vietnam’s. Au Co is a mountain fairy, Lac Long Quan is a sea dragon. LLQ rescues AC from a Monstrous bird and they fall in love. Drama ensues when AC realizes that her husband will never be happy in the mountains, and she will never be happy by the sea because she has a moral aversion to fish. So they take their 100 children and split them down the middle, each taking half. The oldest son--half mountain fairy, half sea dragon--goes on to found Viet Nam.
(I can't believe I didn't take a picture of them!! I was so wrapped up in it all...)
The 100 Knot Bamboo Tree:
This is a very old traditional folk tale here; kind of like an Aesops’ Fable. Khoai is a stupid laboror; the landowner is his stingy boss. The Landowner tells Khoai that if he is his slave for 3 years he can marry his daughter, but then he pulls the old bait and switch and gives his daughter to the village chief’s son. Khoai wants what is due him and is forced to go find a “100 Knot Bamboo Tree” which is nearly impossible! Buddha helps him with a little magiv, and hilarity ensues when Khoai makes the landowner and all his friends stick to the bamboo tree until they beg for mercy. The best part of the play? During the Landowner's line, "And now we must kill the pigs and chickens to prepare for the wedding feast," I started to hear a strange squealing sound effect that I couldn't place. My friend Huyen leaned over and said, "That is the sound of pigs being killed..."!!!!!!!!!!!! That was the only sound effect used in the whole play! HA!

Tam Cam:
Its like a legitimate researched thing that every culture has a Cinderella story. I didn’t legitimately research this, but someone did; Tam Cam is Vietnam’s. Its the age old rags to riches tale, with a nasty step-mother and bitchy step-sister. There is also a Karaoke contest to win the Prince’s heart (AGAIN: All Vietnamese people love Karaoke...). The twist? The fairy Godmother is a hip-hopping Buddha.

Dream Heaven:
This was the one “original” drama. I use quotes because Hieu, the student writer, was definitely pulling from some outside sources despite his insistence that it all came from his imagination. Basically, there is a prince named Peter who is of marrying age and falls in love with a poor country girl named Jenny. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has convinced the king that he should find a suitable wife for the prince, ala Aladdin style. The PM wants the prince to marry his wicked daughter Jella, but Peter won’t stop seeing Jenny. Jella sends a poisoned apple to Jenny’s house, ala Snow White. Peter discovers her dead poisoned body and can’t go on, so he kills himself in the tomb, ala Romeo and Juliet. The only thing this play didn’t have was a sleep inducing spindle and lost glass shoe. But really, what is writing but a theft of ideas?

In Shakespeare, the rule of thumb is basically that plays with weddings are comedies and plays with deaths are tragedies (or histories...because dudes named Henry always seem to be either dying or murdering some other dude named Henry..). My students followed this rule to a T. (Except for ‘The Legend of Au Co,’ since that kind of ended in divorce...but there wasn’t a custody battle or anything like that.)

The death and love scenes were not only the most fun to work on, but they also were the most culturally enlightening. I mean, most of any culture revolves around those two things, right? We all are just wanting to fall in love and waiting to die; how we handle both defines our culture.

Here in Vietnam, public displays of affection are not common, but we were talking about royalty, young love, and marriage proposals so I knew we needed some juice. My students agreed to some basic embracing and on-bended-knee hand kissing. They were a little embarrassed, but they sucked it up for their art. The crowd, quite frankly, went wild.

Meanwhile, I had flashbacks to a play I was in during my freshman year at Fordham in which I asked the playwright to please write a make-out scene for me and the guy playing my baby’s daddy. He was a senior and didn’t wear deodorant; I was obviously wildly attracted.

I also had to keep myself from getting upset when all the students laughed uproariously during the death scenes. In Dream Heaven, Prince Peter was killing himself in the tomb beside the poisoned body of his virgin love and everyone found it hysterical--including the actress playing said poisoned body. During rehearsals I kept yelling things like, “CAN DEAD PEOPLE LAUGH?! IS IT FUNNY THAT HIS LIFE IS OVER?! HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE KILLED HIMSELF!?! (I think I went a little overboard on this...I’m sensitive).

In the end, “Dream Heaven” took home the chachski, much to “Cinderella’s” chagrin. Everyone just really truly loved that 10 minute death scene...

So now that the Drama Competition is over, its time to freak about leaving, pack like crazy and say a lot of goodbyes...Its about 30 hours til take-off.

Is my stomach supposed to feel like this? Its so weird!

Me and the cast of Cinderella, wearing my Ao Dai (long dress) which the teachers gave me for my birthday...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last trip to hanoi...

Just got back from my last trip to Hanoi. I got nostalgic on the way home as it all started to set in that I'm Ipod was playing some John Denver and a tear may have come to my eye...

But then my bus broke down and I sat in the sun for 1/2 hour before some man I didn't know physically pushed me into a different bus sardined with people, then moved me to stand in the front of the bus beside him and the driver, and they started making fun of me in Vietnamese for not speaking Vietnamese, even though I kind of understood what they were saying, and it wasn't all very nice so I didn't really feel like responding, and I thought, "Ok, I'm ready to go home now." Then I turned on some Jay-Z.

Woohooo! America in 3 days: Where people will still make fun of me, and public transportation will still kind of suck, but where I can swear in English and everyone understands. Also, it's the home of the free and the brave!!!!!!!

In other news, my students had their drama competition on Friday and it was GREAT! Pics and update soon...once I finish some grading. And take a nap...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I've been putting off posting because I've been waiting to think of something witty/clever/reflective to say in my last days/SLASH My hard drive is full, and so I have to clean some stuff out before I can upload pics.

I will tell you that Hue was great. What I saw of the city was really quite lovely: a citadel, an old pagoda, some dead guys' tomb.... But to be perfectly honest, my cultural consumption ability isn't what it was in August, and I spent most of the time swimming in the hotel pool with the other Fulbrighters. We were just such a cool crew: Corinne once lived on a commune, Mia worked for Hilary, Mark has tattoos, Tam wants to go into medicine, Uyen likes math, Jen's a teacher (and married!), Emily cares a lot about sex trafficking, Sofia's family is Jewish, Hayley was an All American runner, and I like to write, read, and plan things.

How am I spending my last week in Viet Nam? Grading exams, running the Drama Competition, packing, packing, packing, and getting responsibly excited to go home. I say "responsibly excited" because I'm trying to give myself the OK to be a little overwhelmed and shocked about home. I didn't know what it would be like to move here, and I don't know what it will be like to move home...but I do know that home has good things I'm ready to get back to, like JCrew and Starbucks, and other shamelessly capitalist ventures which I hold dear.

The other thing that's exciting about going home is that I'm going to take some of my extra Fulbright cash to buy a Bicycle! I've loved riding my bike around Hai Duong and other places in Vietnam, and I can't wait to have a mode of transportation in New York!

Oh, and I just made this my facebook pic, but my mom doesn't have facebook so I'm posting it here. This is of me and this little girl named Linh I met at a wedding a few weeks back. She was my buddy.