Love, life and living young
Updated : 06/28/2012 15:58 GMT + 7
Is it wrong to think about love and romance most of the time when you’re young? To want to dance and have fun? To want to show others your feelings and passions? Vietnam is more conservative a society than my country, Australia yet it really doesn’t matter, young energy will always find a way to have fun. Hi, I’m Stivi. I’m an English teacher and hotel trainer working in and around Hoi An.
I’ve taught students from 4 years of age to adults in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam and to me, that wonderful sense of playfulness and innocent affection seems most strong in the Asian nations and now the great country I live in and enjoy, Vietnam!
Ahhh! To be young again and dance with the music, hold your lovers hand and watch the stars together… romance in Asia and Vietnam gets funny sometimes. Why? Because it’s not just the young who are fascinated with romance… My English for housekeeping classes are often quite funny as the women, mostly married, tease me and point out which girl in the class is single!
Still it is the youth of Vietnam, its greatest treasure, that give the greatest example of the passions of such a large young population. Young men spending a fortune on flowers and public vows of undying love, girls endlessly posting facebook photos from school and home to attract attention, flash dancing and writing poems, secret notes and private messages on the phones under the school tables. Everyone’s doing it!! It used to make me crazy but now I accept it as part of ‘young culture’.
So it’s not wrong to celebrate the feelings of being young… that what we are made to do… Does that mean young Vietnamese are changing? NO. Trends and habits change but our basic needs are still the same and although some people show a more open form of love, it’s not as shocking we might think.
I remembered that I would fight with my mother, argue at school, fight in the schoolyard, want to spend time alone, play music loud, read alone in my room and hang out with my friends…and always, always…think about finding about a girlfriend.
In my teenage Australian culture of the 70’s and 80’s, finding love was just as difficult as everywhere else but with one important exception. Having a romantic partner at the age of sixteen and upwards was normal and not many people thought much about it – it wasn’t surprising or bad.
To go somewhere together, hold hands and kiss in public and so on, was just part of how young people learnt about developing and having adult relationships. To do that in public was not a surprising thing. By the time I was eighteen, I had already experienced love a number of times as many young Australians of that time did.
Yet, travelling in other cultures made me realize that our Australian way of life was not that common and young lovers in other cultures have more complications than in a western lifestyle. And while that is their way and I have no real problem about that – it has often got quite funny, odd and bemusing.
It can get very surprising here sometimes… On one occasion, I asked one student who was preparing topics for an IELTS exam, “What do you do in your free time?” He shyly replied, “I read love books” Huh? Did he mean bad books? It turned out he meant romantic novels. He was 19! To find a partner is a constant dream…
I still have a small folded paper on my bookshelf from a 24 year old student saying, “I love you, teacher” – no name, just this tiny, cute pink folded note. I never did find out who it was. It’s something we might do in Elementary school in my country. I must have taken away hundreds of love notes from my students secretly passing them to each other over the years!
It’s hard to keep romance out of the classroom. Teacher practicing past tense: “What did you do last night?” Student loudly proclaims, “I spent all night with my girlfriend!” OooK…. I asked another student, “What did you do last weekend?” “Mr Stivi, My wife and I tried to make a baby!” Ohhhhh…! The entire class couldn’t stop laughing for fifteen minutes, including me…
I remember teaching one class and a young man came in late. He had the most amazing haircut I had seen. Greased up like Elvis and flashing the biggest smile in the world. He sat next to the girl he was trying to impress. The rest of us were speechless. I took a deep breath and tried to carry on teaching but I couldn’t help giggling and it started to spread around the room. The boy was pretending not to notice but then his target burst in a howl of laughter and that was the end of that class!
I actually think it’s very romantic when the kids (hey! I’m older so you are ALL kids!) ride around on bikes in the cool summer night air out amongst the rice fields looking for a quiet place to hold hands, talk…, and maybe cuddle! It reminds that life continues no matter else what happens and that is a very cheerful thought.
Interestingly, as a teacher I can tell you that learning ANYTHING in a classroom is a great, easy, friendly way to meet the opposite sex and I know of quite a few romances that started in the classroom that later lead to marriage.
One of my favorite stories was trying to teach some students how to introduce themselves to a stranger. I got two students to role-play waiting at a bus stop. The lad was very tall, the girl was a beautiful tiny lass, and they were both very shy at standing in front of the class. Boy: “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” Girl: “Yes” Very long silence… Boy: “Why are you not married?” The poor girl had to leave the room because she was laughing so much leaving the tall lad puzzled about what was so funny.
Love seems like an obsession in Asia. Everyone ringing their partners constantly, Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? The jackets girls wear on motorbikes have cute words about love. Boys argue and giggle (in the back of the class) about the great looking girl in the front row. A million shops selling cutesy love trinkets.
My most popular lesson in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and now Vietnam has always been the words and language of love. ‘Get together’, ‘have a relationship’, ‘breakup’, ‘fall in love” – “Mr Stivi, why do they ‘fall’ in love?” – THAT’s a twenty-minute explanation…
In the middle of one class, a boy had arranged for someone else to deliver flowers to the girl he was ‘madly in love with’. It nearly turned into a riot, as everyone wanted to know; who! where! why!
As odd as it may seem to my western eyes, my heart agrees totally with what they are doing. I will be 54 this year but I still feel just as young in my heart as when I was sixteen. So I say to all you who are ‘young at heart’, keeping trying… you will find the love you are looking for but be careful of the teacher!
Whoever thought such a dusty, boring place as a classroom could be so romantic?