adventures in da nang

paper cranesAs we approach the season of Ridván, our little family is wrapping up a three-month-long visit with family in Da Nang, Vietnam. It’s been a time of adjustment and learning—mostly adjusting to the presence of our newborn son and to our new role as parents, and learning how to function, thrive, teach and serve as a family. Our regular neighbourhood children’s class has been in the capable hands of our team back in Canada, and we’ve had a few adventures of our own during that time.

The Baha’i community of Da Nang, blessed with a group of selfless and devoted youth in its midst, is currently at the forefront of activity in Vietnam, or so we’re told. Several active groups for the empowerment of junior youth have been established in three of the city’s districts, all of which are generating a lot of learning. In at least one of these districts, a children’s class has also been functioning, generating learning about the interaction between these vital activities. Our family lives in a different district of the city, where a junior youth group is active but, due to a lack of human resources available, there haven’t been any children’s classes for a while. During our visit, we wanted to help change that.

Qu?nh’s sister Quyên, who, you may remember, runs a kindergarten, has two young boys, aged seven and nine years old. After spending some time trying to get to know our neighbours, we decided to go ahead and start a small class with Quyên’s sons. The boys have two close friends—girls from a Buddhist family that are just like sisters to them—and when they heard they were having a special class with their uncle from Canada, they decided they were coming, too. We had four classes at our home in all, mostly on weekends. They were informal, experimental classes, but lots of fun all the same.

snowflakesThe main challenge we had to address for this class was the language barrier. Since Qu?nh was busy with the baby, I taught the class. I speak very broken Vietnamese (I usually tell the family I speak at a lớp một (“grade one”) level), and most of the children speak very broken English. Quyên’s oldest son is the most advanced, and he helped translate some of my instructions. Instead of relying directly on the Ruhi curriculum, we chose themes related to holidays (Ayyam-i-Ha, Int’l Women’s Day, Naw-ruz) that allowed us to address Baha’i topics in a simple manner, while allowing them to practice some basic English words (seasons, colours, etc.), and experimented with different activities, learning how to make origami cranes, butterflies, and nine-pointed snowflakes by watching different videos on YouTube. It was an interesting creative experience, one that’s inspired me to look into other ways to support language learning in Baha’i children’s classes.

As we prepared to return to Canada, we chatted with some of the local Baha’is about the class. They were surprised and pleased that we had been able to start a class, and expressed the hope that it would continue. We spoke about who might be able to arise and serve in this way, identifying a few youth who were currently studying Book 3 of the Ruhi curriculum. We even asked one of the junior youth present if she would be interested in teaching children—”no way,” she said, “but I’d love to be an animator for junior youth!” No quarrels there. In the end, we spoke about the need to accompany Book 3 graduates into the field of service, to allow them to discover how to teach a children’s class with the support of capable and experienced individuals. We had some great, hopeful conversations that will hopefully bear fruit in the near future, and help the people of Da Nang—especially the youth—to walk their path of service “in serried lines”, aiding, accompanying, mentoring and supporting each other in their efforts to carry forward an ever-advancing spiritual civilization.

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