Hanoi update

I leave for Hanoi on June 11. I was supposed to fly to Indonesia a few weeks ago to do a report on the new embassy in Jakarta however there was a screw up with the tickets and I got stuck at phnom penh airport for 7 hours. Long story but suffice to say I was not happy.

The plan was originally for the family to stay here in Cambodia. Despite my best efforts I simply could not find a school that was less than USD$45,000 a year for both kids included.Yes…$45.000 !Vietnam has half a dozen international schools and then cheap local schools but there seemingly is no middle ground like there is here in Cambodia . So we were resigned to the fact I would have to go alone as paying that kind of money for schooling was out of the question. I mean..We could pay it but it’d make a huge dent.

One day about a month ago Leakhena and I were sitting out the front having a beer and we were chatting about the less than ideal situation and I distinctly remember saying to her “the only way we can swing the whole family going together is if we home school HA HA HE HE HO HO ” and at that moment a little light went on in my head. I remembered I had met an Australian lady in Cebu when I was in the Philippines who was schooling via the School of the Air ( SOA ) out of Catherine in the Northern Territory. So I contacted them about the reality of kids joining from overseas and a few weeks later they got back to me and said it was doable . Unfortunately they were actually quite expensive – about the same cost as leaving Grace and Angus in school in Cambodia . However, the home schooling ( HS ) idea was now firmly with me so….I will continue.

Some time later  Angus’ pre school teacher Anya told me she was leaving the school and was going back to Russia with no plans. Anya has been awesome with Angus and has kept us abreast of his development, has a genuine interest in him and he loves her dearly. So I suddenly had this moment of …well…not clarity…but “what if Anya was interested in a private tutoring job in Hanoi ?”  so I cornered her the following day and explained where we were at and what I was thinking. As it turns out Anya was very interested so to date we have kept the dialogue open and she is currently back in Russia . More on that in a minute.

Now….before you all think I have completely lost my marbles…here is MY thinking on the idea of how HS might be an answer to our situation and why I am looking at it.

+the only way we can be together as a family in Hanoi is to find some kind of affordable education option . the thought of separating has been causing Leakhena and I a great deal of stress and angst. There have been a few tears and wild emotions etc and I really want to do whatever I can to keep the family together. I do not want to be a  distant father and husband.

+Hanoi represents an amazing opportunity for the family to experience what is by all accounts a fantastically vibrant and historical city. I regretted not taking everyone to Manila with me for the time I was there and I do not want to regret not having given them the experience of Hanoi. Travelling is an education in itself

+The kids are young at 5 and 8. If we are going to take a shot and try HS out, now is the time. We try it and if it works, ripper….if it is a disaster..then Leakhena and the kids can always go back to Cambodia and a regular school.

+Although the thought bubble was born from financial necessity, the more I have thought about it, the more I think home schooling can/could be a great thing for the kids IF we find the right person. we can teach what we want, when we want and have all manner of side subjects. yes, the lack of socializing aspect is there but we will deal with that. we can ummm and ahhh and talk about pros and cons forever but if we never try…we never know.

+i have met with several home schooling families here in Phnom Penh that I found to help me understand the methodology etc, . I also had a very cathartic talk with Sarah who gave me great clarity and assured me I am not totally insane .

+Whilst this was again a factor but not the absolute decider, the reality is, if we can get a tutor at a reasonable rate, large funds are freed up for the family to travel inside Vietnam, pay for other lessons for Grace  and Angus like music or ballet or karate etc etc

Probably the hardest person to deal with has been Leakhena. She simply has not been able to get her head around the fact that the kids might “graduate without a diploma / piece of paper”etc. I have done my best to explain the concept and have shown her videos etc. She has always wanted to go to Vietnam with me but she has been very stressed about the HS idea. However….I have reiterated some of the points above to her stressing we can give it a go or she can stay in Cambodia doing the same thing, stressing out about me being away and ,miss the whole Hanoi experience etc The kids of course are gung ho the whole idea.

So we have finally made a firm decision that the whole family is going if we can swing the HS . I will go first in June and get started on the job and then I will start sorting out the HS situation. This has turned a terribly stressful vibe around the house into one of excitement and anticipation. It means a lot has to be done. We will have to give up this house which is a real shame and right now we plan to find a tiny cheap place that we can leave all our possession in that Leakehanas sister and brother can live in and pay some rent on with us picking up the difference. it is effectively storage for us. We will need to send the dogs to mums house. I will be paying Grace’s school re-enrolment for next year ( starts Aug ) just in case the search for a HS tutor takes more time than anticipated and she has to go to school in Cambodia for a few months etc Angus can stay in his little school for a few more months no worries. However the ideal plan is to have everyone coming over for October or earlier.

As for the search for HS tutors, well Anya is a possibility. She is Russian and grew up in Siberia and Sochi. She was nanny for the Russian INterior Minister and has travelled extensively. I really like her outlook on life and as I said she has been awesome with Angus. I have also posted an advertisement on the internet in Hanoi and have had some interesting replies including one from a Filipino teacher who sounds like a possibility. Obviously you never know how people will turn out but that is what probation periods are for !! I am hoping there may be others that HS in Hanoi that I can reach out to when I get there. I would really like to have most of it sorted so the family can arrive and hit the ground running..

So there you have it.I haven’t lost my marbles I am just trying to keep us all together ! Today I spent several hours trying to figure out the most effective way to pack 80kg into two large duffle bags. I think I have missed my calling as I have managed to get almost an entire house packed !  Mostly I have packed our treasured possessions that we have collected and that will remind us of Cambodia and Australia etc


You'll need a big bag


Decide what you think you need


Save weight...remove frames


Start packing


Almost there..


Finished ! 32kg


And if you can't pack it, store it or sell it.....

I  will of course keep you all up to date as things progress.

As a last aside…would you believe I am getting a Diplomatic Passport with the new job ?

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