Last month, the horrifying spectacle of Notre Dame in flames was across many of our news feeds. Once it was clear that no one had been seriously harmed, thoughts turned to the cost of renovation. Nearly €1bn was raised in just over two days. Many commentators questioned why people were so ready to donate to restore a historic building but not so ready to donate to what they considered far more worthy causes. To me, however, and perhaps to many Thelma and Louise travellers, it's not an either/or situation.
“Icons like these formed part of my early childhood education.”
Image by Louise Delaney - hosting an event outside the teaching centre in Can Tho.
Icons like these formed part of my early childhood education. As children, my brother, sister and I visited many heritage sites as we grew up, and even now, when I visit a historical building, I feel it living and breathing still, ready to tell me its secrets.
Education and travel have always been my passions. At the end of my last update, I had embarked on my first contract, teaching English as a foreign language in Vietnam. Since then I've spent two years in Hanoi, in the north, and just over a year in the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam - the Mekong Delta, at the very south of Vietnam. I'm now about to join a new centre in the ancient city of Hoi An, on the coast of Vietnam.
In the weeks leading up to my first teaching job, my teacher trainer told me the first year would be the hardest. He was right. This job is one of the most physically and mentally demanding roles I have ever done. But absolutely the most rewarding. And at the age of fifty! I say to all those Thelma and Louise members considering something new - just do it!
I moved from Hanoi just over a year ago, partly to experience life in another part of the country but also to escape the seriously unhealthy pollution levels in Hanoi. In winter, grey clouds hang over the city making it seem permanently cast in gloom.
Can Tho, three hours south of Ho Chi Minh City, in the Mekong Delta, was a brilliantly shiny contrast - bright blue skies, and a much slower pace! The teaching centre was pretty new, but this meant that I could spread my wings a bit further, taking on new classes, so that after a year, I'd taught advanced adults and my most favourite - the centre's youngest students at 3 years old.
It's been such a privilege to teach some of these students but I've always been very mindful of the fact that these are very lucky children and adults. They are in a minority who can afford to pay tuition fees that are simply out of reach for the majority. In fact, there are some children that cannot access the public-school system at all, for many different reasons.
So, late last year, a small group of ex-pat teachers and Vietnamese friends who met in Hanoi, decided to try and support some of these children get access to the training and education they need. We're still researching the best ways to do this and have created a crowdfunding page to help us with some of the practicalities. I know some of the Thelma and Louise members will be as excited about this project as we are.
Find out how we want to help at https://www.gofundme.com/hanoi-learning-centre-for-disadvantaged-children - let's help these children get the education they deserve.
Listen to the interview with Louise and how she gave up her office job to live and teach in Vietnam.