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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Elbing couple spends year teaching in Vietnam

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  • ?Jim and Sherry Van Dyke could have taken it easy after they retired.?Instead, the former teacher and librarian from Elbing traveled halfway around the world to spend a year teaching English in Vietnam.?“It was stressful, it was stretching, it was rewarding,” Jim said during a presentation at one of Bethel College’s Life Enrichment sessions Wednesday morning. “It was a good experience, but it was not easy.”?The couple said life in Vietnam was very different from life in Kansas. The country has a population of almost 90 million, and the city they stayed in — Da Nang, Vietnam’s fifth largest city — has a population density of about 1,500 people per square mile. By comparison, Kansas has a population density of about 35 inhabitants per square mile.?The Van Dykes traveled with an organization called Educational Services International — Teach Overseas. Instead of using a car for transportation, like Americans are used to, they often rode a motor bike to the school they worked at or walked around the city.?While in the city, they observed different cultural traditions, such as people gathering in the park in the morning to do “tai chi” or other exercises. It was typical to see tourists in the city from countries like France, India and Germany.?The couple typically taught on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and spent the rest of their time during the week working on lesson preparations. On the weekends, they enjoyed traveling around the country to see different tourist sites.?They were able to watch the rice harvest taking place. Rice stalks often are cut by hand, the Van Dykes said, and then bundled together and taken to a threshing machine that separates the straw out. The rice is then spread out to dry in the sun.?The Van Dykes toured the famous Phong Nha Cave, which Sherry said is one of the largest limestone caves in the world. The cave is only accessible to tourists by boat and features many stalactite and stalagmite formations.?The couple visited Halong Bay, which is known for its large rock formations jutting up out of the water. They also witnessed an international fireworks competition, a display that drew thousands of spectators.?“It was beautiful to watch the fireworks off of the water,” Jim said.?Bethel College’s Life Enrichment educational series is targeted to adults age 60 and older. The sessions are on Wednesdays at Krehbiel Auditorium in the Bethel College Fine Arts Center. Cost for the program is $20 per semester or $2 per week. For more information, call 283-2500. 
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