The brothers’ English is improving day by day. Their pronunciation and comprehension has improved significantly since the first day we arrived in Vietnam. We are in the last week of the first session for the English classes. After this week most of the brothers will go to their summer assignments to do ministry in parishes throughout Vietnam. Some will stay and other brothers will come from the parishes to start the second session. As of right now we have a little over 20 brothers that will partake in the second session.
There have been challenges for both the student brothers and for Br. Patrick and I. The student brothers are eager to learn to pronounce words in English, but the accent sometimes gets in the way. As a native English speaker it can be difficult to hear the word the brother is saying. I ask them to repeat the word many times so I can understand what they are trying to tell me. Much of the time it is a simple mispronunciation that is fixed once I understand the word they are trying to pronounce. Sometimes they need to spell out the word so I can see what they are trying to say. Pronunciation has improved since we have arrived and Br. Patrick's and my ears are more accustomed to the Vietnamese accent, though every day I still have to ask a brother to repeat a word or a sentence. I have a saying the brothers can now quote me verbatim "Speak slowly and clearly". We have all come a long way since our first week together.
Last week Fr. James Dominic flew in from St. Louis. He will also be helping the brothers learn English. A great advantage of having Fr. James Dominic here is the ability for the brothers to have the Mass in English with a native English speaker. He will also have his own class when we start the second session. Unlike Br. Patrick and I, Fr. James Dominic has spent time in Asia. As a child he spent two and a half years in Japan from the ages of eight to ten. He loves Asian culture and so he has been in his own little heaven.
Here is a look at the daily schedule, the Horarium, of the convent:
Rise: 4:30 AM (I'm not kidding, even after a month I'm still struggling with this)
Office of Readings: 5:00 AM
Morning Prayer and Mass: 5:30 AM
Breakfast: 6:15 AM (after breakfast the brothers will continue to have coffee and tea until it is time for class)
Morning Class: 8:00 AM (Class goes until 9:30 AM)
Lunch: 11:30 AM (After lunch there is a little recreation and then we have an afternoon sleep or "siesta". This is how they manage to get up at 4:30 AM)
Bell to Rise from Siesta: 1:45 PM
Afternoon Class: 2:15 PM (We begin the class with Rosary and then we do a review of the psalms for Evening Prayer and Office of Readings and Morning Prayer for the next day)
Sporting Activities: 4:30 PM (I'm not joking! The brothers plays sports for an hour and fifteen minutes every day. The two sports they play are soccer and volleyball. Lately Br. Patrick and I have been playing soccer, of course we call it "football" here in Vietnam.)
Evening Prayer: 6:15 PM (A common meditation and Night Prayer follow afterwards)
Dinner: 7:00 PM
A bell in the middle of the convent is used to let the brothers know that something is happening. For example in the morning the bell rings at 4:30 AM to rise, then it rings at 4:55 AM to notify you that prayer begins in five minutes. Unless you are sleeping like an absolute rock you will hear the bell, the challenge is getting up after it has rung. There is no snooze button in Vietnam!