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Annie's little problem

The biggest challenge I have faced in Vietnam is the language & I confess, I have not applied myself diligently enough to becoming fluent… That has been a major obstacle for serious dialogue with local people and students about issues I feel passionate about, namely plastic & the wildlife trade. However a broader obstacle is simply ignorance of the impacts to the environment & what is even more frustrating is a general unconcern. I did run a weekly Talking Green English Club for seven months, which covered many important issues, but the government shut it down, because I didn’t “have permission.” I have been working with a small group of young Vietnamese who are aware & active & they have translated & interpreted for me & even orchestrated a TV interview.
Then there are the ex-pats I have worked with, teaching English. Predominantly male & macho, especially the director at the last school. I had the mistaken impression that westerners are better informed about environmental degradation & climate change, especially the ones who teach IELTS, which has a strong environmental component. If we teachers are teaching about the environment, surely we ought to be walking our talk. If we supposedly educated westerners do not act on the knowledge we have, how can we expect people of a “developing” country to a) know, b) care & c) make changes? For these teachers, it is only academic & I watched with growing irritation how they all over-consume (food, Styrofoam, energy, paper, etc) without a care. Any comments or suggestions I made were not taken seriously, as if plastic were just Annie’s little problem.
I had brainstormed ways to raise their awareness (a series of films for students & staff (rejected at the highest level); an offer to do a Professional Development workshop re the environment (the director said he’d think about it, but never got back to me); even a couple of students approached him to present a new film they’d translated on plastic pollution (he vetoed it); the last straw was when I emailed a plastics slideshow to the head teacher for World Oceans Day, to mail to all the staff. (He didn’t. On prompting, he said “Oh, I couldn’t open it.”)
There is too much I cannot change & I cannot bear to watch it or work with these people any more. After over three years in Vietnam, I am moving on to new challenges in another country. When I told the director I was going to Kenya, he said,”Oh, what are you going to do there – save the world?” As yet I have no idea what I will do there, but I have already connected with some women through Pulsewire. I feel my skills will be better used in environmental education/workshopping in small groups & through writing.
My community has grown through Pulsewire & I can now share ideas & inspiration with a broader, more sympathetic & supportive base.


Stella Paul's picture

Important thing

Change is the slowest and the stickiest snail at times. But what is important to know is that your effort has been constant. Despite all the differences of culture and language (my sister is based in Vietnam, so I am familiar with those difficulties), you didn't stop trying. That's wonderful!

Have a great inning in Kenya

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Annie Malia's picture


Nice to hear from you again, Stella! Thanks for your encouraging words. I thought of you when I wrote about my director's patronising attitude toward me. In fact, reading about your trouble with Aaron inspired me to write about my work stuff here. The 'sticky' stuff feels stickiest with those Caucasian ones who actually know better. I think denial is one word for it.

Walk in Beauty

MaDube's picture

I was struck immediately by

I was struck immediately by one of your challenges when you say you started a Club that discussed important issues and the government shut it down because you had no permission. It is always the case, that when we try and talk about the issues that affect communities and governments are playing a role in creating the problem they want to silence us. That together with a he-boss who thinks he is better than you can tend to be demoralising. But I am glad you tried what you could :-)

Monica Clarke's picture

Go for it Annie

Go for it Annie, Kenya needs you!

With respect and encouragement from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Pushpa Achanta's picture


...this honest and insightful writing.

Best wishes for your work.


char_lm146's picture

Good Luck for the Future

I offer you my congratulations on your efforts so far, as well as my empathy regarding how frustrating you must of found things at times.Machoism and hypocracy appear to still be such common features exactly where you would expect not to find them, why is quite beyond me. I hope you havn't been too put off or made to be to unconfident as a consequence of such peoples ignorance.

I can also see you have the underlying passion required to make a difference and thats wonderful and trying a fresh some where new is hopefully a good idea. However on going to Kenya can you think of the reasons why these people in practice seemed to not really care and take this insight with you, like what have you learnt despite the negative responces? I am also interested by your idea to work with small groups, I appreciate you are at an early stage in organising this but are your aims to access schools or communities?Do this alone or via other already set up groups within the country?I have seen that the next weeks task really focuses on how and what you hope to acheive in life therefore if you can consolidate all these ideas and past experiences I feel you may really be able to make that difference.

Good luck for the future,


I read with interest your Week Three assignment. I could see that you made great efforts to make a difference in Viet Nam, as well as how demoralized you became as you ran into one obstacle after another. That you were persistent is admirable. A lesser woman would have quit long before you did!

So here are my questions for you as you now head for Kenya to tackle some of the same social and environmental issues:
No matter what tactics you used in Viet Nam, you continued to run into "NO!".
What makes you think that moving your passion and focus to Kenya will have a different outcome?

I have what I call "Ann's Rules of the Universe" (Keep in mind that they are, after all, MY rules, honed after only 60+ years of living on this planet.) One of them states:
"When I keep running my head into a brick wall, over and over again, and nothing seems to change, is there something amiss in my original intention or is this a problem or issue that must be solved in another way or by another person or organization? Am I asking for the Grace to know if this is a good way to use my time and energy."

My personal experience has shown me that a problem is indeed 'mine to solve' when the solutions appear clearly and quickly and I have no fear, hesitation or trepidation to go forth into action. It's as if every step I take forward is met by an army of extraordinary circumstance and assistance that make the task joyful and easier than I might have expected.

I share this because I feel your passionate concern about our Environment and I know in your heart that you feel compelled to be a voice of change. However, sometimes the pressing daily grind of providing basic needs--safety, housing, food, health, income--are so crushing that there is little energy or interest in such things as World Peace, Global Warming, Environmental Protection an such. Just some thoughts for you to consider.

I hope this post is helpful to you as you ready yourself to move on to Kenya.
Many blessings to you!

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