Sr Deirdre O’Brien, who many of you will remember from Roscrea and Leeson Street, tells us of her life in Asia.
Here in the Philippines, I live in Quezon City an adjunct of Manila, very crowded, very dirty, polluted, corrupt, and often violent, especially around election times, with thousands of poor, homeless people or people living in shacks. It is the typhoon season right now, so we get plenty of high winds and lashing rain, conditions which can serve to cut off the Internet and electricity for days. The Filipinos are an amazingly resilient people, always smiling and singing and finding something to celebrate. We live in Sophia House of Studies, not far from two communities of our Filipino RSCJ Sisters.
I spend my day tutoring Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese,
Filipino and Korean students, priests, sisters, mostly in English, but also in French or German, as the need arises. I also correct assignments and university theses or translations of
Constitutions of religious congregations.
It was in 2008 while I was giving an English lesson to a group of our own students, that I first had contact with a Vietnamese priest, who asked to join the group. I then corrected his thesis on the Liturgy, groomed him for his defence and, then later when he returned to the seminary in Vietnam, I received an invitation to come and teach English to the seminarians there. I have been to Vietnam about eight times now, in periods of three months at a time, as that is the longest visa Immigration will give me, so I spend three months in Manila and then back to Vietnam for another three months and so on.
In Vietnam I teach English to First, Second and Third year
Philosophy students and also to some individual priests, who are destined to go abroad for further study or who are being sent abroad as missionaries. There are 75 students in each year group, and such a range of ability in English: some having studied it at university and some barely able to understand a simple sentence. It is quite a daunting task to teach such a huge group, that is why I was so grateful for the assistance of two Scottish volunteers on two separate occasions. There is a happy, friendly atmosphere in the seminary, they are very good to me and I participate in the daily regime from 4 a.m. rising time to 9.30 p.m. at night.