Entrepreneurs around the world: Sue (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Entrepreneurs around the world: Sue (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Sue spreads positive energy wherever she goes. Her smile arouses passions, and her eyes shine when she speaks of her English students.

At 23 years old, Sue has set up her own English Lessons and is the coolest English teacher in town. Her methods are not the typical old tricks that everybody knows and that strategy is giving her very positive results on her students.

We met her by chance. One day before our trip to Vietnam, we were without accommodation. In our desperate search to find one, a girl who resulted in being an English teacher contacted and invited us to her place. Her profile on Couchsurfing looked interesting, so we accepted.

When we got there, we found a very different flat to what we are used to. On the third floor in a building of 25 floors and about nine neighbours per landing, Sue lived with her brother Harry and her 3 or 4 roommates. The door was almost open all day. In addition, she also had a room that has been reconditioned and turned into English classroom. We would share space with a couple from France who are travelling around the world for four years. They had also just arrived. We would sleep in bunk beds on a corner of the dining room, the same space in which our host Sue sleeps. In total, we were going to be about 9 or 10 at home, plus children entering and leaving the flat all the time.

Although it might seem like the French movie “The Spanish Apartment” with a bunch of people coming in and out we were very comfortable. Especially for the love with which Sue hosted us. She’s a very humble person who gave us everything she could, and we appreciate her efforts to make us feel comfortable.

Sue studied Business, although her passion is to be an English teacher. A few months ago she obtained the TESOL certificate (English title for English teachers). The aim in all her classes is that the children can speak in English and communicate with everyone. Therefore, the first thing she encourages them is to have continuous contact with English-speaking people. To do this, she uses the Couchsurfing APP, where she contacts people from all over the world who visit Hanoi and invites them to her home. In return, she only asks them to spend two hours in the afternoon talking with their students.

On the other hand, she uses Facebook Groups to contact the families to become involved in the whole process. During the days we stayed with her, she proposed “The 20 Days of Reading” challenge to her students. Parents should record them reading in English each day to and share at the Facebook Group. She wants to create the habit of reading in all children.

Every day she posts a message on Facebook, encouraging them to share their videos to show how they’re making progress on it.

What I liked the most about her is her constant desire for improvement. She is a walking whirlwind that is always asking you for opinion and advice on how she can improve her teaching, what she could do to keep the students motivated. She has the same doubts as any other teacher who wants the best for their students. The best of all is that she never stops looking for new resources. 

We’ve made a good tandem, and nowadays, I could say that I’m part of her team of advisors. My training and experience as a Pedagogue allows me to walk aside her in the learning process.

Her dream is to move on from a small room at home to an English Academy. Although her resources are limited, she gives everything to her students. She has even promised them to go to the cinema when they finish The Reading Challenge. All the little ones are excited about the idea!

Nowadays she’s on the making of a festival at the end of the quarter in which parents of her pupils will come, and the little ones will teach what they have learned. 

I hope you can make your dream come true!

Senior volunteering

Senior volunteering

November in Osaka (Japan) surprised us with excellent weather. I remember, especially the day we went to visit the memorial park of Expo ‘70. A bright blue sky, no clouds were peeking over the horizon. Our friend was waiting for us at the train station to take us to visit the park. We bought the entrance. We accessed through the main door where you can see the Sun Tower, a sculpture designed by the artist Taro Okamoto for one of the pavilions of the Expo. It symbolizes the Sun, the energy of all things, of the past, present and future.  

The park has 330 hectares, and one of its mean attractions is the Japanese Garden which was designed as a collection of advances in Japanese landscapes technology. 

It is a large artificial garden where four different historical epochs are represented: ancient, medieval, early modern and modern. For each area, they managed to plant different types of trees and build several waterfalls.  

When we entered through the door, we saw a group of elderly gentlemen who, smiling, immediately approached us. Luckily our friend could make us the translator. They asked us if we wanted a guide. Totally free! When asked if they knew English, they all went to look for the “sensei” (the teacher). So we started our visit.  

The sensei was a teacher, who although he was of retirement age continued to teach part-time. Teaching was his passion, and he preferred to stay in school, helping junior teachers in their diary tasks, as well as being with the most challenging students. 

The work as a guide was voluntary. He did it at the weekend and at certain times. As he explained, being a guide was like teaching. 

That day, with the teacher we learned about botany, birds, history of Japan, tea ceremony and gardening. All in the same park and for a couple of hours.

What is your mission on earth?

What is your mission on earth?

Have you ever wondered what your purpose in this world is? Why do you work for? Do you follow an inertia or do what you really want? Are you happy? 

I’m sure you’ve ever asked yourself these or some similar questions. The bookstores are full of self-help books and best sellers. Concepts such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, therapy… are increasingly recurrent in our environment. This shows that there is an audience that seeks to find itself and its meaning.

Do Beop o The path of truth is a Buddhist monk that I found walking through the mountain of Hallasan (Jeju). My curiosity and desire to flee from tourists led me to follow a path that ended in 3 houses attached to a Buddhist monastery. Its doors were open, and I could see that inside there was only one room with the bamboo floor. There seemed to be no one, but they were not uninhabited either.

Once I contemplated the beauty of the place, I started to follow my way when, suddenly,  a Buddhist monk appeared and asked if I wanted a tea. And there I was, sitting at the door of one of those three houses having tea with Do Beop. 

He told me that he lived alone for three months, and he will be in that place five years more to practice meditation and study Buddhism in depth. He would like to find his mission in this world through meditation. And then, he asked me the million-dollar question: And you, do you know what your purpose is? 

Well, I still don’t know, I told him. Do Beop replied that there are many ways to discover our purpose. Meditation is one but not the only one. Also, he explained that meditation could be done anywhere. And that for him to travel, being with people and friends is even meditating. So I point it out!

Our conversation continued with a tea, and some dried persimmons that he took from somewhere and they were terrific. I have not found them again. That day was like a dream. A monk who comes out of nowhere and asks me for my purpose. A delicious persimmons that I have not found again in any supermarket in the countries I have visited and a spectacular environment. Hallucinations? Hahaha!


What is life? A frenzy.

What is life? An illusion,

a shadow, a fiction,

and the highest good is small:

That all life is a dream

And dreams are dreams.

(Monologue of Segismundo, Calderón de la Barca)


Entrepreneurs around the world: Ainu

Entrepreneurs around the world: Ainu

AINU is in her 30s, and she lives in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Meeting she was an inspiration and a reunion with the altruistic value of volunteering. 

If I had to define her, I would say that she is a person with a big heart and delivered by education. Also, she is a born entrepreneur. 

When she finished her studies in ADE, she decided travelling through different European countries working and collaborating in various NGOs. After that, she studied to be an English teacher, and nowadays, she becomes a social entrepreneur. In that moment, she is setting up her volunteer organization called VOLT (Volunteer to Teach). 

This initiative comes from her experience as an English teacher in the villages of northern Malaysia. During that time, she realized that children had no particular interest in learning a new language. Their vision of the future was minimal. They knew that when they finished school (or before), they would work in the same town continuing the family tradition. They don’t even consider the existence of other professions or, also going out of their village to know the world and continue studying. 

Ainu, in her English classes, opened a little door to the world. Also, she saw an opportunity to expand their borders. Her experience as a volunteer permitted her to believe that if she invited volunteers from other countries to schools in Malaysia to teach English, and also culture, these children could have a better future. Or, at least, they could have the opportunity to choose what they wanted to be when they grew up. 

This is how she decided to start VOLT. Its principal objective is to contact people from all over the world, including also from Kuala Lumpur who want to be volunteer in the schools of the villages of northern Malaysia. At the same time, they teach English also they explain, to children, the diversity of ways of living and working. 

Ainu has a lot to do. She is starting to establish the basis of VOLT and thinking about the role of volunteering. She is connecting with different schools and explaining her project to companies in the area so they can participate thought their Corporate Social Reason. 

I hope this project is a success and we can see it going very soon. 

If you want to get more information or collaborate on the Ainu project, you can contact me through my email: hola@elaguilamiope.com 


Driving in Jeju was quite an experience!

Driving in Jeju was quite an experience!

Rentalcar boy: It’s automatic. Have you ever driven an automatic car? 

Me: Of course! (my sister let me drive her car once before the trip)

Rentalcar boy: Well, here are the keys.

Me: And that’s it? Wouldn’t you explain anything else about the car to me? Which type of petrol does it use? Where are all the little buttons…?

Rentalcar boy: There is only one type of petrol in the island, so you will not have any problem.

Me: Well, everything clear. What about the speed limit?

Rentalcar boy: Maximum speed here is 70 km/h and in some places is 80 km/h. When you pass through school areas is 30 km/h and in the city at 40 km/h

Me: In a nutshell… So I can’t go beyond 80 km/h, can I?


My inner voice: Driving is easy, driving is easy, driv… It started to rain! Oh, my god! Where is the windscreen wiper button? Oh! It’s here, It’s where all cars have it. You’re worrying about nothing! Easy peasy!


My inner voice: Let’s see… Where is my traffic light? Really? Do I have to look to the other side of the road? Is that my traffic light?!?!?

So… pay attention, be aware!!!!


Me: What the hell is that car doing?!?! He jumped a red light!!!! Does nobody going to tell anything to him? In China, you can turn to the right wether the traffic light is red. Is it the same here?


Me: Now I have a Police car behind me. Pay attention! Anna, respect the signs. Put the right indicator. Just stop when the traffic light is red and that’s it. 

Police: (speaking in Korean through the speaker, I guess he means something like… Move, you stupid foreigner!)

Me: Please don’t put a fine on me, don’t put a fine on me!!! Would be true that I can turn to the right wether the traffic is red?   


GPS: In 300 mt turn on the right.

Me: 300, 200, 150, 50… Ops! I passed my way! Nooooo!!!!

GPS: Do a turnabout

Me: Really?!?! Is a turnabout permitted?!?!?! Should I do it, shouldn’t do it?

GPS: Do a turnabout, NOW!

Me: Aaaahhhhh! Let’s go! This is worse than a theme park!!!! Ughhhh!!! Is it true that you can do a turnabout without a roundabout here?



Speed 40 km/h

My inner voice: So, is it true that you must respect the signals because speeding fines are very high. 

GPS: Speed at 40 km/h. Respect the traffic signs. Speed control nearby.  

My inner voice: Wow! GPS tells you about speed control. This GPS is fabulous.

GPS: Ding-dong

My inner voice: One point for me, buddy! Every time I pass through a speed control sounds like the Super Mario Bros videogame when he collects a coin. Will I get a prize if I pass all the speed controls well?



My inner voice: Cruise speed… Enjoy the view. 50 km/h on the road, It’s said that is because if you crash with another vehicle the impact would be lighter. 

The rest of cars are driving in the same speed range. I can’t believe it! In Barcelona, a car would have overtaken me for sure.

Oops, a truck passed me by! Really? So I drive slower than a truck?

I noticed that the ones who respect more the speed limits are the ones who drive rental cars. Just like me. Locals know the rules and drive over the speed limit (60 km/h).



GPS: You’ve reached your destination. 

Me: Finally! I can say that it has been such an experience. I recommend it to you but by now I need to have some rest and relax a bit. 


See you next time, Jeju!

Visit to an elementary school in Kuala Lumpur

Visit to an elementary school in Kuala Lumpur

In Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and after contacting Ainu through the Couchsurfing network I visited the Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Seri Rampai (SKTSR). A public Elementary school near the Wagsa Maju station. 

Entering the SKTSR was like going back a few years and going back to my childhood. We were welcomed by the entire management team consisting of the director and three assistant principals or head of study. They explained that this equipment was relatively new. He went for the first time last year and had to make many changes. The director was very proud of his work. At first, the different teachers were not satisfied with his way of acting. They wanted to continue doing business as usual, without control. The manager had to bring order. He explained it to us with a triumphant face.

The education system at the elementary school in Malaysia still has a long way to go to adapt to current times. They have not budget, they told us. They also explain that there is a lot of difference between public and private schools. Not only because of the material available to students and teachers, also noted for their level of English (and I can deduce, although I could not verify, that also in other subjects). 

The classrooms are like those of the 70s and 80s in Spain. Desks and chalk blackboard. I did not see any computer. Walking through the classes you could see how some children were punished facing the wall or in a corner of the classroom. 

One fact that caught my attention was that there was little diversity in the classrooms. When I asked the director about how they treated the subject, and especially the religious issue (it is a country where different religions live together), he explained that public school is mainly of Islamic religion. A family from another country with another religion would have to either abide by the Islamic religion or take their sons and daughters to a specific school where they teach their religion. And this is how it happens. In the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur you can find Chinese International schools and so on. In addition, an interesting note is that public school teachers have to be Muslims and dress according to religion. The coexistence between cultures and religions is good, respectful. However, joint work within the public school is a pending issue. 

At 11am we went out to the schoolyard and we went to the dining room. There we received a group of children smiling and very interested about our origin. As soon as they heard the word Barcelona, the topic of conversation focused on Barça and Messi among boys. For their part, the girls were sitting and quieter. Then I took the opportunity to ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that one wanted to be an astronaut, another teacher, another doctor, another scientist… I hope they have many opportunities and can continue with their dreams so that one day come true!