We made it to the big city, and it is a lot bigger than Danang. We're at the very fancy Somerset Grand Hanoi Serviced Apartments. (That's right: it's NOT a hotel.) Actually, the little Elegant Hotel in Danang had a lot more charm than this big, fancy, expensive Hanoi hotel. At the Elegant, we got free breakfast and free WiFi. Here at the Somerset, we must pay for both, and through the nose. Of course, the Somerset does have a swimming pool and indoor and outdoor play areas for kids... so that helps. And here we have more space and a little kitchen (with clothes washing machine), so that will save on eating out.
For those considering a trip to Vietnam, I would really recommend starting in Danang. We were just about the only westerners there, and I think we got a much more realistic sense of the place and the people. Danang seemed like a bustling metropolis, full of scooters and people... but Hanoi is insanely busy, in comparison. The people in Danang were all so nice to us, though curious. One has to be prepared to answer questions that might seem a bit personal in some other cultural context. Hanoi, though, is full of tourists (or so it seems after about 12 hours). -- But I'm sure that we'll enjoy this leg of the trip, too. It's just different, and I'm glad we saw Danang first.
Yesterday, we spent our final afternoon in Danang driving up to the Hai Van Pass and then down to Lang Co beach and resorts. The beachfront resorts in Lang Co looked much more charming than the larger ones on China Beach. Maybe next time....
The road up to the Hai Van Pass is quite treacherous, but the vendors at the top of the pass are even more so. As soon as we got out, we were swarmed. It takes great willpower to keep saying, "No, thank you," when you are surrounded by aggressive vendors. We ended up buying some bracelets (which we had wanted anyway), but that sort of made it worse, since all of the vendors from whom we had NOT bought anything simply redoubled their efforts... practically throwing their goods at us. With a bit more exposure, I think I could get good at dealing with vendors and bartering effectively, but one has to be mentally prepared for the onslaught.
We have not really had much contact with remnants of the American War (aka the Vietnam War, to those of you playing at home), but there are some crumbling US bunkers at the top of the Hai Van Pass. And, more disturbing, our hotel in Hanoi is right next door to the "Hanoi Hilton" -- that's the Hoa Lo Prison, used by the French to imprison and torture Vietnamese Nationalists, and then later used by the Viet Cong for American PoWs.
We are fairly certain that Minh's foster parents (or others) had told him about flying on an airplane... and we think that he must have connected that airplane flight to his real separation from his foster parents. We flew from Danang to Hanoi first thing this morning, and today was a hard day for him. He had quite a marathon tantrum this afternoon... partly a result of just being overtired (we couldn't get into our room until after 2:30, and he should have been napping around noon), but also (we think) related to his growing realization that something permanent is happening. He thrashed in E's arms for about 40 minutes, going full fury for the whole time. And then, tonight, he seemed to switch gears from rage to deep, deep grief. At bedtime, he was washed up and pajama-ed, and he and E were on his bed singing "Old MacDonald." (This is one of his favorite things to do, and he can practically sing the whole thing, especially the "e-i-e-i-o" parts. He was being very good and cute... and then we turned out the lights and lay down with him to help put him to sleep... as we have every night. He fussed and fidgeted and talked to himself for a long while, and then he began to whimper, and the whimper turned into a long bout of real sobbing. He cried and cried, not the raging tears that we've had at least once every day, but just sad, pathetic tears.
We do not imagine that we won't face the raging Minh again. He'll be back! But this very sad Minh is a new side that we really had not seen. We can only think that he is realizing, and mourning, the loss of his beloved foster parents. It seems so tragic that we must take him away from truly loving foster parents in order to give him a family. But we know that they could not adopt him, and there was no guarantee that he would have been able to stay with those foster parents, even if we were not adopting him. Still, it feels as if we are partly responsible for the incomprehensible grief faced by this little boy.
Tomorrow, Sunday, is a free day. And then on Monday it's off to the US Embassy to see if we can't get something started!
Thank you for your emails. We haven't been able to reply to everyone, but we truly appreciate the support. -- Also, we are finally able to view our own blog! This means that we just had a chance to read the various comments that had been posted. -- Aunt Ginny: I hope you figured out how to get to the Photobucket Album. If not, look under the heading "Links" on the left of this page for a link to it.