We've found a routine, I think, that works... if two days can constitute a routine. (Footnote: any typos in this entry are the result of strange commercials on the Malaysian TV channel.) Anyway, yesterday afternoon and today we've been doing okay. Yesterday morning we had Minh's check-up at the SOS clinic, and then in the afternoon we had the I-600 interview. The check-up was okay, but there was a lot of waiting around before and after, and that was just too much for Minh... and we faced a meltdown of mammoth proportions afterward.
But the interview at the embassy went reasonably well! We were more than a little nervous about how Minh might handle that, and what it might entail. After waiting for a long time in a large and empty waiting room (we were early), we were finally invited to enter a small conference room. The three of us were on one side of a large bullet-proof glass window, and on the other side were two US embassy employees. The foreign service person who appeared to be in charge was a very nice older woman from the US, while her assistant was a Vietnamese national. The interview was pretty straightforward, and they already had most of the answers to their questions in the documents that the Holt staff had given them. We got the sense that the older woman was more of a figurehead... and her assistant seemed to be the one who understood how to work the computer. In any case, Minh was pretty good. He colored with crayons and made some noise, but didn't meltdown at all. Toward the end of the interview, he got off my lap and explored the room a bit. When I turned around to check on him, I discovered that he had found a wooden ruler with a brass straightedge, and he was busily extracting the brass strip from the edge of the ruler. He only had about two inches to go. It's like living with a a tiny wrecking crew. But we made a good impression overall.
After we got back to the hotel, we put on our swimming suits and headed to the outdoor pool. It's pretty nice, and there are two smaller pools for kids, one about 18 inches deep and the other about 3 feet deep. Minh loves playing in the water. We both took turns splashing with him in the medium-sized pool. It's just about the ideal activity... it gets us out of the room, but we don't have to wander the streets of Hanoi... it's good physical exercise for the boy... and us... and it seems like a good bonding-type activity, since we are holding him close to us as we play together.
The pool is on a large outside deck off the 4th floor, and there is also an outdoor play area with a sandbox. So, after swimming, we headed for the play area. Minh had a wonderful time playing in the sandbox. There are communal shovels, buckets, and other sand toys that live in the sandbox, and he would probably sit there for hours, filling buckets, transferring sand, separating rocks, etc. -- The Somerset, about which I had been thinking hard thoughts, has now risen in my estimation.
Today (Tuesday) we went out again in the morning (the history museum first... not so good for 3-year-olds... and then some shopping and lunch), had a short rest, and then played in the pool and sandbox in the afternoon. No major rages today... just minor angry battles at moments of transition... but nothing that escalated.
There seem to be many families from different countried living here in the Somerset. They may be here for extended business reasons, I suppose. Anyway, we see kids around, and the Somerset has daycare and kids activities, as well as adult classes, etc. Today when we came out to the pool, there seemed to be a large group of younger children, all under 5, I'd guess, being taken care of by three 20-something-types... an Australian guy and two Vietnamese women. They left shortly after we arrived, but a girl of about 6 remained hanging around with us. We finally decided that she must belong to a man snoozing on a lounge chair across the pool. We guessed that she might be Russian. She and Minh ended up playing together for a long time in the water, though he was a bit wary of her splashiness, and then she followed us over to the play area and sandbox when we went. Eventually her father must have awakened and wondered where his daughter had gone, because he came looking for her after a while. However, once he found her, he wandered off again. Frankly, she seemed starved for affection and companionship, judging from how she attached herself to us and Minh.
We've also bumped into a very nice older Vietnamese nanny who is caring for a little Taiwanese boy whose parents do who-knows-what. But the nanny speaks only Vietnamese and French. Our Vietnamese is not useful for speaking to adults (unless they want to talk about eating ice cream, cake, or bananas), so we chat with her in French... or at least E. does. I nod and smile, catching a word here and there.
We've eaten in some fairly nice restaurants for dinner the past two nights. Last night was traditional northern Vietnamese food. E. wanted to tell Maureen that we had the pickled cucumber salad, like at Cozy, but better... with more kick to it. Minh did pretty well, until he threw my (empty) beer can at E. Fortuantely, we were about done and I took him out while E. paid. Tonight we ate at a French restaurant which is part of a not-for-profit school that trains young Vietnamese people to work in the food service business. It was quite good, though, again, a bit rushed due to our somewhat unpredictable dining companion. -- When we are out in restaurants, museums, or other similar public spaces, we both find ourselves tensed for action, knowing that at any moment we may have to contend with some sort of explosion. -- With me, Minh's favorite trick when he's mad is to grab my glasses and heave them as far as he can. The lenses have picked up a few scratches, but he has yet to throw them under a bus or out of a window.
All we wait for now is for Minh's passport to arrive from Danang, on Thursday, we hope, and then we can have the visa interview.