Bad connection with the hotel WiFi (for which, I must add, we have to pay) kept us from updates over the last 48 hours. But much has been happening... and very encouraging it is, too.
Minh's passport arrived from Danang very swiftly, with the help of the excellent Holt staff. This meant that we were able to have the visa interview yesterday (Thursday)... and the visa may be ready today (Friday--it's about 8:30am now). This could mean that we might be able to return home in the next few days... depending on rearranging plane tickets. I don't think we are tired of Vietnam, by any stretch, though seeing the sights with Minh is a bit more challenging than the average tourist experience. I'm certain that we want to return, both to Danang and to Hanoi... and we'd love to actually see Ho Chi Minh City. But that trip will need to (a) include the whole family and (b) occur when the youngest and most rambunctious members of the family are a bit older and more sedate. -- Ideally, I'd find a way to persuade the university at which I am employed to foot the bill for some sort of intercountry educational program development fact-finding mission. For me and my family of "research assistants."
We cannot praise Holt and its staff enough! They have accompanied us to the US embassy and other offices for every visit and they have picked up important documents for us from various offices. Yesterday, at the embassy, we met two families adopting infants through other agencies. They had been sent by their agencies to the US embassy without anyone to assist them in navigating the interviews. -- And the Holt staff members have gone out of their way to help us with things not related to the adoption! One of the staff members arranged to take us out for a morning... to the Museum of Ethnology and shopping and lunch. -- Obviously, we don't really have experience with other agencies, but we can say with certainty that Holt is both caring and ethical.
One of the highlights of the visit to the Museum of Ethnology (which would have been great for adults or older kids... though there were enough videos and dioramas to keep Minh interested for most of the time) was after we had left the museum building. On the large grounds around the museum are some reconstructions of village houses from various regions of Vietnam, as well as areas where craftspeople can show their skills... and there is also a water puppet theater. We discovered the water puppet theater just as a show was beginning, and so for a small extra ticket fee, we watched nearly the whole show, and it was wonderful. The puppets were fascinating and entertaining, even for those of us who didn't understand the lyrics of the folksongs. Minh was entranced by the show.
The swimming pool remains a good entertainment for the afternoon, when the building provides some shade. Yesterday's swim was cut short by torrential rain, which meant that we had to scrap our plans to go out to dinner. We ate instead at the restaurant here in the Somerset, which was good, though a bit pricey by comparison. -- We also got out the Play Doh yesterday, and it was a big hit. Minh spent an hour making balls of Play Doh and then cutting them into little chunks with a kitchen knife. He loves to play at cooking and has been entertaining himself with a pot and ladle from the kitchen here in our "serviced apartment."
There are still times of rage... a few long spells yesterday. We can watch him get more and more wound up, at times, which usually ends up with some behavior that seems purposefully to test our boundaries, and when we step in to pick him up, the battle begins. He resists snuggling with us much of the time, though this morning he crawled out of his bed and into ours and snuggled with E. We just hold him through his rage (with enough firmness to keep him from biting, hitting, kicking, clawing, pulling hair, etc.--all of which he attempts... and sometimes succeeds) until he finally allows us to snuggle him into calmness. This can take a while, though. And he appears to have superhuman strength... or at least an ample supply of adreneline. He provides us with a physical, as well as emotional and spiritual, workout!
E. probably does the majority of the holding during these rages, but Minh and I have also had our wrestling matches. Much of the attachment information emphasizes the need for the mother alone to provide all holding, care, feeding, etc. for an extended period. This makes sense for children who have never formed proper attachment to a parent, since those children need to be regressed (if that's the right term) back to an infant attachment phase. Minh, however, seems to have been well attached to his foster parents, and his attachment anxiety seems to be less extreme than many of the cases about which we've read. Rather than being unable to attach to us, we think that he is really fighting the grief over leaving his foster parents. -- In any case, we simply try to follow our instincts, keeping in mind what we've read and been told by others. Our goal, as with all of our children, is that Minh can experience the peace of knowing that he has parents who will protect him (even from himself) and who will never leave him or stop loving him, regardless of how unlovable he might try to make himself at moments. -- Of course, arriving home to the rest of the kids will create new challenges, and we are more than ready to visit an attachment therapist if necessary.
But this morning has been fine. He's been busy, but not manically busy. He's now playing with Play Doh, as we try to decide what the plan is for the morning. We will probably go off in search of more gifts. Minh has the most difficulty with transitions between activities and with times of inactive waiting... such as waiting for interviews at the embassy... or waiting in shops while we browse... or waiting in restaurants for food to arrive. He does enjoy going places and looking at things... but he'd prefer that we don't stop or dawdle for too long.
If we can get the WiFi connection a bit more stable, we'll download more pictures to the Photobucket album. I tried to do so yesterday, but the connection wouldn't stay connected long enough!