Friday, June 30, 2006

Chapter 3 addendum re pictures

We are having a heck of a time trying to post pictures to this blog (as well as emailing them) due to extremely slow download times, but we have been able to get some pictures downloaded to photobucket. Therefore, we have made our photobucket album available without password. Go there and see us and Minh (photos at top of album are most recent).

(We also cannot view our blog pages currently, though we can add to and edit them... so we're just trusting that these entries get out there.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chapter 3: First Encounters -- In which our travellers reach their destination, which is (as they knew it would be) only the start of a longer trip...


The tribulations of our tript from Chicago to Danang are already fading into the dim past. We made it to Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday night where a hotel room awaited us, thanks to Ann Tours, only to discover that our luggage would not be joining us. When American Airlines put us on the new flight to Tokyo, we were assured that an order would be placed to move our luggage from the cursed plan to LA. And when we checked in for the flight to Tokyo, we were assured that the order had been placed to move the baggage. But the baggage was not moved... and so it is winging its way to Hong Kong and may join us here in Danang in a day or two. (And I should note that both the AA booking agent on the phone Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and the check-in agent at the counter on Wednesday morning were wonderful, nice, helpful people.)

Anyway, we got the HCMC hotel at about 12:30am, and we slept until 4:30am, since we needed to catch a cab back to the HCMC airport at 5am. It was awfully nice to fly business class from HCMC to Danang, though... even if the flight was only an hour.

Sleep log thus far: get to O'Hare airport at about 6:30pm Tuesday; slept from 3am to 7:30am Wednesday morning; flew to Tokyo, dozing a bit; flew to HCMC, dozing a bit; slept from 1am to 4:30am Friday morning. Now here it is Friday at noon, and we're dragging a bit. (Of course, since we crossed the international date line, we lost a day in there, so we were not actually up for the full 41 hours +/- that it appears.)

Now the important stuff....
We were met in Danang by our Holt representative, who is very kind and helpful, and he took us to the Child Welfare Center where we spent the morning with Minh (as everyone calls him)! It was very exciting, and a bit overwhelming. Minh has a cold and wasn't feeling great, and when we first got there, he seemed to be having a little tantrum. We first talked to the woman who is the director of the Child Welfare Center, with our Holt representative as translator. Then, after a little while, one of the caregivers brought Minh in, and he sat on the couch next to us. He was eating a little cake in a foil wrapper, and he concentrated very hard on it, ignoring us. He even gave us terrible squinty looks (like McDuff gives the baby in the Rosemary Wells book) every now and then. But E. got out the toy cars and the M&Ms and a sticker book, and slowly Minh became interested in us, and began to play and smile. Then, after he got a bit more comfortable, he started to get a little rambunctious... throwing the cars and even trying to hit us both once or twice (when we attempted to discourage his rowdiness). As he did, though, he had a sort of sly smile on his face, as if he was testing us. We anticipate more such power struggles. But he is a smart little boy, and he quickly figured out which way the wind was blowing.

(As evidence of general smartness, we were taking pictures with the digital camera and then showing them to Minh, and he seemed to like that. In fact, he later picked up the camera and quickly figured out how to make the pictures change. He enjoyed holding down the arrow so that the pictures would cycle quickly through... until the batteries died.)

He had a bag of his own candy with him, and we gave him M&Ms, and then it was time for his lunch. They brought in a bowl of rice, cabbage, and fish soup, so that we could feed him. That went fine, until he threw up! A combination of too much candy and his cold (or whatever), I think. Anyway, we got him cleaned up (he was pretty tidy about the whole vomiting process, much like our oldest, and easily motion sick, daughter was at that age), and then he snuggled on our laps for a little. Then it was time for his nap, and we went back to the hotel.

All in all, a good start! But clearly just a start. We have a lot to learn about Minh, and he has a lot to learn about us. And the whole thing is, as I said, fairly overwhelming.

Chapter 2: A Brief Interlude


Narita Airport outside Tokyo is full of very helpful uniformed people. At every staircase and turn, there was another smiling young man or woman in uniform who seemed to know already where we wanted to go. -- Or perhaps they were hallucinations brought on by 14 hours of flight from Chicago to Tokyo.

In any case, we're now in Tokyo... waiting to board a plane to HCMC. After that, it's just a short flight Friday morning to Danang.

(Pause here to insert a hearty plug for Ann Tours in Vietnam, based in HCMC, and especially for Tony. At the eleventh hour and with only a few emails, he arranged a hotel for us in HCMC for Thursday night, and got us on an earlier flight from HCMC to Danang. And there will be someone to meet us at the HCMC airport when we arrive. If you will be travelling in VN, give Ann Tours your business.)

It was hard to sleep on the plane to Tokyo, but even harder when I'd close my eyes and imagine our first meeting with TM... and how that might go. I found myself trying to imagine what it will be like to meet this little person. How will he react to us? How will we persuade him that he is already part of our family? How will we all be during his first days and nights with us? How will we manage that long flight home? -- An airplane is not a restful place, and even more so with these thoughts racing through my head.

I'm afraid that we are both so tired that it's hard to be entirely rational. Having the chance to sleep for a night (even a short night) in HCMC will be good.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chapter 1: Where are J & E now? -- Wherein our travellers learn the meaning of "false start" and make no progress at all.


It's now almost three in the morning. Technically, we've now been gone for about 8 hours, and where are we? Are we winging our way across oceans and polar ice caps? No. We are still in Chicago! Our plane from Chicago to Los Angeles (originally scheduled to leave at about 9:30pm) was delayed several times, and then, at 11:30pm, they told us the flight was postponed until tomorrow (today... Wednesday) at 9am. We were told that the pilot had quit... walked off... gone to a hotel because he was tired. We're not sure of the details, but it was... disappointing.

So we had to spend hours (literally) on the phone with several different people from American Airlines... and we woke up Todd, the travel agent, in the middle of the night. (Sorry.) And our credit cards wouldn't work in the phone... and of course we didn't bring a cell phone... and we ran out of quarters... and every kiosk and store in the airport was closed, since it was 1:00AM... it was a comedy of errors, with very little comedy. Picture E. sitting on the floor of the airport crying... very sad.

Anyway, the problem was that this changed the whole schedule so that we could not get to Danang on Friday to meet TM. And one of our main goals was to arrive a few days early so that we could meet TM and his foster parents before the "giving and receiving" ceremony, to ease the transition (we hope). Now it was looking as if this would not happen. Hence the crumpled and weeping form of E. slumped on the carpet at O'Hare.

But all was not lost. After much diligent phone work, we totally rearranged the travel. NOW... we will fly from Chicago to Tokyo, Tokyo to Ho Chi Minh City, spend a night in HCMC, and then fly to Danang early Friday morning. We are hoping and praying that we can get there in time to still meet Thanh Minh on Friday. (Feel free to pray along with us.)

In the meantime, the kids back home have been instructed to use a dry erase (not permanent!) marker to trace our travels on the world map in the hallway.

Now I shall lie down in our cheapo motel a few miles from our home... the very home from which we set off so many hours ago.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

T minus 80 hours (+/-) and counting


Here we go.

We leave for Vietnam on Tuesday, in four days. On Friday, one week from yesterday, we will meet TM and his foster parents for the first time. On Monday, July 3, TM will become our son.

The last 24 hours has been a frantic arranging of tickets, itineraries, and other travel-related details. But it's the other, non-travel-related stuff that makes my temples throb. The new Adam Sandler film about the magical remote control got terrible reviews, but right now I'd give all the ____ in my ____ for a button that would allow me to put life on pause for the next few weeks. (Note to self: Fill in blanks with clever and telling phrases after lunch.)

(Disclaimer: I am not now and have never been an Adam Sandler fan. Any references to him here are in no way intended as endorsements of past Adam Sandler projects or encouragement for future Adam Sandler projects.)

With any luck, we'll be home on July14, but there's a very real possibility that we won't be able to return until July 21. And there's the remote possibility that we'll love Vietnam so much that we decide to go completely "mosquito coast", and have my mother-in-law send the rest of the kids and a few boxes of books out to join us on the other side of the world.

I'm not sure I'm joking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Travel Approval


It's finally come...the long-awaited travel approval. We are going to actually travel to Vietnam to bring TM home. The ironic aspect of all of this is that while we know we are going, we still don't have confirmed dates. We hope the Giving and Receiving Ceremony will be July 3, but we have to wait (again) for confirmation of that date. But during this periond of waiting we can also pack and do all the last minute things we've been waiting to do.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

more news and more waiting


We had good news on Friday from our agency. It seems the piece of paper in question was allowed to be submitted by someone other than ourselves. Everything is back on track, and we continue to wait for the call that we are allowed to travel.

I have just recently read, Carried Safely Home, by Kristin Swick Wong (Faith Walk Publishing, 2005). In it, she describes the adoptions of her two sons from Vietnam. I most appreciated her thoughts about the wait to bring each of them home. This excerpt describes her feelings when the wait was over and they were preparing to leave:

But just before that joy, the initial flush of emotion as I emerge from dazed fogginess is, surprisingly, regret at leaving this phase of life. I know that this difficult time has given me opportunity to grow near to the Lord in new ways. I wonder if I learned everything I could. Did I cherish this discipline and not despise it? Will there be lasting effects from this chapter of my life as I move to the next? I do hope I have grown in faith. ... I am startled and a bit amused -- I was not expecting any feelings of regret at leaving behind this painful time. I wonder if that will be our feeling at the end of life, if we will look back, recognizing the challenging opportunities the Lord provided for us to learn to trust him, and hoping that we did not squander or complain them away. (p. 64)

I know I have learned to trust God more during this time. Never before have I been in a situation in which I have so little control over either the process or the outcome. It very much reminds me of something my mother-in-law said to me during a round of chemotherapy which made her exceedingly sick. She said that even though she felt wretched, and that the prognosis was unclear and not looking overly rosy, that she couldn't say it was all terrible. The incredible deepening of her faith and the overwhelming love shown to her by family and friends had been very positive outcomes of a terrible ordeal.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

bearded boy


It's not a bad thing to start one's day by spirit-gluing a grey, crepe-hair beard and mustache to one's 10-year-old son. And I take a certain pride and pleasure in the fact that the 10-year-old son in question seems to thoroughly enjoy starting his day with artificial whiskers, even if they do look a bit patchy.

These whiskers are necessary in order to play the part of Mr. Witherspoon in a production of Arsenic and Old Lace that begins this weekend. The tech-week rehearsals last much of the day, but Mr. W. gets to remove his facial excresence afterward and resume playing the 10-year-old son. Of course, it's nearly impossible to get all of the spirit glue off, and so a certain amount of dirt adheres to his face in the place that the beard and mustache had previously inhabited. The result is an odd sort of five-o'clock shadow that can be distracting at the dinner table.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

There is never a straight line in international adoption


Monday we received a phone call from our adoption agency, with some news to share about the adoption, but not the news we wanted to hear. Instead of telling us we have been approved for travel, we were told there is a glitch in the paperwork. There is the possibility that we will have to submit a piece of the paperwork in person, instead of Holt Vietnam submitting it for us. This will add to the length of our trip and one more piece of uncertainty to the whole process. We will know more on Friday.

I have to keep remembering that God is orchestrating the whole adoption and I must let Him work out the details. He is in control of the process, which is good, because we certainly have no control at all. I firmly believe that it was the nudging of God that caused us to start the process even though Vietnam had yet to reopen to US citizens adopting. It was God who chose TM for us and gave us his referral a month after J’s mom passed away. (As well as meaning “bright”, Thanh Minh is also the name a holiday set aside to honor one’s relatives who are no longer living.) God has brought us this far and he will help us to bring TM home.
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