Showing posts from July, 2006

Home Again, Again


So, now we're back home again. -- Five days after our return from Vietnam, we had to pack up the whole family for a quick trip to Wisconsin, where J. was scheduled to teach an Elderhostel class for a week. Normally, this trip is an excellent (and free) five-day vacation for the whole family. J. teaches his class for a couple of hours each day, and the rest of the time, we are free to swim, boat, take walks, hang out, play games... with room and board provided as part of the remuneration for teaching. (And our eldest son loves the fact that the dining is all buffet-style, so that he can eat as much as he likes.) We really enjoy it.

But this year, coming on the heels of our return from Vietnam, it was a little overwhelming. Poor Minh was baffled by yet another round of travel to yet another inexplicable place. Seeing suitcases makes him a bit jumpy. It's hard to develop a stable sense of home when one is moved from place to place so rapidly. -- Nevertheless, he did well this w…

Great is Thy Faithfulness


When D. was a small baby, I would rock and nurse him in the rocking chair in his room. Many times while doing this, a sadness would come over me for a little boy somewhere, who wasn't being rocked by his mother. I didn't know who or where this boy was. It was not much after this that we seriously began to look into adoption.

So now, Minh and I sit and rock in that same chair. He doesn't like to nap, but needs some quiet time and he only slows down when he is being held, and so we rock. Not that he is always on board with this plan. But after the raging comes calmness. The raging, I might add, is a mere shadow of the rage we saw that first week in Danang.

Minh also loves to be sung to as he falls asleep. My lullaby repetoire is somewhat limited, so I sing the old standard hymns which I memorized long ago. (I hope that I'm not building some Pavlovian response that causes him to immediately fall asleep in church everytime Amazing Grace is sung.) As I sing, I&#…

Chapter 16: A Touching Reunion -- In which one big happy family is restored to one big ugly house


For a while there, it looked as if American Airlines might succeed in keeping us from making it back. We've done a lot more flying in the last few weeks than we usually do, and our experiences on most of those flights were quite good... Vietnam Airlines and Cathay Pacific were excellent. However, American Airlines seemed determined to botch our attempts to travel between LA and Chicago both ways. Faithful reader, you will recall our initial attempt to get out of Chicago and fly to LA, which was stymied by American Airlines first delaying the flight several times and then finally cancelling it altogether (when the captain apparently did not show up). Well, our return flight took us from Hong Kong to LA, where we were to connect to a flight to Chicago on American. Our original itinerary allowed for more than two hours for that connection, but the flight from Hong Kong was a bit delayed, and then customs took a long time, and so we found ourselves with only 30 minutes to get …

Chapter 15: Counting Down Again -- In which we appear to see journey's end... though it is the start of the next


Having worked out the kinks in our out-of-town run, we've decided that it's time to take the show on the road. We'll shortly be offering a one-night-only abbreviated performance in Hong Kong, followed by an extended run over the Pacific Ocean, then a photo op in LA, and at last into our long-term engagement back in Chicago. -- We can't wait to get home.

This will, of course, be one more confusing change for Minh. He's had some very good days, and he has grown used to our rooms here at the Somerset. As we get ready to pack, he seems to be aware that something's up, and that means anxiety and fear for him. The plane flight could be a challenge for all three of us... though we've invested in a case of the coconut snack cakes that Minh loves so much, and we are ready to bribe our way across the ocean.

We cannot emphasize how clear it has become to us that in any adoption (and considering all that could happen, we've had a pretty easy time of it so far) …

Chapter 14: Into the Home Stretch? -- In which bureaucracy redeems itself


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.…

Chapter 13: Waiting in Hanoi -- In which E. plays in the pool and likes it


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 perso…

Chapter whatever: some short notes


It's Monday morning, and we're feeling a bit blah here in Hanoi. Minh's rages continue apace, and they really take it out of us. It's not just the current fit of rage, but the knowledge that there will almost certainly be another one coming down the pike. We find ourselves learning that attachment works both ways. Just as Minh must struggle to accept us as parents, so we must struggle to accept him as our child, most especially in the moments when he is working his hardest to avoid that attachment. We are learning that love is an act of will and faith, not an emotion. I don't have the energy to pursue the theological implications of this right now, but this experience is a startling lesson in the infinite love of God. I see myself as a child adopted into God's family, irrevocably a child of God as a result of my surrender to Christ, but a child who often struggles against full attachment, full bonding, with my true father. If Minh's rages against…

Chapter 11: New City, New Taxbracket -- Wherein the three travellers travel a bit further


Dateline Hanoi.
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 …

Chapter 10: For Every Down An Up -- In which some fun is had by all.


Well, Minh's passport is still going to take more time than anyone expected, but it looks as if that may not slow our schedule or change the original timeline. We leave for Ha noi tomorrow morning, and we can file the I-600 form with the US embassy even though we won't yet have Minh's passport. The passport will follow us on Thursday. At least because of having to submit the I-600 here, rather than in Chicago, we had already planned for an extended trip. If that were not the case, we would now be scrambling to make other arrangements for extending our stay in Ha noi.

Yesterday afternoon Minh had a good long nap and then we went to the beach and swam in the South China Sea. It was lovely, perfect waves for playing. We went to My Khe Beach (China Beach), but a bit further south from the really crowded area nearest Danang. It's only a couple of km from the city, but a bit too far to walk, so we took a cab. (I was all for renting a scooter, but the hotel staff t…

Chapter 9: Staggering about Punch-Drunk--In which we observe the highs and lows of the roller-coaster


First, the bad news.
This morning (Thursday) Mr. V. and a CWC staff person took us to the police station to work out the details of getting Minh's passport. We had thought that the CWC director would be able to do this without our needing to go anywhere, but there have been changes to the bureaucracy, apparently. And bureaucratic changes can only mean one thing: delays.

It now appears that Min's passport will take 4 or 5 days longer than expected here in Danang. We're not entirely sure what this does to our whole timeline, though. We think that we can still travel to Hanoi on Saturday (July 8)... and that the passport, when ready, will follow us there. However, because the Chicago office of the US CIS did not allow us to file the I-600 form while we were still in the US, we must file that at the US embassy in Hanoi. We need to get that started as quickly as possible, and we can only hope that we are allowed to start the US embassy paperwork without Minh's passp…

Chapter 8: Bright Spots


It's Wednesday, July 5, at 8am. (Happy Birthday, Lindley!) We've had some nice moments since yesterday afternoon. For dinner, we went to the Cool Spot restaurant... with a little trepidation. Our meals in the hotel restaurant had been a bit tense. This is partly because the woman who runs the hotel restaurant is just so nice. Sadly, her very niceness was the problem. She was so eager to appease Minh and jolly him up that it sort of made our job harder in getting him to sit and eat, especially since E. is trying to be very consistent about having him take food from her. -- Anyway, we walked maybe a km to the restaurant, with E. carrying M. in the hip carrier. And we had a fairly relaxed dinner! M. ate mainly baguette and steamed rice (he likes his starch!), but, hey, he ate it from E.'s hands. The boy won't starve, and we can work on varying the diet later. (According to his foster father, Minh likes only soft foods, not many fruits or vegetables, and won&…

Chapter 7: The First 24 Hours


Thanh Minh is now with us and is our son... "irrevocably," as Mr. V., our Holt Agency contact person and translator, put it. Minh spent last night with us here in the hotel room, and we've now just passed the 24-hour mark of our lives together.

Yesterday (Monday) was about the most emotionally draining days I can recall... since the death of my mother. We arrived at the orphanage bright and early for the "farewell party," which was a fairly brief and ceremonial affair. We had to distribute the customary gifts to everyone involved at the Child Welfare Center and speak eloquently about our happiness. Then (I thought) we would be able to take Minh back with us until the government ceremony at the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), which is next door to our hotel. However, it turned out that we could not take him... so we ended up hanging out at the CWC with Minh and the other kids. To complicate matters, though, as we were all sort of moping around in the courtyard, an old…

Chapter 6: Counting Down again

So much about this adoption process seems to involve counting down toward some new deadline or phase in the process. Most recently, we were counting down until we left for Vietnam... then counting down until our first meeting with Thanh Minh... and now we are in the final countdown to the moment when he becomes (officially) our son. In about an hour or so, we will go to the Child Welfare Center for Minh's going away party with the caregivers and the other children. And then, at 2pm, we have the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, after which he is ours.

And so we're entering yet another phase. I guess our next countdown will be looking toward the trip from Danang to Hanoi... followed by the countdown until we fly home.

Note on Potty Children:
No, they are not strapped onto their potty buckets. Their little bottoms just sit down in the chamber pots with their kness hanging over the edge so that their feet reach the ground.

And we should mention that, while the potty child…

Chapter 5: Miscellanea -- Wherein otherwise unrecorded incidents and information are recounted...


The network demons have been appeased, and (for the moment) we are connected via the laptop in the hotel room! That's a relief. (Though even if the laptop ended up as dead weight for the rest of the trip, it would have earned its passage in that first bad night when we had to revise all flight plans. Without email, we would have been up a creek.)

When we visited the Cham museum on Saturday afternoon, we were given a guided tour by a genuine Danang character, and he had the book to prove it. The museum itself is a pretty casual affair, without much in the way of information. It's essentially an open air building (as so many of the buildings are in Danang), with the occasional lizard scuttling across the floor between exhibits. We entered one of the first rooms off the courtyard, and suddenly, out of nowhere, popped a small, elderly man who offered us (in very formal but partially incomprehensible English) a private tour. He began by showing us his card and …

Chapter 4: Humans Doing Well, Technology Not So Good--In which we learn why the quantity of news has been low...


It's Sunday at noon, and we've had several wonderful visits to the Child Welfare Center here in Danang, spending time with Minh and a cadre of small friends. Thus far, we've been to the CWC twice our first day, once during the second day, and once this morning (day 3). Each visit has been several hours long, and a bit exhausting. Our first visit was with Minh only in the director's office, but each subsequent visit has included the half dozen older kids living at the CWC. (There are also about 6 babies there, too.) I'm a little concerned that they ALL expect to leave with us on Monday. Juggling and blowing bubbles have been a big hit.

Minh calls us Me and Ba (mommy and daddy), which is wonderful, and he is happy to let us hold him. In fact, he will take steps to dislodge other kids when we pick them up, so that he can monopolize us. This seems like a good thing, in general. We've been there over lunch the last two days, so we've fed Minh his foo…