Archive for April 2008

We’ve got a VISA

April 30, 2008

And I’m not talking about her first credit card! We arrived in Hanoi in the late afternoon on Sunday, and our meeting at the US Embassy was at 2:00 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday). At 4:30 our facilitator called us down to the hotel lobby to give us her Vietnamese passport and her VISA to come back to the states. That’s a fast turn-around! The interview at the embassy was much less dramatic than I had thought it would be. I pictured bright spotlights, uncomfortable chairs, difficult questions and lots of sweat. It was none of those things, well except for the sweat. (I know that I must be painting quite a pretty picture of Vietnam for you with all the comments about sweat, but it is true. I am just a cool weather guy.) The interview lasted for all of three minutes, and the most difficult question was about where we went to pick her up. Nothing about referral dates, or anything else.

So technically, we have everything complete that we need to be able to leave the country, but our tickets are for Saturday, and there isn’t really an opportunity to change them since the EVA Airlines offices are closed today and tomorrow for the holidays. That’s okay though, because then we have even more time to shop! Oh lucky me! The only saving grace is that we can’t take any more luggage on the plane.

Today is the anniversary of the day that the North Vietnamese overtook Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. It’s called ‘Liberation Day’, or ‘Reunification Day’, or ‘The Fall of Saigon’, depending on your point of view. There are Vietnamese flags everywhere outside, and last night there were street concerts and lots of people singing in the streets. Kind of neat to see.

Well, we’re finally seeing that Piper isn’t necessarily the happy-go-lucky baby that never has any troubles (I know, all of you are saying ‘no duh’). She definitely has some lungs on her, and she will let you know when she doesn’t like something. I thought that she was too young to be testing us on things, but it seems like she will wail for a little bit, stop, check our faces, and continue wailing. Often when she sleeps she will cry out, but never wake up. Nicole says that it is the grieving that she is going through. I wish that I could take it away for her. The truth is though, if you think of all that she has been through in the last ten days, I think that she’s doing pretty darn well. She is a trooper.

The family that we’ve been spending so much time with on this trip (Ernie and Debbie) are a godsend. They have been wonderful to go shopping with and to see all of the sights of the city with. Their two daughters (Mylea and Lola) are so much fun, and they are both adopted from China. Their new daughter (Zoe) is from the same orphanage as Piper and they are very close in age.

It is really funny to watch the facial expressions of the people here when they see Zoe and Piper. Everybody is curious, and it looks like most approve, but maybe some disapprove. Everyone that actually comes up to talk to us is very friendly, asking hold old, and whether they are Vietnamese or not. We often get advice on what to do if they hear a cough, or a sneeze, or even a hiccup. I have no idea what they really think of us.

Hanoi seems to be a little more structured than HCMC. The streets are better planned than in HCMC, the buildings are more organized, and there are even more stoplights (although they are as of much use in Hanoi as they are in HCMC). Having said that, I think that my favorite is still Ho Chi Minh City because of the ‘loose’ nature of the city, but the Old Quarter in Hanoi has a lot of great shopping and food.

No worries, I am definitely not a permanent blog poster. Think of me as a substitute teacher, only I don’t teach anything really worth learning. Nicole will be back soon. I promise.

My favorite pics of the last few days:

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Oops!

April 26, 2008

I just realized that my last post didn’t have one word about our little angel. I guess that sometimes with all of the pictures of her and everything, people might want to hear other things about our trip too. Probably not though.

With every passing minute, all of us seem to get closer as a unit. More and more of her personality is coming out too. I told Nicole when we got her pictures before our trip that she was going to be a little firecracker, and give us a run for our money. I think that I was right. She is learning as much about us as we are about her, and she is learning when to do what to get what she wants. We might be in trouble here…

Here is the sweetie just in case you forgot what she looked like:

Sweatin’ Away in Saigon

April 26, 2008

Yes, it’s me again. It turns out that I have a little more free time than Nicole (I don’t really know why), but if you mix her posts with mine, then you can probably get a pretty well-rounded feel for how things really are. To give you an idea, my posts will always focus on food, dark coffee, darker beer, and now air conditioning. Nicole will cover everything else. I think that Nicole is going to try to post tonight or tomorrow morning.

I think that everyone has seen the pictures of the camera-toting tourists in New York City, with their mouths wide open and their eyes big. That has been us, except that we’re also drenched in sweat, and carrying a baby that everyone in the city seems to need to touch. Ho Chi Minh City is incredibly beautiful with all of the finely manicured gardens and trees. There are 8 million people (and 3 million motorbikes) squeezed into a fairly small area, and the streets are cleaner than they are in Denver. People here really take pride in their jobs, whatever that job may be. I respect that. They are also very kind and ready to help. If I understood a lick of Vietnamese, I’m sure that they would be 10 times more helpful, but I’m sure that I am very entertaining with my hand signals and attempts to communicate. It’s probably very funny to watch.

So yesterday morning (after the incredible buffet breakfast of course) we went dress shopping. Not for me, but for Piper. Previous adoptive families passed on some information to Nicole about some stores that have very reasonably prices embroidered dresses (thank you Emily!). Nicole has been really good up to this point about keeping the shopping reasonable, but when she got into this store (look at the ‘nKids’ album here for pics), she handed Piper over to me, and I saw her eyes glaze over. She moved to another level of consciousness that is reserved only for shopping. That is serious trouble for our budget. I had a feeling that this was going to happen, so I tried to prepare by talking calmly with her about it before we even arrived in HCMC. The glazed eyes were my signal that any talks that we had had were now null and void. At that point, my only job was tender payment at the end of the session. To give you an idea, we had talked about getting a ‘few’ items. To me, that means three. After the woman at the register told me how much, she mentioned that there were 31 items. We added to that six or seven more dresses that she picked up this afternoon. But, truth be told, I’m now going to shut my mouth on this topic, because with all of the shopping to be done in this city, I am getting off easy.

Our group here decided that we wanted to see the city, but with this heat and humidity there was no way that we were going to walk it, so we hired a big van to take us around to all of the major sites. The package also came with an English-speaking guide to tell us what we were looking at. We started by going to China Town (it seems every major city has one) to see the Thien Hau Pagoda. Take a look in the ‘Thien Hau Pagoda’ album for pics here. Very beautiful. Painstakingly difficult carvings, and LOTS of incense to fill the nostrils.

We were then zipped off to the old Presidential Palace. Built in the 60’s, it was VERY 60’s. It was vacated in 1975 (I believe) when the North came in with their tanks. It was big, and palatial, but it didn’t have very many intricacies that I see in so many of the buildings here.

Next to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office (I would never take someone to see the post office in Denver, but their’s is a touch fancier). We finished off the trip with the War Remnants Museum, which was good timing, because we had all just about melted by then.

Today we started out at the Saigon Zoo (after the buffet breakfast of course) and botanical gardens. Everybody always cracks jokes at the variety of animals in this zoo (cows and chickens), but we saw neither cows nor chickens, though there were relatively few animals overall. I would say that the bears had to be the unhappiest animals in the entire place with their fur coats. There were two of them, and they didn’t move an inch in the two hours that we were there. The big attraction was the gardens. They were exquisite. Piper wouldn’t know this because she fell asleep the second we walked through the gates, and she didn’t wake up again until we left. To try and cool everyone off, we took three trips around the zoo in this train where the driver sometimes tries not to run over the children that seem to appear out of nowhere.

Well, I’m all talked out for now. We leave for Hanoi tomorrow afternoon, and the temperatures there are 10 degrees cooler. Here are some of my favorite pics of the last couple of days:

Can it really be this good?

April 24, 2008

This is Darren again, doing some freelance blog writing for Nicole. We have been going at about 100 mph every minute since we got here, and now it’s starting to hit her pretty hard. She’s getting some shut eye, trying to avoid coming down with what she thinks she’s coming down with…

Our head facilitator and his wife have moved on to Danang (we’ll meet up with them again in Hanoi and we still have other facilitators that are with us so we are far from alone), the babies’ passports are secured, and our US Consulate appointment is scheduled for next Tuesday. Now is when the heavy shopping fever kicks in, and I start wondering if I should have budgeted a lot more money for this trip. Meanwhile, I’ve been soothing myself with the incredible buffet breakfast at the Duxton. Everyday my eyes end up being bigger than my stomach, but I just can’t help myself. If you stay at the Duxton, you CANNOT miss the buffet breakfast.

We leave Saigon on Sunday afternoon, and all we have is the consulate interview next Tuesday in Hanoi. We’ll see how things go, but we’re contemplating taking a little trip to Sapa from Hanoi. We’ve heard that it is beautiful there, and I want to distract Nicole from the potential shopping in Hanoi.

I was We were pretty worried about parenthood before this trip. How do you even know how to be a parent? What if she didn’t want to have anything to do with us? What if I just break her? (That was mine.) Well, it turns out that most of our worries were for no real cause, because you just shoot from the hip and do the best damn job that you can. So far, Nicole and I feel like we’re in some kind of wonderful dream with Piper. She is an absolute angel. Does she cry? Sometimes. Does she poop? Unfortunately. But one little smile of hers, she can make Nicole and I start babbling. We probably look like idiots, but that’s okay. She’s way better than sliced bread.

We’re prepared (we think) for her to go through a significant grieving stage, but as of yet, it hasn’t really hit. She looks us in the eyes all the time, and talks constantly in the gibberish that only she knows. She is constant smiles, except when we perform the dreaded wiping the nose routine. She has been an absolute dream thus far, and if we can carry this right through the teenage years, then we might just survive.

We do have pictures of some additional children from the orphanage for the families that asked us to take them, and Nicole promises to have them to you tomorrow. She feels really badly about not staying up tonight to get them out, but if she doesn’t get some sleep, she will be in bad shape. Being a parent is absolutely tiring.

One last thing for this post. I referred to Piper as my ‘daughter’ to someone at the hotel yesterday, and oddly enough, I think that that is when the gravity of what we’re doing hit me. Yes, I know that I should have been ‘hit’ long ago, but everyone is different.

We have posted TONS of new pictures here, so take a look if you have a few minutes. There will be many more to come. Here are some of my favorites:

First day at the pool

Making her getaway...

Two girls at the Ca Mau Orphanage

good girl

April 23, 2008

[so the thing is that my mom has had horrible internet and major wordpress issues again in HCM.  i talk non-stop and keep her pretty busy but i am a VERY good girl and am adjusting really well.  mom says i am an easy laugh.  my mom is hoping to have lots more posted today because she is crossing her fingers that wordpress is gonna work!  i promise you she has been trying for MANY hours now!]

hello there

April 22, 2008

[hello world!]

We are so sorry we haven’t posted in the past few days. We had a horrible internet connection and it made it impossible to post. We just got back to HCMC. We stopped on the way from the airport to apply for Piper’s passport and just checked into the Duxton Hotel. It is nice here and we are relieved to be in the same place for a few days and have good internet!

Piper is amazing. She is such a good girl and has been doing really really well. She laughs and talks non-stop. I cannot even tell you how much I love this girl. I promise to post a lot tonight, but for now I need to go get ready to take her to her medical approval appointment.

More soon!

test

April 22, 2008

i can’t get wordpress to work. ugh!!!!!!! if this ever shows up it will be a miracle.

so frustrating!