Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're Coming Home!

Friday, November 7th
We're coming home early. Our travel agent woke us last night with news that some seats opened up on Friday night's flight. We had asked a few days ago and at that time it was sold out. Hung has been feeling under the weather and we are ready to get settled in at home with a new routine. We have very much enjoyed our time in Vietnam, and now we are excited to go home and introduce Alex to our world in Minnesota.

Today we're having a low-key day napping and packing. We leave tonight at 11:50pm on a red-eye flight to Korea. We'll arrive in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon around 1:30pm on a NW flight from Chicago. Mom & Dad, will you be home this weekend?

Here are some photos from last night's pre-bedtime playfulness. In the first photo we caught him the middle of saying "Ba" (Dad in Vietnamese). He added "di" (?sp?, pronounced 'Dee'), meaning "go" in Vietnamese, to his vocabulary last night. This morning he's been practicing "hi" quite a bit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday in Hanoi

Wednesday, November 5th.
We woke up excited to check on the election results, but the polls were still open at home.

This morning we (Hung, Siiri, Karin, Rosemary & kiddos) decided to explore on foot in a new direction. We walked to the West Lake and along the shore for a little bit. Then we headed south past the presidential palace and the Ho Chi Minh Memorial and Mausoleum. What a contrast from the Old Quarter where we explored on Monday! The streets are very broad, the sidewalks are wide and empty of motorbikes and vendors. Everything looks so vast and open. We wanted to sit at a cafe to rest, but couldn't see anyplace in view so we asked a guard for directions. We walked three blocks to a cafe, then retraced our steps to visit the One Pillar Pagoda (pictured). Hung is still feeling under the weather so took a cab back to the hotel.

The cab dropped us at the corner where we procured bread and sandwich meat and Rosemary picked up a kohlrabi. We all ate together in our room while the kids played on the floor. How much easier and happier a mealtime than last night! We checked the election results together. Hung and I are very pleased and relieved that our school district's operating referendum passed by a healthy margin this time around. That's good news for Alex's school.

We retired to nap the afternoon away again. We planned to rendezvous with Karin & Co. to go to the water puppet show after naptime. Alex was playful and reluctant to nap, but he did eventually. After naptime we fed him instant porridge. He happily ate it. Maybe this is what we should be doing every night. By the time we took a taxi to the water puppet theater, all but the late show was sold out. We opted to buy early matinee tickets for tomorrow instead. So we walked through the Old Quarter back in the direction of our hotel again. The streets really are alive at night in Vietnam. It's as though everyone's living room is the sidewalk in front of their shop. Lots of kids and babies were out, most of them wanting to wave and chat with our kids. We ate dinner at Little Hanoi since we'd enjoyed our lunch there on Monday. Little Hanoi even had a fan on. (Most restaurants have been stuffy - I guess the locals find the weather cold so they aren't using fans or airconditioning now). Alex wasn't hungry since we'd already fed him, but I managed to keep him pretty well entertained through constant interaction. It was a successful dinner out!

Tuesday: Rest, Visa, Homesick for Saigon

Tuesday, November 4th
Tuesday we spent most of the day resting in our hotel room. Hung has a cold and he and Alex napped together.

At 2pm we had our appointment at the US Embassy to complete Alex's immigration visa application. It went very quickly and we were done within 15 minutes. Now all our official adoption business here is done and we are free to come home with Alex.

Tuesday evening was a low point for me. Here are some notes I wrote then:
Hung and Alex are both asleep and I'm checking my email. I'm feeling bummed. We went to a restaurant that was recommended by the hotel front desk staff, but it was disappointing. It turned out to be a fancy restaurant and we felt very much on edge the whole time because of the setting and the fact that we had two squirmy babies with us. Alex started out okay and was eating his soup, but when he got squirmy things got difficult because this was NOT the sort of place you could let a kid run up and down the aisle in. I stood up to hold and bounce him to settle him down and the staff swooped in and started clearing the table. But we hadn't finished eating! Hung told them he was still eating so they brought him a new plate and silverware. Alex seemed okay as long as I was standing with him. I was drinking water and he wanted some too so I held the glass up for him to sip. I set it down to take a bite of food, but I saw him reaching for the glass again. I thought I grabbed the glass in time, but even though I had it in my hand he smacked it out of my hand and it crashed against the table and shattered into a million pieces. No one was hurt, but I was thoroughly embarassed. I took Alex out to the street while Hung paid the bill and gathered up our baby gear. Of course Alex was perfectly fine once we were out on the street, smiling and blinking/winking at me and waving at passersby. Finding a place to eat dinner feels hard in Hanoi. We already had our bearings in Saigon and now we're starting all over again. We have some general sense of where things are, but we don't know where to eat. All the restaurants in the guidebook are at least several long blocks away, and most are further. That's why we stayed at the fancy restaurant - if we would have left, we wouldn't have known where else to go. In Saigon there was so much of everything just within two or three blocks of our hotel. I guess we're a little bit homesick for Saigon. Hung says the northern dialect is hard for him to understand too. In Saigon he understood 80%, but here it's more like 10-20% of what people are saying.

Alex's habits and activities

Thursday, November 6th
Life with Alex keeps getting better and better. He still wakes up crying at night sometimes, but being in an elevator or a car or a hotel room is no longer grounds for tears. Tuesday was the first time he got up in the morning without crying and the trend continued Wednesday and today. He likes to engage us constantly, whether it's walking back and forth carrying things to us, or beeping noses, or blinking/winking at each other. He loves the telephone and is constantly picking up the receiver to listen to the dial tone. In the lobby he always looks up when the phone at the front desk rings. In the lobby his favorite game is picking up the tabletop cocktail promotion, pulling the paper out of its base, and handing it to us to reassemble. The doorman got in on the game too, and added another dimension by placing the placard in harder to reach places for Alex to retrieve. At mealtimes he wants to keep his hands busy and really wants to imitate Mom and Dad with our utensils. He tries to feed himself in between the bites I feed him, but not much makes it to his mouth when he's wielding the spoon/fork. He loves to help me stir his soup or congee to cool it off. He's been really good at mealtimes, especially if he's hungry and not too tired. Breakfasts are the best. Dinners are much more challenging. He's much more squirrelly then and we have to work hard to keep him engaged while we try to make sure that we get fed too. He eats most foods we offer him, but he likes yogurt best. If we start off feeding him yogurt, he wants nothing but more yogurt. So we usually start off with soup or congee, then fruit or bits of meat/rice/bread, and save the yogurt for last. He always has room for yogurt. He still cries for his bottle several times a day, especially at nap time and bed time. He seems to rely on the bottle as a pacifier and will continue to suck on it long after it is empty. He refuses to take a regular pacifier.

The second photo is the view from the 11th floor breakfast room at our hotel.

Last night Alex was laughing and playing so hard in bed that he didn't want to go to sleep. It started out with me moving his legs in the game my parents played about the dog walking, running, then jumping over the fence into the yard. Then we had some belly kisses and laughs. We also had lots of rolling around and tossing himself into the pillows. He also started to practice talking. He's been a very quiet kid, but last night he was saying "Ba, ba, ba" over and over again. He's also working on "hi" and a couple of times he said "ow, wow." It was so much fun to hear him laughing so much. After a while we wished he would settle down and sleep, but it was worth it to experience him in this new, joyful, state of being.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hanoi in the Rain

Monday morning we met our Hanoi contact in the hotel lobby to go over our documents. Or rather, Hung went over documents while I followed Alex as he toddled around the lobby. Our contact tells us the rain is expected to continue at least through Thursday.

So we put on our rain jackets and set out to explore Hanoi. We started out making a tour around our block where we found a little grocery and stocked up on water. People were friendly and interested in the baby in Saigon, but they are even more so here. We feel like celebrities walking down the street as people everywhere smile and wave at us and often stop us to talk to us and touch the baby. The women at the grocery stall gave him a lollipop. The old woman pictured with Hung gave us some sweet bean cakes. She told us she is 80 years old and feels very strong.
Next we made our way toward Hoan Kiem Lake. Only when we reached the lake did people come up to us to try to sell us things. In all the other streets they were just interested in the baby. Part of the attention may have been because of the backpack kid carrier. We even noticed some people taking pictures of us. The carrier worked well this day because we walked long distances and the rain fly kept most of the rain off the kid. At the lake we stopped to rest and have some ice cream.

Next we made a tour of the lake, including a visit to the temple on the little island accessed via the red bridge. At the south end of the lake we met another adoptive family and stopped to chat for a few minutes. We decided to stop for lunch in the Old Quarter on our way back to the hotel. We tried to go to Koto, a restaurant recommended by the guidebook and by people on the vietnam adoption forum, but our guidebook was out of date and it had moved to another neighborhood. The next place to tried was Little Hanoi, and we were rewarded with a tasty meal. Back at the hotel it was nap time for a couple of hours until we ventured out again for dinner.

For dinner we decided to try Highway 4, recommended by the guidebook and by the hotel concierge. We thought we could walk there, but it was much farther than it looked on the map. We were exhausted by the time we got there, and then they seated us in an upper room with Japanese style seating on floor cushions around a low table. Hung commented that this would have been a lot more comfortable if we were 15 years younger. The kids were cranky and tired too, and we struggled through dinner, but the food was delicious. The catfish spring rolls were wonderful and Hung said his fried rice was the best he's had since arriving in Vietnam. We took a cab home and promptly crashed in bed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

From Saigon to Mui Ne and back again.

Hello from Hanoi! We arrived this afternoon to a rainy city coping with flooding. We haven't seen much of Hanoi yet, but here are some notes from the past few days.

Wednesday we were in Saigon for adoption related appointments. In this photo Alex is looking out our hotel room window at the street. He hated being in our room there and cried whenever we entered it. He loves to be outside and looking out the window was our best way to stop the crying during the daytime. He loves to be outside and did I mention the nannies say he likes to play in the mud? A child after my own heart.

Thursday through Saturday we were at the Seahorse Resort & Spa in Mui Ne, about a four hour drive from Saigon. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. I wish we could have stayed a whole week. I would love to come back again.

Alex has changed so much already since he first became ours last Tuesday. On Wednesday he accepted food from us for the first time. We were eating pho at Pho 2000 near the Ben Thanh market when he made it clear that he wanted some too. On Thursday evening he wanted to stand and walk around for the first time. Up until then he cried unless we held him constantly. We were having a group dinner at a restaurant in Mui Ne and he became quite a squirrel squirming and running around. Now he loves to walk. Here's a photo of him walking outside our hotel building at the Seahorse Resort in Mui Ne. On Friday at lunch he smiled and laughed for the first time. (Sorry, we didn't catch it on camera). We were eating out on the terrace overlooking the beach and he was getting squirrelly so I set him down and let him loose (it was late for lunch and we were the only ones there). He ran across the deck to small table and banged on it with glee. It was wonderful to see his smile and hear his laughter!
Here's a photo of breakfast on the terrace.
Here we are exploring the beach.
After exploring the beach we stopped to visit Kellen and his mom who were sitting by the pool. Kellen has lots of fun toys and he was willing to share!