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Friday, August 20, 2010

September 4-5, 2008

Day 6 & 7
Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam
Thursday & Friday
A park in down town Saigon
Until this point, we hadn't had much of an opportunity to explore Saigon.  And as Caucasian parents who were committed to raise confident proud Vietnamese children., we felt an urgent need to learn as much as possible about the country, it's people, and explore the sights.  Papa had made flight reservations to HaNoi for Sunday.  So 3 days was all we had in SaiGon.  All we had to learn everything we could to teach them about the city they where they were born in.

We really wanted to visit the Chi Chi tunnels.  We really wanted to see the MeKong delta.  But with only 3 days, we decided to concentrate on just SaiGon.
The Reunification Palace (former Presidential Palace for South VietNam President)

First my disclaimer--- I think I am getting my history straight.  I'm not positive.
Our first outing was a trip to The Reunification Palace, otherwise known to us Americans as the Palace for the President for the President of South VietNam, that was overrun by tanks during the fall of SaiGon in 1971, as South VietNam fell to Communists of the north.  In celebration of VietNam reuniting back into 1 unified country, the former Presidential home was renamed The Unification Palace and turned into a museum to celebrate all things communism and wonderful about the unified VietNam.  If you think there's a bit of ironic symbolism in the former home of the Vietnamese president of southern VietNam being turned into a monument that celebrates the unification of Communist VietNam, then you wouldn't be alone!  I'm sure it was a very purposeful act of propaganda.
These are front gates of the US Embassy Veitnam Reunification Palace.  The same place the tanks crashed through in 1971.
The actual tank that crashed through the gates, now used as a photo op, for tourists.  

For the most part, the building was left as was in 1971.  The US strategic war rooms still have maps hung on the walls and desks, chairs, and rotary telephones that were used.
The "war rooms" in the former Presidential Palace
The tour of course came with the sweetest, youngest, prettiest, Viet tour guide in a gorgeous AoDai that gave a heavy and well-rehearsed dose of Vietnam's version of the facts.  It was "interesting" and fascinating all at the same time.
And I should probably point out at this time, that we never encountered any anti-American sentiments during our entire trip.  I came away with the feeling that after hundreds of year, and of slews of different foreigners taking over, occupying, and ruling over the Viet country, the Vietnamese consider themselves survivors.  The Chinese did it.  The French did it.  And the Americans are simply the last of many to try to dictate to the Viet people how to run their country.  We did run into a lot of propaganda about the wonderful benevolence of the Communist party.  This propaganda seemed to be a way of life.  But never any anti-American sentiments.  The Viet people were the most kind and generous people I had ever encountered... really.
Notre Dame Cathedral

We also visited Notre Dame Cathedral.  Yes, in the middle of a Communist country, there is a Catholic church, another remnant of the French occupation.
Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

I giggled as we passed a statue of the Virgin Mary illuminated with florescent light.  She was literally "glowing" in the corner vestibule like she had eaten some radio-active pho!
When we stepped out of the cathedral, there was a light drizzle in the air.  Not rain, more like a heavy midst.  Now, don't forget it was about 1,427 degrees outside!  Ok it was only about 99 degrees, but the humidity was also about 99 degrees.  We were so so so hot.  The Vietnamese, like the Chinese, like to bundle babies so not a stitch of skin is showing, regardless of the temperature.  We on the other hand, dressed the babes to our comfort levels, in sleeveless onsies.  We had been given nasty little looks all day "exposing" our littles to the elements.  But with the drizzle in the air, the nasty looks just weren't enough.  A couple well-meaning Viet people, indicated that we MUST hail a cab... immediately... for the sake of the children!  They tried to convince us that the drafty nippy air had a chill.  They weren't successful, with all that sweat running down me everywhere.  They shielded the babes with newspapers and their hands.  Eventually we obliged and covered our sweating very hot babies with blankets.  When you can't beat 'em, I guess you just go with the flow.  We all had a heavy dose of heat rash by the end of that day.
Offering incense in the courtyard of the Jade Pagoda
The next day we visited an inner city, small, non-touristy pagoda.  It was lovely and my very favorite site.  Full of incense and Buddhas and Viet people paying their respects to their deceased loved ones.  I felt like a fish out of water there, but a monk gave us an impromptu tour that we really understood not a word of.
Incense for sale at the pagoda
This little area had something to do with female fertility and the birth of children.  Note the statues around the outside are all women with many children.  The monk really wanted us to stop for a picture here with T&J.  He gave us, or rather the babies a short blessing.  
I walked out of the Jade Pagoda feeling that I knew, maybe appreciated is a better word, a tiny little more about VeitNam than I did the day before.
The SaiGon River, just across the street from out hotel
Papa and Liv at the edge of the SaiGon River.
Ferry crossing

This was also around the time that Papa blew his back out.  There was no no way that he could carry a baby for any length of time.  We were so so so thankful that Livy had come with us, and Livy became our newly-anointed baby carrier.  Jude was attaching well to Papa at this point, and as much as I would have liked the two of them to remain in constant physical contact, Livy did a great job as our pack horse.  As I was still doing all I could to help Tess come out of her shell, Livy carried Jude around the entire rest of the trip.  She soaked up her new role as baby-carrier and big sister.  I was never so proud of my girl!

Tess was still so clearly not emotionally well.  We knew this, and I hate to say it, but I desperately tried not to focus on it, although I will tell you that I cried.  And I cried so so much at night in my pillow when no one was looking.  I worried about her, and my ability to give her what she needed.  I worried about the future of the family I would take this little one in to.  Papa was so good and so faithful to the Lord's plan, knowing it was so much more than anything we could imagine.  He's always been so much better at that than me.  Papa, getting a glimpse of my panic, called our international doctors in Washington state.  They were wonderful and explained that for a preemie, that was neglected for 12 months, and was now uprooted from all she knew as familiar, this could be typical behavior.   Our doctor said he might not expect her to "catch up" till age 4 or 5.  The fact that she could ever "catch up," was what I tried to hang on to.  One half of me highly doubted the voice of this doctor half-way across the world who had never seen my child.  But I tried to hang on to this might catch up by age 5 for sanity.  I still do some days.  Less and less as time passes.
This was also right around the time the Tess started "checking out" of reality.  Very quickly, in a matter of a few seconds, she would fall asleep, wherever she was.  As we pushed to try to get in her world and her head, it was often too much for her, and she'd simply fall dead asleep right then and there.  It may sound so ordinary and expected for an scared newly adopted infant, but this was my 6th child, and it was eerie and odd.  You know, she still does this too, but not as often.  Sometimes during a temper tantrum, I'll find her all curled up in a corner, dead asleep in the middle of it all.
Even after 5 days with us, the babes were yet to have any names.  The 3 of us debated it each evening in the hotel room.  They had love and food and family, so even without names, we knew they finally had what was important.
To be continued...


  1. Hey, Met you on the WAGI forum and I have enjoyed reading your posts. Our daughter also has speech delay and it is so encouraging to read that she said "mama". I have also dreamed of the day when Maggie will talk and it is encouraging to know your journey. Maggie seems to be a lot like your daughter and your Gotcha day experience was also like ours. Thank you for sharing !!

  2. keep these coming. i love them. tess is so special. i hate what she went through.


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