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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

September 7, 2008

Day 9 
HanOi, VietNam

HanOi is the capital of VietNam.  It dates back to 1010AD.  It is am amazing wonderful place!  There was no official business to be done on a Sunday, so we used Sunday as a day for heavy tourist activities.  By this point the babes had been with us almost a week and we were getting a firm grasp on reading their needs.  So Liv and I strapped on the Ergos, (Papa's back was still a mess.  Thank goodness Liv was was with us!) and visited some tourist sites.

Hanoi was cooler than Saigon.  Now don't read that wrong and think that Hanoi was cool.  It was September, summer was still in full swing, and it was still hotter than hades.  But the morning and evening were somewhat bearable.  And we took a break mid afternoon the avoid the worst heat.
Balloon sales
Scooter parking lot on the sidewalk

The HanOi Hilton---As I wrote on September 7, 2008
The Hanoi Hilton- Now let me see if I got all this straight... The Hoa Lo Prison was built at the end of the 19th contrary by the French and used as a prison camp for Viet persons who didn't agree with the French party line. They treated the Viet prisoners very badly, executing many, detaining them under horrific conditions with little to no water and food. Prisoners were not allowed to pray, or share their own opinions, and were endured "savage treatment" at the hands of the French government. They received little to no medical care and were tortured. However, the Vietnamese, having been recipients of such inhumane conditions under French oppression, felt compelled to use the facility differently when prisoners of war, Americans, were later detained here during the "American War." (i.e. Vietnam War for you Caucasians) During this time of detainment, the American POWs were given wonderful medical care, received care packages from their families and the Red Cross, played basketball in brand new Converse All Star high tops, volleyball, and had a recreational hall where they could all get together and talk and support one another. They even celebrated Christmas with a decorated Xmas tree and church services! As a matter of fact, the place was so lovely that the American soldiers nicknamed it the Hanoi Hilton, kinda like being on vacation and going to a hotel! This humane care of American P.O.W.s was a very very generous and benevolent thing for the "democratic socialist" Vietnamese gov't to do since it was these very American soldiers that were trying to carpet bomb innocent Vietnamese women and children.   I saw all of it pictures and print at the Hanoi Hilton, so it must be true!
Papa and Livy holding Jude outside the HanOi Hilton

Cells inside the HanOi Hilton

There weren't many tourists at this prison/museum.  The Hoa Lo Prison, (nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American P.O.W.s but not likely for the above reasons) is now a museum, dedicated to the memory and hardships of the Viet citizens that were interned and lost their lives there under French colonial government in the late 1800's.   And way back in a tiny back far corner of the prison are 2 very small rooms that told of the story of the American soldiers that were also interned there by the north Vietnamese during the Vietnam War... told from a Viet "democratic socialist" perspective point of course.  Yes, there were photos of the American P.O.W.s decorating a Christmas tree and praying in the makeshift church and playing basketball.  There was a photo of a interned soldier being given a physical exam with an inscription stating the VietNamese were interested in providing medical care.  All written in English lest we forget who the message is directed to.  And oddly enough there were even the very volleyball, net, and high-top sneakers that they P.O.W.s wore in the photographs... all very new and seemingly unworn.  I wanted to stay longer here and soak it all in. 

Also from my journal on this day...
The Vietnamese mamas and grandmamas  in this city are more forth right with their opinions of my mothering skills. Never you mind the 4 children I've been raising back home for the last 15 years.  So far, I don't put the baby's hat on fast enough when we got out of the taxi, and another time they are sure Little Man is burning up with fever because he's cutting teeth.  Surely there's more unsolicited advice to come, and I just smile and try to look like an inept white-girl who knows little to nothing 'bout parenting children and so appreciates the unsolicited advice.

Notice in many of these pictures that despite the heat, the babes are covered with socks and hats or snuggled deep into their Ergos.  I guarantee there was sweat dripping from them, and we all had heat rash to prove it.  The objective was that no skin show on the babes lest we be chastised by the Viet grannys.  Exposure to the sun is a huge deal to the Viet citizens.  Sometimes Papa would risk it and carry a bare-armed babe.  Being 6'3", he was rarely chastised by anyone in VietNam.  
The Temple of Literature

Mama and Tess inside the Temple of Literature

Vietnamese school children on a field trip in the Temple of Literature

We also visited The Temple of Literature.  This location was a tourist destination.  There were many Asian families visiting on holiday, and I saw at least 2 different groups of school children, dressed in their uniforms, on a field trip.  Dating from as far back as 1010ad, this temple and sanctuary was also the location of the first university in VietNam, from 1070-1779.  The architecture is simply amazing.  Simply ancient.  Simply so much history that this American couldn't fully grasp the depth of it all.    The Vienamese were obviously and rightly so very proud of this historical site.  But both babes became very tired, and as the heat of the day increased, sleep did not come to them.  We found ourselves with two sweaty, hot, angry, and tired Viet babies.  We called our visit short and returned to the hotel.
A prayer offering inside the Temple of Literature

Vietnamese school girls on a field trip in the Temple of Literature

I will also tell you about an incident that happened just outside the temple that changed me.
We stepped out of the cab to enter the temple.  There were 5 of us, 3 tall big Caucasians with two Viet babies strapped to them.  It was obvious that we'd draw a crowd.  Mostly souvenir salesmen hawking their wares.  Post cards, hats, little toys.  Some pan handlers.  I always wonder what they thought of us as we walked by.  Papa walked a few yards ahead to get the admission tickets, while Liv and I fastened Jude and Tess in the Ergos.  A young Viet man, maybe in his 20s looked us over, accessed us.  He returned to the curb of the sidewalk with a small group of adults, one a young woman carrying a baby, maybe 8 months old.  He motioned toward us.  They briefly confirmed.  Then he approached me.
You have VietNam baby?
Yes.  We have 2 VietNam babies.  This question was nothing out of the ordinary.  We were asked this question dozens of times every single time we went out.  Always followed by the response, Lucky baby.
You buy VietNam baby?  He asked.
 No.  We didn't buy the baby.  I'm not sure what I said after that.  I was pretty taken back trying to recall all those answers I have studied and rehearsed to rude questions people ask.
You buy Vietnam baby?  He said again.
No, we didn't.  We adopted VietNam baby. 
You buy VietNam baby?  And he motioned toward the small baby being held by the young Viet woman sitting on the curb.  She looked at him.
I figured it out.
Oh no!  We not buy VietNam baby.
1 more Vietnam baby if you come with me.  Baby strong.
No.  We already have 2 VietNam babies.  No, thank you.
Yes, I was trying to be polite in the middle of all this.  I actually said thank you.
The young man approached Papa next.
It would take a discussion with Papa and a few days for me to confirm and process what had happened.  Thoughts and questions consumed me.
How do you say no to a child?
What brought this child to this circumstance?
How did God fit in the middle of all this?
Was that the child's mother?
His father?
Would someone actually say yes?
Who would love on that child tonight?
Under what circumstance would someone peddle a child, a baby, on the street to tourists among postcards, souvenirs and trinkets?
I didn't have any answers, only lots of questions, and lots of love for my new son and my new daughter that were safely in my arms.

Monday, tomorrow, was the day that we were to visit the US Embassy and receive the babies US visas.  And any of you following this saga know the momentous history that went into this step.  I was so so fearful of that place and the people inside.  I was afraid they'd change their minds and not allow T&J to come home as they had done earlier when they held us in limbo for those many months while the babes languished in those sterile metal cribs day after day after day.  Contrastingly, I also feared that I'd speak my mind and regret my words.  I certainly had a few choice words that I longed to share with them as I showed them first hand my sons deformed feet and my daughter who was isolated in her own inner darkness.
But that would be tomorrow.

To be continued...


  1. Oh my! That would be hard to process. Is hard to process.

  2. Found your blog on the hop. We adopted from Vietnam in 96 and we were in Hanoi. So happy you got to adopt from Vietnam. I am pouring over your pictures. We have an contact with our daughters birth family and hope to return in a couple years. Thank you sharing...



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