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Sunday, May 31, 2009

We're Ready!

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The gifts are packed and we are all anxiously waiting for the morning. Can you believe that we brought all this stuff to Vietnam with us? Actually, we bought the microwave here, but the rest was in one big suitcase which is now available for all the things we want to bring home.

We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at the Rex Hotel tonight on the Rooftop Garden. I say fancy because it's the first time we've paid over 100,000d for an entree (about $5). I have to admit that I cheated tonight. They had fettucini carbonera on the menu and I went for it (only because Brian wanted some). It was great. I hear from Bob that the gin & tonic's were also well done. Afterwards we walked to Fannys for some exquisite ice cream. Thankfully there is also a Fannys in Hanoi so we can sample it frequently. They have a special on the 1st Friday of the month where its all you can eat for 75,000d. Judy is planning to take advantage of it.

Well, off to bed so we can get up bright and early and get out to Dong Nai. The Giving & Receiving is scheduled for 9:30am and after that we are officially a family!

Wendi

PS - I did figure out the pictures today but obviously did not catch up with posting. We are having too much fun!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hue

Since I have a few free minutes, I'll catch up on Hue first before posting about today's tour of the Cui Chi Tunnels and Saigon.

Hue is just an amazing place. If it weren't so hot (I realize that this is TMI, but it was so hot there that I couldn't drink enough water to pee - I just sweated it all out!), I'd head back there in an instant. Next trip will be in the fall or spring so that we can actually walk around without thinking we are about to pass out and die.

The first afternoon we visited the Citadel which is the "city within the city". Hue has an enormous walled area of the city and within that lies the "palace" area that is also walled. Much of the inner palace area is in ruin - it received heavy bombing during the war. Some of the remaining structures have been restored and some are in disrepair. You are just able to wander through as you like...there are definitely areas that they should have off-limits but as long as you watch your step, you can go pretty much anywhere. It's impossible to describe with words:

The entrance
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One of the great hallways
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I think this was the Prince's residence
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One of the many ornate gates
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Okay...I am having such trouble loading pictures right now that I'm going to have to try again later...

After visiting the Citadel, we came out a different gate and started walking in the direction of where we thought the restaurant we wanted to go to was. It turned into a very long walk through a residential neighborhood. But it was so worth it! We did let them call a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

The second day in Hue we took a Dragon Boat down the Perfume River to a lovely pagoda. It is still used as a monastary and was gorgeous. You'll have to trust me. Then our driver picked us up and took us to two of the Emporer's tombs - Tu Duc and Minh Mang. Even thought we had 20-30 minutes in a lovely air conditioned Mercedes between sites, it wasn't enough to combat the heat. For Minh Mang's tomb, we had to walk down a short trail to the entrance. When we got there, we realized that the camera was still in the car. Neither of us had the energy to go back and get it. We are hoping that Bob and Judy visit that one on their way through Hue so that they can take pictures. It was the most serene site! If it weren't so hot, we could have spent hours there walking around the grounds. The reality is that we viewed a bit of it from a distance. After climbing some stairs to get a vantage point, we conceded that it was too hot to walk all the way to some of the buildings. I felt like such a slacker, but we just could not do it. I don't think I've ever experienced oppressive heat at that level.

That's all for tonight...I'll try again with pictures tomorrow and post with today's explorations. I've got to get caught up before we bring An home with us on Monday!

Wendi

Friday, May 29, 2009

Meeting An

The post about Hue will have to wait. There is something much more important to share!

This afternoon we were driven out to the orphanage where An spent the first two years of her life. She and her foster mom were waiting outside as we pulled up. She jumped up when she saw the van and ran up to Brian. She gave him hugs and kisses. She wasn't too sure about me.

We went inside and sat down with the Orphanage Director, the Holt Vietnam staff and An's foster mom. We talked for quite a while and were able to ask her foster mom a lot of questions about An. She showed us how she likes to dance and Brian helped her color and eat M&M's. She was just full of laughter and energy!

After we finished talking, we went to see the rest of the orphanage and visit the other children. I was able to give gifts to four other children whose families are still waiting to bring them home. During that time, An and Brian continued to play - letting me join in for a moment here and there. She's just so full of life! And fearless - Brian was turning her upside down, tickling her, giving her kisses and she just laughed through it all.

Here are a few pictures:

I'm not exaggerating when I say she ran up to Brian and jumped into his arms:
meeting An

She'd let me get close, but not hold her:
Mom & An

First family photo:
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Showing Grandma and Grandpa her coloring book:
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Leading dad to visit the other children:
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Playing with dad:
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Short Update

We don't have wireless in our room in Hue so no pictures tonight.

It is beautiful here. Amazingly beautiful! We spent the afternoon walking around the Citadel and Imperial City. Stunning! Tomorrow we'll take a tour out to one pagoda and two emporer's tombs before flying to Saigon.

Vietnam continues to exceed every expectation we had and we haven't even met An yet...

Wendi

Monday, May 25, 2009

Safe in Hanoi!

Good Tuesday morning!

In Hanoi it's Tuesday at 1pm and we've just settled in to our hotel. We need to wait here until the plane tickets are delivered for the rest of our trip and then we'll head out for a little exploring.

Our flights were great (yes, Dad - I just experienced a great 12 hour flight in economy nonetheless!). EVA Airlines has amazing service and the seats are comfortable. Instead of just leaning back, the seat slides out as well. Long flights are the worst for me - I have never been able to sleep on a plane. While I love being in places like Hawaii and Mexico, I am always so whiny about the flight. Brian can just nod off at will. I do the doze off for 15 minutes, wake up because I am so uncomfortable, repeat. Last night, I am positive I slept 6 hours on the flight - an amazing feat.

We were just wowed by the drive into Hanoi. It was beautiful. The airport is about 45 minutes away from our hotel and in a rural area. Saw our first load of pigs on a motor scooter along with a TV and various other things. We've heard, read and watched YouTube videos of how bizarre the traffic is but didn't once feel uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong...it's crazy, but at a slower speed. Haven't yet had the pleasure of trying to cross the street so I'm sure my story will change.

Tomorrow, we fly out at 11am for Hue and will spend Wednesday night there. I am looking forward to seeing the architecture and history. I'm sure we'll have plenty of pictures to post.

Wendi

Friday, May 22, 2009

We Have Passports!

They were delivered to our front door at 9:03 this morning (along with your package Mary Li). Thank God!

Just a few more things on the list to complete...48 hours from now we'll be close to checking in for our overnight flight to Taipei and then on to Hanoi.

Wendi

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why oh why???

Must we have so much stress?

Until 24 hours ago, we had been pretty relaxed about all of our travel plans. Really...we've been ready for the travel call since last May when it should have come.

Last night around 7pm I checked the FedEx tracking number for our passports expecting to find them on their way back from San Francisco. Vietnam doesn't do Visa on entry. You have to send your passports to the Embassy or a Consulate prior to departing to have your Visa stamped in your passport. So, after receiving the travel call on Monday, we sent ours off and dutifully checked to ensure that they were received on Tuesday. You can't do this in advance because the Visa is only valid for a month and since we have to be there for 3 weeks, there isn't much room to estimate what date you might travel on. We paid to have them expedited - turned around in 24 hours - so really they could have been mailed back to us Tuesday but definitely by Wednesday.

Back to 7pm last night...the tracking number had not been activated. They had not been sent. I tried to convince myself that I should just relax - there was nothing that I could do until this morning. The reality is that I didn't fall asleep until after midnight and woke up at 4am worried about it. Feel back asleep until 6am. Shortly after getting up, I checked the FedEx tracking system again just to see if maybe it had been logged over night. No break for us.

At 9:30 this morning, I was finally able to call the Consulate. I politely asked if I could inquire about the status of our passports and the pleasant man said please hold on for a few minutes. He came back 4 or 5 minutes later and said that our passport numbers were logged in the system but he couldn't find them. He said they were really busy and could I call back this afternoon?

*insert lots of words that aren't very nice*

So, I found that the Consulate takes a nice long lunch - from 12:00-2:30. That's 3:30 my time. I don't think there is more that one flight to San Francisco after 3:30 so I was a little worried (yeah right...little doesn't begin to describe it - let's call it freaked out!). Believe me, I'd have been on a plane in an instant if necessary.

At 3:30 I called back. (Okay, I might have also called at 1:30 and 2:30 just to see if they really took that long of a lunch.) He said he'd found our passports and that he would put them in the mail today.

Now really...how many times in this process have we heard a promise about a particular action by a particular date? I was most appreciative to him, but knew that until I saw the tracking information, I wouldn't be relaxed.

"Date/TimeActivityLocationDetailsMay 21, 2009 5:19 PMPicked upSAN FRANCISCO, CA"

The adreneline is still flowing through my veins but I may be able to sleep again...

Wendi

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Day We've Been Waiting For!!!!!!!

This morning around 9:15 we received our travel call! Everything is finally approved and we are scheduled to complete An's adoption on June 1. We should be able to meet her on Friday, May 29 - we hope that meeting her and then having her return home with her foster mom will make the transition a little easier. Her foster mom will have the weekend to convince her that it's going to be okay and we are not scary people!

It's a very good thing that we got travel approval today...at the end of last week, we decided that we'd had enough and bought tickets to fly to Vietnam on May 25. We figured as long as we got approval sometime this week, we'd only be arriving 2 days early. And if it was delayed another week, we'd travel to the central part of the country and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. And if it was delayed even further than that...well we'd figure it out. I'm so glad we don't have to figure it out.

Two weeks from today, An officially becomes our daughter. She's been our daughter in our hearts and minds since the day we received her referral on June 7, 2007.

Wendi

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday

To our beautiful little girl who is still half the world away. Today also marks 23 months since we first learned of you...