Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hanoi Update with Pics

Well, we went to the airline office to see about adjusting our flights on Saturday, but they were unable to view the availablity of the US portion of our flights and we are trying to schedule a stopover in L.A. to visit my brother and his lovely family on our way through so they can meet little miss buttercup. We managed to accomplish nothing on that visit--the last bulkhead seat with bassinet was taken by the family that we went to the airline office with (but they have graciously offered to share if we need it--Our travel agent reissued itineraries for flights out on Tuesday for all the families since the visas are supposed to be issued tomorrow and pretty much everyone has decided to take them, so we will do the same to make things simple. It's hard to leave knowing there is so much more we wanted to see and do, but hopefully we will bring her back someday soon.

We walked around yesterday with Bethany and Kevin and their daughter Leah and went out to Hoan Kiem Lake, which is in the middle of the city and has beautiful parks and walkways all around and a little pagoda in the middle and a temple on an island on one end that is tied to a legend of a tortoise and a sword. There is a huge preserved tortoise in a glass case inside and a pretty red bringe leading up to it-definitely a big tourist spot, but pretty cool. We bought some art to take home at the shop next to the temple.

We ate at a great french restaurant called the Green Tangerine that we have heard good things about from families traveling before us. Then we made our way to the Silk shop where Matt had a fitting for his suit jacket--we had to wait a while for the tailor to arrive with the jacket, so we rested on little wooden stools and the babies were very patient.

The little drama queen had a meltdown though back at the hotel--I think she is working through processing all the change she has and is going through and is grieving her losses a little bit, so the nights are much harder for her. We weathered through it and she fell asleep in my arms until she woke up for round two and then finally gave up and slept for the night. Needless to say it was a room service night again. Tonight went much better--we had very little screaming to speak of and we actually walked down from the hotel to a wonderful restaurant called Koto that was started by an Australian in order to train street kids in the culinary arts and the food is awesome. We met an extremely nice couple from NY at the table next to us that just loved the buttercup and they only realized that we had adopted her after we had talked to them for quite a while--I usually assume that is obvious, so I don't feel like I need to make that clear--perhaps we are all starting to look alike! :) They have grandchildren her age and were very tolerant and helpful when she decided she had had enough. The staff was great too and one of the hostesses took her for a walk around the restaurant and introduced her to the kitchen staff so I could finish the last of my pumpkin ravioli in peace. It feels kind of weird to let them take her, but that is very common here, and I could see her the whole time. The Vietnamese LOVE babies and everywhere we go they will smile and talk to her and clap and cluck and want to touch her face and hands-the latter gets a little old though, as we would like to keep her from getting sick as long as possible. There comes a point where you just want to dip her in Purell, but it is just the culture difference and I can accept that.

A lot of passers-by will say "Baby Vietnam?" and when we say yes, we most often get the response "Ah, very good!" and lots of smiles. The number one question by far that we are asked, though, and this is everyone from the market vendors to the front desk staff from Saigon to Hanoi, is "How many months?" and even though she is usually dressed head to toe in pink, with a pink fluffy coat on, they say "Boy?"---I think she looks like a girl, but evidently it is hard for them to tell and they don't have the US tendency to assume pink = obvious girl. The culture is so interesting to me, and we have been greeted by everyone with such open friendliness......EXCEPT for the cab driver we had on the way back from the restaurant tonight--he just happened to be right in front of the place when we were making our hasty exit while waving goodbye to our new friends with a very crabby baby so that they could enjoy their food and I guess he thought we looked like pretty big suckers--remember we walked to the restaurant--but needed to get back fast since baby had reached her limit and he proceeded to rudely correct our pronunciation of our hotel (when I have heard it pronounced how we said it by other Vietnamese people) and then proceeded to snake around down half a dozen streets at about 5 miles an hour and when Matt questioned where he was going, he had attitutude and kept on his merry way--I was getting a little concerned that he was taking us to the "hood" to mug us, as nothing looked familiar, but then we finally saw our hotel in the distance and instead of pulling into the circular drop off (mind you, I am trying to comfort the getting hysterical baby, so you would think he would have driven faster!) instead he pulls up to the sidewalk next to the hotel and basically orders us to get out there. I was ready to gladly oblige, and of course he charges us twice what it was supposed to be, and when Matt gave him the money, he took cell phone call and igored giving him any change. I was on the sidewalk waiting and was afraid he would drive off with my husband, so I opened the door back up and told him just to let it go and cut our losses--a classic a**hole in any culture. Ugh. Such a contrast after we had had such a nice experience at the restaurant.....

We also went to a good restaurant for lunch today recommended by my friend Jenny-thanks, Jenny!-it was really cold today walking around and the restaurant had a little fire going and they sat us right next to it. It felt so good to warm up--luckily we brought the little fuzzy pink coat that we inherited from Jenny's girls so the buttercup was toasty, but we are quickly finding out we did not bring enough warm clothes for Hanoi this time of year--it has been in the high 40's to low 50's and all I brought was a hoodie jacket. She was in a great mood and giggling, but somewhere in the middle of lunch she had a diaper blowout and would have no more happy time, so Matt took her outside while I hastily paid the bill and chugged down my nice warm cup of coffee and we grabbed a cab for the hotel for some tummy time and a nap. We would have loved to have spent a little more time, but it's all about the buttercup now and she calls the shots (have I mentioned how loudly?). :)

Also, this morning our whole group went to the Water Puppet show--I really enjoyed it. It is kinda hard to explain, but it is basically wooden puppets acting out scenes of traditional Vietnamese culture one a "stage" of a pool of shallow water. There are dragons and ducks and fish and fishermen and dancers all set to traditional Vietnamese music. There are puppeteers standing in the water behind a screen operating the puppets. I loved the music and Marin was mesmerized until she fell asleep--I did have to see most of the show standing up in the aisle though, as she got tired of sitting still. A huge group schoolchildren came in and the little rambunctious boys that looked to be about first or second grade all piled into the lower seats around where we were sitting and were so happy to practice their English. They kept all yelling "Hello!" and "How are you?" and "What is your name?" It was so cute, but they kept doing it, so I had to shush them and motion for them to watch the show. It would stop them for a bit. :) Luckily the music is pretty loud. All of the girls were sitting politely up in the upper seats behaving--ha, ha. Even those young boys, were smiling and cooing at the buttercup and wanted to rub her cheeks. You just don't see that in the US. They are also not afraid to put their arm around each other or sit on each others laps--they were all just plain adorable and when the show was over, a man with bullhorn (seriously) rounded them all up and they filed back on to a couple of buses. They were all waving and saying "Goodbye!" on their way out. And all I can figure out in Vietnamese so far is Thank You! Gotta work on that.....
So, tomorrow (Monday) is our last full day here so we will have to make our plan --we will get back by the airline office, we will pick up our things from the tailor, and I would actually love to eat at Koto again--perhaps we will see if a few of the other families want to try it--and there are a couple shops I would like to get back by....Then we will sadly say goodbye to Vietnam for now--we are excited to get home to our family, friends and pets, but I have to admit the long flight with this baby has be shaking in my boots.... :)
Wish us luck!


Mimi said...

Enjoyed your post and pictures so much. I am wringing my hands, never wanting to help and relieve you all as much as now. Bless her little heart--she has had so many changes in such a short time. Try to get through the flight as best and calmly as you can, trying to mask your tension! Wish she loved the "botty" (maybe Davy Lou can give her some tips)!

You'll be home soon, creating your new family routine (and she will adapt beautifully)....and life with your precious little one complete and perfect in every way! Hang in there!

Always on our minds,
Mom and PJ

Pamela said...

All I can say is ~ YOU will do fine!! Hopefully Miss M will cooperate on the long flight home.
Are you allowed to get up and move around the plane? I know with our long flight to Hawaii, many parents with young babies were permitted to stay in the back of the plane and "rock" :)

Thank you for allowing us to experience your journey and adventures with Miss whole family has been following your journey too! :) You know me ~ Just gotta spread the joy!! :)

Have a safe trip home !

Love to you, Matt and Marin!

Jenny said...

I am soo jealous, KOTO wasn't open when we were they, they were moving to their new location. So you are near the temple of literature? We never saw the water puppets. Next time we will go, in 7 years when we can go back with the girls.

another recommendation, although you are leaving is KITI and it is next to Lucky 2 hotel. great food.

Keep warm and you better tell us when you get back, Em and I and the girls want to be there!


Jenny said...

Oh and we made it back with 2 screaming, you can do it! Just get up and take her to the bathroom if she is screaming. And the motion and noise will probably keep her sleeping. And benedryl or some motrin helps. And have a bottle at take off ready to pop in to her mouth even if she doesn't need it!

Lee said...

I don't know who you are flying,but Thai is VERY accommodating. We were able to get out early, but they couldn't confirm bassinet b/c the bulkhead was taken...the flight attendant came up to us and told us we needed a bassinet for baby...and upgraded two passengers to move us to bulkhead...

As a side note, the VN airport will let you take bottled water... b/c it's "ok, for baby" ;o)

Safe travels! She will do great on the flight! We were shocked (ok, relieved) at how incredibly well it went!


Dad & Debbie said...

You guys deserve a peaceful flight back for sure! But, Buttercup has been pulled up out of everything she has known for her short little life so far, so I guess we all can understand her frustrations, too. Just hang in there - you'll be home soon!

You've done a great job with the website and keeping us involved in your trip with the limited time you have. Thank you very much!

Hope you have a safe and uneventful trip home! You and Buttercup will be all better soon.

Dad & Debbie

Emily said...

LOVE the pic of buttercup in the hoodie.
she is so beautiful!
cannot wait to see you two soon!

Terry said...

Well, it won't be long now and hopefully (and we'll be praying for you) you'll have an uneventful flight home. You two have done such a remarkable job with her so far. The pictures are adorable! We are all getting so anxious here, so hurry home!

Mom and Terry

Lynne said...

As you begin the long journey home we pray God's blessings for safe travel, good health, a satisfied "drama queen", and some rest when you get to family in LA. Looking forward to seeing you soon and sending lots of love your way!
Lynne (Y&P)