Saturday, May 12, 2018

Catching up on Birthdays

It's been a while since I posted so I thought I would catch up with a few photos of the kids' birthday dinners.  Aidan turned 15 in March and May turned 9 in April.  They are growing up so fast.... especially Aidan who is 6' 2" now.  

 Aidan turns 15
 Maya turns 9!
 She lost her favourite stuffed monkey so she was thrilled to get a replacement one!
Maya on her new green bike, sporting her new green helmet

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If you want to give back to Vietnam - Part 2

Another wonderful charity is APER.  It is a French charity run by the father of adoptees from Vietnam.  APER provided funding for the orphanage in Vung Tau City as well as funding to build and run the nearby Long Hai vocational centre.  We are currently sponsoring two girls through APER.  One is living at the Vung Tau orphanage.  The second is the daughter of the cook at the Vung Tau orphanage and we are sponsoring her university education. She is studying pharmacy. We get regular updates (in English) about the girls and we write back.  We have visited one of the girls twice. It's wonderfully personal.  If you would like more information, please check out APER's website (only in French) at this link.  Note that if you email the president, he is able to write back in English.  Also the woman who administers the sponsorships locally speaks English. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

If you want to give back to Vietnam...Part One

I've had the opportunity to donate to several worthwhile organizations that are doing wonderful things in Vietnam.  The first I'd like to highlight is the Canadian charity called the Vietnam Education Society (or VES).  This charity made it possible for us to completely sponsor the school in Maya's home province of Ba Ria Vung Tau as well as partially sponsor a school in the north near Bac Giang.  I was able to visit both schools and could see first-hand the positive effects it has had on the children.

Please watch the following video and consider donating to the Vietnam Education Society:

If you would like to make a dedicated donation to the school in Ba Ria Vung Tau, I know the school needs desks and chairs.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Last Night in Saigon

On our last full day in Vietnam we relaxed by the pool and then took in a wonderful show at the opera house complete with dancing, acrobatics, and traditional music. Aidan was well enough to attend and both kids enjoyed the show. 
On our way home today.

Visit to Maya's Orphanage and Vung Tau Orphanage

Our original plan was to spend two nights in Vung Tau city after visiting the school, but we ended up in Saigon after Aidan's health scare.  Fortunately Aidan was recovering but still had a fever.  We decided that Mike would stay with Aidan in Saigon and Maya and I would return to Vung Tau to visit her orphanage in Ba Ria and our sponsored child in Vung Tau City.  I wasn't feeling much like a return trip to Vung Tau after the long and scary trip the day before, but we couldn't leave Vietnam without a visit to Maya's orphanage, as this was the main reason we were here!  I also wanted to leave a donation in memory of Sharon at the Vung Tau orphanage.

After a few coffees and a big breakfast, I felt re-energized and Maya and I set off by private taxi to Vung Tau.  The hydrofoil tickets were all sold out.  We stopped in Ba Ria to buy a few treats for the kid and then stopped at her orphanage in Ba Ria.  While there were no nannies there that we recognized from when Maya was a baby, she was warmly received, hugged and kissed by the staff.  She was swarmed by the kids when she gave out the treats.  We were able to see the baby room and tour the orphanage.  The orphanage had been fixed up since my last visit.  Someone had built a new playground and painted the walls, so it wasn't so depressing any more.  Maya seemed happy to see her orphanage.  It was a positive experience.

Then on to Vung Tau city to visit our sponsored child, Ngoc Anh.  We had a little belated Christmas present for her and also for the student we are sponsoring.  I also wanted to drop a donation off in Sharon's memory.  Maya enjoyed playing tag with Ngoc And in the playground.

Here are some photos from our day:
Maya inside Ba Ria orphanage with man who works there

Maya in room where we met with the director when we adopted her

There was a new playground and the fence was painted 

Maya handing out treats

Maya's original baby room is an office but she saw a similar baby room

Maya looking at the kind of crib she used as a baby

Photo of Maya with kids and staff

Maya at the front gate.
Meeting Ngoc Anh at the orphanage in Vung Tau city

Meeting "pagoda" children, abandoned kids at a nearby pagoda who have been taken in.  They were a little wild!

Photo of me and Maya with Ngoc Anh and Anh Dao's mom (mother of student we are sponsoring)
Maya playing tag with Ngoc Anh

Maya with Ngoc Anh and others

Maya with Truyen, who showed us around the orphanage

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Visit to the School in Ba Ria Vung Tau and Aidan's Health Scare

As many of you know we sponsored the building of a small school last year in Maya's birth province of Ba Ria Vung Tau.  I dedicated the school to my mom and wanted the family to see the finished school.  So Tung, who is with the local Vietnamese partner that oversaw the building of school, arranged a visit for us.  Aidan said he was feeling better and able to travel but was still sniffling.

We were picked up in a private taxi by Tung and made our way to Xuyen  Moc district north of Vung Tau City, normally about a 2.5 hour drive, but was a 4 hour trip due to an accident.  On the way   , Aidan started feeling worse, had chills and developed a bit of a fever. Our first stop was lunch in Xuyen Moc with the school principal and local school district officials at a local restaurant.  They put out a wonderful spread of chicken, fish, soup, rice and vegetables..all delicious.  Aidan wasn't feeling well so he lay down during lunch.  We then did a quick shopping trip for gifts for the kids and hurried to the school.  There we were treated to very cute and well choreographed dances by the children (about 3 to 5 years old).  Then we gave a short speech, gave out the treats for the kids, took some photos and headed out toward Vung Tau because Aidan was still not feeling well and running a fever.

On the way to Vung Tau city, Aidan mentioned that he had a dull pain in his right side (which he now told us he had had for several hours) and thought he might have appendicitis!  We googled the early symptoms of appendicitis and thought he might be right... so we told our driver we had to go direct to the Vung Tau city hospital to get Aidan checked out. At the Vung Tau hospital, the emergency doctor did not think that Aidan had appendicitis but recommended an ultrasound.  however, the Vung Tau hospital did not have an ultrasound machine so he said we should go to Ba Ria or Saigon.  We decided on the latter as we wanted to be at a better hospital in case Aidan got worse.  It was a 2.5 hour trip to Saigon and when we got to the hospital recommended by the Vung Tau doctor, they rejected Aidan saying they could not treat children! It was also very crowded and chaotic, and did not look like it would provide high quality care.  

Then we learned that there was an international hospital in Saigon and we went there.  What a difference !  No crowds and Aidan was seen immediately.  Within 1 hour he had an ultrasound and blood test and was examined by two doctors who said he did not have appendicitis but a high fever due to a throat infection and stomach pains likely due to a "digestive disorder".  By this time, Aidan's abdominal pain had subsided and we were all breathing a sigh of relief!  We were very lucky that Tung was with us and able to translate as even at the international hospital they did not speak much English. Aidan got some Tylenol and antibiotics and is feeling better now, so we were relieved!  What a scare!

Here are some photos from our visit to the school.

Lunch with teachers

A quick shopping spree for treats for the kids

Each child got a grab bag of a toy, chips and candy

Laden down with treats!

Front of school

Family photo in front of school

The kids were dressed in very cute costumes

A second dance

Kids get their loot bags

Photo with children

 Kids with grab bags

 Photo with dedication plaque in background

One of the two classrooms

Maya outside the school with Tung

Night Food Tour with Saigon Hotpot

Thursday Aidan had a bad cold so he mostly stayed at the hotel to rest.  We did get out to see the nearby history museum.  Then for dinner, Mike, Maya and I were met by two students, Nha and Thuong, from Saigon Hotpot, an organization that provides free tours.  We decided it would be fun to do a night food tour.  So our guides ordered us a Grab (Vietnamese Uber) and we travelled to District 3 for some "Vietnamese pizza" and ate on the street on the tiny plastic chairs that are ubiquitous in Vietnam.  The "pizza" is made with a rice paper base and then is coated with egg and various toppings.  Our guides told us it is very popular in Vietnam!  Then we walked to a local restaurant for banh xeo, a savoury pancake.  We were the only tourists in the restaurant, so it felt very authentic.  Our last stop was a restaurant for dessert.  We tried a lotus seed dish, which had almonds and rose flavoured jelly floating in it, as well as coconut jelly served in a coconut and caramel custard (much like creme caramel).  Our guides very very gracious and spoke excellent English.  Again we tried to tip them, but they only accepted a donation for charity.  Like Hanoi Kids, we would highly recommend Saigon Hotpot for an inexpensive and authentic Vietnamese experience.  Here are some photos from our night food tour.

 Food stand, where "Vietnamese pizza" is being made

We cut it up with scissors

Our guides, Nha and Thuong, both university students (again with educated parents)
Thuong and Carol about to dig in

We also tried some pork meatballs

Here we are sitting on the street

 Next stop a local restaurant serving banh xeo
A large savour pancake filled with pork, shrimp and heart of palm and served with herbs, lettuce and collard greens and dipping sauce - yummy!

Next stop dessert

 Maya ordered coconut jelly which came in a coconut
We also had a caramel custard and lotus seed dessert which tasted like roses (like Turkish delight)