Today we were, after much planning and procrastinating, able to get out to the Thanh Hoa orphanage. Located much closer to the beach than the city, it’s a good-sized orphanage that is home to more then sixty children from the area. We’d gone at the request of an adoptive mom who had brought a little girl, Thuy, home from there last year. She had a letter and photos to be brought back to the caretaker and I volunteered to do it. It’s just taken me a few weeks to get it arranged with people to come along with me.
Giang, my student from two years ago, and Thang, a current student, accompanied the kids and me out to the orphanage with a bag of clothes and an envelope with the caretaker’s name on it. On arrival, the guard didn’t seem too sure what to do with us, questioning who we were, where we were from and what we wanted. The buildings were quiet (“Where are all the kids?” Audrey wanted to know. I assumed, correctly, that they were in class) and only a few adults roamed, looking us over a few times. Thang did all the leg work and tracked down the vice director of the orphanage who invited us up for a bit of tea and a little conversation.
I found out some bits about the adopted girl, Thuy, and gathered some information from another woman who has contacted me (she was adopted from that orphanage seventeen years ago) and made small talk with the kids while the others spoke. I got minimal translations, but that’s how it often works. Soon enough, we were escorted down to the baby rooms where we got to hang out with the wee ones for a bit. There was a brand new little girl, born a month ago but more than a month too early. At birth, she weighed a scant 1.1 kilogram according to the woman (about 2 1/2 pounds). She was tiny, her face still furry from the womb. Her foot was barely longer than my thumb.
Audrey and I cooed and caressed the babies, awed by their tiny features. One baby had had a difficult birth, they explained, and was left with a malformed skull. They all looked healthy and content. I’d almost forgotten how sweet babies can be, but was gently reminded today of the delicate nature of life and the universal need for love. The babies there will find homes only in Vietnam or France, so there chances of adoption are slim these days. I would have taken them home with me, if it were allowed, but it isn’t. Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye (tam biet, dep trai) and head back to life at the university. There’s so much more I wish I could do, if I just knew how.