B is for Babies

This precious little one weighed in at less than 3lbs. at birth.

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. Continue reading “B is for Babies”

This Week’s Food in Pictures

Stuart's order of grilled beef with potatoes at Da Lan, an upscale restaurant in Thanh Hoa.
Banana Blossom Salad made by yours truly over the course of an hour. Delightful.
Nuoc Chanh Sua Chua (Yogurt Lemonade) and Sinh To Xoai (Mango Smoothie) at New Sky Cafe in downtown Thanh Hoa
Rolling out tortillas for Rice & Bean Burritos, using a spaghetti sauce-filled Milo bottle as a rolling pin.
Vegetarian Spring Rolls made sans recipe with mushrooms, carrots, noodles and onion.
A homemade doughnut that turned out looking a bit like a cow.

Weekend in the Rainforest

Since I’m working five days a week for the entire duration of our time in Vietnam, our chances of seeing much of the country are pretty limited. So I’ve had to come up with a short list of places we want to go. What we’ve decided on, and hoping to make it work, are visits to:

  • Ha Long Bay
  • Sa Pa
  • Cuc Phuong National Park
  • Sam Son beach
  • Hoi An
  • Tam Ky
  • Da Lat

We’ve been to all but Cuc Phuong and Da Lat on our last trip. And after the adventures of the weekend, we can cross the national park off our list of places to go. Been there, done that.

Check out the size of those Jurassic-style leaves.

I’d been trying to figure out how to get us to Cuc Phuong all week, hoping that I could find some student (past or present) to accompany us on the bus, then taxi ride up there, but that never quite worked out. As of Friday afternoon, I was thinking we’d just be stuck on campus for the weekend, the sole remaining residents who didn’t have somewhere else to go. Then it struck me. We’d been up that direction before, two years ago with Keith, and I remembered that the hotels offer tours out to Cuc Phuong, Tam Coc, Phat Diem, and Hoa Lu, among other area interests. I figured we could get up to Ninh Binh, stay in a hotel overnight and then hit the park in the morning on a tour arranged by the hotel.

And that’s just how it worked out.

My former student Thanh helped me get to the right bus and they dropped us off along Hwy 1 in Ninh Binh. I knew we hadn’t reached the area where the hotels were, having been to the city before, so we just kept walking up the road until I found the familiar intersection and within 10 minutes we were checked in and drinking water. We spent the evening strolling the area and enjoying a bit of ice cream a few doors down from our hotel.

Our detailed travelog (plus pics!) is on our Vietnam With Kids site.

Kitchenware–Vietnamese style

So certain niceties of life in America are missing here. One that’s come into clear focus here is the absence of kitchen tools. There are no mixing bowls; I use an empty saucepan. No measuring spoons, only a large spoon that I guess by. No one-cup or half-cup measure; instead I use a glass cup that looks like it might be about the same on one cup. We had no grater until yesterday when I found a handmade version at the market. Obviously made by hammering a nail into a piece of metal at an angle, then attaching that to a couple of sticks, it’s a primitive version of the one I have at home. But after trying to make hashbrowns last week by slicing into the potato then using the peeler/knife/bottle opener to make thin slices resembling grated potato… Well, I knew it was something I needed. The holes are a bit small, but I am hoping to be able to expand them a bit with the tip of the knife. The same knife I use to make holes in cans since I don’t have a can opener either. See, it really is the basics that you never even consider as luxuries. Those are the things I wish I had. A spatula. A can opener. Or one of the three blenders we have back at the house in Oregon. I sure will appreciate them when we return.

This is a photo of our kitchen now, complete with granite countertops, a shelf for dishes and another two shelves for food stuff. The sink is tiny, but it’s a real sink for washing dishes and includes a filter for the drain and a drying area to the right. Granted, the faucet isn’t firmly attached and swivels in every direction. But it’s so much better than what we had before.

Look at that lovely counter space! And a real sink!