Update on orphans and dresses

Thanks to a lovely woman named Lyn, I get to share these wonderful pictures of the kids in Tam Ky wearing some of the dresses made for our sewing drive last fall. How cute are they?!20130401-230428.jpg

I recently had the chance to talk with the folks at Generation Q magazine and they were so encouraging. Instead of trying to mail a box every month or two, on my own dime, I’ve decided I’ll offer box sponsorship. That way, I can get help with the shipping costs, mail boxes out more frequently and ramp up the sewing once again!


If you’re interested in donating cash for the shipping costs, you can do that through the sponsor button to the left. And if you want to sew or donate materials, send me an email at teresa AT crinkledreams.com.

I really can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has supported this effort and encouraged me to keep on keeping on.


And now in book form: Sharing Housing

If you know me at all, you know that I’ve been sharing housing for years now. Literally. Our trio had our own place until 2006 when I decided that having exchange students staying with us would be a nice introduction to both Asian culture and house-sharing. That summer we shared our place with five students, one at a time, from Japan, China and South Korea.

And it worked just as well as I could have hoped. The kids acclimated to having strangers in our space and having to repeat themselves slowly again and again. When we finally got to Vietnam and lived with a rotating array of fellow foreigners, they did fine. It worked well enough that when we returned seven months later, I started looking for someone to share a home with Stateside. Craigslist became a close friend.

One day I stumbled onto an ad for a child-friendly housemate and I figured if anyone was child-friendly, it was me. Granted it was only one bedroom and the three of us would have to share, but I figured we could make it work. We’d spent the last seven months sleeping in the same room while in Vietnam; it wasn’t going to be something new. I convinced her it would work, too, and a week later the three of us moved in with Jennifer and her son, Ryan.

Three and a half years later, we’re still living together, though in a new house (after some crazy house-hunting). The kids are older and act more like siblings much of the time. We make it work, all of us together.

I’ve always thought this was a great mode of living for solo mamas, not just the young urbanites who want to split rent. It gives us someone to depend on, to help us out with kids and someone to vent to with ex-husband issues need to be aired. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it’s worth trying.

Annamarie Pluhar agrees and wrote a book to tell you about it–she included us in her telling–with a new release from Bauhan Publishing: Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.

If you’ve wondered about it before, from either the landlord or renter perspective, the book is full of great info, advice and personal anecdotes (like mine) about what makes and breaks this shared housing mode of living.

We Made it to Tam Ky

Audrey’s towering over Mrs. Hanh these days!

We arrived in Tam Ky this early afternoon to an ecstatic Mrs. Hanh waiting for us at the train station. Audrey has now surpassed her in height, how cute. She got us back to the GVN house via taxi, got Grandma starting lunch for us and headed out for a meeting.


Meanwhile Me Ba came over. She works at the Quang Nam Baby Orphanage still and the head caretaker there; loving and nurturing each child that comes through there. There’s something about her that is so inherently kind and it was wonderful to see her again, weepy at our reunion. The real reason for her visit was the ao dai.

One of our favorite kiddos from the baby orphanage when we were here was Quang, a rambunctious little boy who took to Stuart on our first day here. Every visit they were side by side. Four weeks after we arrived, Quang was adopted and now lives in Florida (near another set of siblings we adore). His mother contacted me and asked me to help get Me Ba an ao dai and through emails, phone calls and the help of several others, Me Ba is now the proud owner of a beautiful gold and black ao dai. It fit her perfect and she looked every bit the beautiful Vietnamese woman.

Me Ba in her new ao dai, with her husband

This afternoon I have to get some pictures printed and deliver nearly 100 pieces of clothing to the kids. We’ve also gathered almost $200 to go toward the kids, but I think I’ll be plunking down some more cash to help out. They have some good programs going for the orphans with extra fruit, a monthly feast and paying the school fees for the kids at the Home of Affection.

If you are interested in helping out, shoot me an email. I can easily get donations to them for the next two weeks (when we’ll -gasp- be leaving Vietnam).

When Me Ba left, she gave me a short lecture in Vietnamese. I understood little–vui (happy), cam on (thank you) and yeu em (love you), but I know she meant well. We were both a bit teary, not quite willing to quit hugging each other, knowing that we both care about these kids–the orphans and the adopted children. In that, we agree and I know it. Even if I can’t understand what her voice says, I can see it in her eyes.

No Look Monkey

Last Thursday, a monkey tried to attack me.

Unfortunately these didn’t taste any better than they look.

One of my evening students, Nam, and his wife took the kids and I out for a delicious meal of bun cha and then over to an enormous coffee shop/resort that is tucked away behind the city. The expansive grounds are covered with umbrella-covered tables interspersed with play structures, primarily metal swings in the animal shapes.

We meandered through and around to the other side of the building where an empty stage sat waiting a performer. Music blared from worn speakers, distorted. Nam asked if we’d like to sit up on the hill, a slight berm that overlooked the area and we jumped at the chance. The path was strung with Christmas lights, as were the slight trees that dotted the hill. We followed it up and each grabbed a swing.

There were eight of them up there—metal swings meant for two—perched above the crowd of empty tables. On a Friday night, I bet this is a hot spot to take your date.

We enjoyed the view of both the café and, behind us, the city park where locals were taking an evening stroll. Stuart and I had both ordered orange juice, though they were quite different when they arrived. My guess is that one was orange juice and the other was an orange lassi (made with yogurt).

dark night + flash = blurry pic (sorry!)

It was strawberry, chocolate and taro ice cream for Audrey, melting down the side of the dish before it even arrived at our table. She enjoyed the accompanying miniature umbrella more than most would, but it entertained our hosts, as well.

Mr. Nam had said there was a monkey and since we hadn’t seen once since our time in Tam Ky two years ago, we wanted to check it out before we left. Sure enough, tied to the tree by the motorbike parking was a sad little monkey. And then Stuart noticed the other one. Tied to another tree twenty feet away, another monkey sat, then stood, then paced. Not quite as depressing as the first, I went to take a photo of it. But it moved and the zoomed in shot only caught his tail end. Time to try again.

He wouldn't even look at me.
He wouldn’t even look at me.

So I squatted at the edge of the sidewalk and zoomed in again, determined to get a better shot of the animal. And in the matter of a second the thing was lunging at me. I jumped back faster than I have moved in a long time, heart racing, the monkey halted only by the length of his chain. It sauntered back toward the tree and we left without another pause. If I don’t see another monkey for another two years, it’s fine. I’ve seen it closer than I ever wanted to.

Free Time

It’s all the kids have these days–hours and hours to do as they please. Of course, this often resorts to playing video games, but not always. On Saturday evening, Audrey and I went swimming with some students (past and present) while Stuart rested. He’s had a cold for the past few days. I managed to press through the embarrassment of a bathing suit, just for my daughter’s sake, and enjoyed swimming in the cool evening for a couple of hours.

The past two days have been only in the low 80s, much cooler than the past week. It began heating (and humidifying) again last night, so I’m expecting another hot one today.


For a project that Audrey is working on, we needed plain, unlined paper. There are a few shops at the market that sell school supplies, so we decided to check there first (rather than take the taxi to the supermarket). Sure enough, four stalls in a woman had an open pack of A4 paper. “Bao nhieu?” Out came a string of words and I caught the 10,000VND part, but something came after it. Six.. something, it sounded like. She repeated it and I though perhaps it’s 10,000VND for six pieces of paper, though it sounded like a ridiculously low number. Then along comes a Hong Duc student to help me out. Yep, 10,000VND, but for 60 pieces, not six. So I handed her the money and we waited patiently for her to count out exactly 60 pieces of unlined paper and wrap them in plastic for us.


Anyone know how to use fresh turmeric? I couldn’t seem to get the shopkeeper to understand that I wanted dried turmeric and she threw the fresh root into my bag. I haven’t a clue how to use it and have had little luck hunting online.

Really, I must buy some more spices when I get paid and head back to Hanoi.

through his eyes

Thanks to our good friend, Keith, my son has a wonderful little digital camera that he uses all the time. I particularly love it when he takes it on our little excursions. Sifting through the photos I get to see the activities through his eyes, something that is getting rarer as he gets older. Yesterday, we headed north to my sister’s city of residence and wandered around the city park, watching the small town “fun” of log-chopping and elephant ears. S. asked to go down to the lake to take some photos, I okayed it and off he went. Last night I downloaded the photos and was impressed, yet again, by the lovely images he had captured.

This is my favorite: S.'s view of the lily pads

He’s currently working on collecting photos for a book that we’ll make for the school we work at in Viet Nam, including photos of his school here, downtown Portland, the forest and tree fort at his grandparent’s house and typical tourist spots that we’ve visited. I am eagerly looking forward to the photos he takes while we are abroad.

Slowly But Surely

Having to deal with the rules regarding proof that the kids are mine alone has been more work than I figured it would be. I’ve visited the court house twice; the first time, the fellow there had no idea what I would need to provide proof. The second time was today and I knew what I needed. I stopped by the passport office at the Main Post Office and asked her exactly what I needed on Tuesday, then this morning I brought in my divorce papers to find out if it was actually what I needed. Yes, every single page, a copy for each kid and certified as authentic.

So, after dropping $23 at the courthouse for said papers, I was set.  I then set out to find a place to be fingerprinted. This was harder than the handy-dandy list provided by the sheriff made it seem. After two seedy buildings and  wandering dark hallways, I decided I would head to the place I’d seen on the way to school; it was run by a nice Russian lady and only cost me 8 bucks.

I’d brought along our birth certificates, passport applications, now had the certified proof of sole parental rights so after school we headed over to Walgreen’s to get our photos taken (the others had gone inexplicably wrong and I didn’t want to worry about it). Picture-taking wasn’t as easy as it should be: Audrey’s head was too small, then Stuart’s was slightly too small. Mine was do-able, but the kids’ had to be re-taken. Point-click. Oops. The media card wasn’t in the camera. Try it again and this time it worked just fine. At $8/2 photos, it racked up another $24 today.

We headed over to Fred Meyer to make photographic copies of the photos, but that didn’t work well (cut the sides off of the photos) so I said screw it and we’ll just go apply. Finally got back to the passport office to realize that they’d closed 20 minutes before. -sigh-

Thursday’s to-do list:
-apply for passports
-mail in fingerprints for background check
-send caramels to Ron
-send apron to Robin
-start working on new sewing job
-don’t forget homework (again)