The 2014 trip to Ham Tan is a wrap! Read the highlights and see the photos on Bonnie’s blog, at http://bonniewanderlust.blogspot.com/.
We had two swim parties this year. The kids loved it and it was easy and fun. The hotel we stay at let the kids come and swim for free. It was so much fun playing with the kids–watching Mark and Earl with kids on their shoulders having chicken fights, or Bonnie and I teaching enthusiastic children how to swim, or playing “shark” with the young ones. Most of the older kids opted to hang instead of swim, but had fun playing pool in the rec room. A highlight for me was sitting on the ocean side gazebo with three little girls singing twinkle twinkle little star, while gazing at the sky with the sound of the waves crashing around us. It’s a whole different night sky in Vietnam, and it was breathtaking seeing all the stars. The hardest part was at the end of the evening the night before we left. We had to say goodbye! There were so many hugs, so many “I love you’s”, and more than a few tears. This is always the hardest part of the trip. After all the goodbyes, I followed them to see them off, trailing behind the group. I tried holding it together until after everyone left, but started losing it while I was walking. One of the teens, Son Trinh, noticed, and came back and put his arm through mine and leaned into me. It was such a precious moment. My grandmother always says “what you give, you get back double.” I feel that with these children. No matter how much love I give them, it feels like they always give me so much more.
I know I say this every year, but this was the best year yet! It is our sixth year visiting the orphanage, 5 of them as part of the Big Big World Project, the first when Thai was adopted. At first just a few would call us Mom, now most of them do! We are family. When we had our awards ceremony for academic achievement, they mentioned that it was Women’s/Mother’s Day in Vietnam, and how perfect that was because we have earned the title of Vietnamese Moms! Instant tears :-). Here are just a few of the pictures showing the many loving moments we experienced with one another!
After WHA did their eye exams, we took two of the girls to the optometrist to get a more complete exam and to pick out glasses. Duyen & Hue needed glasses (1.25). Another young man needed glasses (2.25) which we arranged for him to get after we left, and one of the teenage boys had preliminary signs of glaucoma, so he will be getting a thorough exam in Saigon. Another little boy had some kind of eye infection–his eyes were red and itchy, so we got him some prescription eye drops.
It was fun watching the girls pick out their glasses. They had definite tastes and wrinkled up their noses at some of the ones we picked out :-). Cute!!
We are so proud of Hang. We met Hang when she was in 9th grade, and now she is a second year college student studying to be a pharmacist. BBW has supported her, believed in her, helped her through some rough times. Hang is devoted to her recently passed grandmother which is still fresh for her. Her grandmother raised her when she was young, before she left for the Center and Hang loved her grandmother dearly. Bonnie and I consider her our long distance daughter, and she calls us Mom. We had a heartfelt, tear laden conversation with Hang when we first arrived, and it became apparent to us that Hang may not be in college now if it wasn’t for BBW. That blew us away. Like the starfish story, we may not be able to reach everyone, but for the ones that we do reach, we make a difference.
Hang received a laptop this year, as did Phap, for completing their first year of college, passing all subjects, and having a part time job. Hang was always the “big sister” at the Center, cooking, cleaning, organizing the littler ones to do the same. Now she has taken that strength and channeled it into her college life! Hang we love you!!
There is also a funny picture here of a talented young musician who was making all the women swoon with his love songs. With Hang he met his match though! They had a staring contest, and she won! Way to go, Hang!
When the dentists arrived, they went right to work. It was an amazing assembly line of getting a quick exam then going right to a chair to get your fillings or teeth pulled out. It was quite painful for the kids, we could just see the fear in their eyes. They’ve never been to the dentist before. So we took on the job of holding their hands–even the big kids! A simple act. One that a parent would do. That’s what Big Big World is all about.
Every year, Kate and her family make a family decision to send $1,000 to take the children on a shopping trip where they get to pick out their own clothes. They all have a budget–$40 for the older kids, $25 for the younger. That averages to about two outfits. The kids love this! They each have their own styles, even the boys. One of them we know will pick out something black and white every year :-). We go to the open market, where the vendors are set up on the street, like a maze. You take off your shoes before “entering” their shop. That’s why we all wear slip off sandals. It’s a lot of fun. We even had cold coconuts with straws in them for a refreshing drink in the sweltering heat!