Vietnam Info


By Dan | November 9, 2007

It’s been a while. As mentioned previously, we have started a new ongoing blog that right now is available at We are planning on moving it in the future in order to integrate better into our family website, so stay tuned.

Speaking of which, this blog has officially moved to the family website. I’m not sure how long we will leave it on BlogSpot (maybe forever, it’s not changing), but the new location is a little easier to maintain images and we have a little better control over it. Actually, it’s the best looking part of the family website right now… :P

I did not move comments over, as I couldn’t find a decent way to do so (there were only a few anyway).  Please feel free to re-post comments if you want.  As before, comments are moderated prior to posting.

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Home Again

By Dan | June 29, 2007

Well, we survived. We are home safe and sound…

The flight from Korea to Atlanta went about as well as could be expected. Delta would not seat Shannon and I in the same row, but business class was not full, so we occupied two rows immediately behind each other with open adjacent seats. Shannon was in a bulkhead with bassinet mounts, so the flight attendants set up the bassinet. It wasn’t particularly useful tho, being relatively tough plastic and very confining (I can’t blame the boys for being uncomfortable in it), so we used it as a changing table for much of the time. We were pretty much celebrities on the plane, getting lots of attention from passengers, but almost non-stop from the flight attendants (over and above what we had gotten on the way over). Thanh somewhat likes to sleep on the floor, so he and I made a little nest and curled up for about 4 hours off and on through the flight, and he slept some in arms as well. Vinh was not as peaceful, and was passed from one flight attendant to another off and on as they had time in their normal duties. He made a complete tour of the plane (even the cockpit and coach class) and we were getting congratulations from passengers we hadn’t even met as we got off the plane and moved through passport control and customs. One of the nice things about business class is that there is enough space between seats that fussy infants are not immensely distracting to other passengers tho.

When we got to Atlanta, we were warned that we may have a tight connection. We waited a relatively reasonable amount of time (10 minutes maybe?) for passport control, who told us to claim our luggage and go to the immigration desk before customs. We waited almost an hour for luggage. (I don’t think we waited for an hour combined at all the foreign airports on the trip.) Luckily, the immigration desk was not busy, and she processed everything quickly (about 10 minutes, we were told to expect 20) and exempted us from customs. Thanh and Vinh officially became US Citizens at Midnight that day (June 27, 2007). We then rechecked luggage, cleared security (you have to clear security at most airports if connecting internationally, we also had to do this in Incheon both ways) and had only about 2 minutes before boarding our connection.

The Atlanta to Orlando leg was pretty much without incident. Again, Shannon and I were not sitting side-by-side, and I sat next to a grandfather who was more than happy and patient. When we arrived in Orlando, we took a minute to get organized and change the boys into fresh outfits, and then left the plane. Anne and Fred were waiting at the gate, having bought refundable tickets to get through security, then canceling them. They swore we were the last people off the plane (actually we were more like halfway through the deboarding) since they were anxiously waiting for us. We introduced the boys to them, and called my parents to introduce Nicholas Chaillee and Matthew Kent. Then we left the gates to several friends (Cathy Brantley, Laurie Dullmeyer, Tyger Roberts, Brian Buwalda, Valerie and Kate Woska) who were waiting with video and still cameras. We didn’t wait long for luggage (glad the Korean Air priority tag meant more in Orlando than in Atlanta), and headed home to start our new lives together. Anne and Fred stayed the night so we could get some sleep, but of course we were up most of the night anyway. :)

This will likely be the final content posted to this blog, as it’s purpose (to document our adoption experience) has been fulfilled. I may start a blog of the boys’ life with us, at which point I will post a link to the new blog.

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Back to Korea

By Dan | June 27, 2007

Well, we made it back to Korea. We elected to leave an hour earlier than Anna recommended to make sure we had plenty of time (and to make it easier on her, since that was 10PM and we wanted to give her more stuff for the orphanage). Good thing we did. Major rainstorm slowed the driver, flight time had changed by 30 minutes earlier, and Delta had somehow managed to not associate the Infant-in-arms (IIA) tickets with our tickets on Korean Air’s computer system. In the end, we wound up re-buying the tickets and walked straight onto the flight. We need to get home and to find out what the deal is, but I am so mad at Delta I can’t see straight right now. All in all, it was about $900 for the tickets, so not cheap but not as bad as I had feared. Now we better not have problems with Delta getting the children on board on the Korean tickets, or I think I will go ballistic on them right here.

Yesterday was a decent day for the most part. Did the morning thing, then went to the mall and dropped about $200 on souvenirs, loading down the stroller handles to the max without unweighting them. The kids were very patient for the couple hours we were doing this and started to get restless, so we went to the lake park across the street that Anna had recommended. Very pretty, but very hot. (Actually the park wasn’t so bad as it was shady, but crossing the street in the full sun by itself was enough to make you keel over.) It had a temple / pagoda structure in the middle of the lake, and would have been a nice walk in the evening (when Anna recommended going) had we made it. Since it was hot and we were overdoing it with the kids, we didn’t spend much time tho and caught a cab ride home. Overall, yesterday made the trip a whole lot more positive, but we still can’t wait to get home.

Rest of the day was spent packing. This is always stressful, especially with two overtired kids that don’t sleep for more than an hour at a time. Bath time especially so, as Thanh was particularly rebellious in the sink as he struggled and stood and generally was behaving in a way that he could easily hurt himself. After long enough, he finally pushed Shannon over the edge of frustration. For the first time I think Thanh realized he had made us mad, as after I finished bathing and dressing him (his rebelliousness doing a number on me as well as he continued to struggle) and put him straight in his crib. He howled for a little while and tried to climb out, but after three reprimands for attempting to climb, he laid down without barely a whimper and went to sleep solidly enough that we had to wake him up come time to check out.

One of the most frustrating things about adjusting to life with the boys is trying to figure out what type of parenting they need and respond well to, which compounds exponentially when you think you figured something out only to have it change two days later, or you out of frustration try something that you were warned was not a good choice with adopted children (like letting them cry out in the crib rather than comforting them) and it works better than everything else you have tried for that particular time. I think we (or at least I) am starting to realize the difference between a manipulative cry that will resolve itself and when they get so worked up that you will have to calm them down (whether from manipulation gone haywire or actual distress), but fatigue is making it difficult to identify those situations. It is also frustrating that we have so little information about life at the orphanage, in particular what their actual feeding schedule was (we were told several things, but the most prevalent was a full bottle every 2 hours, which obviously is either not true or overfed), and how they were put to bed. We are playing with feeding schedules a bit (somewhat giving into using bottles as pacifiers if necessary during the plane rides), and I think we may try a 6oz bottle more often instead. It doesn’t make for a neat schedule, but the latest feeding cycle for Thanh he did not spit up at all, nor was he as upset as I though he would be when we reached the end of the bottle.

The plane ride this morning was better than I was fearing. Thanh slept (or at least was calm in arms) about 3 hours of the trip, and consequently I got the most rest I have had in a week at one time. Interestingly enough, my body must be adapting to the minimal sleep, as I am not particularly tired feeling now, although I’m sure if I were to try to sleep I would probably have no trouble doing so. We are checked into the transit hotel in Incheon, but I’m guessing neither of us will sleep substantially in the end. Even so, it’s well worth it to have a sanctuary for the luggage and the kids. The accommodations are minimal – tiny room with a double bed, barely enough space for a crib (that no one will likely use the way it looks). It does have a bathroom with a shower, which could well be a lifesaver for me. Amazingly, Vinh is asleep next to me on the bed, since the room is so quiet it bothers me even. I’m pretty sure that is Thanh’s immediate problem, as he has been sleeping in the stroller as long as he is out in the airport, but wakes within minutes of returning to the room. This could be interesting, when we get home if it turns out that Thanh wants noise but Vinh prefers a quite room. But then again, while we have had minimal success recently with Vinh and his crib, he still abhors it, preferring to sleep in arms, followed distantly by on a bed, in the middle of the floor, or virtually anywhere else.

Also, I think both kids are getting constipated again. We had to return to the glycerin for Vinh yesterday, and he was very bad. Both kids are starting to show general signs of discomfort however, and while Shannon and I have not talked about it I think we will probably stimulate them before boarding the next flight, as it has to be easier to to on the ground. We can’t wait to see a doctor to find out what we can do about that, since we have done everything we were told but the advice only worked temporarily. Also, we will have to get them back onto anti-biotics, as we had to abandon the remaining doses for them. (I was afraid we could not transport it safely as it requires refrigeration. Given the delays at the airport this morning I was probably right.) We also are going to try to find children’s Benadryl instead of the current anti-histamine, as we are not convinced it is entirely effective. Hopefully, a thorough doctor’s visit where we have the capacity to do some actual diagnostics if necessary will provide some answers on some of the behavioral things as well.

There is something that Shannon and I both regard highly as truth, in that God will not give one more than they can handle. We have both lived by this through the last couple years to keep us going. Right now I believe the efficiency of the “business” side of this trip is an example of this from the other perspective, however, in that God is protecting us from truly being in over our heads. We found out from Anna that our group was the fastest they had ever performed, completing in 6 business days and being gone a total of 12 days including travel. Given how ragged Shannon and I are at this point, I truly believe that we could not handle more than we are enduring, and that God has guided the process to ensure that we will not be permanently damaged as individuals or as a family from the stresses of this experience. At the same time, the pessimist in me wonders how much the very harried schedule added was / is adding to the problems, but looking at how the kids have responded in the little bit of off time versus when we are running around to get somewhere (which is to say not markedly differently most of the time, except of course when we are packing up the room), I suspect the truth is closer in the former.

We must be gluttons for punishment, as we have still not eliminated going to either the beach or Susan’s wedding. I’m starting to think I must be clinically insane, but I would really like to make the wedding as it is a good opportunity to introduce the boys to my side of the family. I’m thinking that in the end sanity will prevail tho and we will go home and more or less protect the boys while they heal physically, but also mentally from what must be an absolutely excruciating experience for them. Both can be played by ear, however, and will be in the end.

Shannon just returned after using the Internet somewhere (not sure how with Thanh along) and says she thinks their scabies has broken back out again. This would only surprise me in that neither Shannon nor I have symptoms, but it sure fits otherwise for them as some of the spots have reemerged. This could explain a lot of things about their discomfort and why they don’t sleep for long periods of time. She is currently heading to the airport pharmacy to see if they have Promethrin cream, as we packed ours. (Promethrin is a RX drug in the US, but she said they were willing to sell her Zyrtec so if it’s in stock she will probably get it. We may ditch it before entry tho to make sure there are no customs problems.)

I think thats all there is for now, and Vinh just woke up as close to happy as I’ve seen (only a minor squeak), so thats all for now.

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Last Morning

By Dan | June 26, 2007

Yesterday we finished up by going to the Visa interview, which wasn’t bad. We didn’t wait long, and it wasn’t as far away as we believed. Simple interview, friendly Consulate staff member. We mostly verbally confirmed most of the info on the Visa application, signed it, and went over the medical results to ensure that we knew that the doctor had indicated a “lung infection.” (That’s common terminology for a cold here.) She said it was not categorized highly enough to prevent travel, but to make sure it was treated when we got home. (Like we needed to be told that! Not that she new the history of our trip…)

Went to the lobby and kids were being good after the trip, so Shannon and I split a cheesecake type thing out of the lobby bakery case. Was really good.

Came upstairs and the boys had no interested in napping. They played (Thanh somewhat rambunctiously) for several hours before finally falling asleep, but it was early evening before they did so. Once they were asleep, we had discussed rotating for a massage at the hotel. A 30 minute massage only cost 10USD, so it’s quite a bargain and quite an experience. (My back was getting very sore from all the pacing with one or the other little monkey squirming in my arms over the previous nights.) I started, and it was a very interesting experience. Starts as a typical massage in the US, but eventually she was kneeling on the table to get the appropriate leverage to really dig in. I had wondered if it would include the standing part you see in Japanese massage photos as there were bars installed on the ceiling, but she worked in deeply and then smoothly less intensely, and the moved on to arms and legs. Once she had finished everything else, she agily jumped up on the table and was standing on my back. After asking to make sure I was OK, she was practically jumping on my back, moving very accurately to places that would be well supported and precisely providing the right pressure (probably by supporting herself somewhat on the bars). She cracked almost every vertebrae up my back. By now I was starting to get a headache (probably because of all of the junk she was releasing from my muscles), but then she worked on my neck and scalp (with her hands, not her feet) which helped that as well, working very specific facial muscles and contact point on my head. That was not very relaxing either, as she was pounding on my skull in several areas at one point. Overall, the massage left me very relaxed, but actually pretty sore. We will see how I feel in days to come. I told Shannon that while it was an interesting experience it probably wasn’t for her.

Then we went to the traditional Vietnamese buffet for dinner. Also an interesting experience. The food is probably best described as a lot of Chinese type methods, with Indian influences for spicing and herbs. I have to be careful eating Indian, as I don’t care for very herby tasting food, and Vietnamese is not different in that regard. So I have been burping up all sorts of unpleasant after flavors all night. They also had traditional Vietnamese musicians last night, who were dressed in traditional garb. Very beautiful costumes, and the instruments were very interesting as well. I’ll have to do some research and write more later.

Unfortunately, last night was a severe regression in sleeping habits for Vinh, and Thanh was a bit restless as well. For the first several hours, he was pulling his “I don’t want to be held, but don’t put me down” routine, then after a while he was at least to the “carry me only” routine. We managed to get him to sleep for a total of an hour I think. Thanh at least slept more or less normally, other than it was only 45-60 minute intervals. The best theory that I can come up with is that they are not adapting as well as we thought over the last couple days, but were so overtired that with the medications it didn’t matter until now, when they are caught up a bit on sleep. Sun came up with both kids already awake, and once it was they finally calmed down and played. At 5:30 we figured we might as well catch an early breakfast, so I jumped in the shower. By the time I got out both kids were almost asleep on the bed, so we joined them in a pile of limbs instead. Now both are at least semi awake and calm, although Thanh just rolled over and saw the laptop, so I doubt I have much time left.

We leave today. (Well, tomorrow at 1:30 am.) Plan is to try to tire the kids out as much as possible today I think, especially because we have a lot that we want to do before we go. Anna highly recommended seeing a lake park nearby, and there is another shopping center in the same area to finish souvenir shopping. Plus packing, although that shouldn’t be so bad regardless of the boys’ dispositions, as only the carry-on bags need to be in any semblance of order for the return home. We have agreed that all clothing will get washed, whether clean or not, to reduce the chance of bringing any bugs home (especially scabies). I think Shannon and I will probably shower and both use the cream in Korea assuming we use the transit hotel (which we are planning to) for the same reason. We will see.

Alright, Thanh is trying to tell me to stop typing, as he has been chasing me around the bed. (Every time he catches up I move to a new corner.) I’m guessing I won’t be able to write again until Korea.

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Visa Interview

By Dan | June 25, 2007

Getting ready to meet to go to the Visa interview. Don’t really know what to expect, but am told it’s just a formality. Haven’t been prepped for anything the way they did for the IR3/I600 interview, so hope that’s correct.

Kids are asleep. This morning was similar to yesterday – up about 5:30, breakfast, showers, etc. Did a little shopping in the hotel gift shop. The shopkeeper spoke very good English and we talked quite a bit. Kids were pretty good, but eventually ran out of patience as they will. Brought them back up and put them down for naps. Both went down well, but Thanh woke up about 15 minutes later and was inconsolable for almost an hour. Eventually, we figured out he was hungry even tho it was 2 hours early from the schedule they had been keeping pretty faithfully. As I am not really concerned about an extra bottle or two (they could probably use it actually), we fed him, and by then Vinh was waking up and we fed him as well. At the same time, Shannon realized that Vinh had a fever of 102, even though he wasn’t acting particularly distressed. After feeding and some Tylenol for Vinh, they played for about 2 hours. Thanh was a terror generally manhandling Vinh and they spend most of it wrestling back and forth for the same bottle cap, even though both had identical caps. They are certainly brothers! As most of the wrestling was antagonized by Thanh, we think we might name him something meaning “doesn’t share well with others” when we change their names to English names.

Speaking of names, we also finally chose them. Not sure of the details of how (if) we are going to keep their VN names officially. I suspect it will be easier to just keep them as nicknames, but we will probably finally determine that during the “readoption” filings after we get home. Nope, not telling till we get off the plane in Orlando… :) (Especially at this late date.)

Oops, kids are up again, and it’s time to get ready.

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