Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Long Way Home

We arrived back in Alaska without a hitch. Maya slept on the plane from Seattle to Anchorage. Uncle Michael met us at the airport and brought us back to his house. Maya found this balloon in their house and charmed them into letting her take it with them. Besides being bigger than she is, it plays the chicken dance song when you hit it in the right spot.

Maya with Uncle Michael and cousin Michael.
Here's Maya with Aunt Karyn. She was very comfortable in their house since their two German Shephards were safely stowed in the backyard where she could see them through the glass door but they couldn't get in. Then we started on the 4 hour drive home. The giant balloon kept her entertained for the first two hours. But then the battery started to die so it sounded like we were playing a record backwards. We decided we better stop in Soldotna and pick up a couple more musical toys.
With her new toys and sunglasses, she was ready for the last hour and 15 minutes. She only fussed and tried to get out of the car seat a couple of times and yep, you guessed it: she fell asleep during the last 15 minutes. Of course by then it was 10:30pm! But we had a houseful of family members anxious to meet the new addition to the family. (For those of you who are closer to the equator that the arctic circle: the sun is still up at 10:30 at night this time of year!)

The boys donned on their new Team Vietnam soccer jerseys immediately, slept in them over their pajamas and wore them all day today. That's Chris on the left and Riley on the right.
Grandma was so happy to meet her new granddaughter.

So was Nanna and cousin Megan from Fairbanks.

We finally got Maya to bed around 11:30 and the boys to bed around midnight. They woke us up at 9:20am, anxious to play with Maya. We put her in the bath, Chris washed her hair. Riley helped her get dressed and brushed her hair. After breakfast they showed her one of their favorite nooks to hide in: under the counter with the recycle bins.

It didn't take Maya long to figure out what those hockey sticks were for!
After breakfast she met our best friends: The Greear family. They brought over their bunnies for her to see hoping that a few docile, soft, furry friends would be less scary. She was fine as long as they stayed in the box in the entryway! She is slowly getting used to our dog and cat as long as they keep their distance.
We kicked everyone out after lunch and Maya napped from 1:30 to 3:45. While she napped I made rice porridge with shrimp. I found a recipe in my cookbook: Hot Sour Salty Sweet; a culinary journey through southeast asia, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is a beautiful photo atlas of these two photographers who basically eat their way down the Mekong River, encompassing China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. They take the reader along with colorful photos and stories about the people, the places and the food.
Then she went to a double header. Chris had a Tball game at 4pm and Riley's baseball game was at 5:30. She walked all over the playground and played in the park. She ate oven fried chicken at the game. When we got home she ate a big bowl of chao tom, and a few sips of strawberry milkshake. Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Steve were here. They are down from Fairbanks to catch some salmon. After getting skunked all week long they finally got a couple of halibut today.
We are happy to be home finally. Chris gained two pounds and Riley lost two teeth while we were away! Right now they are camped out in the yard in a tent and it feels too far away!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

U.W and the Zoo

Now that's a waiting room. The morning started at U.W. where we met with a very nice Dr. Kertesz. Then Maya got 4 immunizations, 1 PPD, and two blood draws (all counted, that's 7 needle sticks.) It's a wonder she's still speaking to us!

Then we headed to the zoo for some fun.

The day ended at McCormick and Schmidt's for an awesome Seattle dinner.

Now we're off the the airport, again. Next post from Homer, Alaska!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Maya slept from 2am to 10:30 am! Then we said goodbye to Poppop and Jean who were driving back to Pendleton, OR.
Then we went to Lyn's house for Memorial Day. It was a laid back, catching up with old friends kind of day. Maya had fun playing with Katie and Mandy's toys. They have a dog and a cat so we attempted to gradually "densensitize" her. She is still not comfortable around them but it's a start. She was able to sit unsupported on a big kid swing and even tried to "pump" a little. Katie and Mandy introduced her to bubbles, that was a lot of fun. Tomorrow we go to U.W. for her post-placement physical.
Swinging like a big kid!

Maya learns about bubbles from Sarah and Lyn.

Mandy, 8years old, left. Katie, 5 years old, right.

Maya and Katie.

Sleep Deprived in Seattle

We got to our hotel room around midnight on Friday. Maya fell asleep around 2am. I was hoping for a three hour nap (since it was daytime in VN). She slept until 10am! I thought, well, I guess we've got the day/night flip/flop worked out! All I have to do is keeping her up today and we're golden!

We picked Sarah up at the airport at 3pm, then headed to the Vore-Ronda house for a dinner party. Mike and Amy had loaned us a portable crib and an awesome carseat that converts into a stroller! She felt comfortable in their house almost right away. Didn't take her long to figure out that anyhouse where 2 girl old twin girls live is going to be a lot of fun. Danica and Ariel shared their toys and were very happy to be hosting a big party at their house! Poppop (Matt's dad) and Jean came along. Matt's childhood friend Jennifer Forquer came over with her new friend Jeff and a good time was had by all.

Bonding with Chi Sarah (Older sister)
My new quilt, pink Teddy and crazy straws from Poppop and Jean.

Jean and I play with a musical toy.

I climbed onto Poppop's lap.

Mike, Jennifer and Jeff (or is he a Geoff?)

I love Sarah's new cell phone!

Sarah and Danica.

Danica's "rubber band boots."

Ariel's blue boots.

That night Mom and Sarah went to a movie and Matt and Maya got ready for bed.
Maya woke up at 3am, slugged down a bottle and then was ready to party! Matt, having also given up on sleep, took Maya to Denny's at 4am! His stomach told him it was dinner time in VN!
They came back at 5am to a very grumpy, sleep deprived Mommy. At 6:30am I was out walking the streets with Maya thinking bad thoughts about 2 year old people who won't conform to an ever changing schedule.
At 11am we all headed to Pike Street Market where my mood was restored by the beautiful flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish stalls. It was almost like being back in Vietnam, just a little less crowded and not nearly as hot. Oh, and there were no vendors selling organs meats.
Flowers at Pike Street Market

Sarah's dreams of sushi!

Look at those fruits!

Chi Sarah is so much fun! We had lunch at Lowell's. Since there was no "chau" on the menu we opted for "chow-der" and Maya ate some! I've decided that clam chowder might possibly be the perfect food for underweight toddlers.
Last night we partied in our room until midnight. Then Maya slept from 1:30am until 10:30am! Mommy is feeling much better after getting her beauty sleep.
Today we are headed to Lyn and Robert's house for Memorial Day. Lyn is Dad's friend from residency. She is lots of fun and so are her two little girls, Mandy and Katie. Robert is on a fishing trip he will miss all the fun and we will miss him!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eight Hours in Taipei

So what is there to do at the Taipei Airport? You can get sit in one of these leather recliners in the "Zen style stress free massage zone".
You can check out the national park like display. If you get tired of walking, your dad will push you around in one of these cute little luggage carts. (By the way, luggage carts seem to be free everywhere but in America.)

Here's the little forest in Terminal D.

The traditional house? Looks like we're in Micronesia!

Matt and Maya posing in traditional garb.

You can say hi to Mickey, Minnie and Winnie the Pooh in this Disney playground.

If you fall off the slide and bonk your head, you can go to the nursing station.

If they tell you you are beyond help, you can go to the prayer room!

What does a family with a 2 year old do while waiting out an 8 hour layover in Taipei? Whatever they do best, of course! You guessed it: walking, eating, and sight seeing. We didn't even have to leave the airport to sight see. They brought it all to us!
Maya loved walking on the moving walkways. She had so much fun that she didn't even nap the whole time! In fact, she only fell asleep the last 15 minutes of our flight from Hanoi to Taipei, which was a 2.5 hour flight. But she made up for it on the way from Taipei to Seattle. She slept the first 9 out of 11 hours. Halleluja!
Now we are in yet another new hotel room, trying to convince her that it's 1:30 am here when her body says it's 3:41 pm in Hanoi! If nothing else, maybe we'll get lucky and she'll nap for 3 hours, wake us up at 5am and Matt will be back on his old schedule!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Playdate at the Somerset West Lake

That's Big Anthony and Little Anthony on the right.

Today we went to the Somerset West Lake so Maya and Kiet could have one last playdate before we all go home tomorrow. We didn't bring our swimsuits because we figured Miss I'm Afraid of Everything wouldn't want to have anything to do with the swimming pool. Well at first she didn't want anything to do with the wading pool. But then she saw Minh swimming like a fish in the BIG pool and started to climb in. We had to dip her in while crouching on the side of the pool! Kiet, who previously didn't want much to do with swimming either, decided that what Maya was doing looked like fun. I'll try to upload the video. Kiet looked just adorable in his little blue and white striped swim suit!

We were also able to visit with another Holt Family, Rebecca and Anthony from Philadelphia who had just picked up their son, (Little) Anthony. They all seemed to be adjusting very well.

After swimming we all headed downtown to meet Jud and Blaine Curry for lunch. On the way we passed St. Joseph's Cathedral.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, built in the early 1880's.

Maya in the wading pool.

Kiet sporting a very good looking swimsuit.

"The babies" discussing whether they should take the plunge or not. (The photos are out of order).

Tomorrow we check out at 8am and head to the airport. We have an 8 hour layover in Taipei, followed by an 11 hour flight to Seattle. That sounds like so much fun with a 2 year old! (Please keep us in your prayers.) I'll update the blog when we get to Seattle. My big girl Sarah (the original Femme Fatale) will be joining us there. Maya has a playdate with the Ronda Twins Saturday night!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our other favorite restaurant: Bia Do

Just a quick entry. Last night we had dinner at our other favorite restaurant: Bia Do, which means red beer. We found it by accident when we were looking for another restaurant one night. Then it seemed anytime we were lost, tired, hungry or thirsty, we ended up back at Red Beer. I first referred to it as a microbrew. It's like a sports bar, lots of big screen TVs, very casual atmosphere. The waitresses are friendly. They let Maya walk around without trying to pick her up. It is open and spacious. Most of the time when we are there it's very quiet. One night there was a loud drinking party going on upstairs. We could hear them counting...mot, hai, ba...I could only picture beer bongs. Still, it was a lot of fun. Here's Matt and Maya with one of our favorite waitresses: Nga.

The Temple of Literature

Why choose when you can have both?
Check out the fighter jet at the military museum next to the Highlands Coffee.
Thahn Minh Curry checks out his rice served in a coconut. I apologize for all the names I'm mispelling.

The Curry family and our friends from Holt Vietnam, Hanoi, joined us for dinner last night. Nanh (left) and Loan (right).
The highlight of today's wanderings was the Temple of Literature, Hanoi's most revered temple complex. It was dedicated in the year 1070 as both Vietnam's principal Confucian sanctuary and it's historical center of learning. The temple's ground plan was modelled on that of the Confucius' birthplace in Qufu, China and consists of a succession of 5 courtyards. In the third courtyard is the Well of Heavenly Clarity. To either side of the walled pond are 82 stone stelae mounted on tortoises. Each stele records the results of a state examination held at the National Academy between 1442 and 1779.

One of the gates in the Temple of Literature.
The Gate of Great Success brings you to the fourth courtyard and the main temple buildings. The National Academy was housed in the 5th courtyard. It is regarded as Vietnam's first university which was founded in 1070 to educate princes and high officials in Confucian doctrine. Later the Academy held triennial examinations to select the country's senior mandarins. These exams lasted up to 6 weeks and were an evaluation of poetic style as well as knowledge of the classical texts and administrative ability. Those who passed all stages were granted a doctorate. They were then eligible to sit for the palace exam, set by the king himself. Some years as few as 3 awards would be granted out of 6,000 applicants. At first only those of noble birth could sit for the exam. By the 15th century, the exams were open to all males ages 16 to 61 except "traitors, immoral people and actors."

Doctor as in Doctoral students, the mandarins that made it to the top!

One of the stele in the courtyard.

These bronze statues are over a thousand years old.

Look Chris, it's Mushu!

Look at this awesome tree! I found a frog hopping around in the roots.

Same tree from the other side. That's me under the tree, Maya in the courtyard.

A giant drum in the Temple of Literature.
We were treated to a free concert by these beautiful and enchanting sirens playing traditional musical instruments. My favorite is the one that looks like a horizontal bamboo xylophone but instead of striking it with a mallet, the musician claps her hands in front of each reed to make different notes. The longer the bamboo reed, the deeper the sound. I will try to upload a short clip for you to enjoy. We left the beguiling musicians after having purchased two CDs, two baby toys and a miniature bamboo xylophone. Even if we have to eat rice and mung beans the rest of the trip, I'd say the whole experience was worth it!

Maya's walks away from the temple with new toys.