"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
- James 1:27
It’s my last Friday in Vietnam for this trip. I’m sitting in our living room looking out over the smog covered city, listening to the honking of horns and the continuous whine of sirens. I can almost smell the pho 24 stories below.
It’s been a busy week.
Monday marked a full week together with Ellia. It was a week of getting to know one another and watching Ellia discover the world around, becoming mobile, and taking on solid foods. Some nights we slept all night, other nights were full of screams and tears followed by egg coffees for Ian and I. I’ve been peed on, puked on, coughed on, I’ve even been used as a human Kleenex. I’ve also been smiled at, giggled with, and cuddled by two beautiful children. Monday was a day to sit back and celebrate the week that was.
Tuesday we had the privilege of visiting Ellia’s orphanage. It was an emotional day for all of us. The road there was full of memories from the week before. The same landmarks, the same animals, the same rice paddies. And yet, this day they all seemed different. Pulling in to the orphanage left me rather surprised. Everything felt so different from the orphanage Micah had lived at, and yet strangely familiar. As I climbed out of the van I spotted a familiar face. It was her. That same gentle woman, Ellia’s caregiver, with the biggest smile on her face. It was a delight to climb the stairs to her and fill her arms with the chubby bundle of baby I had been holding just a moment before. We quickly made our way to Ellia’s room and spent some time taking everything in, visiting with the other children and trying our best to communicate with a massive language barrier and no translator. The room was small and cold, I couldn’t believe how cold it was. A TV flickered in the corner with some sort of game show. Ellia was mesmerized by it. The babies wore layer upon layer of clothing, covered with layer upon layer of blankets. Winter in northern Vietnam. And then, like the Tuesday before, as quickly as it started, it all just ended. Word came it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and Ellia and her caregiver we faced with saying goodbye again. It hurt. I didn’t want to be the reason for this goodbye and at the same point I couldn’t and wouldn’t leave without her. She was mine. The trip home felt long. The intense afternoon traffic didn’t help, but that wasn’t it. It just felt long. That night I put Micah to bed and laid beside him. We talked for a long time about the day. This is his story as much as it is hers and it’s not an easy one. My heart breaks for my kids, I fight back my tears, I kiss him goodnight and watch him close his eyes. Tuesday was a day I’ll never forget.
Wednesday morning dawned with sleepy eyes after little sleep, but quickly turned to celebration over Ellia’s first birthday. We bundled up and headed out into town. We enjoyed the city, the lake, bunh mi and passionfruit cheesecake! After a short rest we headed out to see the water-puppet show which knocked all our socks off. Strangely enough, I think Ellia got the most out of it, as everything was in Vietnamese! The music was incredible, the stories engaging, and the puppetry so outstanding it felt as if they were alive. Wednesday was exciting.
Thursday we decided to venture out again and enjoy the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Ian was stressed, Micah was stunned, Ellia was captivated, and I was on cloud nine. It was chaotic and graceful all at the same time. After a long walk home and a quick lunch, Ian and Micah headed off to pick up Ellia’s Canadian passport, only to learn that it wasn’t ready. Not only that, there was much confusion over whether citizenship had been granted or not. By the time the two made it back through the busy streets, both the offices in Singapore and Vietnam were closed for the day. It left us wondering if we’d make our flight home. Thursday ended with disappointment but hope was not lost.
And now, as I’m still sitting in our living room writing, listening to the craziness outside the window, Ellia is sound asleep and Ian and Micah have just returned from another trip to the embassy. Micah comes in and sits on the couch beside me and produces a little white passport. She's a Canadian. She’s ours. And we’re coming home. Friday marks the end of a busy week, but what a great way to finish.