Happy Year of the Water Buffalo
Although Sequoia is an intrepid traveler, we left her home with grandmum instead of exposing her to the risks of typhoid, mosquito-borne disease, and Hanoi traffic (which resembles a swarm of mosquitoes). Yvette and Li explored Northern Vietnam, including picturesque Ha Long Bay, Tam Coc, and the ancient
Boating at Tam Coc’s grottoes
Worms or fried eel? Yummy.
capital of Hoa Lu, for a few days before the “Giving & Receiving Day.” We especially enjoyed going to locally popular restaurants or street vendors and ordering their specialty while having at best a vague notion of what that might be. Because Hanoi culture for the most part is not aimed at external consumption, being an adventurer there is a joy.
However, picking up Baby Heron from impoverished Lang Son Province, which typically gets no mention in Western travel guides, was the ultimate adventure. Adopting from such a place was consistent with why we wanted to adopt, but it was nevertheless deeply affecting to realize that our joy in adding to our family would forever entail a parallel story of loss, a loss that would smolder in the hearts of the birth family and their baby. We are fortunate to have met with the birth mother in Lang Son and hope that our son will be able to reconnect with her at an appropriate time in the future.
Fields and mountains of Lang Son
We, and the three other families who adopted children from Lang Son at the same time, feel blessed that the kids were well nurtured. Baby Heron took to us readily, and we were able to travel with him to explore Vietnam’s montagnard Sapa region despite our anxieties about taking him on the 16-hour round-trip train ride.
Typical Flower Hmong garb in Sapa
Hiking Sapa’s Dragon Jaw peak
Instead of the Baby Heron code name, we are calling him Savio Huy Leander Mah. Leander is the name of the Navajo who guided us through Canyon de Chelly. Huy, meaning brightness, is the name contributed by his birth mother. Savio is the surname of Mario Savio, who embodied social justice, courage, and decency.
Though Sequoia’s first introduction to Savio was through Skype, she adores him. For the past year, she has tenderly mothered her alter ego “children,” Mary, Sharon, and Steva (who cries incessantly and hits people). Now she is excited to help look after a real baby brother, making use of the diapering and feeding techniques she perfected on her stuffed animals.
First webcam shot sent home
Savio and Sequoia after homecoming
Savio exploring Vietnam
Sequoia is now in preschool. Although she is definitely in a phase where she likes dressing like a princess, she also enjoyed camping and getting out in the wilderness this past year. The two are not mutually exclusive, but she seems to understand that being in the woods while dressed like Snow White may attract unwanted attention from small animals, apple hawkers, or grumpy dwarves. Sequoia went camping with grandma, sat on her first erratic boulders at Yosemite, hugged both a Sequoia sempervirens and a Sequoiadendron giganteum, and slid down the dunes at Death Valley.
Liwen is still at Fenwick & West, where he helped a torture victim and a predatory lending victim win successful outcomes through the legal system during the past year. The work remains both intense and interesting, and he is glad that his lawyering has actually helped people. Nevertheless, he is most looking forward to taking parental leave this year. He’s also trying to figure out how to carry a backpack and Savio simultaneously.
Adoption, like friendship, has demonstrated to us that care and affection are not rooted in shared origin with another human, but rather in a shared journey. As our family embarks on a new shared journey, we hope we will be lucky enough to share a journey with you this year as well.
Savio, Sequoia, Liwen, and Yvette
Sequoia looking for apples at Halloween
Sequoia with cousins Hayley & Taylor in Redwood Country
Sequoia dancing at Fashoda camp
Atop one of the Mesquite Dunes
Red Amphitheater and Golden Canyon, Death Valley
Yvette took Music Together guitar lessons this year since Sequoia LOVEs music. (Savio just started his first class.) Yvette struggled this year to balance working and being mommy. She helped secure some significant grants to the County, but one grant proposal caused her to fall asleep while sitting and to twist her ankle while doing so. Boy, does she feel old! She is looking forward to weaning herself from the Crackberry, taking parental leave and trying to convince Li to take a family trip somewhere warm, not Ulan Baator. We hope our travels with Savio portend more good adventures.
Celebrating Uncle Al’s August birthday in Vancouver.
Celebrating Paw Paw’s birthday with cousin Annalise.
Celebrating a new year with the Leung sisters.
At any rate, we’re all looking forward to spending more time with extended family as we did last year. We know that in these tough times, it can be hard to unearth a celebratory mood, but at least with family and friends, there are lots of occasions to celebrate. And we fully intend to.