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An Orphan Named Nhu | Vietnamese Adoptees

An Orphan Named Nhu

Written about April 5, 2010

Tricia Houston

In the morning I met my dear friend, Kim, to travel to our destination. Our purpose for the morning was to participate in a VAN GO Conference at the orphanage. We drove through District 3 (I think that is what I read on a sign) to get to the Go Vap Orphanage. It was a very poor area. The streets appear to be narrower, too.

We were there for a conference, but it was all in Vietnamese. So Kim showed me around the orphanage instead. We wanted to see the children who I would teach on Monday. The tour of the facility started with visiting the terminally sick ward where the babies have Hydrocephalus. I understand the kids have big heads because they have too much fluid. There were babies, and some were full grown children, in cribs with nothing to see but painted cartoon characters on the ceiling. I touched a baby’s hand and he smiled at me.

Then she took me to the classrooms. We had to take off our shoes before we entered. It had tile floors and long wooden desks and benches for the students to sit at. Their name tags where placed in the front of the wooden desk. One classroom was for the kids who are mentally challenged. The kids range from teenage to 24 years old. We stepped in and the teacher left us there with them because he needed to do something outside. The kids were not learning a lesson but watching Vietnamese TV, which looked like a kids’ show. So Kim turned it off and turned to me to teach them something. I saw some pictures of common food and everyday objects (toaster oven, oven, etc.) on the wall. I gathered some of the kids who were willing to listen and did some repeating of the words and actions with them. The few of them that came over to me to listen caught on very well with the actions. There was this one boy, the 24 year old, who was the class helper who held my hand, showed me the classroom, and told me about the other kids. It was rather sweet of him.

Next I went to the baby ward. At first one is taken back by the rows of silver metal cribs that were lined up around the huge room. Then I walked around to touch the babies’ hands and talk to them. Each of the babies’ faces lit up in response. Kim asked me if I wanted to hold one of the babies. I took full advantage of that offer. As I was walking around with one of them, I saw a crib with a cute baby with big brown eyes and the same Vietnamese name as me. I quickly held Nhu who laughed and smiled when I picked her up from out of her ordinary crib. It was so nice to hold and talk to her for a while. We walked around to look outside the window and looked at other babies in the room. Then I fed a baby boy named Minh with a bottle. In the middle of feeding him, the electricity went off and the fans stopped. To say the least it was hot in the room. Minh seemed to be okay with what the adults were complaining about. He was so cute and responsive. When I was feeding Minh, the nurse came by and said to Minh, “She can be your new mom.” I said, “I wish!” Minh was probably three months old as well as Nhu.

It was lunch time for the students, too. I met the class that I will be teaching eating their rice and soup. They were a class of seven year old children who waved and smiled a mouthful of rice when they greeted me. There was a mix of average to below average intelligence in the class. I have designed a lesson with pictures, words for vocabulary building associated with different homes (city, country, and suburban), and actions. I hope the kids enjoy it next Monday.

As I was beginning to leave Go Vap, a nurse rushed in with a newborn baby wrapped in her arms. She must have come from the hospital. Son Michael had her stop so I could see the baby. She unwrapped the blanket to reveal a very cute baby, who had a split on the left arm. She pointed to the baby’s hands which were deformed. Then she pointed to the baby’s feet, which were covered with booties. I thought she was communicating to me that the feet were deformed, too. It made me wonder what kind of condition I was dropped off in at the Hoi Duc Anh Orphanage at six weeks old. How sick was I?

After my day at the orphanage, I returned through the dusty streets to my hotel in the city. My friend, Jay, and I went to have lunch at a French restaurant that I discovered with a group the previous day. A local adoptee led us there and it was wonderful. It was a few doors down from the KFC. Later that evening, we had a small group dinner at the new Hard Rock Café. It was interesting to see mostly tourist there because it was too expensive for locals. I am taking in Vietnamese culture through French food and 80s music in the HRC.

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