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Hoi An Magic

I am so happy that we decided to come here, being in Hoi An has really helped me to connect with Phuc and to get used this new situation in a peaceful way.

As I said in a previous post some of the waitresses here recognized and remembered us, there is a girl in particular, named Qua, that we often talked about with Dao, because she had been so nice with us and because we had a photograph of her with Dao and me and I think that Dao cherished this image as a link to her past and origins.qua dao otto

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It is amazing how mature she seems in processing her past and at the same time opening herself to the future. She was eager to meet Qua, and then she was happy that other 2 women remembered us. She wants to know details of what we did back then, asks if she was looking at the goldfish that swim in the  canals that run all along the premises of this beautiful resort, wants Qua to prepare baby food for Phuc as she did for her and at the same time she wants to feed and look after her baby brother in a very loving way. I honestly don’t know what I have done to deserve such a special daughter!

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Phuc is getting better all the time, more smiles and less crying everyday, very communicative, funny, getting used to us as we are to him, looking for us, playing, filling his eyes with all the beauty that surrounds us. I can’t imagine what goes on in his mind when seeing and feeling all this after being all his life in an institute. He must be in shock!

As I got better and felt more relaxed, I managed to bond with him much more and to feel less of a traitor towards Dao, who, as I said before, is the one that guided me into this. The other night, wile we were putting him to bed, something really magic happened. We had come back from Hoi An, this little city is very touristic but stil incredibly beautiful. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose river banks at night are lighted by thousand colored lantern, while many colored paper lantern, with tea lights inside them, float on the river current. It is very lively, but it maintains a poetic overall feeling.

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So we came back with our eyes filled with colors and dreamlike images. Phuc had been quite restless in the restaurant and we had to take turns in eating while the other one was running around the place with him, to keep him occupied. He also got quite restless in the taxi home, not being used to be in a car and especially to be constrained by someone’s arms, but then, as we were in our room facing the sea, he seemed quite happy to enter his bed, although not ready to sleep and still a little agitated. So, after changing him, giving him his bottle of milk and playing his music toy I started stroking his tiny feet, but he was still rolling around in bed quite vigorously. Than Dao came next to me and started caressing his head and as he gradually calmed down, I started stroking Dao’s back and we went on like this, in this chain of quiet and mindful giving until he fell very peacefully asleep.


I have learned more about myself in 10 days with Phuc, than in 10 years of therapy!

We are now in Hoi An, after a few very difficult days during which I was quite sick and emotionally very shaken. Hanoi was boiling hot and humid, 40 degrees with very little clouds, so the whole family was quite under the weather. Dao had the fever after swimming and playing in the pool one day, while I spent most of my time agonizing in bed with very painful cramps and Nicola, despite haven some kind of heat stroke one day, had to deal with everything in this killing temperature. Phuc too was very congested from going in and out form places with very strong air conditioning.

Being a little sick is normal when you are in this part of the world, so I was not concerned, but it becomes a problem when you have just adopted a little boy that doesn’t know you and needs so much attention and you have your 7 years old daughter to look after too. I know there are worst problems in the world, but I think getting to know a new member of your family is a major deal, this is a moment in time that will change our lives forever, and it doesn’t happen biologically, like a pregnancy. We have  waited for this child to arrive for six years and during the last seven years we have lived in a family of 3 people, very attached to each other, and in a way, emotionally self-sufficient. Then 2 months ago we had the news that little Phuc was waiting for us in Ho Chi Minh City, we were very happy of course, but 2 months is a very short time to assimilate such news, and we were in the middle of so many things that we hardly had time to prepare ourselves, to make space to welcome this little boy to be part of our family.

This temporary state of ineptitude threw me in a very bad state. I think I haven’t felt so bad since my mother died, over 10 years ago. I felt I was betraying my daughter, who I love so much, I felt that was useless, selfish, unable to love. Thankfully Dao and Nicola helped me to connect with Phuc in my own time, taking it slowly as I was recovering and showing me how easy it was to bond with this little boy that life has brought to us. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

The one thing that I know now, after going trough such an intense emotional turmoil, is that I have learned more about myself in ten days with Levin Phuc, than in ten years of therapy! And for this I will always be grateful to him.

Things in general have been very different from the time we adopted Dao. The law has changed, this is part of the reason we waited so long, and I must say that this  time I felt very unhappy about the way Enzo B, the association that dealt with both our International adoption procedures, has treated us.

We have received very little information, not only about our son’s history, but about what he eats, when he sleeps, what he likes. I had to call our contact here to ask her to ask the institute, to give us some suggestions, while Phuc is very agitated, and we wanted some help to calm him a little.

As for practical help, we had to do everything ourselves, from buying domestic plain tickets and booking hotels, to looking for baby food and bringing papers to various administrative offices. I had to go to about 5 supermarket before I could find some baby food  whose label I could understand, we even had to ask for a pediatrician to come and visit him. It’s a good thing that we are used to travel, but I don’t know what some of the families that where with us the first time, would have done this time in our place.

Anyway, fortunately we managed to do all that we had to do, so 2 days we came to Hoi An. We are in  a lovely hotel on the beach where we stayed 7 years ago, when we adopted Dao (some of the waitresses recognized us, it was quite emotional) and here we began to relax and to allow ourselves to adjust more peacefully to the situation.

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Do you like Hanoi, Dao? Some things yes, some things no, but I like better Milano.

Little Levin Phuc was with since just one day, that he was already boarding a plane to reach Hanoi, where we will do all the bureaucratic work to bring him back. During the flight we pass through many areas of turbulence, Levin Phuc was sitting on my lap touching everything that he could grab and possibly putting it in his mouth. We arrived in Hanoi exhausted and took a taxi to the hotel with Hang.

The following day Nicola left early with Hang to do some documents for Phuc’s passport. We stayed in the hotel, had breakfast and when he came back we went to the pool, although it was starting to rain. Phuc wanted to walk non stop, so we took turns to walk him around the pool while the other of us was swimming with Dao. Luckily there was not many people in the pool, because of the rain. We understand it can get very busy here, because the hotel pool is open to the public and when is sunny and hot a lot of local kids come here to swim and get a bit of refrigeration.

In the afternoon we left the hotel for a little stroll around the city. We found a little cafe near St Francis Cathedral where we used to go when Dao was only 8 months old and had a late lunch there, waiting for the storm to end and looking at the busy city from the balcony of this beautiful little place, new emotions mixing with amazing memories.

We stayed in Hanoi almost one month in 2008, when we adopted Dao and we absolutely adore this city, I think it was probably the best month of our lives, when, after such a long time as  a pair, we met this amazingly worm happy baby and finally became a family. But it is impossible to experience the same thing twice, and as much as I am happy to be here now,  as soon as we arrived I realized that so many things have changed. There are many more cars and less scooters, it is hard to understand why someone would want to drive an SUV in old Hanoi, especially when they still drive as they were riding a bicycle, but this is where the world is going, so I will stop complaining right away. As last time we found it almost impossible to go around the the tiny streets of the old quarter with a stroller, scooters parked on the uneven pavement, people cooking pho in the street, sitting around little plastic tables on tiny plastic chairs that occupy the whole sidewalk, nobody stopping to let you cross the street.

Anyway, we managed to get in a taxi and drove back to the Army Hotel under the pouring rain. And there we stayed until the following day.


I feel Phuc’s shape allover my body.

So, today was the day.

We met Hang, our Vietnamese contact person, in the lobby at 8 a.m. and we left immediately to go to the institute. After a 30 minutes drive we arrived and waited in a space that looked like a conference room. Hang told us that the staff at the institute were in a hurry, because they had to go to a funeral. So, after a few minutes 4 people came in the room, one of them carrying little Phuc.

It is quite hard to remember how things went, we were all so emotional and also a little scared. I think the best of us was Dao, she was super excited, but also very warm, she looked like she knew exactly what to do. The institute’s director and his colleagues left after 10 minutes and then Hang brought us to the house where Phuc had been living. The institute looked like a pleasant place in a way, full of flowers and little houses where children live with their nannies or sometimes foster mothers. Hang told us that the institute was founded by Marina Picasso, who adopted 3 Vietnamese kids in the late 80’s. Phuch’s house was full of little ones, all under 3. It was difficult to understand how old they were, because some of this children are just really tiny. Hang told us to leave our bags outside the house because the kids open the bags and take everything out. They are like little monkeys, she said. So we are at home, I thought.

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I think we stayed there about one hour and a half, surrounded by all these tiny kids crawling and walking around in the little porch outside the house. Dao was making sure that Phuc didn’t fall down or that the other toddlers didn’t steal stuff from our bags. She gave Phuc a teddy bear that he didn’t let go until he fell asleep much later in the hotel, at one point a little boy was trying to steal it from him and he held on to it so strong, that Nicola had to separate them. The nannies were feeding the children with a communal spoon/bottle. All the babies wore washable diapers, like a piece of white fabric held together by a safety pin, what we probably wore as babies. At the end of our visit we left some old clothes and shoes and then took off to go back to our hotel, with a new little person in our family.

In the ride back to the hotel Phuc was looking out of the window, hypnotized by Saigon traffic. We stopped somewhere to took some passport photos and then arrived back at the Hotel at about 11 a.m. We booked our tickets to Hanoi and then Hang left us for a couple of hours. Dao fed Phuc some apple puree and then wanted to swim a little, so we all went down to the pool.

It is so strange to be in 4, I feel very different from when we adopted Dao, very happy, but not so close to him yet. One thing that I know though is that today I love Dao even more (if possible). She showed to be  the warmest, sweetest, best  loving sister in the world, it was so amazing to watch her.

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Now we are all exhausted. Phuc finally sleeping i his cot, in this hotel room with 3 complete strangers, and the 3 of us unable to sleep, tired and yet excited about what tomorrow will bring.


Is not easy to have a pride of lions, you know?

Finally the day of our departure has arrived, yesterday we flew back to Vietnam to meet little Le Vinh Phuc, Rosa Dao’s little brother, 18 months old next week, who is waiting for us at the Làng Thiếu Niên Thủ Đức Institute, Hồ Chí Minh.

After a very long flight we arrived in Saigon yesterday afternoon.

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It rained from the moment we exit the airport until we went to bed.

We left our bags at the hotel and had a swim under the rain, then we headed out to have a massage in our favorite traditional massage parlor and then we dined at Temple Club, one of our most beloved restaurant here in Ho Chi Minh City

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Rosa Dao fell asleep in the restaurant, it was raining so much as we left that we took a taxi to go back to our hotel. Nicola carried Dao who slept all the way until 11.30, when she walked up feeling anxious about meeting Phuc. She was up until 2.30 in the night, talking to her father about what the arrival of this little boy in the family, might bring. She says she is very happy and excited, but also a little afraid, because we don’t know him, you know? And suddenly he will be here with us forever…

It is not easy to have a pride of lions, you know?