Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lessons Learned (I hope...)

Our time here in Vietnam is winding down and I thought I would try to put down some of my thoughts and feelings about the whole experience since I did a terrible job of writing in the journal I brought with me. It is such a bittersweet thing to be leaving. Of course we are so excited about getting home to our friends and family and everything familiar, but we are also sad to be leaving this country that gave us Anna Grace and this time as a family.

Vietnam is a country rich in culture and heritage and I have learned so much from observing the people here. The most obvious thing you notice about the Vietnamese people is how poor they are by our standards. When I see how hard they work for so little it makes me ashamed of the excess we have in our lives. We think we are suffering when we have to wait a few months to get a new widescreen tv or the latest Wii game. These people work from morning to night just to feed their family. So many people we know, including us, take our country for granted. We truly are rich.

It would be a mistake to assume that just because they are poor financially that they are not rich in so many other ways. One thing I have observed is how important family is in this culture. They work together, eat together, and even live together. There is a great respect for their elders and they are taken care of by the whole family. Heritage is very important here. Even though they have to work so hard, you can see the joy of family just being together, the young learning from the old. It makes me sad that we have lost this in our culture.

It is not just with families that you see the companionship. It is not uncommon to see women of all ages walking down the street with a daughter, granddaughter, or friend with their arms entwined deep in conversation. One of my favorite sights is the young girls laughing together, holding hands as they just have fun together. When you walk anywhere here you will see the shop workers sitting outside on stools talking with others or playing checkers or cards while they are waiting for customers. They just enjoy being together.

Vietnamese people work hard. They walk or ride their bikes everywhere. I haven't seen many overweight people here.

They love their children. Education is very important to them and getting into the university is very hard so when a young person does, the whole extended family will help pay their tuition. It is fun to see the families with their children just playing games or walking together holding hands. And to see them on their mopeds. I saw a family of six riding on one moped!

These are just a few of the things I have observed about the Vietnamese people and culture. I hope I remember the lessons I have learned. It is so easy to fall back into old patterns I know. I want Anna to know that there is a lot of good to learn from her heritage. As with any country, there is good and bad mixed together, but I hope to emphasize the good.

Even with all of the good things here, I am so thankful to be an American. Truly. We have our flaws but our country is so rich and there is so much opportunity. Sometimes too much, I know, but if we could learn to put relationships before the success I think we would be the richest country in every way.

I also wanted to take the time to write down the changes we have noticed in Anna since we got her a little more than a week ago. One of the biggest is her size! She is getting chubby! I remember the first day we had her, I asked Dean if he thought there was something wrong with her because her head looked so big. Yesterday, I asked him if he thought her head looked smaller. I realized her head looked smaller because her body is bigger. She definitely eats more.

I also noticed she eats more at one time. The first few days we had her she wanted to eat all of the time but would only eat little bits. We think that had alot to do with how whe was fed in the orphanage. We are learning more from our friends about the way things are done in the orphanages and it makes me very sad. I am so thankful we were able to get Anna so soon.

She is doing so much better with her head control. I was shocked when they handed me a six month old baby and I had to hold her head like a newborn. She is getting better everyday. She can also roll from stomach to back and has rolled the other way at least once.

She is doing better at being alone. She will let me lay her down for a nap and soothe herself when she wakes most of the time. We still need work in this area but there have been definite improvements. She definitely is still scared to be left alone but she also seems more secure.

She enjoys being held more. This is hard to explain but when we first got her she didn't want to be alone but she also didn't like to be held for too long. She definitely needed her space. She would never fall asleep in our arms but now she is wanting to be held and cuddled.

So much has changed in one week. I am sure we are going to see big changes once we get home and adjust. We are so excited to introduce her to all of you. Our church has been such a big part of this and they have seen us through the hard times so it will be so nice to share this joy with them. I hope she gets to meet family soon. I was really hoping we would get to bring her to my niece's wedding this weekend but I think with jetlag that would be kind of stupid, besides the fact that we are completely broke after this trip. It would have been a great chance to have her meet alot of family at once but she will soon enough. I'm sure her grandparents will be coming to meet her soon. And we will see alot of family and friends in PA in August.

Anna Grace has added so much to our family already. I have been so blessed with all three of my girls. Words cannot even express how grateful I am for all of them. They each have their own story and their own unique qualities but they all three fill my life with joy every day.

How could I ask for more?


Anonymous said...

I can see changes in her pictures as well. You'll need to take pictures daily and journal daily to show her progress once you are home. I'm sure she will grow and gain progress by leaps and bounds.

I wish everyone had the chance to visit third world countries. It is life changing and an experience I know I haven't forgotten. Thanks for reminding me of the lessons I have learned in the past.

Aunt Debbie said...

I can also relate to being blessed with wonderful children. Just wait till the grandchildren come along - that's just another step in wonderful. But that will probably be another 30 years or so if Dean has anything to do with it. Two days and counting. See you soon!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your observations about the people of Viet Nam. It's a shame that most Americans don't get to observe life in a country such as Viet Nam. I agree, we, as Americans, are so wasteful and have so much while people on the other side of the world barely have enough to feed their families.

I can definitely see a big change in Anna's appearance. She does look like she's getting that cute baby fat and she looks so happy.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting sweet sweet Anna and seeing the rest of you. I've missed Allie and can't wait to hear her version of the trip from a teenager's perspective.

You have a beautiful family and I feel that I am blessed to know know you.


Anonymous said...

We as american do take so much for granted. I have learned alot of this in life as of late, we are so blessed. Anna has grown so much and you can tell, her smile is beautiful. You are so blessed Stacey, thank you also for being such a blessing to me. Life is to short to take any time of it for granted. My greatest joy has been to be a mom, and now even more a grandma. I love every moment of being with her and watching her grow and learn. Children are a gift from God and I wish more people would learn that.
Be safe, love you lots