Vietnam Part I ::: Preparing for the Orphanage

Over the holidays my family and I shipped off to Nam with a mission: to provide a loving Christmas for orphans across Ho Chi Minh City.  I have four adopted siblings, two of which are from Ho Chi Minh so with the plan was to return to their orphanages baring gifts, music and supplies.  Needless to say, the mission was personal.

  With the help of a dozen or so Vietnamese junior high students we set off to buy gifts at the Chinese wholesale market.  We broke off into teams, dividing up to cover every age group and gender.

Bargaining is a must!  Thankfully we had loads of fierce ladies and native speakers on our side. 

After rounding up nearly a thousand gifts we treated ourselves and the team to Chinese dim sum, to stick within the theme, naturally.

Amazing sweet and sour sauce, much spicier and thinner than in the US, it's also never fried.

Pork buns!

Chicken feet! I actually really did not enjoy these but I made myself try.  They're so bony.

My family and all our gifts ready to be wrapped gifts.

Let the wrapping begin.

The littlest of us all, Eleanor, manning her station.

My little brother William was ready to spread some love, I mean look at that face.

Volunteers and their tower of gifts.  I have to say, 'teenage boy' is a universal language.  They're the same all over the world: rambunctious and mischievous.  

It was unbelievable what an army we had, it only took us about an hour to wrap every single gift.

Cute little stockings ready for the orphanage bright and early.

We left around 7AM the next morning for the first orphanage, those pictures to come and of course many other beautiful parts of our travels.  The amount of photos I came home with is a little overwhelming but I'm getting there.

I have to put it out there that I'm not the volunteer queen.  I don't do it monthly, honestly I barely do it yearly, but I cannot put into words or pictures how good it felt to do something nice for those who couldn't have done it without our help.  The closest I can compare the feeling to is going to the gym,  you know you should go, you know you'll feel better if you do, but for some reason you press snooze half a dozen times and barely make it out the door on time for work.  Because you're tired, you're overworked, underpaid.  Life can feel hard.  You don't have time, you don't have money.  I get it, I often feel the same way.  But you should remember you always have more than someone else.  I hope to continue to remind myself that.  We're not wealthy people, we just made a choice.  Really, my mom did.  I have to give her all the credit.  The credit for adopting 14 years ago and not stopping for another five and four kids later.  Credit for taking me across the world to this beautiful country as a young kid and drastically changing my perspective forever with each orphanage we went visited.  I give her so much credit for continuing that tradition with my younger siblings.  As much as they may not have realized it in the moment or they may not next week, like I didn't, they'll always carry an awareness of the vastness of the world, how many people are in need and be unafraid to step inside of it.

People keep saying, "What a once in a lifetime experience!" And yes, of course, it was amazing, unmatchably great.  But I don't want it to be once in a lifetime.  I wan't to keep giving, I want to see the world, I want to travel and do good with the people I love most.  So here's to trying.    May the New Year bring the world so much love.  It sure could use it.



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