Thursday, 24 January 2008

We arrived at the hotel in Hanoi at 4:45 in the morning. We went to our hotel one last time, this would be our third time to check in to the same hotel, signing all the paperwork once again. We were all wide awake, no hope of falling back to sleep, especially where the kids were concerned. Clay and I showed up at the hotel gym promptly at 6:00am when it opened, and worked out while the kids stayed back at the room with legos and a DVD. We showed up early at the breakfast buffet as well, and by the time 9am rolled around, we felt like we’d lived half a day, at least.

Lan picked us up and we headed to the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology. The kids were less than thrilled about visiting a museum, but Clay and I wanted to go and it was actually a pretty good one. We tackled the outside portion first, wandering around and exploring the traditional homes and meeting places of different Vietnamese tribes. We walked on creaky bamboo floors, the only thing between us and the ground, nine feet below. The houses were on stilts and Lan assured us the floor was quite sturdy. “Go ahead, jump on it,” he challenged, which of course Nate immediately did. I steered clear, peering through the slats of the bamboo and marveling at the strength of such a light wood. Wondering what it would be like to live in there with my parents or in-laws, sisters and brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces. The kids’ favorite things were the poles they tried to walk along like a balance beam, attached on one end by a rope so it jiggled when you walked. They also liked the simple board, resting on a folded burlap sack in the middle. One of the kids would stand on one end, Clay would jump on the other and send them flying. The simplest games are the best.

After the outside, we checked out the inside. Costumes, some old journal notes of a man who once lived with a rural tribe, looms and water puppet displays. Not as exciting as a board that vaults you into the air, but still interesting. After the museum, we were dropped off at the “bug store”. Our previous guide had told us about a store where they sell insects encased in plastic, key chains and necklaces with scorpions or beetles in them. We couldn’t pass this one up, especially when we heard a keychain went for $2. The boys picked out their favorites, Alayna decided she wouldn’t really wear a necklace with a bug inside so she passed, and we headed back to the hotel. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to bribe the kids into taking a nap after we found out we’d be able to see American Idol on the TV in the room that evening. We wouldn’t let them stay up to watch it unless they slept first. They all insisted they weren’t tired, but after ten minutes in a darkened room everyone was asleep but Clay, who plugged away on the computer for awhile.

True to our word, we all watched American Idol in the evening, just like home. It was weird, doing something so familiar in such an extraordinary place. We can hardly believe we’re leaving Vietnam and heading to China in the morning. We’re really excited about seeing my parents and hitting another milestone in the trip. China always seemed so far away, but here we are, one day to go.