I’m a Vietnamese adoptee from the US who decided to finally make the trip back to Vietnam after 38 years. I had an absolutely wonderful trip and one of my biggest highlights was meeting Suzanne and the incredible children at the Allambie Orphanage.
I was introduced to Suzanne through a mutual friend, who happened to be an adoptee as well. I haven’t met too many Vietnamese adoptees, so when I found out that she was adopted and the type of work she was doing, I was really looking forward to meeting her.
When I got into Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) we decided to meet for coffee/tea. This is where we had a chance to learn a bit about each other. I felt like we connected really well and I could see that she was very kind and passionate. I also saw how important it was for her to get a feel of the type of person I was, especially if she was going to invite me to come and be around the kids. I respected that very much.
She invited me to her home for lunch to meet the kids. When I got to her place to say I was instantly drawn in was an understatement. I felt so comfortable right away and then she did the regular introductions. I met Chuyen, Sa, Nhi, Thiet, Mung and Truc. They were all very nice and polite from the get go. The girls were shy and rightfully so, because they just met me, but Chuyen, the youngest boy, came right up to me and wanted to play. He was awesome, had all sorts of energy, and seemed to smile all the time. The lunch was great and it was neat to start seeing the different personalities of each child come out. They were starting to feel more comfortable around me. Then when we were cleaning up after lunch there was some music playing and I just started doing a little break dancing (probably not too well either). I saw Mung and Truc smile and laugh and that was really cool.
Suzanne invited me to hang out with them the rest of the week, which I thought was awesome. One night we went out to look for a table and fans. Nhi showed off her intelligence and street savvy by speaking with the different store owners and interpreting Vietnamese to English and vice versa. I was very impressed and am confident she will go far at anything she chooses. Another day I took them out for lunch, we went bowling (my team lost-haha), and had ice cream afterwards. It was a blast and it was so great to see the kids and Suzanne having so much fun.
I kept coming over to hang out, have great lunches, and try to keep up with Chuyen’s infectious energy. It was neat to see him studying and the whole time I was thinking that this kid is going to be amazing when he gets older. He’s very smart, has an incredible spirit about him and is just full of joy. I love how he does his own thing and doesn’t worry what others may think. He reminded me of my nephew Gavin. Thiet and I also got to hang out a lot and talk about art and music.
The icing on the cake was that I got to experience something that is probably one of the most unique things you could ever do while staying in Vietnam. This is how amazing these kids are. They have had such a tough life and been put in very unfortunate positions growing up before getting to Allambie, and they all were thoughtful enough to want to take me out one night and show me their city and the street food scene. I was so touched. I met them near my hotel and Nhi had me ride on the back of her bicycle. Sa was riding Chuyen and Truc and Mung were riding together. The first stop was a regular meal, then we went and got a fruit drink at a spot that they all like. During the meal they asked if I wanted to try something that no volunteer had ever tried, and that was to eat duck embroy. Or, simply, the eggs as they called them. At first I was hesitant, and then I just said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” After we got to the place and sat down, I was wondering what I got myself into. We ate the eggs and they actually tasted pretty good. I think the kids got a kick out of the fact that I did it and they enjoyed taking photos and videos of it. The last stop was a rice treat that tasted really good. By the end of it, I can’t tell you how stuffed I was. Add to the fact of riding on the back of a bike, having Nhi peddle me around through the main and back streets of Ho Chi Minh City with all the traffic, and you have a once in a lifetime experience. I just loved it!!
My visit with Suzanne and the Allambie kids ended with them inviting me to Chuyen’s birthday party. Again, one last surprise and a testament to how awesome Suzanne and these kids are. We were there to celebrate Chuyen’s birthday, and they surprised me with a very cool gift of thanks. Amazing to say the least! It was neat being able to get to know each of the kids better and I felt so honored that I got to hear some of their hopes and dreams.
One thing that kept popping up in my mind the entire time during my visit was the fact of how Suzanne has created a quality home environment for these kids. They were allowed to be kids, but they also were held accountable for chores, homework, and how they treated others, just like what every loving family has. At the end of the day, the best way to sum up my experience was this. I was able to spend a week with such a loving family, Suzanne and the Allambie children. All I can say is thanks for making such a big impact on me. One I will never forget and one that I plan to keep on supporting.