January 22 – 24, 2020
Form Hoi An, we went back to Hanoi for a quick stopover before we flew out to the Philippines. These two nights in Hanoi were extra special because we spent them again in Ana and Simon’s home but this time, with their family there too. Even though I’ve seen Ana a couple of times before, this is when we really connected as the long-lost family. Their generosity in opening their home to us for the majority of our time in Vietnam and their warm welcome for those two nights at the end left a major heartwarming stamp on our time in Vietnam. We spent time with them, played with the kids, Nina must have fallen in love with Ana. He asks me daily to send her messages, pictures of any school work he does, and he talks about going back to Vietnam to see all of them again.
During our first week in Hanoi (almost 4 weeks earlier), Nina walked into an art gallery while we were strolling through the French Quarters. He was insisting we buy a painting he was particularly drawn to. That’s when we met the most gentle, kind and welcoming owner, and an artist, Hien, of the gallery called Hien’s Art. Hien invited Nina and us to paint with her on another day. However, Pedja and I got sick with flu shortly after that and then we left Hanoi so we didn’t end up meeting up with Hien. Almost 4 weeks later, I called her up to see if we could still come to see her on our last day in Hanoi. She turned out to be equally welcoming then as she was the first time we met her.
The boys and I spent half a day with Hien during which time she patiently guided both Nikola and Maksim through painting their own first paintings. She even fed us traditional Vietnamese food served for the New Year. First, Maksim painted his piece with Hien’s guidance. Then, Nikola and she did a joint painting where he would hold Hien’s hand to draw an outline of his favorite subject (an elephant) but then he chose colors and painted between the lines. This process was enlightening because it was obvious that Nina’s interests and abilities were expanding right in front of my eyes. He is quite demonstratively proud of his new skills/accomplishments and he takes care of the fruits of his hard labor. He is now carrying his painting in his carryon luggage, talking about where he will have it placed when we get back home to Seattle. Oh btw, I forgot to add that Hien did not want to take a dime for spending half of her day with the boys, not even for her supplies. I keep saying ‘people everywhere are good people’ and Hien is definitely one of them.
It’s interesting how much can fit in a couple of days when whatever is on the agenda feeds your soul. Some days go by very peacefully but are not memorable (like that 2nd week in Hanoi when we were sick) while these last 2 days in Hanoi were full of action that will remain in our memories (and some on our walls) for a long time.