Happy New Year!!!!!

Happy New Year!!

What a year it has been for the Malkowski family.   Funny how things can change in such a short time.  I still remember last Christmas with our usual rushing about and preparing for the holidays. 

Caroline and I were starting to feel the strain on the long wait to adopt our Sophie.   Would this chapter of our life happen or not??   Then we both went back to work and the boys back to school.  Who knew that in a few short days we would get the ‘call’ from TDH.   Which by the way was a bit anti-climatic, since I was sitting at my desk in an cubicle surrounded by co-workers.   Not the time or place to rip out a yell or roar or scream to welcome such news.   That call started the ride of ups and downs of getting ready for to bring Sophie home to us.

In the span of that year we traveled to Asia, meet a lot of nice people and traveled with a nice family from BC.    Plus had a major reno done on our house.  At least I feel changing all the windows is major reno.  Now that we are deep in the middle of a cold snap we do notice how so much better these new windows are.  

We still have some major changes happening.  Our boys are working towards their brown belts in jiu jitsu.  It is really cool to see how technical their ground game is getting!!  Although their martial arts strikes are just as good!!  As well, both boys will be learning to SnowBoard at our favorite hill in the ottawa valley.   Lucas is so exicted to snow board and has already picked out a couple boards that he would like to have as his own.   Sophie we be taking up swim lessons, as she just adores water.  

Caroline will be ending your leave soon and returning to work.  This will bring on the joyful chaos that every parent of a family of 3 encounters with drop off and pick up and after school activities.  

 

 

 

 

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Flights

At Customs and Immigration desk we encountered our first bump in our travel. In my rush after the china air desk, I had failed to notice that I was missing a passport. I was missing Sophie’s green passport. The Security Officer was quite concern that we did not have the correct travel visa. Now Caroline and I were feeling the stress of the moment. I made a mad dash back to China Air, where the lady had Sophie’s vietnemase passport with visa. When I got back to the security check desk, I was met by 3 security officers who all had to validate that the green (Vietnam) passport was authentic and valid. We were cleared to go. That was a bit stressful experience for both Mom and Dad.

The shops past the security point was nice and it gaves a welcome chance to find some last minute things that we had forgotten to get. Plus I was able to convert the last of the Dong, as I was not sure if TD bank would convert it for us when we arrived. We met a mother and daughter from Vancouver who were traveling back home. It was the daughter first time back to Vietnam as a teenager and it was interesting to her talk about her experiences in Saigon, but she misses Vancouver.

Our flight from Vietnam to Taipai was nice. Sophie was really good on the flight and slept most of it. We had managed to give her meal in HCMC airport prior to boarding. What really helped us on this trip was the fact we got bulk head seating for us. We also managed to get bulk head seating on the flight to Vancouver. That extra room was nice for Sophie to move between us and stretch her legs out.

You can not imagine what a sense of joy we all felt when we landed in Vancouver. We are back on Canadian soil. We had just 2 more flights till we were home. Now we had to clear customs and make our way to our next flight. We got to try out the new CBSA automated kiosk, but I am afraid that it did not recognize Sophie’s passport. This meant that we had to see a CBSA officer to be cleared through customs prior to entry. Off to the Westjet counter to get our next boarding passes and check our bags again.

Our next little bump in our travels was passing security at the Vancouver airport. I had lost my boarding pass in the confusion somewhere. Caroline and the kids were cleared through security and I was stuck on the other side of the scanning machines. Here I go again making a mad dash to the westjet counter. The Westjet agent was very helpful and managed to fix a few issues with my boarding pass and print out our boarding passes for the Toronto to Ottawa flight.

Our time on the Westjet flight was amazing. The staff was so friendly and helpful on both WestJet flights. Plus it helps that Sophie was flashing her killer smile all the time. The service was above and beyond. In fact Sophie got her first set of ear phones/plugs and they were pink with the WestJet logo on them. Our Ottawa flight was short but a bit intense. It was our last flight and everyone was tired of flying. Especialy mom and baby!!!! Sophie could not find a position and she wanted to be in mom’s arms only. It did not help that the flight was delayed by 25 minutes as the engineers try to resolve a problem with the hatch. We were late, but we made it home!!!

Our Amazing race was over and our finish line was the familiar Ottawa airport……

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Today is our la…

Today is our last day here in Saigon and Vietnam, the birth country of our daughter. As Phienas always says on Phineas and Ferb, ‘What are we going to do today??’. How will we spend our last day in Saigon?? Well can not think on an empty stomach time to head to the restaurant for our last bowl of Pho and a plate of bacon. Yes an interesting mix, and a blending of two cultures I would like to think. The kids went to play in the hotel playground and us parents try to map out the day. We started off with a swim after breakfast, a good way to say good bye to the hotel pool.

After our swim we got ready and grabbed a cab to visit the Tax Center for our last time. We needed to grab a few more supplies for Sophie for the flight and when we are back in Canada. We could not pass up the chance to get a few more pokeman from the toy sections, so much cheaper then Toys on Fire.

Lunch time at the Diamond center where we will have our last meal in Saigon at Pizza Hut. Today was a strange day at Pizza Hut, the place was packed and the staffed were so juiced. A couple times they attempted to server us someone else’s order. We manged to get through lunch with left overs for the boys to enjoy on our flight.

I can not really say we remember much at the hotel, as it was mad scramble to get our bags packed. We all did a once over to ensure that nothing was forgotten and we called to have our bags taken downstairs. After we had settled our bill with the hotel we were hoping to see our favorite Front Desk Agent. She had mentioned that she was going to be done by 2pm, but we were luckly to see that she stuck around and popped out. Sophie and she had bounded during our stay here and we always made a point to come and say hello. It was an emotional good bye for all us and Sophie got a good bye hug from our new friend.

The drive to the airport was our usual adventure through the choatic streets of Saigon. Where we arrived safe and sound at a very jam packed entrance to the airport. I swear I have never seen so many people outside waiting for family and friends. We were warned that we may encounter some issues when we attempt to travel with Sophie and were expecting a few bumps along the way. At the China Airline desk the lady had to talk to her supervisor a few times, but in the end we were cleared to travel with Sophie. I grabbed our passports and boarding passes and then headed to security. First washroom breaks. A very important step as some bathrooms we encountered were a bit interesting (train station comes to mind).

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Lions, tigers and bears oh my!!!

Sunday

We had a lazy kind of day. As a family we tried to tend a museum, but we discovered that most museums are closed on Sunday. Back to the hotel for some pool time with Sophie and the boys. In the afternoon I had an afternoon with baby girl and it was caroline turn to have quality time with her two favorite guys. She took them to see Ice Age 4.

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Monday

We decided to try to see the zoo again. A much better day to view the zoo. No crowds and it was a quieter day. The boys got to see more animals. Although it was a bit of a warm day.

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This is one interesting place, the Saigon zoo. But you can not go wrong when the admission is about $5.00 total for the entire family. We managed to see lions, tigers and bears oh my!! Heck we even saw a Komodo dragon.

Tuesday.

Final day to view the sights of Saigon. First stop was the Norte Dame Cathedral. A stunning building on the outside.

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Not so visually inspiring inside. But we did a take a moment as a family to light a candle and say a little prayer for Sophie’s mom.

Across the street was the Saigon post office. Another building that was built during the French colonial years. Inside we were luckily enough to obtain a collector sheet of stamps in the zodiac sign that Sophie was borne under, year of the cat.

With the help of the local traffic police they flagged down a taxi and we were off to our next stop, Ben Thang market. Along the way we passed by the reunification palace. The market is a place to experience. I am afraid that the boys got more then bargain for. They ended up getting hugs from the sales ladies. We managed to cut a few deals for the items we got. If you love haggle, this is the place to shop. The boys are so keen on the market, but to their credit they kept their cool. Inside the market was hot and Caroline was really feeling the heat with a very tired Sophie in her arms. We had to cut our shopping early as all of us were melting.

When we got back with a very upset Sophie we found a busy apartment, as we had 5 workman trying to fix our AC unit in the main bedroom. With Caroline trying to console a raging Sophie, in the other bedroom, the workman worked a bit faster and got our unit repaired.

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Trains

As mentioned before we had taken the train to our resort vacation. I really feel the whole train experience needs it’s own post.

On a very early and warm morning we meet with the other family and booked two taxis for our trip to the Saigon train station. As we were driving I was wondering what to expect at the train station. Would it be like Toronto’s union station or something similar. Then I got pulled out of that thought as I started to see the how the city wakes up. The streets were filled with scooters and cars racing by. The shops were already open and the first customers were seated and enjoying their morning pho with ice coffee. Smaller cart vendors were selling French bread, sticky rice, and various other dishes that I could not make out. We drove by a city park that had an oval type track on the outer edge of the park. The cool part was the park was walled as well. People were already walking or running around the track, getting their morning workout.

When we arrived to the station it was busy with the rush of people needed to travel somewhere. As we pulled up we were directed to a placed to park by these gentlemen that acted like air traffic controls. We departed our taxis in our panic rush, as other taxes with passengers were trying to pull in as well. The overall station was not the grand station I was expecting. It was a long narrow building with the two stories. The locals vendors were selling their various dishes as well.

We managed to get our bags out and out of the oncoming flood of taxis. Caroline and the boys moved up the side walk and I went to see if I could lend a hand with our friends exiting their taxis. When we got to the side walk Caroline and the boys were surrounded by the locals. Caroline and the boys blond locks were causing quote a stir. I know my receding and grey flecks hair was not having the same reaction ( I am not ready to say that I have grey hair yet).

For 6:30 am the station was loud and packed. The press of people shuffling by was astounding for such an early morning. After a bit of time we headed to the platform to find and board our train. It was really strange how most of the staff knew what train we were on with out looking at our tickets. What was giving us away, oh yea we were going to a beach resort town that most western people go to.

At the train we got the kids and the moms on board. Then we struggled to get our oversized luggage onto the train and stowed somewhere safe. I was on the platform for a few minutes watching our remaining stuff, hoping that the train would not pull away with my family aboard. That did not happen and I did manage to get on aboard with all our stuff. We sat down in our seats and waited for the train to go. At this time we attempted to feed Sophie and try to get her to nap. Poor girl had other plans and napping was not on her list. Well at least after another hour of riding before she finally fell asleep.

The distance to our beach resort is only 80 km away and back home that is easily done by car in about 90 mins. By train it takes an avg 4.5 hrs. The train ride passes by some very lush juggles and wooded area. But you have to pass through some densely populated areas first. Small shanty town homes on the fringes of the big cities. With some of these structures built close to the tracks.

Once we past Saigon and the surrounding towns we were into some lush juggle area intermixed with farms. They use every piece of available land for their farms, even the side of mountains. At one point we riding past an area that recommended Caroline and I of a sugar bush. Trees tapped and pails collecting sap. We discovered later that they were collecting sap from rubber trees. Near our stop we started to notice these strange and small trees. They were growing dragon fruit, our resort always had some laid out during breakfast (they were yummy).

Our return journey was basically the same except that we had managed to upgrade our seats. We also discovered that sometimes having the seat number does not guarantee you will have that seat. Another family had taken over quad of seats that we had tickets for. But they quickly changed their seats when Caroline and Sophie arrived. The family beside us were quite nice during our journey and they shared some of their food with us during our train ride. The boys managed to make friends with a cute vietnamese girl. She came by to visit often and share her snacks. The boys in turn shared some of their snacks with her.

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Canadian eh!!

On July 19 we official recognize Sophie as a Canadian citizen.

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With the two families in tow we went to the Canadian consulates to pick up Sophie’s and Ethan’s Canadian passport. After that errand was done us two dads went with Loan to get our children’s vietnam’s passport.

Now it is official she is ours and a Canadian citizen!!! Baby girl get ready for our Ontario winters.

Our return flight is booked and we should be back to Ottawa airport on thursday am!!! I know on that day we are off to buy a high chair for Sophie, maybe a Starbucks for Caroline and I.

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Just a filler

Here is a filler post that is more of a photo diary of random shots enjoy.

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The boys are enjoying pho for breakfast.

The boys sharing their ice cream with Sophie.

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