Director's Blog

Thailand mega-photo-post!

Our time in Thailand has been a blast. But it's been super busy. I'm here with my family (minus Kori who had to return to the U.S. for work), and with Carol Richardson, her daughter Emily, son Aaron, Emily's fiancee Zeb and their friend Joel. It's been great to see not only Tutu, the kids and staff, but also Tutu's sons Daniel and David.

I'll post more stories soon, but I'm sure you'll enjoy these pictures just as much or more!

"The rains came down and the floods came up..."

We are safe and sound in Phnom Penh, though you wouldn't know it from my blog posts, which have been non-existent over the last few days.

It's not that there's nothing to say, it's just that I've been going pretty much non-stop for 14 hours a day. Whereas it's usually just my family with me, this year I've also had staff from Asia's Hope in the U.S., a video team from Scarlet City Church and supporters from Columbus, Ohio to lead, guide and chauffer. It's been tiring, but also really exciting; I love introducing Asia's Hope and the countries in which we serve to "newbies." I helps keep my love for the people and places fresh.

Yesterday was an especially exhausting one. We got up, packed 9 of us in the 15-passenger mini-bus I've been driving around Cambodia and picked up the Biehn family from their hotel a few blocks away. 

I should stop here and point out that, even in the best of traffic conditions, conveying such a vehicle around Phnom Penh is stressful. It's enormous. The steering is imprecise. The shifter feels like a plunger in a bowl full of rocks. And the other people on the road -- drivers, cyclist, kamikaze motorbikers, pedestrians, stray animals and food carts -- don't really care that you don't know exactly what you're doing or where you're going. They dart in and out on all sides, swarming like a school of fish in a reef.

Yesterday, we didn't experience anything like "the best of traffic conditions." The neighborhood between our hotel and the Biehns' is apparently the site of some week-long royal birthday celebration, so most of the streets are closed, clogged with revelers or both. What should be an easy drive -- straight down this street, turn left on that one -- is always an adventure. But we made it. 

We picked the Biehn's up, and brought them to breakfast, after which they returned to their hotel on foot (rational choice on their part), my boys and one Scarlet City guy headed to the market via tuk-tuk, my wife and daughter returned to their hotel by some means unknown to me. I took the Scarlet City guys -- Danny and Janelle Jackson, Pastor Gabe DeGarneaux and his daughter Lilly -- to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

I've been to Tuol Sleng many times. I don't have the mental or emotional energy to process it again here on this blog, but it's a terrible place. 30 years ago, it was quite literally hell on earth: what the entire planet would look like if Satan was given free rein to twist the planet into his hateful image. Torture, dismemberment, murder, lies, violence, injustice -- all at a level that, even after hearing the testimonies, looking at the photos and reading the stories, is unfathomable.

I spent the morning trying to explain it all to 8-year-old Lilly. 

Explain it to an 8 year old? I can't even understand it myself. But I did my best. 

I talked about the American bombings that killed more than 100,000 Cambodian civilians, the U.S.-Soviet proxy war that used Southeast Asia as its gory chessboard and its government and peoples as its hapless, doomed pawns, the various internal power factions scrambling to take advantage of the chaos. And the evil. Behind it all was capital-E-Evil, Satan's greasy maw and bloody claws tearing, killing and consuming men women and children by the thousands.

We saw the actual instruments of torture -- whips, knives, ropes, flails, shackles, bedframes, buckets, pliers, wires -- all used to beat, maim, rip, shock, crush, drown and hang. We saw the skulls, the bones, the teeth, the clothes the hair. We stared into the eyes of the victims, meticulously photogrpahed and matched to forced, false confessions before being murdered.

And then we left. 

We grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe near our hotel, picked up the Biehn's and headed out of the city, over the Mekong to our beautiful new campus at Prek Eng. When we arrived, school was just letting out. The Asia's Hope School hosts about 140 kids, Kindergarten through 6th grade. Because many of our kids now attend public middle and high schools, about 90 of the Asia's Hope School students are "community kids" from the surrounding area. The rest are children who live at our five Prek Eng homes.

Shortly after we arrived, the rain started, scuppering our video shoot agenda for the afternoon. It came down in sheets. In buckets. In torrents. It rained so hard that our homes' front yards became ponds, our sidewalks turned into rivers. I think we may have actually had white water rapids in our school parking lot for a few minutes. It was beautiful; the rain knocked about 20 degrees farenheit off the scorching afternoon heat. It was also loud. Our homes all have metal roofs, so for a while there, it was like being inside a Tom Grosset drum solo. When it was all over and the water receded, the kids ran outside and picked up the fish that had failed to retreat to the safety of the nearby lakes, and the rest of us continued playing with the kids, transitioning from inside to out as the water drained.

At dusk, we piled into the van, exhausted, and headed back to the city. Once we got over the Mekong bridge, we saw that the city hadn't drained very well at all. Major intersections were flooded, and traffic was grinding itself into a maddening knot: thousands of vehicles honking, lurching, stopping and stalling at each crossroads, people driving on sidewalks, through yards, into around and over one another. What should have taken 10 minutes too more than two hours. When we finally got within walking distance of a restaurant, I gave up on driving entirely. Although it took me ten minutes to move 20 feet across two lanes of traffic (one 'official,' the other on the sidewalk), I forced my way onto the front lot of a store, gave the parking lot guard a handful of dollars, went to the counter, bought a moderately priced bottle of hooch that I didn't really want and asked the proprietress if I could park there for a couple of hours. She scowled at me. And then she smiled, shook her head in something like amusement and said, "okay."

We fought our way across the road on foot and collapsed into a Chinese restaurant where we proceeded to order way too much food. After two hours of eating, laughing, talking and drinking tea, we saw that the traffic had subsided, and we made our way back to our respective hotels.

This morning, we're taking it easy. For me that means that I actually get a shower, and don't have to meet anyone for any reason before 9:00am. We will probably take a walk this morning, maybe visit a couple of shops. After lunch, we're heading back out to the campus, hopefully to get some video interviews with Savorn, some of the kids and with me.

Please pray for our productivity and health. So far, none of us has prolapsed a colon, and I haven't hit anyone with my ungainly land yacht. Despite the challenges, we're having a great time. I can't wait to share some of the video with you. If it captures even half of the goodness that is Asia's Hope, my job of funding this beast should become a whole lot easier.

Back home in Cambodia

Over the last 48 hours, we've driven through mountains, walked in the pouring rain, flown across both the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Thailand, ridden in buses, vans and tuk-tuks -- and we're finally unpacked and rested at our hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

All of us are tired, most of us have flirted with some kind of sickness, and two of us are on the powerful antibiotic Cipro. We miss our friends and family in India, but we're thrilled to be back in Cambodia, which has become a real home-away-from-home for my family over the past few years.

We were greeted at the modest but tidy Pochentong Airport by Savorn, our National Director, his wife Sony and all of our Phnom Penh house parents. The Asia's Hope kids were all in school when we arrived, so our reunion with them will have to wait until tomorrow, but it was great to be hugged warmly and welcomed heartily by these people we've grown to love so much.

It's Addison and Jared's first time here, and I think they're just taking everything in: Cambodia can be a bit overwhelming to first time visitors, but heck, we just came from India. This place actually feels a bit serene compared to Mumbai, Kolkata and some of the other places we've passed through. 

By the time we got to our hotel, we were all ready for a nap, but I had promised Addison and Jared we'd go out to a tailor to get measured for some shirts (about 1/6th of the price we'd pay in the U.S.), so we left the girls behind and headed out via tuk-tuk to the Khmer Independent Tailor on Sihanouk Boulevard. We placed our orders, grabbed a SIM card for my phone and picked up some necessities (and a couple ice-cream bars) at Lucky Market.

Tonight we're going to have dinner with the staff, get a good night sleep and then spend the morning intoducing Addison and Jared to Phnom Penh. We'll grab a bowl of noodle soup, visit a tea shop and then spend some time at the ever-sobering Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. After lunch, I think we're heading out to Prek Eng to see the kids and visit the new campus for the first time since its completion!

The only things that could put a damper on our great times would be sickness...and traffic. I'm driving a huge van -- a mini-bus, really -- to accommodate our family, the guys and the team from Scarlet City that will be joining us next week. I've never driven anything this big anywhere, and driving in Cambodia can be zooey even in a small vehicle. Oh, and I don't have a Cambodia license. So, I'm praying for traveling mercies, and would invite you to do so as well.

I'll be keeping a few loose dollars on hand in case the coppers pull us over and trying to concentrate on the road and remembering how to drive stick. Here goes nothing!

Poised for success

We arrived at the Kalimpong Home 2 early yesterday, and got to see the kids eating their breakfast and getting ready for school. We're shooting a lot of video this year, and one of the four videos we're producing is focused on education, so we wanted to capture some of the "day in the life" kinds of images we'll need for that project.

For a home with 25 kids, two parents and "aunties," things went really quite smoothly. The children all enjoyed their breakfast together in the main living area, and then the aunties and parents helped the girls comb their hair, braiding it or putting it in ponytails. The aunties and mom, Punam, slicked back the boys' hair, and helped them straighten their ties Dad, Sunil, touched up all of the shoes with polish and a brush. The kids then piled into vans and headed off to school.

We then went with Nandu and Kumal, a driver from the church, and visited Jubilee High School, where 16 of our kids, mostly from the Kalimpong 1 home, attend. I was impressed by the school -- it's semi-public, and all of the courses are taught in English. The headmaster and the teachers seem highly qualified and treat the children firmly, but with respect. 

After hanging at Jubilee and taking videos and photos in our kids' classes, we headed to the Asia's Hope school for more footage, but also some fun and games. The school is in a rented building (we'd love to have our own building some day -- more on that later...), but is very well suited to the needs of the nearly 100 Asia's Hope elementary-age students who study there. 

We have a large concrete playground, about the size of a basketball court. This is extremely unusual in this part of India, where everything is built into the side of a mountain, and flat land is at a premium. We enter the campus as road-level, and then descend along a steep, curving driveway. The property consists of the playground, two wooden outbuildings and a large, three-story brick building. The school occupies the ground floor of the large building and one of the smaller wooden structures. Our Kalimpong 2 home occupies the second story, and the landlord's family lives on the top floor. (Whereas all of our homes in Cambodia and Thailand are single-family structures, I think that in Kalimpong's land-scarce and expensive real estate mountainside real estate market, building in this town will mean stacking our homes in the fashion of the locals.)

Even though Asia's Hope is primarily dedicated  to providing family-style homes for orphaned children, I really love this school. Our headmistress, Mrs. Wang Lamu, is an experienced educational administrator whose firm, yet grandmotherly bearing earns the respect and affection of our kids and staff alike. Our teachers are young and energetic, and so patient with our kids. 

And patience is definitely required in this job. As Mrs. Wang Lamu told us yesterday, when these kids first come to Asia's Hope, they come in as orphans. Some have lived on the street, some have been abused. Some have lived in bus stations, others have lived in brothels. Many of the children have no idea how to sit in a chair on their first day of school, some have only received their first-ever pair of shoes only days before. At first, reading, writing and 'rithmatic are simply out of the question. In some cases, they don't even know how to use a toilet -- they'll just wander outside to go potty; sometimes they'll even do it in the classroom.

But in a matter of months, the new kids learn from their peers, and from loving teachers and parents, and before long, they're actually learning. Our kids stay at the Asia's Hope school until they're ready to transition into local schools. And when they do, they're poised for success. Some of our kids at Jubilee High School are among the top in their class! It's amazing what progress a child can make when they're in a school and a home that is designed around their needs. 

So while politicians in the States claim to leave no child behind, that's a reality at Asia's Hope. Rather than forcing our kids into a learning environment in which they cannot succeed, we work hard to create and maintain one that ensures each child gets the care they need to learn and grow and thrive.

Like our elementary school in Prek Eng, Cambodia -- and unlike each of our children's home -- the Asia's Hope school in Kalimpong, India has no permanent sponsorships. We fund this school out of our general budget, the same budget we rely on for medical emergencies, home repairs, staff salaries and other recurring needs. Please pray for our two schools. And if you want to participate financially in the operation of these schools on a one-time or long-time basis, I'd love to hear from you!


As our days have gotten zooier, and my time alone for introspection scarcer, I've gotten a little behind on my blogging. I may be able to rectify that, but I can't make any promises.

Right now I'm running on the proverbial fumes. One of the only things I don't love about Northeastern India is the 4:00 a.m. sunrises at this time of year. It's been playing havoc with me sleep, and I'm almost always tired. Wah. Okay. I'm almost finished complaining: our hotel also lacks light-blocking curtains, so if I wake up at 4:00 am as I did this morning, there's no chance of me getting back to sleep.


At any rate, the first part of our trip was really about maintaining and deepening my family's and my relationship with Nandu, his wife and two kids. With more than 150 staff, it's impossible for me to have deep personal frienships with all of them, my affection for each of them notwithstanding. But it's essential that I stay close with my top guys in each country.

As you may know, relational equity and social capital are of infinitely greater value in Asian business and ministry than in Western. In the U.S., for example, you can fly into Boise, walk into a conference room at a Holiday Inn, be introduced to your new regional manager at 8:00 in the morning and launch into a frank and open S.W.O.T. analysis before you've finished you first cream cheese danish. Not so in Asia, where interconnected --  and to me often-incomprehensible -- systems of personal and quasi-familial relationships underly every interaction, business, ministry or otherwise. So for me, sharing a meal is a part of my job whether or not we "talk shop" or explain to each other the differences between cricket and baseball.

Nevertheless, there's quite a lot of work work that we need to get done in the remaining time in India. And that time is slipping by, tick-tick-tick. Addison Smith, my colleage and project manager, and Jared Heveron, a videographer from Scarlet City, one of our partnering churches in Columbus, Ohio, arrived on Monday, and Nandu and I spent the day driving from Kalimpong to Siliguri, and then after we picked them up at Bagdogra Airport, from Siliguri to Darjeeling to Kalimpong. 

Yesterday, Tuesday, we spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon at a dance and music recital that our kids had been preparing for the last few weeks. It was wonderful -- we have some unbelievably cute and talented kids -- but it was very long. Five hours long if you include the lunch. Jared got some great video, and I got a couple good photos as well. In the evening, we met with our Indian lawyer, who is helping us navigate India's byzantine bureaucracy.

We leave India next Monday, so we've still got a lot to do. We have four videos to produce. Thankfully, Jared's sticking around for our Cambodia trip as well and then returning to India with another shooter and some storytellers afterwards. I'm sure we'll get them all "in the can," but right now I don't see how. So today we're meeting with Nandu to go over the shot list and make a plan to get rolling.

We also have at least one more meeting with our lawyer, budget and fundraising discussions, photos of all our staff and kids, various documentation projects and other miscellanea. Not only that, I want to spend more time playing with the kids, chatting with the staff and hanging out at each of our 4 homes. Oh, and we need to look at land for a future capital campaign. So, yeah.

But things are going well. I really do believe not only in Asia's Hope's overall philosophy and strategy, but in Asia's Hope India specifically. Our location is fascinating, complex and of extreme strategic importance. We border China, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and are not far at all from Myanmar. We are at one of the world's great crossroads for migration, a dubious distinction given the illicit and exploitative nature of much of that transnational travel. We are in the nation with the world's greatest number of slaves, the most orphans, and much of the worst labor and sex trafficking. I could spend the rest of my life just focusing on India, expand Asia's Hope to 100 times its current size and impact and still have only scratched the surface. 

But God and his people are on the move in India, this vast, diverse country, home to five times as many people as were alive on the planet in the time of Christ. Our ministry is a tiny one, only a bubble on a great sea of need. But we're willing. And we're trying to move ahead with purpose and integrity. And that's what we've been called to do. And I'm so grateful to have all of you along for emotional, moral and financial support. This is all very good.

Holding up and heading on

Well, our brief time in Vietnam is coming to an end. It's been a good experience for us. By stringing together all of our "days off"  and putting them at the beginning of the trip, it's allowed us to ease into our time in Asia and get over jet lag before jumping right into ministry and work time. It also means that we're pretty much going non-stop from here on out, and that we won't be enjoying any buffers between the various legs of our journey. It's a bit of a gamble, but we're betting that it will work out okay.

Pictured left to right: Pak, John, Kori, Xiu Dan and Chien McCollum in Hanoi, Vietnam

In the past, we've gone almost directly from the last day of school to the first day on mission with no time at all for adjustment. This year, we've enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few days as a family, and I think it's been healthy. Vietnam is a special place to us, the birthplace of our love for and commitment to Asia. 

On our way back from breakfast this morning, we paused briefly in front of the former Claudia Hotel where, 16 years ago, a rust-red Chevy Suburban rolled to a stop and produced an old Vietnamese woman who, without a word, handed a tiny sleeping infant whose name, Chien, was written on his arm in blue ballpoint pen to a couple of mostly-clueless kids from Ohio who really had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It's almost unbelievable that Chien is almost an adult, ready -- at least in theory -- to navigate the world without us to guide and protect him. I'm not sure who's more unprepared for our oldest son to leave the nest, him or me. 

Ugh. Ouch.

But I digress. Tomorrow afternoon we head off toward India to spend a few weeks with our Asia's Hope family in India. Our travel schedule will be pretty intense until we reach Kalimpong -- Bangkok, Mumbai, Kolkata, Siliguri -- I think we miss a night's sleep in there somewhere. After a week by ourselves, we'll be joined for a couple weeks by Addison Smith, Asia's Hope's project manager and Jared Heveron, a videographer from Columbus, Ohio. Later, we'll be joined by other friends, colleagues and co-workers for various portions of the summer.

While in India, Cambodia and Thailand, we'll be interviewing, photographing, documenting. We'll be consulting, planning and strategizing. We'll also be laughing, singing and playing. If all goes well, we'll leave Asia with all of the documents, stories and hugs we'll need to keep the organization running smoothly until next summer's trip.

I'm sure that there will be hitches -- attitudes will falter, shots will be missed, phones will be stolen (as mine was last night), luggage will be lost and appointments will be unavoidably missed. But for now, despite a few minor mishaps, the McCollum family is holding up pretty well, and we're heading into the rest of the summer in good spirits and as much esprit de corps as a couple of teenagers, an old married couple and a fourth grader can be reasonably expected to possess. 

It's morning now. We leave in a few hours. But first, I'm going to head off to the stolen phone black market area of town to see if I can find and buy mine back, or at least get a good deal on one lost by some other hapless traveler.

Maintaining my sense of wonder

When Kori and I first visited Hanoi, Vietnam 16 years ago to adopt Chien, the city was unlike anything we'd ever experienced. We were impressed and, at times, nearly overwhelmed by what seemed like a constant barrage of sights, smells and sounds. Hanoi seemed a blur, a blender. Everyone was honking and shouting and bustling from before sunup to way after my bed time.

After 20-some trips to Southeast Asia, this place seems to have slowed down quite a bit. Compared to, say, Phnom Penh, traffic in Hanoi is downright orderly, and commerce is positively genteel. This morning, Chien and I were walking around the Old Quarter, and a motorcycle came buzzing towards us down the middle of the sidewalk. We stepped aside without thinking and Chien observed, "A few years ago that would have freaked me out." Yeah. Me too.

Breakfast in Hanoi

It would be easy to become jaded: "Oh. A motorcycle with four live pigs stacked on the back like firewood. Ho hum." "Guy has his arm inside a cow's rectum. Nothing to see here." "Weasel poop coffee and phở for breakfast. Again?" I'll admit that I'm not as easily scared, amazed or impressed -- I don't walk the streets, slack-jawed in a gobsmacked daze. But I've worked hard to maintain my sense of wonder.

I don't take any of this for granted, and I hope my kids don't either. Stewardship of this ministry is an awesome privilege. In just a few days, we'll be heading to India, flying into Mumbai, passing through Kolkata, driving through the Darjeeling foothills of the Himalayas and spending a few days with orphaned kids and the wonderful people who have rescued them and welcomed them into their family. I get to call them my friends. They remember me and I remember them. I'll get to watch them grow up, get married and have kids. That's my day job. 


I'm not sure how or why this happened, but I'm humbled and I'm still surprised that I get to represent Jesus -- and all of you -- in Cambodia, Thailand, India and beyond. 

This summer is just beginning. Soon, we'll be with the kids and staff. I'll try to keep the posts and photos interesting! Keep praying for us.

Good morning Vietnam

After nearly 30 hours in the air and in airports, we arrived in Hanoi at about 10pm last night. Even though it was dark, it was clear upon approach that some aspects of Hanoi, specifically Noi Bai airport, have changed  since our last visit 16 years ago. Last time, the airport was just a low-slung concrete 1960s-style box with a couple of runways and a dozen or so water buffalos lazily munching along the tarmac. 

Today's Noi Bai is a modern, glass-and-steel airport with airconditioned jetways and flat screen TVs. The intimidating middle-aged soldiers unhappily stamping huge ledger books with blood-red crests and seals have been replaced by bored twenty-something functionaries indolently scanning passports into modern PCs. It's all very efficient, but somehow disappointing from a travelogue standpoint.

We made our way through immigration and baggage claim with no trouble at all, and were greeted by a driver with "MR. JOHN MCCOLLUM" written on a placard. After a 40 minute drive on a modern interstate highway, we reached Hanoi. The outskirts of the city certainly start out a bit farther than I remember them, and I'm certain that there weren't nearly this many shiny hotels. There may or may not have been a shopping mall.

When we finally reached the Old Quarter, I smiled and sighed -- this is Hanoi as I remembered it: tightly packed buildings, each about 6 feet wide and 4 stories high; street corners filled with shirtless men sitting on red plastic stools drinking weak yellow beer and smoking white filterless cigarettes. The smells, the sounds, the signs -- some things haven't changed much at all.

We checked into the Hanoi Central Hotel, which is unsurprisingly a hotel in the center of, well, Hanoi. It's cheap, but it works. There's no hot water and the bathroom smells a bit like sewage, but the internet is fast and there are a couple of English-speaking TV channels. The location makes up for the simple amenities: it's just a block from lake Hoan Kiem, and is in the heart of the city's oldest neighborhoods. When we adopted Chien, we stayed just a couple of blocks away.

Chien and me at the Thuy Ta Cafe today.

Chien and Kori at the Thuy Ta Cafe, June 1998.

The boys went to their room, and Kori, Xiu Dan and I tried our best to get some sleep by around 12:30 a.m. Aided by Ambien, I got a couple of hours of decent shuteye. Thanks to jetlag, I was wide awake again by 5:00. At around 6:00, I took a cold shower, got dressed and grabbed my camera. When I got down to the lobby, the desk clerk was still asleep on the floor. He quickly got up and let me out, and I hit the streets. 

I headed straight for the lake and wandered among the hundreds of Hanoians exercising in the cool of the morning. The lake is an oasis of tranquility in the heart of the busy capital city. Young men jog and lift weights, children play badminton, and old women practice Tai Chi under the boughs of ancient willow trees. A red lacquered bridge stretches from the west bank to a tiny pagoda on an island in the center of the lake where tourists snap pictures and supplicants burn incense at the shrined dedicated to the magic turtle who once returned the sword of power to King Ly Thai To.

There are fewer cyclos and bikes and more cars. Most of the motos are fizzy, late-model Honda Dreams and Yamaha 125cc jobs, rather than the Super Cub C90s that used to burble around the streets, but little else has changed in the heart of the city. Tired yet mighty worker-women still waddle the sidewalks with heavy bundles of fruit on poles over their shoulders, men still chop glistening piles of grilled meatparts on heavy wooden cutting boards and hungry Hanoians of all ages still slurp steaming bowls of phở from metal folding tables at streetside cafes.

After locating and photographing the Thuy Ta Cafe where Kori and I used to feed baby Chien stacks of Ritz crackers and the Claudia Hotel where we first became a family, I returned to the hotel, gathered the family and headed out for breakfast. We found a tiny family-run restaurant serving the city's famous beef noodle soup, phở, and reminded ourselves once again why we don't bother ordering the stuff very often in Columbus, Ohio. If Hanoi wasn't filled to the brim with other, equally-tasty treats, I could eat a bowl of at salty, spicy and slightly-oily brisket-and-broth for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

We strolled around the lake, visited the pagoda and grabbed tea and fruit smoothies at the Thuy Ta -- that was about all we had energy for, and we have returend to our hotel for a couple hours of rest before lunch. By tomorrow morning, we should be mostly adjusted to the new schedule, and will be ready for full days of fun.

I love this place. I'm more accustomed to the heat, the pace of city life and the profound Asianness of the place than I was 16 years ago, but I'm not jaded. I've worked hard to maintain my sense of wonder throughout my 20+ trips to this part of the world, and so far, it's paying off with a great visit to Hanoi. 

Pak and Xiu Dan are enjoying themselves. Kori and I are definitely a bit emotional. Chien seems to be quietly taking it all in. "It's kind of strange being here," he said. Yeah. It is. But I'm glad we're all here together.