Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Little Bit About Henry

Henry, our agency representative in Vietnam, keeps joking about there being a resemblance between An and me. Built like a pugilist, with the physical confidence and fighting spirit to match, and possessed of an irrepressible sense of humor, Henry is not exactly who you would expect to meet when in country to complete an international adoption. But he is exactly what one needs. He is utterly effective in the face of the Vietnamese bureaucracy, which is frozen in a lost Soviet-era time. When we went to pick up An's Vietnamese passport a few days ago, the clock over the desk was actually stopped at 10:35. Given the stale inefficiency that hung in the air, I wouldn't be surprised if it had been that way for days, weeks, or even years. But Henry is an equal and opposite force, making things happen wherever he goes. The man was born with the gift of gab and a preternatural ability to network and relate. I keep wondering how he ended up in this kind of charity work. It's much easier to imagine him managing prize fighters at a gym or running a car dealership.

The clerks behind the desks noticeably smile and become more animated when Henry arrives. One of the clerks took a look at An's passport photo and then looked across the desk at me and remarked to Henry in what I took to be some wry Vietnamese comment (that Henry later explained) that there seemed be some resemblance between An and me. Henry started laughing and asked me if I was sure this was my first visit to Vietnam. They both chuckled heartily at this and clerk cheerfully moved my paperwork to the head of the line.

It's his heart, of course, that drives him to work the systems to help these children find loving homes. He's devoted to all of them and we've been very grateful to have him by our side during our trip.

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