A common question when I talk to people about our trip, "What's been the best part so far?" I've thought about my answer a lot because we have seen beautiful landscapes, historic sights and exciting cities. But my answer is simple: Seeing the friends and family that we haven't had time to keep up with over the years.
We spent Christmas and most of January with Hung's family in Houston. All of my prior trips to Houston adhered to a strict schedule: arrive at 9pm on Friday night, drive over to the Asian section of town for a Vietnamese lunch and shopping at the Hong Kong market on Saturday, another big lunch at home on Sunday and rush to the airport for our flight home at 3pm. This trip allowed us to relax and enjoy our time with Hung's family. We watched football games, cooked meals together, went for walks around the neighborhood, and just enjoyed normal day-to-day living with our family.
The rest of the trip continued to be filled with wonderful reunions. After Houston, we stopped in Dallas to visit with new friends, Shawn and Jen. We met Shawn and Jen while in Europe last November. Even though they are new friends, they invited us to stay with them, opening their home to us like we were their longtime friends. Their friendship is one of the gifts this year has given us.
Our next stop was Bartlesville OK--Hung's childhood hometown. In Bartlesville, we stayed with the parents of one of Hung's dear high school friends, Melissa. From the moment we arrived at Dan and Eva's house we were treated like guests at an exclusive bed and breakfast. Every morning, I'd wake up and join Eva in her morning exercise routine, after our exercise we'd head upstairs to be greeted with a full breakfast and advice on touring Bartlesville. I loved touring Bartlesville with Hung. Hung has been to my hometown many times and understands the special place it holds in my heart, however this was my first trip to Oklahoma and his first time back in over ten years. I treasure the stories from childhood that poured out of him as we drove around visiting the important sites like his elementary school, the tennis courts where he and his best friend learned to play, and the first house his family lived in when they moved to the U.S.
Enjoying the sunshine with Dan and Eva
Another highlight of Bartlesville, meeting Hung's American "grandmother", Odie McReynolds. When Hung's family came to the U.S. in 1975, they were placed on a military base in Arkansas. As refugees coming from a war-torn country, they needed help to get started in a new country and until they received sponsorship they would live in a camp on the military base. Luckily a church in Oklahoma had decided they wanted to help a family. When they first talked to the refugee coordinator at the military base in Arkansas, the church group said they had enough resources to help a family with two children. The refugee coordinator, a nice woman named Carol, said she had a wonderful family that she really wanted to help, but they had four young boys. The Church group was reluctant since they didn't know if they had the means to help a big family--four children would require a bigger house and more food and clothing. One woman in the church group, spoke up and said that they should try. That woman was Odie. Well, imagine everyone's surprise when four little boys, a dad and a very pregnant mom arrived! There would be five not four Bui children--a beautiful little girl named Carol arrived a couple months later. Odie more than helped out the Bui family, she considered Hung's dad her son and called Hung and his siblings her grandchildren. As we sat with her, she shared many stories about Hung's childhood with me. I was so moved by her outpouring of kindness. Odie is a woman I truly admire.
At lunch with Odie