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Nikiski girl gets travel story published

Posted: Monday, June 02, 2003

"I was born in Vietnam. I mainly lived in an orphanage. I was sad living there. One day my new mom and dad and sister came. My sister, Juliette, brought some Barbies. I had never seen Barbies before. I had fun. We went on an airplane. It flew high in the sky. There was good food to eat. It was a long way to get to my new home in Alaska. I'm glad to have a new family and three new sisters. I miss Vietnam a little, but I like it in Alaska."

Sahfia Lan Hoogland

(Reprinted with permission from Highlights for Children.)

Sahfia Lan Hoogland of Nikiski became a published author this month. Never mind the fact she is only 6 years old.

The home-schooled kindergartner had a short, factual story published in the June 2003 issue of Highlights for Children magazine.

The 57-year-old monthly magazine caters to children ages 2 to 12 and receives about 35,000 submissions from kids each year.

In December, the magazine published a request for stories of kids' favorite family trips. Eighteen of the stories, Safhia's included, were published in its June edition.

While many children wrote about both fun and educational vacations, Sahfia's story was a little different. She wrote about the family trip in which her parents, Steve and Kathleen Hoogland, and older sister, Juliette, now 7, traveled to Vietnam to pick up her and her younger sister.

Steve and Kathleen are the parents of four adopted children. Juliette is originally from China, and Amari, 4, is from Vietnam.

Sahfia and Jenavieve, now 2, are the newest additions to the family, both adopted from the same orphanage two years ago.

Though Sahfia was only 4 when the Hooglands adopted her, she remembers Vietnam, as well as her mother and biological sisters. But while she says she misses some aspects of her home country, she recalls being unhappy in the south Vietnam orphanage.

"I don't think they were close," Kathleen said of Sahfia's family in Vietnam. "Sahfia was more than ready to leave. She kept asking when her new mommy and daddy were going to be there."

When the Hooglands first planned the three-week trip to Vietnam, they already knew they would be bringing Sahfia home. They sent a photo album ahead, and when they arrived, Sahfia was standing at the gate ready to meet her new family, Kathleen said.

The three-week trip turned into five weeks, though, and the Hooglands also decided to adopt Jenavieve, who was only an infant at the time.

"We thought it would be nice to 'rescue' a second child," Kathleen explained.

Sahfia couldn't have been happier. Though she didn't speak English at the time, she and Juliette became fast friends over a stack of Barbies, and the Nikiski troupe quickly became her family.

She recalls sightseeing in different parts of Vietnam, as well as the plane trip home.

And she's thankful for the many opportunities here in Alaska.

"She would always say from the very beginning how much she appreciated being here with her new family and new sisters," Kathleen said.

In addition, Sahfia also is enjoying school (she now speaks fluent English, reads at a fourth-grade level and has completed second-grade math lessons), loving dance class and dreaming of becoming a doctor and ballerina.

"It's a nice place," said the friendly but slightly shy child.

As for the Highlights article: "I'm excited," she said.



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