A Father and Daughter Make a Return Trip to
Return Trip Expectations
Wang Ya was the seventh and last child brought into the conference room in
To talk to Nora over the phone, she is indistinguishable from any other fourth grader in suburban
From the earliest age, we have kept Nora connected to information and experiences to preserve a link to her Chinese heritage. We’ve seen some parents provide quite a bit more than we do and some less. A return trip to
In 2004 we adopted Amy, now two and a half. Using the China-based guide who handled that trip, we created an itinerary that would bring us to the places that are important to our family’s adoption experiences – such as
I expected that Nora would be fascinated by the frenetic pace of the major cities and excited to see the most recognizable sights in
Did I expect much commentary and insight from Nora during this trip? Yes and no. I expected a running commentary, but not insight. She is bright and energetic but Nora is not highly introspective and contemplative. Overall, I was confident that Nora and I were well prepared for a great adventure – as long as she could handle the excruciating flights overseas.
Adjustments on Day 1
Breakfast did not disappoint. There were ecstatic parents, babies, and toddlers everywhere. We saw many older siblings traveling with their families. A recently adopted toddler with one arm fascinated us, while her mother juggled two older siblings and comforted the toddler effortlessly. An eager new father brought his guitar to breakfast to serenade his infant daughter.
Nora finally got to sleep and I got to thinking about our itinerary. Far too much of what we were planning was not really kid-friendly. Nora wasn’t showing fascination or inquisitiveness. Maybe she was just tired. I began to suspect that she might also be intimidated and uncomfortable. Did I not plan this trip adequately?
On the spot, I committed to myself to make any adjustments necessary to make this Nora’s trip, not my trip, or ‘our’ trip done my way. That meant that I’d have to be willing to spend a little less time on adult-level sight-seeing, be willing to adjust schedules and attempt to find as many kid-friendly activities as possible. We’d also likely have a little more room service and HBO than originally planned.
As it turned out, some of our fondest memories are from our evening wind-down time in the hotels. There were lots of movies on cable, including some that wouldn’t have been allowed at home. A few bad words or mature situations had to be rationalized, but there were only two or three English language channels to choose from. Nora learned the rules of nine-ball billiards by watching late night Star Sports coverage and really enjoyed the one-week-delayed
We were not allowed to visit the Wuhan Children’s Welfare Institute in 1995, so the ride through a dilapidated section of the Wuchang district to reach the orphanage was a first. A new orphanage building had been constructed in 1997 and from the pictures on the internet it looked much like a modern hospital. However, the shining white tile exterior belied the wear and tear inside that makes even new buildings in
We met two staff people who were nannies back in 1995. Nora felt uncomfortable by their attention and hugs – much like a child confronted by a distant relative who showers unexpected affection. We definitely sensed that the nannies were happy we could visit the orphanage. One of them pulled out Nora’s 100-day picture, a copy of the same picture we were given 10 years ago. She too had a daughter Nora’s age, who sent a small necklace as a present.
Up the Changjiang to Fuling
The river cruise was impressive in its natural beauty. Waking Nora at pre-dawn to see the gorges was not. Fortunately we met some other kids on the cruise, played card games and watched movies on our laptop. From Nora’s standpoint the trip was getting a little better.
On July 4th we visited the Fuling SWI, about one hour southeast of
Karen was curious as to why Nora and I we were on hand for their momentous family event and assumed it was a Gotcha Day for us too. After a quick explanation of our visit, I became an extra photographer for her and a new friendship started between the McGinty’s and McGuffey’s.
We all went back to the nursery area for pre-toddlers, which was filled with about twenty babies in wheeled walkers, making for a near comical scene as they pinballed among each other. Every nanny I encountered was recognizable from our prior visit, a great sign of consistent care. In addition, there was a grandfather-aged resident helping out with the children.
The nannies were getting six children ready to meet their new parents. Nora was beaming to see these healthy, happy babies and was further thrilled when a nanny handed her a baby to take care of. A half hour later the babies were with their parents, including Hailey Elizabeth AiJun Turnage, the baby that Nora held and played with. It was a pleasure to tell Hailey’s new mom Christi that we had lots of pictures and video of their new children getting ready. Nora felt a bond with Hailey and we plan for the girls to keep in touch in the future. I wonder what Nora might tell Hailey a decade from now when she is ten and Nora is in college.
Another new family friendship developed in
I escorted this large group into a local
Countryside and the Big City
Following our orphanage visit, we traveled outside Fuling to a small mountain village called Shanwo, which translates to “mountain’s nest”. My sister-in-law taught English in
Right now just remember you've been to this place today
I had felt prepared for our return trip, but now think I underestimated how ‘grown up’ our itinerary really was. Though pleased that I had quickly recognized that we needed more age-appropriate activities and entertainment, it took the good fortune of meeting families in Fuling,
Another differing expectation is an important one to consider. Never did I expect that new information about Nora’s health and care as an infant would be revealed, nor that the orphanage and children would be in so much need of assistance. The visit to the
I thought Nora would be intrigued by the vast differences in Chinese and American culture. Every day she saw things that were unique to her prior experience, but such sights didn’t make for a day of enjoyment and pleasure. Maybe she was a little young for the kind of visit we assembled. Certainly she absorbed a lot of information, but may have felt uneasy about how it related to her potential life without adoption. Maybe she just had difficulty talking much about it.
I’m still perplexed by Nora’s lack of commentary on the trip. She shares very little detail with family and friends, though just recently has opened up a little bit. I have been hoping that Nora will look back on this trip a few years from now and appreciate what she experienced and maybe share the feelings she’s having.
One of the people we met on the river cruise was Douglas Ching, a Chinese American from
“I've been there [Three Gorges] when I was 5 years old, when our family went from
But [the words for] Liu Bei pronounces like the back of a cow. I kept asking my mom what the back of a cow has got to do with a king? My mom sighed and said, ‘Son, some day in the future you'll understand. Right now just remember you've been to this place today’. Indeed, twelve years later, I finally understand what's going on when I read that famous book of Three Kingdoms at the End of Han Dynasty. And now, as our cruise sailed past
“Right now just remember you've been to this place today.“