Back to China

A Mother Takes Her Daughter Back to China

I’m the mom of a 12-year-old daughter from China and the author of two adoption-related books, Meeting Sophie: A Memoir of Adoption (2003) and Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China (forthcoming In October 2011). That book is the story of our first visit back to China since Sophie’s adoption. Now, three years later, we’re going back again—this time for six weeks. In this blog, I’ll be writing, with Sophie’s help, about our travels and about the issues that come with parenting an internationally adopted child.

My daughter is American, but she is also Chinese, and I’ve tried to recognize and reinforce both parts of her identity, but it’s hard to create a real sense of culture and heritage from available fragments: Chinese food, Asian markets, Chinese language classes at school, Chinese New Year and Moon Festival gatherings and culture camp. So when Sophie was ten, we registered for a two-week tour of China especially designed for adopted children. We did all the tourist stuff, climbed the Great Wall, took a sleeper train to Xi’an, saw the terra cotta warriors, and petted a panda in Chengdu.

We had a great time, but we were always tired, always rushing. Our favorite part of the trip was seeing her orphanage and birth village and meeting a man who’d once taken care of her. Our second favorite part was the occasional hours when we got to just walk up and down streets and look at things and watch people. There was never enough time for this.

And so now we’re headed back for six weeks, without a tour, without a group or regular guides or a schedule. We’re going to spend a month in Guilin, then join a language immersion camp in Beijing before making a brief visit to Sophie’s birth province and orphanage. Though the work I do in the summer is portable, requiring only a computer and e-mail access, I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, so this is a big leap for me. Sophie likes having things planned out, so this is a big leap for her. We don’t speak a lot of Chinese, but we hope to learn. We are mildly terrified. We can hardly wait.

Special thanks to Micquel Little who originally helped me post to the Back to China Blog at WordPress since blogging sites are blocked in China.