A few weeks ago, my husband and I boarded our plane headed back to the U.S. from Beijing. This was before the airline fiascos, so we weren’t cracking any jokes about being dragged off the plane. On the contrary, my husband and I got the entire three seat row to ourselves and had a happy, smooth journey. Beyond happy was my husband, who was filled with the excitement and anticipation of being home again. I however, was torn. I had missed my family terribly while in China as well as the various customs and comforts that we afford in our country. Along with my carry-on and personal item, I brought disappointments and regrets, but also dear memories as well as a more founded fondness for the country where I was born.
Before living in China for an extended period of time, the longing for knowledge surrounding my birth and abandonment, “lost” culture and heritage was always shrouded in mystery and aroused mixed emotions. The romanticism with which I associated all things China with, slowly faded, though not entirely. I still value the country for her symbolic “birth” to me and for the ethnicity which I inherited. My history is not complete or true without her. But I now see her more in the light, with both her virtues and flaws.
We’ve been settling in and adjusting to our post-China life and I finally feel ready to unpack the events of the past eight months. I’m sure that I will need to write many more posts to unpack my journey in Wuhan so this is just an introduction:
I was able to return to the orphanage where I lived after I was abandoned. Much had changed, so much so that at first glance the train station where I was abandoned and the orphanage barely registered on my “emotionally significant” meter. Of course, I didn’t expect for things to be frozen in time, exactly as they looked in 1993, but in way, I had wanted them to be. I didn’t know what to expect. Additionally, I had dreams and visions of how this first visit back would go. But things didn’t occur in slow motion or strike me to the core, as I thought might happen. We toured the orphanage, made some contacts, and hoped to be sent more information. The visit was surprisingly casual.
Obtaining documents and records proved more challenging than we expected. Chinese-speaking friends of our played a big role in helping us get those records. What I hoped would be a battle worth the fight, a wait worth the anticipation, turned to disappointment. My file didn’t contain the note that orphanage officials had told my adoptive parents about during their visit. I wanted to possess the note that was supposed written by my birth mother giving my name, birthdate, and asking for someone to care for me. The note which held the information for the narrative that I clung to all my life. Now I face the question of whether or not that note ever existed. I’ve heard that orphanages may invent such stories for various reasons. I’ve also read that orphanages may immediately discard notes and any other personal items attached to a child when found.
My disappointment didn’t mark my time in Wuhan or in China in general. I was glad for the opportunity, for having been able to visit the city where I lived for a few months, and most for the people who showed us such kindness and consideration and took special interest in helping me on my journey. Some went through great lengths to assist us. Knowing them and sharing their friendship was the biggest take away.
It hasn’t been too difficult, coming to terms with the lack of information. I won’t consider my search over but I also don’t rule out the possibility that it just may be. If and when a time comes, an opportunity presents itself, I may go back to try elsewhere and other avenues. For now, I am perfectly content being home, proudly living the life that my birth parents sacrificed for, and always praying for them and hoping for their better life too.