Our goal with WACAP’s Impact Blog is to advocate for children in need of a family, show how together we are making a difference for these children, and share the stories of families as they are created and go on to thrive. This playful story by WACAP board member and adoptive mom Laura Templeton, recalls her trip to China to meet her daughter. Providing a glimpse into the experience of traveling, Laura reflects on one aspect that’s sometimes overlooked, especially when in process of adopting internationally: the delight that comes with taking time to investigate the culture around you.
Naturally, when my husband and I headed off for China, our sole focus was on meeting our daughter and bringing her home. Sightseeing was definitely further down the list. And making new friends wasn’t even on the list. As one of several families using the same guide service, we were pleasantly surprised to be plopped down in a group of five fun-loving, adventurous families who knew how to make an emotional or daunting trip in a non-descript city fun.
Much of our fun was meticulously organized by our guide extraordinaire, Wendy. Wendy took care of every detail of our adoption for us, down to ordering room service at the hotel and having cases of bottled water delivered to our rooms. As our guide, she introduced us to the colorful sights and sounds of the marketplace — pets, spices, silks. She led us through crowded jewelry displays and helped us bargain for Year of the Monkey jade pendants. Wendy personally inspected every pearl on the little necklaces we purchased for our daughters. What a privilege it was to know this attentive, caring person. (I would love to always have a Wendy in my life!).
However, some of the differently memorable and fun adventures unfolded when we were on our own—without the guiding hand of our wonderful Wendy. One night, our group decided to go out to dinner and set out in search of an authentic Chinese meal at a local restaurant. Without our guide to make recommendations, we bravely chose the first restaurant that caught our eye and were escorted to a packed dining room.
As newcomers to the traditional cuisine and also to the Chinese language, we took one look at the Chinese language menu and realized that to communicate, we needed to take matters into our own hands in a more creative way. With the blessing of our waiter and the restaurant patrons, we played “How Good is Your Meal?” with the rest of the restaurant guests. Encouraged along by our waiter, it looked something like this: I walked around the restaurant with our waiter and pointed at the guest’s plates. A round of cheering would erupt when I’d choose someone’s dish, and that menu item would be added to our order. When we’d been introduced to most of the visually interesting entrees in the dining room, our waiter allowed us into the kitchen. There, I pointed out some leeks, tomatoes and a duck hanging from the ceiling, and made the universal sign for “please whip something up,” not quite knowing what to expect.
The result was duck soup. There was no doubt about that, because of the webbed feet and beak floating in the bowl (i.e., a dish we’d later learn was a standard on many Chinese menus). But for those first few instants of culinary surprise and discovery, we knew we’d been given license to exchange our adult “international sophistication” for child-like delight. So we allowed ourselves a moment to “play and explore,” inspecting the floating pieces and posing with the beak — and to truly experience the evening, with wonder and joy. I can’t recall how any of the food tasted, but the dining experience was pure pleasure.
When you travel to meet your child, make sure to enjoy the entire experience. Soak up the culture so you can share it with your child in the future. Bring your sense of adventure, make memories, and find ways to enjoy what’s around you.
In what ways are you excited or anxious about traveling? Leave a comment to this post, or email us.