By Laura Templeton
Twelve and a half years ago, we adopted our daughter Anna from China, with the help of WACAP. We promised her that we would visit China once she was a teenager. That’s how we found ourselves checking into a hotel in Nanchang, China last month. In eight hours we were going to visit the orphanage and the place where Anna was “found” 13 years ago on a street near the orphanage.
We had been looking forward to this trip for many years, and I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. We invited all the other families whom we adopted with to join us, and one of them was able to travel with us on the emotional journey. We were thrilled to find that our original adoption guide, the fabulous Wendy, was still working in the area and was going to escort us once again. Even after 12 years, Wendy remembered all our names, where we worked, what we like to eat. She was the ultimate fixer, facilitating every detail of our days. And that’s exactly what I wanted for what would certainly be a very emotional trip.
When you’ve hardly slept for the past 36 hours, your emotions can be a bit dulled and your head a bit fuzzy. Back home before the trip, we prepared and talked as a family about Anna’s finding place, and I had moments where I found myself teary-eyed sitting in my house in Woodinville, WA. But as we arrived at the bustling street corner and climbed out of the van, we were all surprisingly calm and non-reactive. And exhausted. Where was the emotion I had surely expected?
The emotions, as they often do, came a little bit later.
In fact, the totally unscripted moment that unfolded next was the highlight of our day. After we left the finding place, we stopped to purchase diapers and formula for the orphanage. Leaving the store, we noticed we had attracted something of a crowd. The crowd followed us to our van, where they peeked in to catch a glimpse of the foreigners. On an impulse, we decided to step out and meet the growing crowd of curious, friendly locals.
We spit out the few Chinese phrases we had learned, “My name is … I am the mama… I am 13 years old.” The crowd was several people deep now, and they were all smiling at us and giving us a thumbs up.
We shared photos from when the girls were babies — the crowd had their cell phones out taking photos of not just us, but also taking photos of our girls’ baby photos. It was such a fun, spontaneous interaction and we were so touched by the warm reception these total strangers gave us. And there it was…standing in a street in Nanchang, China, we were wrapped in a welcoming hug from my daughter’s hometown.