Yingtan in the Year of the Dragon

On Friday we are going to China.

That sentence is deceptively simple, and belies all of the conversations, decisions, emails, and errands that went into making it happen. Back in the winter of 2010, when we were deciding where to spend our first year of Operation Hejira, we toyed with doing an extended period in China, but in the end chose Malaysia because it is warmer, and easier to manage as English-speakers, and doesn’t have the Internet blocking issues. But we were glad to be close to China and hoped to make a trip from Penang as a home base.

Four months ago we started seriously debating whether we would go or not. The last time we visited Lia’s hometown of Yingtan, we met her foster mother, who told us that she hoped we would come back for a longer time. Nurturing that relationship is important to us, and much more effective to do in person than through letters. We also wanted to do some research into Lia’s birth family. It is difficult to find those connections given the circumstances under which children are relinquished in China, but it gets harder the longer one waits.

The trip is costing us an extra chunk of money, but in the end it came down to the priority we place on deepening Lia’s attachment to her birth place, her family, and the woman who raised her for her first months of life. The bonus is that Lia’s Mandarin studies are really coming along, and a trip to China where she can show off what she’s learned and see the importance of being able to speak her birth language will be invaluable.

We are not travelling to Nico’s home town this time. Given the distance from Yingtan, the extra stress of another week’s travel under emotional circumstances, and the fact that we did not have a local contact there to arrange travel and guiding, we decided to leave that trip for another time. On the plus side, he will be a little older when that time comes (possibly in 2013), which may be better for him.

Actually arranging the trip involved finding a guide to act as our translator for the week and also book hotels, train tickets, and other sightseeing outings. We had a few false starts but at the last minute found a woman through the Yahoo group for families who have adopted from Yingtan. She was very responsive, and within a week we had booked our airline tickets and wired her the money for travel and guide fees.

The next big hurdle was getting our Chinese visas. We had to calculate the cost of rush fees vs. staying in Kuala Lumpur for a few days, and eventually decided on an overnight trip and paying for same-day service. At the last minute, our friends Colin and Tracy offered to watch our kids for us, so Shawn and I had an unexpected child-free 24-hour trip to KL! After the nerve-wracking process of assembling and submitting our paperwork, we were very happy to pick up our passports with those beautiful permission slips to visit.

Now all the arrangements are complete. We drive to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, then fly from the airport on Friday to Hang Zhou. A guide will meet us at the airport and get us onto our train to Yingtan for what is certain to be a memorable week.

I’m nervous. Every visit is momentous, of course (I wrote a 5000-word journal entry about our last visit with Mama Zhu, which only lasted a few hours). It will take a lot of energy, physical and emotional, to look after the kids and get to know Mama Zhu and do some research. But we are grateful to have this chance to visit China again, which I know many adoptive families wish for.

Be Sociable, Share!