Our Trip to China — Nora’s Version

The following is a story Nora Groves wrote about her trip for the newsletter of the Southern California Chapter of Families With Children From China.

This summer I went to China!! China is so beautiful. I didn’t know it was going to be so pretty and so much fun to tour. I went with my mom, Martha, and my cousin Sarah, who’s 36.

We went on a big tour organized by Our Chinese Daughters Foundation. Jane Liedtke, the woman who started OCDF, has a daughter from China and wants adopted children like me to fall in love with China. The tour had four busloads of people. We were on bus C1. There were about 10 families on our bus.

I made lots of new friends on the tour that I still talk to. One, Kate, lives in Portland, Ore. Another, Elli, lives in Holland, Mich. Kate and Elli were my main friends I hung out with on the bus, but we played with mostly everybody.

I loved walking on the Great Wall. I thought it was going to be flat, but it was mostly stairs. It was very hard to climb. A picture of my friends and me at the wall shows us looking hot, tired and bedraggled (Mom’s word).

There were a lot of things that I imagined about China that did not end up being the case. I pictured China more clean, but it wasn’t. People just spit on the ground, and babies wear split pants so they can pee whenever or wherever they have to go. I hated the pit toilets because they were often dirty. But they were everywhere, so I did get used to them (sort of). At one place, we saw a funny sign, in English and Chinese, outside the bathroom (pit toilets). It had this title:

Notice Social Morality, Note Public Cleanliness Rules to W-C

The rules were very funny. Some of them are too gross to repeat here, but here are a couple of the tamer ones:

• Please don’t scribble carelessly on the walls.• Please save water and fasten the faucets after washing hands.

We visited a lot of places. My favorites were the Great Wall and the open market in Beijing. It was filled with all that you can imagine--antique slippers for women with bound feet, old coins, clothes, silk bags, fans and Buddhas. It was also fun taking the overnight train to Xian, where we saw the famous terra cotta warriors that had guarded the tomb of a dead emperor. We also visited a really neat giant panda research center near Chengdu and got to pose with a panda. And we saw Sichuan Opera at an outdoor theater, with face-changing and shadow puppetry.

Everywhere we went, people begged for money and tried to sell you stuff when you just walked around.

Every day, our tour guides gave us little gifts to put into the red silk memory boxes Jane had given us on the first night of the tour. We got tiny teapots, bookmarks, fans, pins, a Chinese flag, a stuffed panda and a kite. And they gave us a red qipao that we wore to a fancy banquet one night in Xian.

We kids mostly liked spending time with each other, but Kate’s mom decided that we should have at least 30 minutes a day of “mom time,” when each girl had to hang out with her mom. I was always glad when mom time was over.

One day, we all broke into groups to go to orphanages all over China. Elli was from my orphanage, along with two other girls named Emily and Emma. They were all so nice!

Our four families took two vans from Nanjing to Taizhou (in Jiangsu province), my city. It was so interesting to see my orphanage, the Taizhou Social Welfare Institution. We looked through our adoption files and then toured two rooms filled with babies. A woman came over to me and called me by my Chinese name, Tai Xiu. It turned out that she had been one of my caregivers when I was in the orphanage until my mom adopted me in 1994. My mom, by coincidence, had brought a picture of the same woman holding me in the Nanjing hotel where my mom met me. My mom cried when she saw the caregiver and showed her the picture.

After we toured the baby rooms, we headed to a restaurant for a banquet with the orphanage staff. On the way, the vans pulled over, and the orphanage doctor told us that we were across the street from the “finding location for Tai Xiu.” (I’m not even sure that was the right place!) He told us we could not get out of the van but could take a picture through the van window. The place is now a park, but he told us that when I was found there it was a grassland. Then, we drove by the finding locations for the other three girls. After the banquet, we toured a memorial to Mei Lanfang, a famous Beijing opera star who grew up in Taizhou. (Hu Jintao, China’s president, also grew up in Taizhou.)

I liked visiting the orphanage a lot. I communicated with the babies. It was fun. It brought up feelings, wondering what I must have felt like when I was there. As for Taizhou, it felt like home. I wish I could be there right now.

When we left Taizhou to go back to Nanjing, we had a hair-raising (Mom’s word) experience. The sky got black as night and it started to pour. The wind was so fierce that the rain was blowing sideways across the highway. A dozen times, we got stopped in traffic jams because trees had fallen across the road. We finally got to Nanjing but the traffic was still bad. Our driver got impatient and did a U-turn right in the middle of the highway. There we were, heading right into the oncoming traffic. Now, that was exciting!

All through the trip, the weather was humid, hot, smoggy and all sticky like. It was miserable. Luckily, our hotels all had nice swimming pools, and we loved cooling off at the end of a long day of sightseeing. Despite the weather, this was my favorite trip I’ve ever been on.

Overall, I loved our China trip!! I think all kids who were adopted from China (and even kids who weren’t adopted from China) should go to China and visit the Great Wall and all the other cool stuff. We can’t wait to go back.