I {heart} China

Politics aside, I {heart} China.

Our love affair with China began the moment we saw Claire’s referral. Was this country really going to allow us to become parents to this little beauty? Yes! And then again with Ren’s adoption, we were given another precious gift of life in the form of a brave and beautiful boy.

The beautiful country of China has provided Paul and me with some of the best experiences life has to offer, adoption and parenthood ranking highest on our list of gifts.

But it isn’t merely gratitude (of which we have plenty) that makes us love China so. And as much of a history and architecture buff I am, it isn’t that either. Nor is it the food or the tea, or the fascinating juxtaposition of modern and old.

It’s the people. On this, our most recent trip to China, it’s the people that stand out to me as providing the best experiences and memories.

Sure, there is the seemingly constant loud hoarking that always sent shivers down my spine and sure, there was some definite shoving and lack of manners in the extremely busy subway. But none of that was directed personally at me or my family so I do not take offense (although I do cringe even thinking of the hoarking). What was directed at us, when we had the personal attention of individuals we came into contact with, was only warmth, kindness and concern.

The best examples of kindness and genuine warmth I can offer are those that we encountered at our son’s orphanage and our daughter’s hometown with her foster mother. But those are blog posts in and of themselves and cannot be condensed so easily here. Instead I offer a few examples that I can more easily cite here, brief and simple experiences that are indeliby burned in my memory, photographs that were never taken but will stay with me always.

Walking through non-touristed hutongs, the faces of those we met would appear unfriendly at first. They seemed to have questioninng eyes and very serious, suspicious faces. But the moment I smiled and greeted each person with a friendly “Ni Hao”, their faces transformed. Each time. With each person. Suddenly their faces would break into a huge smile as well and their eyes would crinkle as they greeted us back. Then they would take in our entire family and they would often gesture towards Claire and Ren in acknowledgement or questions in their eyes.

Actually, everywhere we went we had those questioning gazes upon us and our children. I remember the curiousity about us on our adoption trips but I suspect this was somewhat different. These children were clearly not newly adopted; Ren and Claire were speaking fluent English, and hanging on to us like little monkeys. I suspect that families like ours returning not for adoption but solely for sight-seeing are more of a rarity and curiousity. But again, in the persistent stares, I did not feel unwelcome or any sense of malice. Rather, I detected curiousity and then amusement as the people watched our little ones goof around. Oh, and sometimes there was concern … concern that our children were cold because we didn’t have them bundled as warmly as the locals would have liked  😉

One day was particularly busy in the Beijing subway. I don’t know whether it was because of the upcoming holiday (tomb-sweeping day) or if we just happened to catch the busiest time of the day on one of the busiest lines. In any event, the subway station and trains were jam-packed, more packed than I had ever seen in my life. Making our way from one line to another (maybe a three minute walk normally) took us about 15 or 20 minutes of extremely slow shuffling, bodies tightly pressed together. Paul was in front of me and he picked up Claire and held her to keep her out of harm’s way. I would have liked to pick up Ren too to help protect him from the crowd, but my arms at that time of day wouldn’t have allowed it. Instead, I held his hand tightly with one hand while with my other, I held tightly to Paul’s backpack in front of me to prevent us from being separated.

Not much time had passed when I realized I wasn’t the only one protecting Ren from the crowd. Two young men beside me were helping to shield him as well. The men were probably in their early twenties and I was struck by their sweetness and concern for little Ren. In addition to essentially being human body shields, they also protected his face from protruding backpacks. Most of the time, one of the men had his hand on Ren’s back helping to guide him and keep him close to me.

In less busy times on the subway, Paul and I were regularly offered seats by concerned locals who gestured at the children. It was actually kind of funny because the locals were often quite insistent that we take the seat but our children didn’t want to sit, preferring instead to stand on the subway because they think it’s fun.

These are only a few examples of warmth but I think they really sum up what we felt repeatedly in China from its citizens: genuine warmth in general and love of children in particular.

***

Whenever Paul and I leave a travel destination, we always talk about the possibilty of returning someday – and in the moment, it always seems like a real possiblity. But in the case of China, when we leave, we know it’s not merely a possibilty that we will return: it is a certainty. We knew it when we left after each adoption and we knew it when we left this time as well. In fact, Claire and Ren have already provided us with the schedule: we are to return every four years. Sounds good to me.

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  • Wow, what a gift that trip has been! Who wouldn't want to protect and help those two cuties?!ReplyCancel

  • What an adventure…can't wait to hear more!ReplyCancel

  • I have to agree that the people there truly are amazing and wonderful people.

    I can hardly wait to read more about the trip!ReplyCancel

  • Rae

    There are so many things to love about China, but the people are definitely at the top of my list.ReplyCancel

  • A very touching story. I figured it would be so nice to adopt those lovely kids. I'm looking forward to your future posts. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Your (facebook) pictures are absolutely AMAZING Monica! They just made me ache to be there.
    I also ♥ China, and like you, have a tenderness for the people there that I can't even fully explain. I just do.
    You really must tell us more about your trip!! I am waiting with bated breath.
    J.ReplyCancel

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