I’ve just completed the most incredible book that’s left me yearning to pack up my family and move overseas…
The premise is this: Along with her husband, the author adopts her children from China. Years later, they return as a family on a radical pilgrimage of sorts, with the aim of immersing the children in their birth culture for a year.
Johanna Garton is a brilliant storyteller with seemingly endless volumes of inspiring life experience to draw from. Her prose exceeded my expectations, the sheer relatability made much of her chronicle almost deja-vu for me: I appreciated her adventure-seeking ambition, and her anecdotes from their time in China made me chuckle with fond recollection (see excerpt below).
I recalled passively reading a similar account back when we were in process with our own adoption, before being matched to Little Man. Now, as mom to my sweet son, I delighted in Johanna’s rendition with new eyes– though I’d wager it’d be touching even to those who are not adoptive parents.
Johanna’s my hero, or new imaginary best friend: To so value her kids’ heritage as to pack up and move to their country of origin is telling of her character and wisdom. This adoptive mom takes her role seriously.
I positively howled at this hilarious interchange, paraphrased from her book, wherein she bops between English and Mandarin haggling with a vendor:
Author: “Hello, Sir, I would like to buy that sugar cane from you.”
Vendor: “Hello, foreign woman. How much would you like?”
A: “The whole thing.”
V: “But this is a large branch. How will you eat it?”
A: “We would like to use it as a Christmas tree.”
V: “A what?”
A: “A Christmas tree. It’s an American thing.”
Author’s Son: “Mom! This is totally embarrassing. Can we figure out something else?”
Author’s Daughter: “Momma, I want the bigger one!”
V: “Why are those Chinese children speaking English?”
A: “They are my children.”
V: “What?? But they are Chinese. Hey, everybody! Look at this foreign woman with these Chinese children! She says they speak English!”
Crowd closes in…
Son: “Mom, we don’t need a tree. Santa can put the presents on the table.”
A: “Zip it, buddy. We’re getting a darn tree.”
Daughter: “Can we make the biggest tree EVER, Momma?”
V: “OKay, I will sell you this sugar cane, foreign woman, but it will be expensive.”
A: “How much? “
V: “Thirty yuan.” (Equivalent of approx. $5.)
A: “What! Too much! How about twenty-five yuan?”
V: “Okay, Deal.”
A: “Can you cut a few pieces off so we can make branches?”
V: “I don’t understand, but okay, foreign woman.”
Passerby: “Hey you. Chinese boy! Do you speak English?”
Son: “Yes, I’m from China and was adopted as a baby. This is my mother. I speak English and Chinese.”
(He rattled off the answers that he could say in his sleep because they’d been asked so much of him.)
Passerby: “Is that your sister? She is fat.”
Son: “Yes. She eats a lot.”
Vendor: “Here you go, foreign woman. How will you carry this home?”
Author: “I am strong. I can carry it.”
V: “Where is your husband? He should carry it.”
A: “He’s at home cooking dinner.”
V: “Hey everybody! The foreign woman says her husband is home cooking dinner!”
Crowd burst into laughter.
Son: “Mom. I’m soooo embarrassed. Let’s get out of here.”
Daughter: “Momma, that is the best tree EVER!
My own family was only in country for a month when we adopted Little Man, but from what we gleaned during our time there… this is quintessentially China, in a nutshell.
Do yourself a favor and click the link on the photo below to procure your own copy of the heart-warming read, Awakening East: Moving our Adopted Children Back to China.