Just over nine years ago, my wife and I traveled much further than we ever had before. Growing up, my family did not stray much beyond the metropolitan New York City area - the Catskills were the limit. My wife's family would go to Maine and, occasionally, Canada as well. About 15 years ago, we fell in love with the California coast and the beautiful ocean sunsets. In December 2005, we were on our way toward building our family via adoption - instead of flying from one coast to another, we would be going to the other side of the world.
Our older daughter will turn 10 in a couple of months. She is from the Chongqing area, one of the largest municipalities in the world, but which fewer people have heard of compared to Shanghai and Beijing. We would return around the time of the Beijing Olympics in the summer of 2008, as we adopted our second daughter, but stayed away from Beijing, spending almost two weeks in Guangzhou, which was once known as Canton, the area from which the Cantonese language and cuisine originated. Guangzhou also is home to the U.S. Consulate, and was a required stop as well in 2005. Both times, we spent about two weeks in China, absorbing the culture, the sights, and the people. In 2005, our itinerary took us to Beijing, then Chongqing, then Guangzhou, connecting on the return to New Jersey in Beijing. In 2008, it was simply Hong Kong to Guangzhou, then the reverse on the return.
It feels like it was just yesterday that we were there, but it has been 6 1/2 years since the summer of 2008, and 9+ years since December 2005. Besides the wonder of our growing family, many of the sights and sounds were amazing and, sometimes, surprising. In Beijing, a very historic city, you would see ancient pagodas side-by-side with satellite dishes, hutongs (courtyards with surrounding residences that tended to be quite old) and skyscrapers, and world-famous historical places such as the massive Forbidden City. The Great Wall, part of which is just outside of Beijing, is even more breathtaking than one can imagine, but one surprise was seeing road signs everywhere in both English and Mandarin .
Chongqing is an amazing city. Not as well known as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, and other places, its vast metropolis is home to around 30 million people. Rice growing on hillsides contrasted with skyscrapers. The famous Yangtze River, as well as the Jialing River flow through Chongqing. Although Chengdu is relatively close and best known for pandas, the Chongqing Zoo nonetheless had a wonderful panda exhibit.
The Pearl River, another major waterway, flows through Guangzhou. At night, the river is lit up in a bright display of colorful lights. The traffic on the river seems almost nonstop, perhaps not surprising given the proximity of the South China Sea, an important trade route. Guangzhou also is extremely close to Hong Kong, one of the world's major financial markets.
Speaking of Hong Kong, our stopover on the way home to New Jersey was short but memorable. Not knowing if we would ever be able to visit again, we stayed two nights at Hong Kong Disneyland. Rain kept attendance down, and bonding with our new daughter actually was easier in this fun setting. The park was much smaller than the Orlando parks, but it was nice seeing that there was so much in common with audiences, whether in China or the USA or France or Japan. The one delicious surprise was the food at the Disney hotel. Tourists from many different Asian countries liked to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, so the cuisine reflected that as well - a mix of flavors from China's provinces and nearby neighboring countries.
We would love to return to China someday with our daughters. It is an amazing country with amazing people, and an integral part of our daughters' heritage. But it is also imperative to see things through the perspective of the adoptee, to understand the questions they may have and their emotions as well. These emotions may vary from individual to individual.