Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage
by Robin Munro, senior writer
For Shannon Landry – a 16-year-old Nebraskan girl adopted as a baby from China – life so far has mostly revolved around school and soccer, friends and family. Returning to China rarely crossed her mind, though she thought it would be cool, she says, to see where she was born.
But from the time she turned 10, her mother told her that one day, they would go.
That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.
“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”
Joining 21 other adoptees and their families, Shannon and her mom, Melanie, traveled to China on a Holt heritage tour. The adoptees – all girls from this country of the one-child policy – explored the land of their birth, together. They climbed the Great Wall and toured the Forbidden City. They learned to cook traditional Chinese dishes, studied calligraphy and honed their chopstick skills. On a cruise down the Li River, they saw cormorant fisherman and water buffalo. They traveled to a panda reserve, where some even held these squirmy, soft-furred vegetarians, subdued by honey on the paw. They biked and cruised and climbed through China, ending where they began their adoption journey – at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the southern city home to the American Consulate, where all adoptive families secure their child’s visa.
But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.
When Shannon visited her orphanage, she broke down in tears. “I got to meet the old [orphanage] director, which was really cool,” she says. “It kind of felt like I had a connection with her.” Shannon spent the morning at the orphanage, holding and playing with the children. She met children with special needs, a characteristic shared by many of those needing adoptive families in China. “That definitely impacted me the most,” she says. “That stood out for me and I think it did for a lot of the girls.”
Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible. Continue Reading »