Finding Peace in Hunan

During Holt’s 2013 heritage tour of China, adoptee Grace Fogland blogged about her experiences — including visits to her orphanage and finding site in Changde, Hunan. 

On the 2013 heritage tour of China, Grace met the woman who first handed her to her mother when she was adopted in 1999.

On the 2013 heritage tour of China, Grace met the woman who first handed her to her mother when she was adopted in 1999.

Wednesday, June 26, was a day of traveling on an airplane to my home province, Hunan. There were two other families with girls also from Hunan, so it was a smaller group that traveled all together.

The next day, the families split up to go to their respective orphanages and finding sites. My family and I spent three hours driving — in the pouring rain — to Changde, my home city. Since my original orphanage was torn down, we went to the newer orphanage that was built after I left. I met the director, Wang Guanhua, and assistant director, Ms. Pong. They had my file, and I had the opportunity to read it for the first time. It had my health record in it, as well as the pictures that my family had sent several years ago that showed me growing up over the years. It was pretty neat to know that they had kept the photos we sent them when I was a kid. The only other documents in my file were papers that confirmed my adoption. It was really cool to see them, though, since that is the only link to my health records when I was young — and essentially one of the only links to my first two years in China.

Grace with the orphanage director and assistant director, Ms. Pong, who handed her to her mother 14 years ago.

Grace with the orphanage director and assistant director, Ms. Pong, who handed her to her mother 14 years ago.

A wonderful chance encounter happened later during our meeting at the orphanage. We had prepared a photo album that had both old and recent pictures of my family and me in it, and when we handed it to Mr. Guanhua and Ms. Pong, Ms. Pong immediately recognized herself in one of the photos! She was the woman who handed me to my parents during the adoption

 Huddled under a raincoat, Grace and her mom stand in the same spot where Ms. Pong united the two of them 14 years ago.

Huddled under a raincoat, Grace and her mom stand in the same spot where Ms. Pong united the two of them 14 years ago.

process, while I clutched onto her for dear life. After 14 years of wondering who the woman in the photo was, it was almost surreal to meet her! Both Ms. Pong and Mr. Guanhua were incredibly nice, and after we signed their guestbook — which was red, China’s lucky color — she and the director showed us around the orphanage. Sadly, almost all of the children were boys with special needs. It was so sad to see them in an orphanage, but the people there took good care of them. The children really enjoyed the chocolate rocks we brought as gifts for them, and some of the kids kept coming back for more. The orphanage and the children reminded me of how lucky I am to be blessed with two wonderful adoptive parents.

After touring the orphanage, Ms. Pong accompanied my family to my finding spot. Originally, my family and I had thought that my finding spot was in some remote area by the river since we had hired somebody to find more information about the first two years of my life, but Ms. Pong told me I was found by the Poetry Wall. It was also by the river, but it was more populated, more beautiful and not as depressing as the original finding spot. The Poetry Wall is the longest poetry wall in the world, and it is filled with tons of Chinese poems.

It was so pretty, and it was amazing to visit the spot where my birth parents left me, and know that it was a peaceful and well-populated place.

Grace Fogland | Omaha, Nebraska

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