My eight year old daughter was born in Shantou and then adopted to the United States when she was just a baby. She is such an intelligent child, and started asking questions about her birth city when she was just three years old, wanting to know every detail possible. As most people who google Shantou know, there isn’t a whole lot of information out there, so I was unable to answer a lot of her questions. Finally, when my daughter was almost four, I decided to visit Shantou so I could learn as much as possible about the people and the city so that I could better answer her questions as she grew up. I remember vividly sitting in the Hong Kong airport holding a ticket that said “Shantou” and knowing I was about to get on a plane to see my daughter’s hometown for the first time. I was so excited.
The flight to Shantou was a short one, and from the airplane window I looked down and saw all of the farmland and green fields, and my heart started beating really hard because I realized that somewhere down on the ground were my daughter’s birthparents. How I wish I could know who they were so I could tell them she is the most beautiful and amazing little girl.
Coming through the security gate in Shantou when we landed, I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling thinking I was FINALLY there, and I am sure the guard thought I had real problems since I was laughing out loud to myself. And then I was actually standing outside, and I tried to memorize every detail so that I could tell my daughter, “I have been to your city and this is what it was like”.
I fell in love with Shantou on that first trip. I loved the busy streets and the interesting lights in Time Square. I loved all the red flowers by the park at the China Sea. I loved the embroidery shops, and all of the street markets selling fruits and vegetables. I especially loved hot pot and those famous Shantou beefballs! I really enjoyed all of the Kung Fu tea I was served. No matter which shop or store I went to, the tiny cups would be brought out and I would be invited to drink. I loved watching the steps to make this tea and was glad I bought a teaset for my daughter so she could try this special tea as well.
I was so blessed to be able to visit the orphanage to meet the staff who had cared for my daughter, and I was also invited to visit a Shantou kindergarten. We took a day trip to Queshi, and climbed all the way to the top and then watched in wonder as people strapped themselves to the cable line to head down the mountain. (we decided to walk down!) Everywhere I looked there were red poinsettia plants, which in America only grow in pots during the Christmas holidays. One of the most peaceful views we had was when we visited Shantou University and sat looking out at the lake.
It was so difficult to say goodbye to the new friends I made in Shantou on that trip, but I returned home to my daughter with photos and gifts and lots and lots of stories about her birth city. Anna is now SO PROUD to tell people she is from Shantou. She can look at any map of China and immediately point to Shantou and say “that’s my hometown”. I told her that I am so happy she is half American and half Shantouren, and she looked at me one day and said, “mom, I think you are half American and half Shantouren, too, since we are now family”. I agree with her. Shantou is forever in my heart, and I love meeting new people and discovering new things each time I return.