Adopted RNR student and parents explore China’s culture

ON+CHINESE+SOIL.+Emma+Baker%2C+center%2C+a+student+at+Robinson+Middle+School%2C+traveled+with+her+parents+to+China+to+learn+about+her+heritage+this+past+summer.

Courtesy of Stephen Baker

ON CHINESE SOIL. Emma Baker, center, a student at Robinson Middle School, traveled with her parents to China to learn about her heritage this past summer.

Kaitlyn Burke, Staff Writer

Emma Baker is a student at Robinson Middle School and the daughter of Sevier Teacher Stephen Baker. She was adopted from China as a small child. This summer, she and her family went back to China to discover her heritage.

When they got to China, Emma was happy to be back where she was born since she was away for so long. When she was a small child, Emma lived in an adoption center. There, she met her Chinese sisters, which are not her biological sisters.

“We adopted Emma from the country of China in February of 2007,” Emma’s father, Stephen Baker, said. “We have remained close with her ‘China sisters’ and their families that we originally adopted with in 2007. Every other year, we have had a reunion of most every child that was in our travel group.”

Emma’s parents made some lifelong friendships with the parents of the other children who were adopted at the same time as Emma. They were all in the room together when their new children were placed in their arms. This moment created a strong bond between the families.

“We have kept in touch with those families, and have often talked about taking the girls back to China for a heritage trip when they turned 13,” Michelle Baker, Emma’s mother, said. “All but 2 of the families were able to go, and we scheduled the trip using the same tour company.”

They had to make a lot of preparations for this trip, including making sure that their passports were up to date, packing American money, and booking and planning the flights.

The longest flight was 13 hours from Detroit to Beijing.

“At first the voyage to China sounded unbearable because of its length,” Emma Baker said. “That flight was the worst part of the trip for me because of the lack of movement. The time difference was also a difficult part of the trip because China is 12 hours ahead of us.”

The Baker family stayed in China for 12 days and visited 7 cities. The majority of the trip was spent going to more touristy locations and hearing about the history of each location. They visited the Great Wall of China, the Xi’an Old City Wall, a Panda Reserve, took a river boat cruise, went to a few different shows and had the opportunity to shop at most places.

Wow who would not want to be in there shoes Visiting 7 cities been there for 12 days there trip sounded awesome they got rejected from eating  because of their stomachs it would have given them food poisoning

“We did the tourist thing and hit most every hot spot in China,” ??? said. “We hiked The Great Wall, walked through The Forbidden City, rode on the Old City Wall in Xi’an, saw the Terra Cota Soldiers, fed pandas, ate authentic Sichuan food, cruised the Li River and saw the amazing karst formations.”

Emma Baker fell in love with the history of China.

“[The historical places] were surreal because they are thousands of years old and I had learned about them in world history this past school year,” said said.

Michelle Baker agreed.

“I have a deep and abiding love for China and its people,” she said. “If not for China, I wouldn’t have a daughter. I would say that the history is amazing to consider. In America, we have a history of less than 300 years, but China has a history of more than 2,000 years.”

The Chinese treated the Bakers with respect and treated them like one of their own.

“The villagers wanted to take pictures with us and shake hands even though none could speak English,” Stephen Baker said. “We were the first Americans they had ever seen and one of the first visitors they’ve had in over 50 years. They came out by the bunches and were as excited to see us as anyone I’ve ever been around. Each one of our guides were so helpful and excited to show their cities.”

Emma loved the trip and the chance to explore her heritage. She even had the opportunity to hand-feed a panda.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget,” she said. “The panda was so cute and it was super fluffy, even though we didn’t get pet it. We also saw a panda roll over and stand up on its hind legs against the wall.”

According to Stephen Baker, the walking was the worst part of their trip. They got 15,000 to  20,000 steps each day.

“My least favorite thing about China were the ‘toilets’,” Emma Baker said. “In China, they have these things called squatty potties where you squat down over a big hole in the ground between your legs to use the bathroom. The worst part is that they typically don’t have toilet paper in the stalls.”

Visiting the orphanage where Emma grew up was especially emotional for the Bakers. Many kids still live there today.

“I tried to remember what each of their little faces looked like that day,” Stephen Baker said. “This place took hold of a piece of my heart and it remains there today. We are so blessed to have our health and families in our lives. Some on Earth will never get to experience some of the small joys we have every day. I can hug my daughter, I can watch her run a cross country event, I can pick her up from school, I can watch a movie with her. There are so many simple things that some kids will never experience.”

When they were going to adopt emma, the director there was a man and he went to get a female staff member the day after they got the kids to answer questions the parents might have had. That female staff member is now the secretary at the orphanage. She was the one who had named most of the babies there, so she was the one who had named Emma.

“Emma’s Chinese name was Lian Bao Zhen, which means ‘slim baby from Lianjiang’,” Michelle Baker said. “How precious that is to me, to know why she had that name and who gave it to her.”

Emma understood the importance of this location but she had no memory of being there. It was hard for her to connect her present life to the orphanage.

“The orphanage was not exactly how I pictured, but it was the only time I really got emotional on the trip, because when we got to see the children in the rooms, all of them were special needs unlike when I was adopted,” she said.

They did get to visit the place where Emma was found, too, and got a review to the entire police report of how and who she was found by. The place that she was found was a place called Xinhua market.

“I kept wondering if we would find it, and if we did find it, would someone know something about her being found, who or what might pop up from her history, and how would she react,” Michelle Baker said.

It was also emotional for Stephen Baker to see the spot where she was found.

“We all have a path that God has put us on and every one has a different path,” he said. “Some start in Kingsport while others start in China in a very small market. That doesn’t determine if we are successful or not, but how we use our start can.”

Emma tried to picture herself in the market as a baby during their visit.

“As we approached the spot, I began to imagine myself as a little baby in a box sitting there and that was when it hit me, that 12 years ago, I was right in that same spot that I was standing in,” she said.

Stephen and Michelle Baker wanted their daughter to understand where she came from, her history, and also to see the differences between China and the U.S.

“I think the older Emma becomes the more she will appreciate the experience and seeing her history,” Stephen Baker said. “I also hope that she takes pride in her Chinese culture.”

Michelle Baker agreed.

“You and I see our history on a daily basis, and while Emma sees her current history on a daily basis, she had no frame of reference for what China was like, so we wanted her to love and appreciate her homeland,” she said.

The family learned not to judge someone based on where they are from during this trip.

“I highly encourage everyone to not judge someone because of their beliefs or nationality,” he said. “There are good people everywhere on this planet and we get into trouble when we think that we are better than other people. Our democracy is what separates us and the privileges we have because of it.”

Emma took another important lesson from her return to China.

“I learned that I don’t like tofu,” she said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email