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Heritage Trip Insights

Editor's Note: Lotus Travel recently interviewed Connie J, one of a group families who travelled with Lotus during the December 2011 Uncle Louie tour. She shares insights about the experience below.

Iris: You took an Uncle Louie tour last December. That was the first time Louie Yi has lead a Winter Break trip. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience?

Connie: Everything was so well done--really, the trip was wonderful! Something I felt that was like an extra bonus was Louie's insights that he would share along the way. He knows and understands American culture since he has lived and worked in the US. He would talk about things that he knew we would wonder about. Of course, as a Chinese person he has great depth in Chinese culture, and was able to point out when someone might not be telling us the whole truth, but just making an excuse. This is not the only example, but it was lots of little things. It made me feel like I was able to really relax and just enjoy the trip and we were benefitting from his insights of both cultures.

Iris: What experience stands out about the trip?

Connie: I really, REALLLY liked visiting the farmers house. I was initially not very excited about that part of the trip – I guess I was not certain of exactly what to expect. Of course, this farmer's family has chosen to open their home to tourists; so there is an upstairs with space to host Western families. There are many real life moments we experienced there that I felt provided huge insights about what my kids' life could have been like. That was priceless. At suppertime, both of my kids helped prepare dumplings on the stove --- it was really fun to be a part of it. Of course, I got pictures of that!
And then there were the things I never expected, such as watching from the kitchen as the husband arrived home at the end of the day and drove his motorcycle right into the adjoining room! The couple that we stayed with were so warm and hospitable that we felt a special connection to them though we were there for only one night.

Iris: Wow, that received really high marks in your book. What were some of the things that made it so memorable?

Well, it's really the little things that stand out. For example, when it was time to eat supper, a wash bowl, filled with water heated on the stove, was put on the floor for us to wash our hands. It is just a step into a life that might have been.

Iris: What pre-trip planning did you do that helped you during the tour?

Connie: Well, we did the rock exchange that was discussed in the book "From Home to Homeland". I loved that idea and for our oldest daughter, it worked well to do this at the finding spot, and our youngest placed her rock in front of her orphanage. Having that ritual was a good "grounding" experience for the whole trip. Making a connection to the past and the place where my girls came from was important I think. Later on as we have talked about the trip, one of my daughters has said "I miss China." I found that very interesting, because she has not spoken about it a lot, but I take her comment to mean that she really felt connected to China. I think it was some of the ordinary things we did such as -- we spent time just walking around and ended up in conversation with an elderly person in my daughter's hometown. We had a delightful time that afternoon. Some of those "regular life" moments bring a great deal of meaning to the trip.

What happened on your trip that was a surprise?

Connie: It's hard to pick one thing, of course. One of the other really significant things that happened was during the orphanage visit. While the orphanage director was unable to meet with us, we met staff and nannies. Years ago the orphanage staff gave us a picture of our daughter that was taken on her last day at the orphanage. She was being held by a young girl of about 9 or 10. For all these years we have wondered about this young girl and who she was in our daughters' life. When we met the officials, we showed the photo and asked if anyone knew her. The staff got excited and someone left the room and then came back with this young adult woman. We found out that the young girl in the photo who had lived at the orphanage is now an employee there. It was like reaching back in time and touching the past. We gave her that photo and then took many more of her and our daughter together. We were very happy to have her join us and some of the other staff members for lunch. It was incredibly meaningful to make that connection!

Why did your family select a winter trip instead of the more popular summer trip option? How did that work for you?

Connie: Well, first of all, we had completed both of our adoption trips during the month of January so we knew a bit about what to expect. Though we had originally thought about making the trip in the summer, it just worked better for our schedules to take the winter trip. I think that by traveling in an off season, we enjoyed a certain peacefulness and clarity – it seemed invigorating to me. In fact, the funny thing was while were in Beijing, it was sunny with blue skies and it was really comfortable. We did not encounter crowds. I would consider it one of the best times to travel!

Iris: Thanks for sharing. Do you plan to make another return trip in the future or will this likely be a "one and only"?
Connie: It's definitely a trip that we plan to make again with our girls.

Iris: Great, we'll hope to see you again in a few years!

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