A miltary wife turned ESL instructor's sharp-eyed account of how the adoption of a Chinese baby girl led to her family's life-changing decision to live and work in rural China.
Soon after Arrington adopted her Chinese-born daughter Grace in 2004, “something began to nag at [her].” She knew that she would be giving the child a family and opportunities that would be unavailable in China, but at the same time, she would also be taking away an essential part of Grace's identity. Consequently, she and her retired military husband decided to become ESL teachers and move their family to China. “Grace's adoption gave a Chinese heritage to our whole family,” she writes. In 2006, they traveled to the city of Tai'an in rural China, where they took jobs at a small medical college. Assimilation did not come easily: Not only were they Westerners, but they were also a “three-child family in a one-child world.” Arrington became fascinated by her adopted country and its contradictions, but many aspects of its culture, including the authoritarianism and disparaging attitudes toward women, disheartened her. What especially troubled her as a teacher was the way the students, whose minds she had hoped to change, clung to parochial ideas and practices, especially regarding matters of education and politics. Gradually, however, she realized that the freedom she so cherished as an American was an abstract concept that paled in comparison to “real things like family and security” for the Chinese. Arrington neither romanticizes nor demonizes Chinese culture, and she learned to love it despite its limitations.
Candid and heartfelt.