My passport arrived by priority mail on Friday! It was a relief because I really needed it quick and had paid for expedited service. Now I can apply for my Chinese visa and get it in time (hopefully, you never know with these things!) for my trip next month.
I am going back to China for the first time since we left in December 1985. It's been 29 years. Wow. "Surreal" is how I would describe my feelings about going back to my native country. SO MUCH has changed since my family and I left China so many years ago - both with respect to the country and to myself as a person. Back then, China's meteoric economic development was in it's infancy: Deng Xiaoping had only announced the opening of China to the outside world a few years earlier. Hope and opportunity were not on most people's radar screen. Now, the size of China's economy as measured by GDP is second only to the US. Then, I was a child, barely aware of what it meant to go to America, 美国（meiguo or "beautiful country"), the land of opportunity. Now, I am an adult - married with children - living the American Dream. We were embarking on a journey of which most of our then more than one billion fellow Chinese citizens could only dream.
Our good fortune came as a result of my dad's being found by his long lost father. Actually, it should be said that my dad was the long lost son. Long story short: Back in 1949, when the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists after a civil war, my grandparents were among the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan. Because my dad was only a baby at the time and fearing that he would not survive the trip, they left him with my grandmother's mother. After my great-grandmother passed away, as I understood it, there was some family drama and my dad was put into an orphanage. He was adopted by a couple in Guangdong Province where he was raised in a small village. My grandparents eventually divorced and my grandfather remarried. He and his new family ended up immigrating to the United States and settling down in the Washington, DC area. When my grandfather retired, he finally was able to find my dad with the help of one of my grandfather's brothers. My grandfather then somehow was able to get the Chinese government to allow us to come to the United States.
And, next month, I will be one of hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling back to their 家乡（"hometown") to celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) with family and friends. It will definitely be an interesting experience to go back to a place I haven't seen in almost 30 years and barely remember. I'm sure I'll feel a bunch of different emotions, too. I'll be so happy to finally be back where my roots began and to see my grandma and other relatives. I'll also be sad that it took me so long to get there. I know I'll miss my husband and my kids a lot - this will be the longest I've ever been away from them. I'll worry about how my two-year-old will deal with my absence and about my husband being alone with them. Not that I don't think he could handle things with me gone but just that it's a hard job to take care of three kids all by yourself for days at a time, which I don't have to do because usually he helps out when he gets home from work.