Heritage + Language Trip to China

A baby girl born in the middle of a cold January night in YiXing, China in respiratory distress. Her birthparents did not have the money it would require to self-pay for therapies and services so they made the very difficult decision to leave her, casting trust to the universe that she might have a better life than they could povide.  That baby spend 10 days in the hospital before she was released to an orphanage.  There she was give the name Yi (for YiXing, the city where the were) and Fei (exquisite jade, a jade so strong it can cut glass.) 

Yi Fei struggled as an infant and, despite the good efforts of the women there who loved her,  in the absense of a mother and a father, Yi Fei was failing to thrive 

Meanwhild back in the US, Susan and Alex had worked out their differing ideas about whether or how to be both parents and artists and were ready to welcome a child into their lives. Things didn't work out right away. Long story short, they made an about face, filled out tons and tons of papers, got on a plane 13 years ago this month and one morning in Nanjing, Jiangsu they were handed an absolutely beautiful, very tiny and not thriving but immediately evident to Susan amazingly smart, screaming-at-the-top-of-her-lungs but generous with kisses baby named Yi Fei. Wow, had the games begun and it was clear that this little bundle of furiousness was something very exquisite and very special. Who wouldn't be angry to be handed to two confused but ecstatic blue-eyed light haired strangers speaking neamish butchering the beautiful language that Yi Fei adored with "Wo shi nide mama. Ta shi nide baba" spoken with all the wrong tones. ("I am your mama and he is your baba." "What?!!! Who are these people trying to abduct me. This is serious! Help!)  Alex was asked to sign a ton of papers, Susan held the angry screaming Fei and promplty felt the urge to vomit, so overcome with a mixture of joy and the weight of sudden big-time responsibility for this  smart fit-to-be tied not yet at that point thriving baby. Susan walked out of the buiding, baby in arms, found a garbage can, quietly threw up, felt better then walked back in and signed the papers that made her relationship with the now calmed beauty of a human in her arms legal as mother and daughter.

The next day they all went back to the orphanage to say thank you and goodbye to the women who had been caring for Yi Fei and the other babies adopted that week from the YiXing Social Welfare Institute. Fei clung to Mama perhaps afraid that their time of cuddling and constant warm bottles was coming to an end. Susan whispered repeatedly into her ear "Mama, Baba, Fei-Fei" so that Yi Fei knew that this triangle was permanent.  When it was time to say goodbye to the caregivers, Susan asked the ayis (nannies) "Is there something you would like me to tell Yi Fei when she is older."  With tears in her eyes one of the lovely women there responded, "Please promise never to let her forget about beautiful China."  Susan cried along with this woman, gave her a hug and said, "This I promise."

So, so much has happened since those first few days. There are many profound and beautiful, sometimes harrowing stories to share about this journey of our family. 

And fast forward, to today, that baby is 13, learned to walk at great amazingly dedicated effort then learned to ski and is a black diamond skier today. She learned to become a gorgeous trapeze artist and is working on speaking 9 languages (several remarkably well.) She also  tells the most hilarious jokes in more than one of her languages always with incredible timing and delivery. Madarin is her first language but not her best.

She is proud to be Chinese and American. She longs to know more about her birth mother and birth father whom she feels, even though she only met them outside of the womb for a few hours immediately following her birth, that she misses.  

Together Susan and Fei have made the decision to return to China to fulfill on Susan's promise to never let Yi Fei forget beautiful China. Lillian has invited Susan and Fei-Fei into her home in Beijing for a six week stay during which they will both study Mandarin, participate in early morning Tai Chi and Chinese dance and absorb the remarkable and long history of her people. They will also work with a journalist Meng Hang located in Beijing, to see if the can make progress together on locating Yi Fei's first family whom Fei wishes to wish well to and let them know that she has a good full life with us.

While in China Susan will be writing a series of short memoir chapters about the early days and years of parenting this remarkable beautiful human being. Yi Fei and Susan will accompany Lillian, a food writer, on food-related trips to learn noodle and dumpling-making in order to explore the landscape outside of Beijing.

Fei's teachers, principal and superintendent are very supportive of her missing school at home because they know that she will be a student of her original country and language and its history. Fei will aslo be keeping up with her school work at home online while in China.

The cost of this 6 week trip is relatively low as Susan found very, very low round trip airfare and Lillian is providing housing. The other costs are for Faye to attend Mandarin school in order to immerse in her first language and thereby solidify her already very good spoken Mandarin.  We also will have some costs associated with Fei's birth family search and traveling with Lillian in search of good food for her writing and research.

We are asking for donations to support this important  journey. Please know that we understand that there are important crisis happening in other communities and that you may be choosing to support people in those places.  If you are inspired and able to contribute to Fei's heritiage jouney your lovely generosity will make you a part of this wonderful trip and will be very appreciated. If you are reading this and can only send love and good thoughts to the wonderful Fei, that will be also very appreciated with so much love from us to you.

Wo men ai ni.

Thank you.

  • Gail LeBoff 
    • $170 
    • 45 mos
  • Mary Plummer 
    • $20 
    • 45 mos
  • Lisa Sanditz 
    • $25 
    • 45 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 45 mos
  • linda Clayton 
    • $75 
    • 46 mos
See all


Susan Jennings 
Great Barrington, MA
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