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An Adoptee’s Search for Her Birth Parents Begins

Olivia Wolf with her father at the Bund
Olivia Wolf with her father at The Bund

By Olivia Wolf
AsAmNews Intern

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories documenting Olivia Wolf’s journey in China to find her birth parents)

I’m excited to say that I’ve officially made it to China! Today is my third and last day in Shanghai.

The largest city in the world has a lot to offer and has kept me and my dad quite busy. We arrived in the afternoon on Saturday after an exhausting 14-hour flight.Bund

It took us a while to find our hotel—we spent about 20 minutes looking for it in a shopping mall where our taxi driver dropped us off. The hotel is located in Huangpu District, a short walk from The Bund, one of Shanghai’s iconic attractions.

I haven’t spoken Chinese in about a year, and I’ve been making up for lost time these past couple days. From the moment I walked off the plane, I have constantly been expected to speak it.

Saxophone Player at People's Park
Saxophone Player at People’s Park

I remember from the last time I was here that many Chinese people would keep pressing me to speak Chinese, although they would instantly switch to English when speaking with a White person who was maybe a more advanced speaker.

Even when I was standing in the foreigner line at the airport with an American passport, the employee addressed me in Chinese. When I asked her to speak English, she looked at me with confusion and asked, “You don’t speak Chinese?”

She may have been further confused at my lack of language skills because my Chinese birth name 邵章 (Shao Zhang) was written in my forms. When she asked me to write my Chinese name next to my current English name, I was relieved that I could remember how to write it.

RELATED: An Adoptees is Returning to China

Olivia Wolf visits Tianzifang
Olivia Wolf visits Tianzifang

We spent our first full day here in Tianzifang, an area with alleyways of shops and restaurants in the French Concession. It was my favorite attraction in Shanghai the last time I visited, and I thought it would be fun for my dad to see as a first time traveler in the city.

In the evening we met with my Chinese friend at a shopping mall near the university where I studied at last summer. I had a great time catching up with her and she was interested to know more about what I’d do if I found my birth family. I told her it was too early to know.

She also told me what many other Chinese people have told me before—that I have a good Chinese name. I still don’t fully understand this, as I don’t have the same sensitivity to the language as native speakers. However, I do think it’s interesting that 章 (Zhang) means “chapter,” since reading and writing are two of my biggest passions.

Today we went to the M50 art district, which is often compared to SoHo. I’m not sure what the similarities between the two are besides the fact that they both have art galleries. The district was oddly quiet and empty in stark contrast to The Bund, which we visited tonight.

Sweets in Tianzifang
Sweets in Tianzifang

Although we are not yet in my area of birth, we have begun to prepare for this next part of the journey.

I have to thank the many people who have reached out to me after I wrote my first blog and shared my story on other media platforms. An old contact has been extraordinary with helping us to connect to people in order to make this a successful trip.

The support that I have received is really amazing.

Olivia Wolf flyer
Flyer posted by Olivia Wolf as she searches for her birth parents

I have also made flyers that I posted on WeChat and Weibo, two of China’s popular social media platforms. I am hoping to distribute them in Shaoyang too. If anyone has WeChat or Weibo, please share a photo of the flyer. This will be incredibly helpful as I try to spread the word of my search.

Tomorrow my dad and I take the train to Changsha, where we’ll meet with a few of the people who have been connected to us through our contact. I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave Shanghai, but there’s no turning back now!

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  1. RE: An Adoptees Search for Her Birth Parents Begins: You are a wonderful writer and wish you all the best in finding your parents. Our adopted daughter just found hers right here in the US. She is Vietnamese and Chinese, born here, so a big difference in finding one’s parents, tho Social Services didn’t help at all. Between her and our also adopted son, they were able to find them. Her response is that now she feels she has a big family (one full brother, 3 step brothers) and that there is an inner calm as she extends herself to find out more about them through visits. This is a very important journey you are on and so glad you are documenting it!

    • RE: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Birth Parents Begins: Thank you! Very happy for your daughter. That’s great that she seems to be handling the situation well. Best wishes to you and your family!


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