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Chinese American Adoptee Retraces the Steps of Her Adoption

Olivia Wolf photographs the gate where she was found abandoned
Olivia Wolf photographs the gate where she was found abandoned

By Olivia Wolf
AsAmNews Intern

(Editor’s Note: This is a third in a series of blogs on Olivia Wolf’s Journey to China to find her birth parents)

Our trip in China is about halfway over, but I feel like the adventure is just beginning. The time has passed so quickly.

Olivia Wolf with her dad at Mao Statue at Hunan University in Changsha
Olivia Wolf with her dad at Mao Statue at Hunan University in Changsha

On Tuesday we checked out of our hotel in Shanghai and rode the train to the capital of Hunan province—Changsha. It took about eight hours. We were greeted at the train station by the son of my dad’s former friend from work.

Twenty-two years ago when I was a few months old, my dad brought his friend’s husband, who lived in Changsha, several items from the United States while coming to pick me up. This time, their son was invaluable in helping us navigate Changsha.

He connected us with a translator, brought us to the Changsha museum, and treated us to lunch. We ate on a deck with a beautiful view of the river and tried a variety of Hunan’s famous spicy dishes. It was delicious, though my eyes were watering by the end of the meal.

For dinner my dad and I ate at a hot pot restaurant. Once the waiters realized that we couldn’t speak Chinese and were newbies to hot pot, they designated one of their staff to stand by us the whole meal to translate and help cook.

The restaurant even gave us a free fruit plate with a sign that said “Welcome to Changsha,” along with a small souvenir. When they noticed that we were intrigued by a waiter who was making pasta, they called him over to give us a sample.

Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute
Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute

The next morning, we took a two-hour train ride to Shaoyang with our translator. After arriving, we headed straight to the Shaoyang Welfare Institute.

We met with the current director and another staff member who retrieved my original files from wherever they’ve been stored for the last twenty-two years. Most of the documents we had already seen, but there were a few new ones that we photographed and recorded translations for. All in all, there wasn’t much new information.

The director gave us a tour of the current orphanage. Like I previously heard, the majority of abandoned children now are disabled—not necessarily girls. There may have even been more boys than girls.

It was strange to imagine that I was once one of those children. They told me that when I was there I would have lived in a small wooden house that has since been demolished.


It was reassuring for me to see that the facilities were clean, the children had toys, and caregivers seemed attentive to their needs. Sadly, the caregivers said that many of these children are not finding homes because families are reluctant to adopt children with special needs.

After the orphanage we headed to the police station where I was found. They said they didn’t have any records from my case.

The gate where Olivia Wolf was abandoned as a baby
The gate where Olivia Wolf was abandoned as a baby

They also told us that the location of the police station when I was a baby was different from the current one where we were at. After a short ride, we arrived at the old location. The building looked abandoned, although they told us it was turned into a fruit market.

The original location of the orphanage where Olivia Wolf was adopted
The original location of the orphanage where Olivia Wolf was adopted


Across the old police building was an apartment complex where many of the older police still lived. We began talking to a retired policeman who was standing around outside smoking cigarettes.

He said he was working as a policeman the year when I was born and he remembered a baby who was found around the same time as me. However, he wasn’t sure if it was me, as it was so long ago. He said that the baby was swaddled in something, but he couldn’t remember what exactly the material was.

I also talked to a boy who was the son of a retired police officer who had found a baby around that time. During that year, there may have been 10 or so babies dropped off at that police station’s gate. The boy and I exchanged WeChat accounts, and I sent him him a photo of my flyer.

After the police station, the director of the orphanage treated us to lunch along with some other staff.

RELATED: Adoptee Returning to China

Adoptees Search for Her Birth Parents Begins

Needless to say, the day was quite exhausting and my dad and I were happy to rest at the hotel afterwards. My dad almost slept through dinner, but he managed to get up and we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the hotel.

The last couple days have been both exciting and draining in many ways. With so much that has already happened, I can’t wait to see what the next week will bring. Whether it’s another insight into my beginnings or a few days of rest, either will be welcome.

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