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Jing Xiang

Middelburg, Netherlands

Nanchang, China

If people didn’t understand, I would always say, “I am Dutch, but I just don’t look Dutch because I’m Chinese.” That’s always how I explained it to everyone or how I wanted to explain it. But when you think about it, it’s something you don’t need to explain in the first place.

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My parents flew to China and picked me up in Nanchang. I didn’t fly with a company to the Netherlands. They picked me up with a group of other parents who adopted a child also from the same orphanage. My parents were always pretty open about my adoption. They really liked China and read it was a really beautiful country. I know that I was found in Nanchang somewhere at a gate or something, but the orphanage doesn’t have much information for me. My name is Jing, but the orphanage made that name up.They told us that my second name, Xiang, is the name of the person who found me. We tried to look for that person, but we never found him or her. I was born in ‘96 and I think that was a pretty popular time to get a child from Asia and China in particular. Around that time, parents prefered to have a son instead of a daughter because of the One Child Policy. The son stays at home to take care of the family and the daughter "leaves" the family when they get married. I was found and my name is all that I know. I don’t have any other information or clothes that I wore.

My parents never discussed that I was adopted, but they were really open if I ever had any questions. They explained that there was another woman, my mom, and she couldn’t care for me so that’s why they were taking care of me. They told me they love me and that was really nice.

I have a little sister and she was adopted three years after me from the same orphanage. So after three years, I flew back with a few from the same group as my first group. They also picked up sisters for all the other children. And then when we were young, every two years we went on holiday with another family who also had two daughters around the same age. In elementary school, we flew back to China and we were there for almost three to four weeks. It was really just a holiday though,not to find our parents or anything. It was just to get to know our culture. We really all liked China and thought it was a beautiful country. We wanted to know more and also learn more about where we’re from. So I went back when I was four for my sister and then I think we were back when I was maybe seven and then ten and twelve. The last time we went with the eight of us was when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. And after that we kind of split up when we got older. I don’t think I really felt alienated in China. I’m from the Netherlands and dutchies are pretty down to earth. I didn’t feel the differences were that big of a deal. I have Dutch parents and those are Chinese people. I don’t speak the language, but I never felt any alienation. It was difficult because they tried to talk to me and I couldn’t respond, but it was funny when I was pretty young because I always carried a little card with me in English and Mandarin that said I am an adopted kid, my name, my age, and I don’t speak the language. It was the best way to explain quickly what the situation was because they were always really curious.

My parents saved money for these trips because they thought that was important. It’s not like they were insanely rich or anything. Instead of buying a new laptop or the best television, they just saved money because I thought it was important and they really wanted to do it themselves as well. But I can understand why not everyone has the chance to do that or every parent has the chance to save money for that. I think because we went more than once though I would love to go back. I think when I was younger I viewed it as, “Oh how fun, I came from a different country and we go back there for holiday.” I’m really grateful that I experienced that, but I think if I go back now I will pay a bit more attention to the orphanage or the culture itself.

I grew up in a more conservative area in the Netherlands with a lot less of multiple cultures. Not just Asian culture, but any culture. It was more just white. My family is really conservative on my dad’s side. Of course they knew that I was coming and my parents were going to adopt a child, but I know it wasn't what they were used to. It was not really "normal" at that time.

When I was in first grade, my mom told me that there was just one other Asian girl who was also adopted in my class and the teacher put us next to each other on the first day. My mom afterwards questioned why they put the two Asian children together. That’s just something they don’t even think about, but if you think about it it is kind of weird. Like maybe they thought we would understand each other because we’re both five and adopted. But we were just Dutch.

In elementary school, there were always children who didn’t really understand why you had a different color or different kinds of eyes. Sometimes I had questions about that from people that didn’t know me. People on the streets or from another class or school sometimes would throw things at me or say something, but not really the people who were in my class. I think the teachers didn't bully me or anything. It's more that other children didn't really understand the impact of their jokes.

Sometimes my close friends or the kids that I hung out with would say the regular Asian jokes and I would laugh. I think you grow into joking with them because “It’s nothing” and it’s not against me. But it’s just odd that they always have to pick out if you’re Asian. There was even a time when I wished I didn’t look like this because I’m Dutch. I definitely identified as being more Dutch. If people didn’t understand, I would always say, “I am Dutch, but I just don’t look Dutch because I’m Chinese.” That’s always how I explained it to everyone or how I wanted to explain it. But when you think about it, it’s something you don’t need to explain in the first place. In regards to wanting to connect with Chinese culture, I think if you get confronted with all the small jokes, it doesn’t really encourage you to look into your roots and your heritage.

Later on in life, I've had a mix of great friends, but also friends that were okay to hang out with for a few years. I think in every stage after that, high school and while getting my bachelor degree, there were different challenges that I faced. Most of the time people were very welcoming, but of course there were always people that had to point out that you were "different.” I think that will never change.

So what I try to do is just be my best self and if you don't like it, you can just leave. It 's easier to say than to really live like that, but in the end you have to be happy with yourself and all the bullies just don't matter at all! That's also why I'm comfortable with talking about this topic/subject, because it's not weird. It's my normal. And as long as you talk about stuff, it’s the least you can do to get people to understand you, right?


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