Name: Yuan Li Feng. Date of Birth: 11-14-96. Race: Chinese. These are the first facts that Leslie Young and David Wiebe read about their child. They received their referral letter on Feb. 27, 1998. Five days prior to that, they got a phone call from Holt Adoption Agency informing them that their baby girl was waiting for them. Three months later, on May 30, they met their daughter for the first time.
Kathalyn Lark Li Young is now fourteen years old. She has dark eyes, dark hair, and isn’t more than five feet tall. She was born in Nanning, China.
This summer, she’s going back to her birth country for the first time to reconnect with her Chinese roots.
Upon arrival at the orphanage, both Leslie and Wiebe had been informed that Katy was likely to form a strong bond with one of them before the other. Leslie tried and tried to console the crying baby in her arms, but to no avail. When she handed her to Wiebe, she instantly calmed down; although it was Leslie who first thought of adopting, it was with Wiebe that Katy bonded with first.
“She more than bonded with me—she clung to me,” Wiebe said.
She wouldn’t let Wiebe out of her sight the entire two weeks they were in China.
Whenever Leslie and Wiebe walked around the streets of Nanning with Katy, people would give them the thumbs up sign and say. “Lucky baby, lucky baby.” Leslie and Wiebe would respond with, “Lucky mother, lucky father.”
These Nanning residents knew that this little Chinese baby, especially as a girl, would have many more opportunities in the United States than in China.
Before marrying Leslie, Wiebe had two children, Mark and Chris. Mark has two boys, Quinn and Noah, who made Katy a huge sign that read “Welcome Home Katy Lark,” upon her initial arrival in the US.
Sometimes, when Katy looks at her older brother, Mark, she sees her father. When she sees her nephews, Quinn and Noah, she sees her brother. She can’t help but wonder if she looks like her parents, or if she has a sibling who looks like her.
“Sometimes, I feel different,” Katy said. “I don’t know many other people who were adopted from China.”
Then she remembers that her world consists of people who love her, and that they are her “forever family.”
When Katy was 10, Leslie and Wiebe first offered Katy the option of returning to China and learning more about the country. Katy didn’t want to go. She simply wasn’t ready.
“I wasn’t ready to think about my [biological] parents and where I came from and who I was,” Katy said.
Both of her parents felt that they should wait until Katy was 100 percent positive she wanted to go.
Until now, she’s never had any desire to even learn about her Chinese culture. When she was six, she took Chinese dancing classes, but Katy had “less than zero interest.” After six weeks, she dropped out.
This past year, Katy has given more thought to China and discussed the heritage tour with her parents. Leslie believes Katy is ready to go. Although it’s illegal to try to locate her birth parents, she will make up for it by learning about her country. Katy is ready to take the challenge, ready to learn more about her culture.
Growing up, Katy imagined that her birth parents were wealthy, important people living in a grand palace. As she got older, she realized that this couldn’t be true. If they lived in the city, then they might work in a factory and live in an apartment. If they lived in the country, which they most likely do, then they were rice farmers who work in the field alongside water buffalo.
Katy grew up knowing that she was adopted and that her heritage lies in China. She’s always known. When she was five, Leslie read her a book called The Mulberry Bird. It’s about a mother bird who has to give up her baby, but loves her baby very much. When she was shown pictures of the Great Wall of China, Wiebe would say, ‘Here’s the Great Wall—someday we’ll take you there.’
For six weeks, Katy lived with a foster family. She had a foster grandmother, mother, father, sister and brother. In a letter written to Leslie and Wiebe, her foster mother, Liu Yu Di, said, “Little Li Feng is a very smart, active, and lovely baby…She knows the way to make people happy…Friends: You have made a very smart decision adopting her as your daughter. She will reward you when she gets older and she will never forget the care you gave her.”
This summer, when Katy returns to China with her parents, she will be immersed in China’s culture. She will visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and take a boat tour down the Li River.
This trip will also consist of a visit to her birth city, Nanning. The one thing Katy is looking forward to the most is going back to her hometown.
“It’s where we started,” she said.
She wants to see where she spent the first year and a half of her life, and how the girls there are living–how she could have been living.
If possible, she will get to see the site where she was found in the Xing Yang market, only two days old. This market is right by the orphanage, so it’s likely that her birth parents knew she would be found and brought in to be cared for.
Katy will spend the last three days of the tour at a day camp amongst other internationally adopted children and run by international adoptees. Leslie and Wiebe will continue to sightsee, so Katy has some time to spend alone with other adoptees. The agency will also try to arrange a meal with her foster family.
Leslie feels that the closer the date of the tour arrives, the more excited Katy will be. Excited, but nervous.
“Going to China sounds really fun,” Katy said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for me to experience more Chinese culture and see what life is like for a Chinese teenager in Nanning.”