For several years ago, as I was planning my first trip to Tibet, I became enthralled with the fantasy of adopting a little Tibetan girl and bringing her back to the States. This half-serious obsession was an idea that did not garner my wife's excitement or approval. She had a long list of reasons why my idea wouldn't work. Things like our age, financial responsibility, and not wanting to start a family over after our own family was educated and out on their own. Even though logic was clearly on her side, the flames of my fantasy were fanned by me on a daily basis-much to her chagrin.
We weren't in Lhasa more the twelve hours before a little Tibetan girl found us. Her epiphany was a clear sign to me that God was on my side. Nevertheless, my wife wouldn't allow me to bring her back with us. Thwarted in my adoption quest, I did the next best thing. We wrote to her regularly and sent her gifts from her wannabe step-father and his recalcitrant wife.
You can imagine my delight when I was given an opportunity to teach a class in China and Tibet recently. We wrote to Sara (her real name is Tse) and told her that we would be back to Lhasa in June. We were all excited.
met her at a local restaurant where we exchanged gifts and katas and
most importantly hugs. While sitting in the restaurant, I took
pictures, laughed, and marveled at being together again. Little did
my wife and I think that we would be back in Lhasa in less than a
handful of years, and yet, there we were again talking to a
precocious ten-year-old. Her grandparents with whom she lived
invited us back to their apartment for dessert and conversation.
Again, we reminisced about the first time we met her in Lhasa. Sara's grandparents took her around to places frequented by tourist. Sara would walk up to the foreigners and engage them in an English conversation. That is how we first met Sara. However, while we were there in 2001, we saw her several additional times at different places practicing her English on tourists.
While we chatted about the past, her grandfather brought out a boxful of letters and photos that we had sent her over the years. When she would write us in America, she would address me as "E. Allen" and my wife as "Campbell." We all laughed after I explained our names.
Needless to say, I was in seventh heaven. Even though there isn't any practical way that we could adopt Sara for many reasons-one of which, she has her own family in Lhasa. Nonetheless, the fantasy was a most pleasant one for me. My wife had to bring me back to reality when I occasionally went off about adopting this sweet little Tibetan cherub.
However, my brief reunion with Sara was bittersweet. It was wonderful to see her again and to enjoy those few precious hours together. However, that time together gave me an opportunity to watch her with her grandparents. I noticed many times how she would find great comfort in holding their hands, and I watched them lovingly interact with her. As we said good-bye, I was struck by the melancholy reality that Sara, contrary to my fantasies, belonged where she was in her beloved Lhasa with the Potala looking over her and her grandparents.
My fantasy of having Sara living with us in America would be anything but idyllic for her. That realization hit me so hard that I don't kid around about adopting Sara any more. Reality set in for me while still in Lhasa. We will stay in touch as we have over the past years. We will continue to write and send gifts like dotting adoptive parents would. Adoption has faded as a fantasy, but maybe when our Sara is a teenager, she can come for a summer and visit her American parents. However, I know that she will want to return to Lhasa and to her family. It is only right that she does. Even though many miles and high mountains separate us, Sara won't be far from our hearts.