MY NAME is Elena María Gómez García. I go by Mar.
I am Chinese, although I did not know that until I was seven years old. A new boy in school pointed at me and said, “La niña china”. I looked around the room, eager to see whom he was referring to.
When my Spanish parents adopted me I was already three. I had been at the orphanage in Zhejiang for a long time. I was left outside a government building when I was a baby. I don’t know why I wasn’t adopted quickly – maybe I was sick a lot. All I know is that by the time I was three nobody wanted me, preferring the newborn babies instead. Just like at the pet store. Once puppies and kittens were more than three months old nobody would buy them. You couldn’t even give them away.
When I first met them my parents were over 50. Such couples were required by the rules to take the older girls. I suppose it’s because they thought older couples wouldn’t live that long, so they were not allowed to adopt newborns. When I left the orphanage mom said I cried and cried in their hotel room. I kept opening the door and wandering into the corridor, looking for a way back home.
I came with all my vaccinations, all my papers. They had red Chinese stamps all over them and many signatures. I had nothing with me except the clothes I was wearing and a pink cartoon backpack, which was empty – it was just for show.
The hotel we were staying at specialised in international adoptions. Before we left, the woman at the front desk brought out a large case of new Barbie dolls. There were two kinds: a brunette Spanish Barbie wearing a bolero jacket and a flamenco skirt and a blonde American Barbie wearing a pastel blouse and capri pants. Each Barbie came with a Chinese baby-girl doll. I remember looking into the acrylic window of the pink cardboard box and noticing that because Barbie’s stiff arms could not really hold the smaller doll it was wired tightly to her hands. It looked strange. She was called the Going Home Barbie. She was supposed to help me adjust to life in the West. The lady stuffed a Barbie into my empty backpack. I must have had the Spanish one. I don’t have it now; I think mom didn’t like it and left it behind in China.
My parents took to China an entire suitcase of new girls’ clothing meant for Spanish girls my age, all of which was too large. They forced me to have a bath; I cried. They put a new dress on me; I cried. They gave me back my old clothes to stop me from crying. Going to Spain I ended up wearing the same dirty overalls they had first seen me in.
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