Junior plans to return to birth country

Patrick Duggan, News Editor

Plenty of kids experience a traumatic move or life-altering change, but few experience a cataclysmic upheaval on the scale of junior Tao-Zhu Slaton’s journey. Slaton was one of hundreds of Chinese orphans adopted by American families in 2005.
“When I first found out I was going to be adopted, I was eight years old. I was super excited, because they describe America like something you would always want,” Slaton said. “We were told you get to work and make money and be successful, and that you can be rich. I was so excited to meet all the beautiful people in America because everyone in China wanted to be white. I was also excited about all the material wealth in America – the fashion, the food, and endless toys.”
Slaton’s exuberance was eventually crushed by an overwhelming sense of loss when she realized she was leaving her family at the orphanage.
“It’s like you leave something that was a part of you,” Slaton said. “I was holding on to the nannies as tightly as I could, so tightly I almost started choking one of them. Eventually they got me into the car to go meet my parents.”
Slaton was taken to a conference building where men in suits took her handprint and signed her paperwork. Then she was driven to a high class hotel to meet her parents.
“I was really scared of them because they were just ginormous,” Slaton said. “My dad sat down to comfort me, but in China only monks sit criss-crossed, so that freaked me out. I tried to run away.”
Slaton spent the next few days in the hotel getting to know her parents and trying to learn to communicate with them.
“The hotel was like a jail,” Slaton said. “I just sat at a humongous window overlooking the city all day. Communication was really hard because I couldn’t speak English, so we had to use gestures for when I needed some water or to use the bathroom. I didn’t even know how to use a toilet, so they had to teach me that.”
Slaton’s trip to America was achieved in two flights, the first to Hong Kong and the second to California.
“There was this really nice flight attendant who tried to comfort me,” Slaton said. “He brought me a glass of milk because I was crying, but my hand was too weak and I dropped it on my lap, so he brought me a second one which I also dropped. He brought back a third glass with two cookies, and I managed to hold on to that one.”
Slaton experienced a culture shock in California unbeknownst to most eight year olds.
“California was super rough because there were no more Asians, and there was no more Mandarin,” Slaton said. “Everything seemed so much cleaner in America. The people were definitely cleaner. Everybody was so proper. There were manners, and you weren’t allowed to burp.”
When Slaton finally reached her new home, she attended P.B. Smith Elementary school. Despite Slaton’s fear of white people and inability to communicate, it didn’t take her long to make friends in school, but that didn’t cure her loneliness.
“It wasn’t difficult to make friends because everyone was so excited because I was from China, and everyone wanted to be around me,” Slaton said. “Learning the language was a little bit more difficult. But it was still scary, because I was the only Chinese girl in school.”
Slaton braved her first few years in America with art as her comfort.
“I really got into music,” Slaton said. “My mom taught me piano through a number system, and then I gradually taught myself how to read. I also got into photography. I love pictures; I love taking them and I love looking at them. My dad had given me this film camera, and I’d take pictures throughout the week and every Saturday he’d take it to Wal-Mart to get the photos developed.”
Slaton also plays on the FHS soccer team and has explored other sports since middle-school.
“I’ve been playing soccer since fourth grade,” Slaton said. “I played recreationally until I got into middle-school, and then I switched to travel. I usually play left defense, but I can play midfield, as well. Other than that, I did cheerleading and volleyball in middle-school, but soccer is my only serious sport.”
Slaton’s step-sister, Quinn, is also an adopted Chinese orphan.
“I got really jealous when she first got here,” Slaton said. “I was kind of angry, because it seemed like my parents just paid more attention to her.”
Slaton’s only visit to China since her adoption was in 2006 when her sister was adopted, but she plans on returning this summer.
“An adoption agency called CCAI is giving a ‘Give Back to China’ service trip,” Slaton said. “You volunteer at orphanages to help take care of the kids, and I applied and got accepted, so this summer I’ll be going back to China.”