A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum

We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?

She’s Learning Cantonese

Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.

So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!


After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!

Learning To Dance

Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!

A daughter abroad
Look at the chubbers!

Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.

Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.

A daughter abroad
Dancing outside…with a mustard stain!

After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness. 

So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂

She Hates Dim Sum

If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.

A daughter abroad
Auburn as a youngster at a dim sum restaurant 🙂

Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.

A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed

Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!

Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

Determining when our first time abroad was, isn’t easy. That’s because my daughter and I were born in different countries. The birth of my daughter was in Hong Kong, so for her, traveling to the USA was her first time abroad. So, let me clarify that I will be speaking about our experience from my perspective.

Not a newborn, but a chunk-chunk baby during dim-sum breakfast!

The Birth of My Daughter

Our first time abroad, then, was the first moment I saw her. Hair sprouting first, a mangled net of gooey fuzz. Happy tears were pouring from my eyes as the rest of her started to emerge. Her squashed face, wrinkly body, and trailing umbilical cord, all covered in purplish amniotic fluid. I’d never seen anyone more beautiful.


The doctors and nurses kept asking her Mom if I was okay because apparently, they don’t see many grown men weep harder than the newborns. I don’t care, seeing the birth of my daughter was borderline overwhelming, like someone was pouring love onto me like an overbearing syrup. I could feel it running down my neck, sticking inside my ears, and gluing me to that moment in time. I’ll never forget it.

The Cord Chop

I waited a couple of minutes before cutting the umbilical cord, letting the last juices being transferred to her make it to where they need to be. So, she laid on the table, squirming, not really crying, an amniotic fluid bubble formed around her lips, expanded, then popped. I couldn’t help but laugh, despite its unique weirdness.

No major health problems yet, just a healthy child 😀

Finally, I chopped through the cord with a pair of surgical scissors, she was wiped clean by a nurse, wrapped up, and passed to me. She looked nothing like me. Dark brown hair, the beautiful curved eyes of her Chinese mother, puffy cheeks (also her mother’s), and a button nose (also her mother’s). Her chocolate brown eyes locked mine, she stared at me, maybe not yet knowing who I was, but I know she could feel my love as I rocked her in my arms. My crying stopped and I had the adrenaline pump you get when you beat death. Like surviving a bungee jump, or escaping a Chinese cobra in the jungle (I’ll give you that story another time).

My first time holding the little squashball

The Riddle of Time

After the birth of my daughter, I spoke to her with a shaky voice, though I can’t remember what I said, and she listened better than anyone ever has. I don’t know if I held her for two minutes or an hour. There’s just no way to decipher a time frame in such an emotional moment. How long did your car skid out of control for? How long did your first fist-fight last? How long was your grandmother’s funeral? How long was the first time you made love? Okay, that one’s easier to answer, right around 2 minutes.

Unfortunately, the doctors had some health concerns for her due to some prenatal problems, so she had to be taken to the ICU for monitoring. I remember thinking, “she’s beautiful, she’s healthy, she doesn’t need this.” But I was impressionable and took the doctor’s word for it, so off she went, scheduled for an extra for 3 days of care and monitoring.

Sleeping in the ICU

The ICU

The next two days I was allowed to spend time with her in very distinct and short periods. Something like 10-11 and 3-4:30. Each moment I spent with her, I would have her lay on my chest and her tiny fingers would grip my chest hair like a baby monkey afraid to fall. But she had nothing to worry about. Her little head fit perfectly in my right hand, her squishy butt made for a perfect grip with my left. After day one, I was super annoyed she was being kept in that glass box, not being allowed to have her bonding time with her parents.

The walk home

On day two, a nurse tried to tell me I shouldn’t pick her up because she was sleeping, so I pretended I didn’t speak English and did it anyway. Back onto my chest, clutching my chest hair. After day two, I was pissed I couldn’t have more time with her. I knew she was healthy, her mother agreed, so we signed a form saying we take responsibility for removing her from the ICU early, wrapped her up, and walked her home. She slept the entire walk home through Hong Kong, cars honking, sirens blaring in the distance, people talking over each other in Chinese. She didn’t care.

Our First Night Together

Some people never co-sleep with their children for fear of smashing them, or fear of judgment. I co-slept with her in fear of not being able to snuggle her. Luckily, we were already abroad, and Chinese people don’t judge you for co-sleeping. And when she woke me up several times in the middle of the night to breastfeed with her Mom, I had never been so happy to have beautiful dreams interrupted.