Wyatt Harris was born with one arm in mainline China. Because of the one-child policy and figuring he would be of little value to the family, he was abandoned as an infant to an orphanage, where he was adopted by an American family at the age of three. The Second Chance is Wyatt’s story of his childhood in the US, and later his search to find his biological parents in China.
After finding his biological parents and siblings in a tiny village, he realizes how lucky he was to have been abandoned 20 years before. With his newfound respect for life, he decides to give orphans another chance as well, and starts Second Chances, a non-profit foundation assisting orphans in Taiwan and China. In October of 2012, the first orphan student from Taiwan was brought to the United States to study at a school in Oregon for one year, all funded through Second Chances.
The Second Chance is the story of the author’s epic journey to discover his past and secure his future.
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Wyatt Harris, graduated from University of Oregon with a degree in International Business and Chinese in 2012. In 2011, The Second Chance was translated in Traditional Chinese and released in Taipei, Taiwan. Then in January of 2013, it was translated into Simplified Chinese and released in China.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Who are these white people?
When the plane landed in Portland, Oregon on September 20, 1994, my life was never going to be the same. I no longer was just a number or a baby waiting to be adopted. I now had a family and my own bedroom. I no longer was that child whose photo was passed from family to family hoping they would chose me. It was my turn to be the chosen one.
Just a week prior to my arrival in the US, I met for the first time my father Cal and grandfather Richard Harris. For one week, the three of us went through this tedious process of getting to know each other. I had to cope with a white guy tucking me and my father had to deal with his son who couldn’t speak English. All we could do was smile if we were happy, frown if we were upset or bite one another if we were angry.
Before you start judging me, I would just like to say, I wasn’t a violent kid at all. I just didn’t know how to get my message across to the caregivers that I did not want anything to do with these foreigners. Biting them was the only way I felt I could get my feelings heard. Even with all the biting and gifts I got, I was not going to go with these people without a fight. I took every chance I had during meals to leave their side in hopes of finding my caregiver.
It turns out, no matter how many times you run away from you father and grandfather at a restaurant in China, they are still going to get you back. Just before leaving for the United States, I was finally starting to accept these men as friends. On September 20th, with my dad carrying me with his right arm, the three of us stepped off the plane and entered what I thought was a room full of white aliens.
I later learned the beautiful women with dark hair who was crying and holding my hand was my new mommy. I was greeted into America by my new mom, sister, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles and cousins! With all this excitement going around, I was not at all amused by these strangers staring and smiling at me. I wasn’t at all entertained until Margie (my sister) gave me my first present; a green dragon. As I clinched tighter and tighter to the green dragon, I realized by squeezing the dragon, it made a loud noise. I found this toy to be quite amusing after learning the sound effects it created when squeezed.
My first meal in the U.S. was at a restaurant called Shari’s. Shari’s is restaurant that has a home style diner atmosphere. Shari’s was just a few minutes away from the airport, so it didn’t take long for me to be exposed to U.S. foods. Speaking of food, my parents and relatives didn’t have the slightest idea what I would want to eat. Their solution to this predicament was to have each member of my family order a different dish from the menu, in hopes I picked what I wanted to eat from their plates.
So with the food ordered and a variety of choices in front of me, I had hamburgers, steak, pasta, sandwiches, soup and salads to pick from. I decided that the salad fit my fancy more than anything else. I remember picking out a big tomato from the salad and sucking out the juices and seeds inside. I don’t know why, but I refused to eat the outer skin of the tomato.
If I wasn’t learning how to use a fork or spoon, then I was forced to learn English. Unlike most parents who have kids in the U.S., my parents had a daunting task in front of them. They had to teach their Chinese child English! Parents seldom ever have to think of how you’re going to talk to your children or communicate with them because of a language barrier. However, my parents were seasoned pro’s at this considering they had to deal with this with my Columbian sister as well.
When I was four years old, a lot of people from young to old were speaking to me in English. I of course didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about, but that was the way I learned English. My family and family friends would just chat my ear off in English hoping I would catch on at some point. Just after year of me being in the U.S., I was speaking English a lot better and even started showing signs that I was forgetting Chinese.
The technique my parents used when I was young was brutal. I still have nightmares. They tossed me in a class full of stinky preschoolers and sandboxes in hopes I would improve my communication skills with kids my age. Now that I look back, I feel bad for that little Chinese-speaking kid. I can see it now: kids holding up cookies and making me say ku-ki in English before I could eat one. I bet that's how I learned my snack food so fast when I was starting out.
In all seriousness, that was a great decision on my parents’ part to put me with those kids. Having a class full of English-speaking kids my age allowed me to learn English and make friends. Not to mention, I was the cool kid in the class who could speak Chinese. It wouldn’t surprise me if I taught my fellow nap buddies how to say “pee-pee” or “rice” in Chinese during that year.
Learning English has provided some really fun memories for my family and I. After a couple months of being in the U.S., I had learned some basic vocabulary. However, I was still not at a high reading level or anywhere close to learning how to read. That's what makes this next story so cute to my parents.
In most U.S. Chinese restaurants, you’re given a fortune cookie at the end of your meal. Of course inside this cookie is a proverb or a fortune. I took my cookie and cracked it open. Not even being able to read what it said, I announced to the family while looking at the fortune that it said, “To eat mo-r—kan-di!!”
When I wasn’t at Chinese restaurants making up fortunes, I would be at home or at my grandparents’ house. Having my grandparents live just a block away allowed my sister and me to spend as much time as we wanted with them, whether we wanted to or not. During this time I was going through a really weird stage. I wouldn’t talk with too many people, but I would just crawl on and off of people. I assume this meant I liked that person or acknowledged their presence.
My English was still very poor, so this could have been my way of showing affection. A few months after I arrived in the U.S., my Grandma Priscilla and Grandpa Richard came over to visit my sister and me. Feeling very comfortable around my grandparents, I sat in Grandma's lap and started to roll around in her lap. Within minutes, my grandfather looked at me and said in a high-pitched joking tone, "Hey there, what do you think you are doing?!"
I turned back to him and said in English in the exact same tone, "Hey there, what do you think you are doing!?" This response put my grandparents in tears. Not only did I speak pretty clear English, but I also taught my grandfather who was boss.
Even though I was speaking English pretty well after the first year, it was recommended by my teacher to take a special class for kids who needed extra help with English. I wasn’t very happy about this new arrangement, but I saw little choice. So, for one year I took an afternoon English class with other kids my age. Most of the kids weren’t second language speakers like I was; but they just needed extra help with pronunciation.
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Book Description Koehler Books, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 200 pages. 9.00x6.00x0.46 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk1938467663
Book Description Koehler Books, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111938467663