Embracing my cultural roots

Wow, it’s been nearly a month since my last post. I feel as though I live in slow motion as I continue to wait on news of the search for my biological sister in Taiwan. At the end of September, I received an email from Beatrice at The Child and Juvenile Information Center in Taipei City, the agency that’s leading the search for my sister. Beatrice is always very encouraging and sent word that the household system in Taipei has record of my sister’s address, my second sister to be exact. Wow, second sister! I’m assuming second born daughter to my birth parents; I was the fourth and the only one given up for adoption that I know of.  Just knowing that small fact makes this all seem a little bit more real. She’s alive, she’s living somewhere out there. Will we find her? Beatrice expresses that finding this information is a big step, and they will try to contact her as soon as possible. More importantly, she also informs me that everyone needs to register in the household system, so everyone will have an address in the system; however, that does not guarantee that the individual registered will live at the address listed. I understand the message: we can’t be certain that my sister still currently lives at this address. My heart sinks a little. I want to be hopeful, but the possibility of finding my sister seems nearly impossible, far away, intangible, like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wish for things to be more certain, that perhaps after all this time, destiny will be on my side.

At the beginning of the month, I email Beatrice asking how the search is going. She expresses that although they sent letters to the address, there has been no reply from anyone. She suggests that it’s possible my sister no longer lives at that address, or that she has rented the house out. I become curious about the address, whether it is listed in Taiwan or in China. The reason behind this is my adoption contract lists my birth family’s address in the province of Guangxi, China. This is confusing to me and makes me wonder if I’m Chinese or Taiwanese? Furthermore, what led my birth family to move from China to Taiwan? Beatrice explains that the address on my adoption contract traces back to my ancestral descent, to my birth father’s family and that my sister’s address is in Taiwan. She assures me that I’m Taiwanese since my family lived in Taiwan.

Beatrice emails soon after noticing that it bothers me somewhat not knowing if I am Chinese or Taiwanese. I explain that my adoptive mom had always told me I was part Japanese and part Vietnamese – my mother, Vietnamese, and father, Japanese. I have no idea how she got this information, and I certainly never questioned it growing up. When I found my adoption contract in 2010 (after my adoptive mother’s death), I discovered that my birth parents were both Chinese, at least their names were Chinese, not Vietnamese or Japanese. This was shocking to say the least. My whole life, I believed myself to be Vietnamese and Japanese. Finding my adoption contract opened up an unsettling mystery about my birth heritage. Both of my adoptive parents have passed on, and recently I learned that both of my birth parents have also passed on. I’m left to investigate my past on my own. I can only say that now, I’m more curious than ever to discover something of my cultural roots.

Last week, we spent the weekend with some good friends of ours in California. My friend is Korean and her husband, from Czechoslovakia. While there, she introduced me to a popular Korean TV series, “Boys Over Flowers“. I can’t say that I was very interested in watching it, but to my surprise I got totally hooked, and when we returned home, continued to watch the entire 25 episodes! Watching this series was not only great entertainment, but on a much deeper level, it helped me to appreciate my Asian roots in a way I’ve never experienced before. I feel proud to be Asian. I’m sad to say that for the greater part of my life, I downplayed any reference to my Asian heritage, never fully embracing my cultural roots. I tried for many years to look “western,” American, white. When I look in the mirror now, I’m beginning to appreciate what I see, the shape of my eyes and nose, the color of my hair and skin. I have a burning desire, whether my sister is found or not, to go to Taiwan and immerse myself in the culture, to even learn Mandarin. I want to explore that part of my identity that I rejected for so long and feel compelled to do so. It’s been difficult to wrap my head around all of the emotions that have crept in over the last several weeks.

I know that Beatrice and the agency in Taiwan are doing everything they can to find my sister. It will take time. Whether or not I receive good or bad news, the good news to me is that I’m slowly learning about my cultural roots. I hope that in so doing, I will appreciate who I am and who I’m becoming in a greater way. I realize that my self-identity is still so full of complexities. But things are coming full circle, and in the end, I know that I won’t regret this journey.

6 thoughts on “Embracing my cultural roots

  1. Pingback: A Taiwanese American Adoptee’s Journey and Search for Identity

  2. Mei-Ling

    Been reading your blog, in particular your post about the searching process and the possibility (or lack of?) finding a remaining sister. Very interesting and I’m holding my breath for you, as you await an answer should it ever come…

    Based on your entries, I’m guessing you don’t speak any of the language. If you ever plan to go to Taiwan, you’d either need a language buddy to go with you, or pick up some of the basics before you go.


    1. Marijane Post author

      Thanks, Mei-Ling. I’m taking Mandarin lessons and hope to continue after returning from Taiwan as well. It will be an experience for sure whether I’m able to find my sister or not. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Pingback: Daydreaming « BelieveHopeLoveInspire

  4. Michelle

    So excited for you to begin exploring your cultural roots! Taiwan is an amazing country and worth visiting just for the sake of visiting. I do hope you will meet some bio family while you are there but even if you don’t it wouldn’t be a wasted trip. Go, immerse yourself and enjoy!


    1. Marijane Post author

      Thank you, Michelle! It is truly exciting, and I appreciate your comments about visiting Taiwan just for the sake of visiting. I so look forward to traveling there in the very near future!



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