When I returned from Taiwan in January, I wanted to apply for Taiwanese citizenship. I still have my original baby passport issued when we moved from Okinawa to the States, and I was born in Taipei, so I figured it would be possible to re-apply. I was excited about the idea of having dual citizenship and reclaiming a part of my Taiwanese heritage. It was suggested that I contact TECO (The Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office). So, I called the TECO office in LA a couple weeks ago. The woman I spoke with first asked if I spoke Mandarin. Sadly, although I’m studying Mandarin, I’m not quite at the level yet to carry on a conversation about renewing my passport. She informed me that I needed to send for the family household document from my sister in Taiwan and asked me repeatedly if I still had my original passport. I assured her that I did. She was not rude in any way. I think she was just making sure that I really did have a passport issued from Taiwan. Upon receiving the household document, she asked that I contact her again to proceed.
Yesterday, I received the household document from my sister. Yea! I called TECO to find out what the next steps were. Again, the same woman asked if I spoke Mandarin then asked several times if my passport was issued in Taiwan or China. It took me a couple of minutes to convince her by reading my passport that indeed it was issued in Taiwan, not China.
And now the next stage is to complete the passport application form, which is available online thank goodness. After that, I will have to send the completed app signed by a notary republic, a copy of the household document, my baby passport, a copy of my current US passport, 2 photos for my new passport, a $50 check, and a return self-addressed envelope to TECO. I’m so grateful my mom kept my passport despite the fact that she never revealed that I had one, nor that she still had it in her possession, and that I found it. My mom did however keep newspaper clippings of my U.S. naturalization ceremony and my naturalization certificate, another important document since I don’t have an original birth certificate. Today I went to download the passport application form. I clicked on the link and there was there form – in Mandarin. I didn’t see any link leading to an English language form, so I called the woman back to see if there was one. Unfortunately, there is not, so I will enlist the help of my Mandarin tutor, or an acquaintance of ours who is Taiwanese. More incentive for me to study my Mandarin harder!
Just before hanging up, I asked the woman if I was still a Taiwanese citizen, even though my sister told me weeks ago that I was. I just wanted reassurance that it was true. “Yes, you are still citizen – don’t worry,” was her reply. I felt relieved, pleased, thrilled. Really, I always had been a national but didn’t know it. Why am I so pleased? After 40 something years of rejecting my birth heritage, I feel more and more drawn to it. I can’t say that every transracially adopted person will feel the same way, but for me it’s been an awakening. It comes as a bit of a surprise even to me that I’m heading in this direction, but it feels right. Little pieces of my identity are coming together. It’s been shown that the identity piece for transracial adoptees is typically a complex one and that reuniting with one’s birth family, or even connecting with one’s birth culture helps adoptees feel more “whole.” For me, I was already beginning to arrive at a sense of wholeness before meeting my biological family. I think life experience and having my own family has been part of that process. Meeting my sisters and birth family brought joy. Yes, also a sense of completeness in that my search for them culminated in our reunion. I connected with my birth culture in the most profound way, and I learned more about my birth parents and why I was placed for adoption. But there were many factors that came in waves over the years that helped me develop that sense of wholeness. Am I there yet? I think like anyone, whether transracially adopted or not, we all go through so many different stages during our lives. Accepting that I’m Taiwanese has been like taking one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward and so forth, because it’s been a long road full of surprises, denial, questioning, searching, and finally acceptance. Being adopted is part of who I am and always will be. Finding my birth family and owning my Taiwanese citizenship is another leg in the journey – a really significant one.