On my second day in Taiwan, I met with two news reporters, a female reporter from Taipei Times and a male reporter from United, who were both interested in the story of my adoption and reunion. Only one reporter actually ran the story in the end, however. Most Taiwanese have a negative view of international adoption, which was surprising to me. So, in hopes of presenting a more positive light on adoption, Tien though the good publicity would be beneficial. After the interviews, Tien and her friend Elaine, who helped with translation during the interviews, my sisters and I all had lunch together. We went to Sogo, a department store, where there was a restaurant on the 14th floor! The food was delicious. I had my first taste ever of black sesame pudding. It was really good!
After lunch, we parted ways with Tien and Elaine. My sisters and I then went to Longshan Temple by the MRT. The temple was built long ago and withstood the air raids of WWII. The smell of burning incense was overpowering. It was hard to catch my breath. The temple was very crowded due to the upcoming Lunar New Year, and many people were there to worship. The temple was quite ornate and beautiful. The dragons on top of the temple represent protection.
My sisters worshiped and were thankful for my safe arrival. I thanked God for the opportunity to be in Taiwan and to reunite with my sisters and birth family. After visiting the temple, we took a taxi to my elder sister’s home in Banqiao. My second eldest sister made us a light dinner. Then we had high mountain tea indulged in watching Korean dramas! I was happy to find out that my sisters also love Korean dramas. They introduced me to a few new ones, and we ended up watching some of “Sweet Spy.” Can’t wait to watch the rest of it. Around 9 pm, I took a taxi back to my hotel. We have a very early morning tomorrow. We’re taking a trip to Hualien and the beautiful eastern coast of Taiwan! My eldest sister made a schedule of all the places we can go sightseeing. Looking forward to seeing more of Taiwan! I can hardly believe I’m here. I’m here with my biological sisters in Taipei, Taiwan, where I was born at long last!
I have become intrigued by everything Asian, specifically things related to Chinese culture and to Taiwan. It surprises me how strongly I feel about this. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve become a little too obsessed. Am I going overboard? Is this a mid-life crisis? Have other transracially adopted adults gone through this kind of searching later in life? When I explain to friends and family that I’m taking Mandarin lessons, going to Taiwan soon, and really exploring my cultural roots, their reactions are often encouraging, but I don’t think they quite get it. Perhaps they believe that this is just a phase I’m going through similar to a kid going through adolescence. It has, after all, taken half of my lifetime to get to that point of wanting to learn more of my cultural heritage. Twenty years ago I would never have thought twice about pursuing a search for my biological sisters, planning a trip to Taiwan, or learning Mandarin. There was no hint of a desire whatsoever.
I am happy that this new chapter of my life has begun. I’m not sure where it will all lead, but it’s an adventure. Recently, I’ve been watching a Taiwanese TV drama called, “Meteor Garden.” I had a hard time getting into it at first because it’s targeted for a younger audience, but I must say I got sucked in. I’ve begun to pick up on a few Mandarin words and phrases here and there. I have a growing list of Taiwanese dramas that I want to watch! I’ve also been listening to K-Pop (Korean pop music) and Taiwanese pop music lately. I’ve been enjoying it and am getting acquainted with popular Taiwanese singers and bands, like Jay Chou and Jerry Yan. I’m sure there are a lot more great artists out there.
I still have many questions about my adoption. One thing that still mystifies me is why my adoptive parents told me that I was Japanese and Vietnamese. My birth parents were both from China and moved to Taiwan where I was born and adopted. When and why they moved from China to Taiwan, I’m not exactly sure. I would like to know what happened to the adoption agency, The Family Planning Association of China, as it no longer exists. I’d like to know if Tze-kuan Shu Kan, the director of the agency, is still living. My adoptive mom also kept a list of orphanages in the Taipei area. I wonder if she visited all those orphanages before finding me? I would like to visit one of those orphanages in Taipei while I’m there in January. Of course, to find one of my biological sisters and meet would be beyond wonderful and would most likely lead to some of the answers to my questions. Maybe going to Taiwan is just the beginning. I hope that more doors open up. I don’t think that this is just a phase. I think it’s a growing appreciation for my birth culture, an opportunity to explore it and expand my identity. So, I may come off a little obsessed, but it really is a whole new world.
I walk into Starbucks on 46th and Chandler Boulevard. It’s on the other side of town, but I don’t mind. I’m ten minutes early for my second Mandarin lesson, and the place is nearly packed. I hurry over to the only table left and sit down. I lay my notebook on the table and begin studying my lesson from the previous week. Xièxie means thank you. Now how do I pronounce it correctly again? Is it a “sh” sound or “ch” sound…short i sound, or short e sound? More customers walk in and check the place out as they stand in line ready to order their lattes and frappuccinos. They seem to stare at me since I’m sitting alone at a table with two empty chairs. No way I’m giving up my table though! I continue studying. Bù kè qimeans your welcome and zài jiàn means goodbye. Hello is nǐ hǎo. Of course, the spelling of these words is only a phonetic representation of how they are pronounced, as it’s Pīnyīn. We haven’t yet focused on Mandarin characters, although they are there written next to the phonetic spelling of each word in my lessons. I try to acquaint myself with the characters, but they don’t quite stick in my mind. I continue to sit and then wonder if I should get something to drink, a hot tea or coffee while I’m waiting. I decide not to. I have to save as much as possible for the trip to Taiwan.
My tutor, Shuchen, arrives shortly with a big smile and warm welcome. Shuchen is as petite as petite can be, but really big on enthusiasm. I appreciate her pep and her obvious interest in why I’m going to Taiwan and helping me learn Mandarin. We focus on learning language that will help me get by in the short amount of time we have before I go on my trip and will later focus more on filling in the gaps. I’m happy with this arrangement and try my best to get the pronunciation down and remember what the heck I’m actually saying in Mandarin. What’s familiar about Mandarin is that it’s a tonal language. I studied Vietnamese for a while, which is another tonal language. This helps, and I’m able to hear and pronounce the f different tones (really five) pretty easily. Shuchen is very encouraging and tells me that being a musician also helps in hearing the inflection of each tone. Right on!
Recently, I got hooked on a Korean drama, “Boys Over Flowers” and watched the episodes online through Hulu. I looked up Taiwanese dramas thinking that it would be helpful in getting Mandarin “in my ear.” There is a Taiwanese version of “Boys Over Flowers” called “Meteor Garden.” It came out in 2001 and appears to have been very popular. Apparently, it stars some of Taiwan’s most popular young actors and actresses. The online streaming was really awful though, so I didn’t watch more than a few minutes of the first episode. Instead, I began watching another Taiwanese drama on Hulu called, “Single Princesses and Blind Dates.” It’s not nearly as good as “Boys Over Flowers” and I can’t say that I’m hooked, but it’s definitely good for listening and trying to learn Mandarin! I wish there was an easier way to learn another language and quickly. As it is, I’ll continue meeting with Shuchen. I’m glad that I found the right tutor and am really enjoying learning Mandarin, despite the difficulty.