Category Archives: Adoptee Search and Reunion

happy new year

As we close 2011, I am ecstatic that the search for my birth family has finally ended in actually finding them. It was in November, 2009 that I first began focusing on finding them. I had gone to see journalist, Mei-Ling Hopgood, author of “Lucky Girl” on November 1, 2009 where she was giving a book signing at the Phoenix Public Library. She was also adopted from Taiwan by a Caucasian-American couple and reunited with her biological family at the age of 23. Her book inspired me to forge ahead with my own search and gave me hope that perhaps it was possible to find my birth family. I was referred to Tien around that time as well by an adoptive mother from FCC (Families of Children from China), and from there the rest is history. I have saved nearly all of my correspondences with Tien and other people who were referred to me over the past couple of years in hopes that one day, I could put it all together into some kind of timeline.

The best part of 2011 is now being able to correspond with my oldest sister. I received the first email from her this past Wednesday morning before work. I was overjoyed to hear from her and overflowing with tears of joy. My sister’s English is very good, much better than my Mandarin at the moment. She told me a little about my older brother and other older sister and that they each have grown children. She also said that when they were little, they were good at painting and music. We all share some artistic abilities! We continued to email each other up through Friday. With each email I learned a little more of my biological parents and the circumstances surrounding my adoption. I treasure learning of how it all began and of my birth family. My sister tells me that I resemble our mother and that our father was quite handsome. I’ve always wondered if I look like any of my sisters or birth parents. I so look forward to meeting all of them soon.

I’m happy that this evening, we are joining some friends to celebrate New Year’s. Our friends adopted a little girl at 15 months from China nearly 3 years ago. They were at our home on Christmas Eve and were some of the first people to hear the news that Tien had made contact with my oldest sister. All of this seems surreal, and yet I know that I’ll be in Taiwan soon. It’s been difficult to concentrate at work because I’m preoccupied with all the emotions of at long last finding my biological siblings. I’m on cloud 9.

My Mandarin tutor taught me a new word today: you yuan. It means “have fate.” Women you yuan. My sisters and brother and I are fortunate to have good fate, the kind that brings people together. I feel so lucky to celebrate New Year’s here with good friends and onward to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family in Taiwan.

christmas miracle

It’s Christmas Eve. We have guests staying with us from out of town, and this evening we have a houseful of friends and kids over for dinner. The day has been full of catching up with old friends and running around here and there. Now, our kitchen is a buzz of conversation and laughter as everyone mingles together and loads their plates full of holiday fixings. In all honesty, I begin to feel a little overwhelmed by the houseful of people and noise and decide to steal upstairs for a few minutes of quiet. I log onto my computer to check my emails. Earlier today, I sent Tien an email to wish her a merry Christmas. Tien has been helping me with the search for my birth family. I’m happy to find an email from her in return. Her email begins, I have the greatest Christmas gift for you. As I continue reading, she tells me she has received an email from my oldest sister in Taiwan! I can hardly believe it! “You have two older sisters and one older brother,” Tien confirms. She has corresponded with my sister and has told her that we’ll be in Taipei in January. Tien includes my sister’s email response to her.  She tells Tien that she just received letters from the Household Registration Office today learning of my search for her and my other siblings. She writes,

“To my greatest pleasure that my youngest sister(黃筱玲) is now very well in USA. and she will visit Taiwan early next year.

Though we family members missed for almost half century, like a broken kite line. Thank God, we finally find each other in our life time. Isn’t it a miracle?”

I’m in tears and cannot believe that we have found my sister! She mentions that she will tell my brother and other sister about me and my trip to Taiwan. From her email, it appears that she speaks and writes in English, unless Tien translated her email, but I don’t think so. I run downstairs to share the news with our friends and my own family. I’m so happy that my sister wants to meet me! They remember me! I feel the same way she does, thank God that we have finally found each other in our life time. It is truly a miracle.

Without Tien’s help, none of this would be possible. She wasn’t kidding when she said she had a great Christmas gift. Tien has been a miracle worker, and God has truly answered my prayers. I thank all of you who have also sent up prayers!

I send my sister an email back directly, as she included her email and home and hand phone numbers. I wonder how I should begin, how to introduce myself. Finally I just begin by telling her, “I’m your youngest sister” and that Tien has sent word to me that she’s contacted her. I tell her a little bit about myself and family and how happy I am that she wants to reunite. I hope that my email sounds OK and appropriate.

My sister ends her email to Tien with this,

“…And I think we all are happy for the greatest gift of God, our reunion” and sent Christmas wishes to us all. It is the greatest gift of God to have the opportunity to finally reunite with my biological family. I’m still soaking in the news, full of anticipation. I will be able to meet them soon. I’m amazed at how everything is falling into place. Our goal to contact my sister before leaving for Taiwan has happened! Nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

letter sent

Tien and I have been exchanging several emails in preparation for our trip to Taiwan. She’s been helping me with a number of different things, which I am extremely grateful for. Most recently, she penned a letter in Mandarin addressed to the registration office in Taipei City explaining that I’m searching for my birth family and asking them for their help in this search. She revised the letter a couple of times and had me send it back to her once I signed it. I have been printing, signing, and scanning the letter with each revision then sending back via email to Tien. After about the third revision, she felt it was just right. In the letter, Tien provided her contact info and asked that, as my translator, they contact her with any information per my permission. Our hope is that my biological sister’s address will be released to me once they see the accompanying documents that prove that I’m related by birth. Yesterday, during my lunch break, a co-worker, Jewel, and I headed to the post office to mail the letter along with copies of my adoption contract and baby passport to prove that I’m a true member of the family Huang. As we walked up to the post office, Jewel mentioned that she hoped there wouldn’t be a long line. It turned out that there was a very long line of people waiting to mail Christmas packages and letters. I began to worry that we wouldn’t have enough time to mail the package. Jewel noticed a self service kiosk when we first walked in and stood in line for me so I could go check it out. Then, I realized that I couldn’t read the address label that Tien sent me because it was in Mandarin. How would I know what the zip code was? Thankfully once I typed in where the package was going, it automatically found the correct city and postage. A postage label was printed out with all the appropriate info in a matter of seconds. The letter is now on its way to Taiwan!

I hope that the letter arrives safely at the right destination and in good time. Most importantly I hope that a reply is sent to Tien with news of my sister’s whereabouts before we arrive in Taiwan. Once there, Tien has arranged for a guide to drive me to the registration office and to meet with my sister if we are able to locate her (and if she wants to meet me). I wonder how this will all turn out. I’ll be in Taiwan for the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration. 2012 is the year of the Dragon. Maybe it will also be the year that I find one of my biological sisters.

xie xie

This is my favorite time of the year. The cooler weather, the Christmas carols, the food, family, friendships, holiday shopping; the holiday spirit is upon us. Getting caught up in the holiday spirit, I thought I’d change the look of my blog. It all started yesterday when we put up our Christmas tree and decorated the house. Today, I just happen to be home with a sick kiddo who is suddenly feeling well enough to bake a pumpkin pie. The house is beginning to smell like a bakery. It’s actually nice to be home, to slow down a bit and reflect. I realize that I have so many things to be grateful for.

As we move into the busy holiday season, I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have followed my blog, left comments, or just stopped by to visit. When I started this blog nearly two years ago, I had no idea where it would all go. Likewise, when I first began the search for my birth family in 2009, I didn’t know what to expect. I was almost afraid to expect anything because I had so little information to go on. What I have discovered has gone beyond any of my expectations. I’ve learned more about both my adoptive parents, especially my dad and his service in the U.S. Army Air Corp. I’ve learned some about my birth parents, and that unfortunately, both have passed on. I have had my adoption contract translated. Not only have I been able to write about my adoption experience, but I found a connection to all of you. I am so grateful to have found others who have themselves been adopted, who have adopted children from other countries, or are in the process of adopting more children. I enjoy reading about your experiences adopting your children and being able to share the bonds of adoption. I sincerely appreciate your encouraging comments and support as I continue on in my search for my biological sisters and travel to Taiwan next January. It always brightens my day to connect with others who also have a story to tell. It’s great to be a part of an adoption community. I anticipate one day meeting one of my biological sisters. Now that we have something to go on (an address in Taiwan), I feel that perhaps it is possible to find someone still living from my birth family, and I hope to share the ongoing journey with all of you.

Happy holidays to you and all of your families!

Xie xie!

a whole new world

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 whythey 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.

learning chinese mandarin

I walk into Starbuck’s 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. Xie xie 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 siting alone at a table with two empty chairs. No way I’m giving up my table though! I continue studying. Bu ke qi means your welcome and zai jian means goodbye. Of course, the spelling of these words is only a phonetic representation of how they are pronounced. We haven’t yet focused on Mandarin characters, although they are there written next to the phonetic spelling of each word. 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; have to save as much as possible for the trip to Taiwan.

My tutor, Shuchen, arrives shortly. Big smile and warm welcome. Shuchen is as petite as petite can be, but really big on enthusiasm. I appreciate her peppy spirit 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 very similar to Mandarin. This helps and I’m able to hear and pronounce the 4 different tones (really 5) 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 and apparently 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 just keep meeting with Shuchen. I’m glad that I found the right tutor, and am really enjoying learning Mandarin despite the difficulty.

let the adventure begin

Well, I booked a flight to Taiwan! That’s right, I’m going to Taipei, Taiwan in January. I’m beside myself! My adoption search contact here in the states, Tien, invited me awhile back to go with her when she travels to Taiwan. She’s going back to visit family for Chinese New Year, as well as take care of some business. Although there’s not much time to prepare, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to go with someone familiar with Taiwan. Luckily, I was able to book the same flight overseas, so Tien and I will be flying and meeting together for the first time since we first began corresponding, nearly two years ago. I’m very much looking forward to finally meeting face to face.

Today, I got my passport paperwork taken care of. I tried not to be too disappointed at how bad the photos came out! I’m also trying to decide on the best hotel to stay at and how to hire a travel guide who I can take with me everywhere I go. Within a week or two, I’ll begin taking Mandarin lessons. I’m just waiting on my new tutor to contact me. I won’t know enough to speak the language fluently before I go, but maybe I’ll be able to learn a few phrases.

This trip will be a milestone in my journey towards finding any living members of my birth family. And just as important, it’s an opportunity for me to connect with my birth culture, really for the first time. I know that it will be a memorable and life changing experience. Perhaps the first of more trips in the future back to the country where I was born, at least I hope so. I’m thrilled. I’ve never done anything quite like this, travel to another country without anyone else. In college, I was in a show choir, and we traveled internationally every other year. One year, we went to Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ghaungzhou, New Delhi, Agra, and London. It was quite the experience and one that I enjoyed very much. I grew to love traveling abroad. I would love to travel to Hong Kong again and also to Seoul, Korea one day. For now, I’m Taiwan bound. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Chinese New Year!

Embracing my cultural roots

Wow, it’s been nearly a month since my last post.  Life has seemed as though in slow motion as I continue to wait to hear 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 discovering 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 was Vietnamese, and my 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 a whole new mystery about my true 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 roots.

Last week, we spent the weekend with some good friends of ours in California. My friend is Korean and her husband, Czechoslavokian. 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 know that may seem completely bizarre. I suddenly felt proud to be Asian. I’m sad to say that for the greater part of my life, I have downplayed any references to my Asian heritage, never fully embracing my cultural roots. I tried for many years to look more “Western,” Americanized. When I look in the mirror now, I’m beginning to appreciate more 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 up on me in 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 discovering 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.