Small steps...Taiwan journey

Small steps...Taiwan journey


This is the story of our lives, especially concerning adopting 3 siblings from Taiwan.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

han-han eats ice

On certain days, I question the relative value of having come early to Taiwan...those days are the ones when flights have to be changed AGAIN because we have no final dates, passport, change fees, space available?, and any other number of questions. Most days, I have been SO grateful we could do things this way, see the country, get to know people and culture and hopefully appreciate a little more where our little guys come from. No news on final ruling yet, passports are supposed to be done by today, medical next, but no indication of dates we'll be done.
(above, caregiver and her daughter with Han-han) Our visit with Han-han yesterday was just great. He's learning little bits of English: "more" for when we play airplane and fly him through the air. Because it was pouring rain, we didn't go to the park but hung around his house. We did a routine of pretending to go to sleep, then ride on my back to the living room, say hi to everyone, go back to the room, lock the door, hop off back, arrange blankets and then start it all over again...for at least 30 minutes.
We took him out to dinner--I think they must eat out a lot because I haven't seen much use of the kitchen. So Sam, Han-han and I set out for the food court. We passed by a decent looking pizza place and decided to stop there. The minute we sat down, I realized my brain had completely checked out. I was in a restaurant with a non-english speaking child with absolutely NO toys, books, etc to keep him busy.
Lucky for us (or unlucky as the case may be) we were right beside a "digital" mall with phones and computers to play games etc and those machines where you try to claw a stuffed animal out. Passed the time that way til the pizza was ready. He was perfectly happy with the pizza, trying to cut it with a knife and fork and holding it upside down, eating the crust end first.
Even better was eating ice. Pretty much nothing is served with ice (maybe some teas, which we generally don't get), so he used the fork to scoop out individual pieces of ice. It was like watching our Congolese friends see snow for the first time...pure entertainment for us and wonder for him. GOTOVIDEO I videotaped him, and once he had seen himself onscreen, he wanted to be recorded again and again, hamming it up more and more each time. A great night!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

honeymoon's over

The honeymoon is officially over!!! We went to Taichung Friday morning and planned to stay overnight at the orphanage through til Saturday afternoon. Their caregiver wanted to use some of their stipend money to get items they needed, so we looked for English/Chinese books with pinyin (simplified Chinese characters that Tsung-Lin can read) and backpacks for both kids. (below Mei-Yun sharing food with Sam)
At the end of six hours, we had backpacks, a great pasta lunch at a place with a beautiful outdoor pond area, a few books and an ice cream cone…great at the end of a hot sweltering day. All was hunky dory...holding hands, "mama, mama," sharing food, smiles, and happiness.
We went back to the orphanage, had showers and dinner and then sat around and chatted. Lots of kids from other floors of the orphanage like to check in on the little ones and play and a few adults passed through too.
At the end of the evening, some of the kids were watching a movie when all of a sudden, I could hear Mei-Yun crying with her face in her lap. I couldn't see that any hitting had been going seemed out of the blue. I went over to check and she wanted nothing to do with me; after a few minutes, the caregiver figured out that she was feeling scared about going to the United States. Deep emotion, little we took a break from each other...or rather, she took a break from me. She opted to sleep all alone on this great big bed for 5 while Sam, Tsung-Lin, and the 3 other little girls in the "house" and I had a sleepover on the floor.
The next day, things were still standoffish, but my grand plan panned out. All along, I have felt that having Sam and Emma as part of our family would work positively because from the beginning, I actually assumed the kids would attach more to other kids than to adults. So, even though Mei-Yun studiously avoided me all day Saturday, she was all over Sam.
A whole bus full of kids from the orphanage went to a play and she would ONLY sit NOT beside me. Honestly, I am grateful we know how she feels, and I want her to have room to mourn and figure things out. It seems perfectly normal to me to feel scared about the upheaval of one's entire world. I know we're in it for the long haul, and we'll have time help sort things through and love her and heal. No worries.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

more alike than different

Getting to know the kids has been eye opening in many ways. In preparation to adopt, we did various trainings and read books designed to open our eyes to possible behaviors or challenges kids might have. But what I have found thus far is that these kids are KIDS…more like all kids than different from them (recognizing that there is still room in the future for plenty of “challenges”).
Our visit with Han-han this last time was the first with just Sam, me and him--no translator or caregiver (who, incidentally, gave me a pack of Mentos to bribe him to obey, haha). We went to the park where he loved more and bigger bubbles. He spent at least 40 minutes going down the slide with a little toy cat, saying each time “I’m ready!” in Chinese. GOTOVIDEO He found my chapstick and loved it in typical 3 year old fashion, reapplying every fifteen minutes or so. He absolutely refused to let me take a picture when I was ready…it was his say all the way…he had too much to do and places to go…completely normal (I had forgotten about that).
One of the best of all was walking to get dinner. We were in the heart of Taipei, holding hands, when we walked by a largish pharmacy type store. He immediately stopped and went off in a string of Chinese, none of which I understood. I figured I had communicated pretty well that we were going to eat, but I was really curious what he was so decisive about, so Sam and I followed his lead. He climbed two flights of stairs and walked DIRECTLY to a toy concrete mixer and obviously said, “I want that.” No chinese needed to get that message loud and clear.
I knew there was potential for BIG breakdown, so I scooped him up and hurried out with him saying “boo yaow” over and over (no, no, no). We got out of the store in short order and thankfully he stayed relatively calm. Finally, at the end of the evening, when we got back to Han-han's apartment, Sam was hot and sweaty so he ran his hair under the faucet to cool off. Han-han promptly did the same thing, styling his hair just like Sam. He sure seemed like just your average (of course, average CHARMING ADORABLE) 3 year old. In the video, you can hear Han-han calling Sam gugga (older brother in Chinese). GOTOVIDEO
A separate but fun highlight to the day was that Bentleys (who we stayed with in Hong Kong) came to Taiwan, and we got to spend a few hours at the park with them. They were camping their way down the east coast of Taiwan and at the beginning of their journey. We haven’t had any friends come visit us here in Taiwan (not that they came to see us), but it was a fun outing nonetheless, to see familiar faces.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

all three kids meet!!

A banner day! The last two days the weather has been spectacular…sunny, less humid with a slight breeze…so nice!!
We left early to the train station for Taichung. We were slated to visit the older kids and learned yesterday that Han-han would also be going…all of them to get passports. So, this would be the first time they would meet in person (keeping in mind that Han-han didn’t know he had siblings until a month or so ago).
(above, the whole entourage) The Taipei (Han-han, caregiver and social worker) and Yunlin group (social worker and assistant) met the rest of us at the orphanage where we promptly got in a car and went to the passport office…no fanfare at all, down to business. When we arrived and started walking to the office, all three of them were trying to hold my hand; Tsung-Lin ended up with Sam, but they marched happily along and you would’ve thought they had known each other their whole lives. In the office, Han-han kept trying to share his dried peas snack, all the while dropping them on the floor. Tsung-Lin tried to lift up and position Han-han on the chair beside him. Mei-Yun draped herself over me. It was charming and wonderful!
With that behind us, we were off to….McDonalds, again (3rd time in a week). Same story there…sharing, playing, each making sure the other got the right drink or chair. Han-han was particularly concerned with who got which happy meal toy and that is on a cute video. GOTOVIDEO Sam was the resident tiger…they were screaming and running and hiding, having a blast.
Of course, there were some tears and play injuries but nothing out of the ordinary. I had to learn how to say "softer voice" because the screaming was so loud! In this video, Sam is hiding in the tubes and the other kids are waiting for him to appear. GOTOVIDEO I was grateful for Jay, the security guard, who acted as translator on this outing. (in the middle)
everything was so ordinary, yet EXTRAordinary!

Friday, May 18, 2012

first visit with Mei-Yun and Tsung-lin

We arrived in Taichung early in the day with the intent of going to the science museum first and then to visit Mei-Yun and Tsung-Lin at the orphanage in the afternoon. Children’s Home has 160 or so children, its own kindergarten, a large playground and charming little garden area. They are divided into smaller groups depending on age and sex and, for an institution, everything looked nice and clean and homey. The kids were sitting at a little table with snacks in the middle, waiting for us to come.
All kinds of adults were around and I was able to sort out later that some worked at the orphanage, one was a social worker from Yunlin County (where kids are originally from; she's overseen this from the beginning) and our translator. The room was perfectly clean, but I didn’t see any toys, so I didn’t know if we were supposed to sit at the table and chat in our EXTREMELY limited Chinese. So I got out the spinning tops that were a success with Han-han and some little sponge capsules that you drop in water and they become African animals. That caught their attention for a good half hour. They hovered over the cup of water, watching and waiting, then squeezing out the little sponge and matching it to the picture on the back of the package. GOTOVIDEO
The orphanage had gotten out photo albums of them and pictures they had drawn and both kids flipped through and proudly showed their pictures to us. After a time, it was decided that we’d go out for dinner…less people and hyperactivity, so we took a taxi to our favorite….yes, McDonalds!! We live less than a mile away from McDonalds in Anchorage and in 4 years, I think I can count on one hand how many times we’ve gone. Ironic, yes? The getting ready was clearly a big deal to them; I doubt there are many outings with just them. They were SO excited and gathering umbrellas, bags and raincoats. GOTOVIDEO
It was a roaring success, from the food to the kids meal toys to the play area. At one point, Mei-Yun had my camera and carefully, with great focus, took pictures of everything in sight…the bathroom door, my water bottle, the shoe bin. It was pointed out that at the orphanage, only the adults have the camera, so she was having a blast, directing me here and there for her photo shoot. (below are some of her photos)
They loved playing with Sam; both were asking our help to do this and that. Mei-Yun kept saying “Mama, guo lai..come here.” They spoke mostly Chinese, but there was a lot of context to help figure out what they wanted and the translator mostly helped with the questions I asked of the orphanage workers.
Everyone had noticed Sam's numerous mosquito bites, so Mei-Yun became the nurse, applying ointment a few times at the orphanage and McDonalds.
All in all, I don’t know that it could’ve gone better. There was the faint glimmer of “What was I thinking?” but I had that fleeting feeling when I was expecting Sam…of “can I do this?” And really, we just do it…parenting is good and hard.... and better and harder, and we do it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our first visit with Han-han

Great week! We had a video chat with the older kids on Monday for the first time (after 2 failed attempts). They were bouncing off the walls with excitement, laughing and happy. I didn’t expect such fun; it seems clear that they have been prepared to become part of a family, from the names they called us to their enthusiasm to us being asked what their English names were. That was unexpected, so now we are feeling like we need to hurry along with that.
On Wednesday, we were able to finally visit Han-han in person. Many times while we’ve been in Taipei, I looked around at little boys thinking… he could be around somewhere, so it was ironic to meet the social workers at the train station and be taken LITERALLY one block from Taipei Main Station to where he lives. We have passed through there 20 times at least; at one point, I even considered spending a whole day IN the train station just to learn my way around and not get lost(I didn’t though…still confusing and disorienting…there are 4 underground “malls” and at least 3 different types of trains.)
When we arrived, he had just gotten up from a nap, and I was talking with a care provider and just watched and waited. I decided to hang back and see what would happen instead of the grand hellos and here I am. Within a few minutes, he pulled out his little bike and everyone laughed, sure he was showing off for us. After a time, we threw a ball around; I got out a few tops I had gotten in Daxi and he went back to those again and again trying to spin them like Sam. (NOTE: wish the pictures were better, but the video is's hard to live and record at the same time,haha). GOTOVIDEO
A few little hiccups with the language barrier, but he warmed up a lot and at one point came and sat beside me, sharing his crackers with me. He was a typical three year old in lots of ways…taking toys from Sam, getting frustrated when things didn’t work right, but he was charming and adorable, happy and curious. I knew we had a few hours, so I was asking questions while trying to play and interact.
Toward the end of our visit, we talked about his bedtime routine and went to his room to see how that went. There was a crib and a single bed, and after a few minutes of chatting, Han-han motioned for Sam and I to lay down on the bed. He turned the lights off, locked the door, and scrambled up and got right in the middle, pulling a mickey mouse blanket up over all 3 of us. He rearranged the blanket over and over and whispered happily, saying good night and laughing. It was some good family bonding! I can’t imagine how the visit could have gone any better.