Taiwan (Part Five)

There are several families who have just received first decrees from Taiwan and will soon be traveling to get their sweet babies.  It has made me reflect more and more about our trip, what we would change, and how much we miss Taiwan and want to go back.  We have already discussed taking Amber Joy back, maybe around age 10 or 12, when she can appreciate it for what it is.  If we could do it over again, we would have taken an extra day before meeting Amber Joy, even though it would have been torture to be in the same country and not have her in our arms.  We would have been more rested and more able to take on the challenges of the next few days.  We would have done more sightseeing, instead of staying in and worrying about keeping her pacified.  We would realize that this is the trip of a lifetime and try to see as much and do as much as possible, in spite of the rainy weather. 

But the trip was amazing.  It was completely indescribable...the sights, the sounds, the smells...all different from anything we had ever experienced.  One thing I don't think I've written about are the scooters!  They are EVERYWHERE!!!  Many people own a scooter instead of a car...cheaper probably, and a lot less money to operate.  The scooters don't really obey the lane lines, they just sort of go in between all of the cars.  It's crazy!

So, back to the story.  After Amber Joy's birthmom left...oh, and an interjection here: Warren, Jennifer, and Ethan Heckert had arrived in Taitung that day to get their daughter, sweet Mia.  We met the Heckert's at the church before we went upstairs to meet birthmom.  It was such a delight to know them in person after talking online for so many months!  The pic below is me, Amber Joy, Jennifer, and Mia :)

After we met Amber Joy's birth family, we all went to lunch at another traditional Taitung restaurant.  This one was my favorite!  It was family style again, but to me, the food was much yummier.  After lunch, we needed to go get our return tickets at the travel agency, get more formula for the trip home, go to the hospital and meet the nurses who took care of Amber Joy.  Meeting the nurses in the hospital is an experience I'll never forget.  They swept her out of my arms and went on and on about their "Chia Hui" and how beautiful she was and how much she looked like me.  To be able to say thank you to the people who literally saved our daughter's life was such a humbling experience. 

We finished up our errands.  We bought our return plane tickets at the travel agency, went to change the household registry, and went back to the hotel to pack.  We were going to try to meet the Heckert's for dinner, but we couldn't find each other. 

Amber Joy did fairly well with us.  I kept trying to put myself in her shoes:  a little tiny baby girl who had become used to other babies and nannies, but who had never seen Justin or me is suddenly forced into the biggest change of her life.  We took her away from all that was familiar to her and away from a country and people with whom she had found love and affection.  If I were on the outside looking in, I might say that it was unfair of us to do that.  But then I was reminded over and over that God had especially prepared our family for each other.  She was ours and we were hers and now, it was forever.  I was worried she might not sleep at all, or scream and cry because she didn't know us and we had no way to explain it to her.  But honestly, most of the time in Taiwan, our exhaustion was from the stress of the 'what ifs' not the actual events. 

The next morning, we got to go visit the new home for mamas that our missionary friends are going to run.  It will be for unwed mothers and their kids to live in until they are able to get on their feet.  Downstairs in the building is a daycare center where these mamas will be able to leave their kids in the hands of caring nannies while they go out and work to support themselves and their families.  In Taiwan, there are not daycare centers on every corner like in the States.  And one of the reasons abortion is so rampant is because many unwed mothers have no means of financial support for themselves and a baby.  They lack education in abstinence and/or safe sex and it is considered more honorable for a woman to abort a baby rather than have a baby out of wedlock.  In Taiwan, the abortion rate is DOUBLE the live birth rate every single year.

We went back to the church and got to skype with some of our friends at home, Jeff and Abbey Land, as they got to see their newest son, Tuck.  We were thrilled to meet and take lots of pictures of baby Tuck while we were there and it was neat to skype with these friends back home.  Then we headed to the airport (after a stop at the pharmacy to get a can of formula)! 

To say I was nervous about getting on a plane with Amber Joy was an understatement.  It was only a 50 minute flight back to Taipei, but now, we were alone in a foreign country with a baby!  No more help!  We bought some souvenirs in the domestic airport gift shop.  We got Amber Joy a tiny purse with her tribe symbol, Amis, stitched on the front, as well as one for our niece.  Because the babies in the center were used to their bottles piping hot, we had to carry a thermos with us with hot water.  We fixed her a bottle and got on the plane.  She was out in about five minutes and slept the entire flight!  I couldn't believe it.  I thought surely this was a sign of good things to come on the flight home.  HA!

We landed in Taipei and made it to our hotel.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to see that it had cribs.  Amber Joy would sleep on a chaise lounge-type sofa in our room, but other than that, it was a fairly nice place.  The weather had turned gloomy and although we were right across the street from a park, we didn't venture out much.  Amber Joy needed floor time.  We found that out the hard way.  The babies at the center had a lot of playtime each day on the floor.  If she didn't have that time, it resulted in a meltdown by 1 in the afternoon.  So, in spite of what might be on the hotel room floor, we spread out her toys and she had a great time, just exploring.  That night, we ventured out to find food.  We walked and walked down the streets of Taipei and were just overwhelmed with how big the city was.  It reminded me of NYC.  So many people, scooters, and cars...moving so fast.  We got lots of stares, some smiles...I had an Asian baby girl strapped onto me in a baby carrier and both Justin and me were clearly standouts in the sea of black hair and thin body frames.  We finally found a restaurant and sat down.  It smelled delicious.  Amber Joy had already had a bottle, so we were about to find out what it was like to dine with a baby!  Justin excused himself for a minute and the lady in the booth next to us began a conversation with me.  She asked about the baby and I explained that we had just gotten back from Taitung where we adopted her.  She looked shocked.  She asked, "why would you want to adopt from Taiwan?"  Rather than explain our entire story, I kept my answer simple and said, "we were unable to have children and the children here are so beautiful."  She answered, "oh, she is so lucky."  I shook my head and said, "no, we are the lucky ones."  Her response was, "oh, you Americans, you have such big hearts."  That conversation will stay with me forever.  I didn't feel like I had a big heart.  I just felt like I wanted a baby.  We didn't adopt because we are benevolent or because we want to rescue a child from being an orphan.  We adopted first and foremost because we wanted a child to love and raise and bring into our family.  Honestly, our reasons for adopting were totally selfish.  But God brought us beyond that.  We are now more aware of the plight of orphans all over the world, and especially the orphans in Taiwan.  We are convinced that God had a much bigger plan in bringing our daughter home to us than our selfish need for a baby.  God had her best interest in mind and ours...he knew that we would be the best fit for each other and he has taught us so much already through her.

The nights in Taipei were tough.  Amber Joy would sleep a few hours at a time, then wake screaming, crying.  I spent a lot of time on Facebook in the middle of the night, afraid to go back to sleep because I knew as soon as I did, she would wake again.  It is quite a sobering thing for your new child to be crying her eyes out when she's been fed, bathed, and is warm and safe.  What do you do?  Was she in pain?  Was she cutting a tooth?  Did she have an ear infection?  I messaged friends at home, my mom, asking for advice.  Somehow, we made it through the nights, but it was rough.  We did lots of baths in the middle of the night...she loves baths.  One of the other moms who had adopted from the same place chatted with me one night and reminded me that Amber Joy was probably grieving.  With my background as a chaplain, I was shocked that I hadn't thought of that.  It made so much sense.  She had been completely removed from all she knew as normal and even though we hoped she felt safe with us and loved, it doesn't detract from all she had lost.  I tried to keep that in mind throughout the rest of the trip.

Our second day back in Taipei, it rained, so we hung out in the hotel most of the day.  The breakfast was pretty good at the hotel and it had a neat view from the hotel restaurant.

We ventured out around lunchtime to go to the translator's to pick up our paperwork.  We had the address and took a cab.  In Taiwan, it is very important to have your destinations in Chinese, not English.  Most people did not speak English and we couldn't pronounce the Chinese names of things anyway.  The cab dropped us off outside the building.  We went upstairs in what looked like an apartment building and found the door.  We rang the bell, knocked, but no one came.  This paperwork was needed for our appointment at the American Institute in Taiwan the next morning.  It was crucial because we needed it for Amber Joy's Visa.  We weren't sure what to do.  We had forgotten to get an international plan on our cell phones, so we couldn't call them and we couldn't call the missionary.  So, we went next door to the 7/11 (they are EVERYWHERE in Taiwan) and got some lunch.  Justin got a pastry of some sort and a sandwich.  I got a bubble tea.  That was my first and last time!  Yuck!  I didn't care at all for the texture.  I thought it was like having caviar in your iced tea. 

We went back to the translator's apartment and still, no answer.  Hmmm.  We figured we might as well go back to the lobby and sit down and wait.  We didn't know for whom, but they knew we were supposed to come today.  After about five minutes, a lady walked into the building carrying a take-out bag.  She came up to us and said, "Uh, Misser Me-ur" (Miller).  I guess we were hard to miss: caucasion couple with Asian baby looking confused.

We got our paperwork and headed back to the hotel.  The hotel time for us was about getting to know our daughter, taking lots of pictures, skyping with friends and family back home, and trying to get Amber Joy to relax and sleep.  Justin ran out for food a lot since it was hard to get her out in the rain.  We really wish we had gone to the night markets and the handicraft market, but it just gives us another reason to return to Taiwan someday.  We walked around some after we got back that day and found AIT so we would know where to go the next morning.

Our appointment was at 8 a.m. on January 5th.  January 5th would have been my sister Amber's 36th birthday.  It was another significant 'breadcrumb' that God sent our way to say, "you're going the right direction.  Keep coming."

The AIT appointment went fine.  There were really no hang-ups at all until we got the information from the man there that one of the documents they needed had not arrived from the missionary in Taitung.  Long story short, it could mean the difference in us getting to leave the following morning to take our little girl home, or face an unexpected longer stay in Taiwan.  We knew that the missionary had sent the paper by next day air, but so far, the correct office in AIT had not received it.  Talk about pins and needles.  We went back to our hotel and for the next few hours, we waited for a call from AIT.  They finally called and said that the paper was there and that the Visa would be ready by 3 p.m.!  Whew!  We were going home on time!  We decided to celebrate and get out of the hotel.  In spite of the rain, it was nice to just walk.  We headed straight down the street and saw Taipei 101 right in front of us (or so we thought).  We passed shops and restaurants, lots of people, scooters (of course) and just kept walking.  I thought we would never get there!  On the way, we stopped in a little shop where we were politely haggled by a Taiwanese businessman.  He wanted to sell us something!  Justin ended up trying some water that he insisted would taste differently and more pure if he drank it out of a 'special cup.'  Justin says there was no difference, but it was fun to see the man trying hard to convince us.

We finally made it to Taipei 101.  I thought my legs were going to fall off.  It was a lot further away than it looked when we started walking.  Taipei 101 was once the tallest building in the world.  We decided to take the elevator to the observation deck.  It was an amazing experience.

We ate at Taipei 101 in the food court and did some souvenir shopping.  We were so tired and Amber Joy decided to throw a full blown fit, so it was definitely time to go.  We took a cab back to the hotel and started the job of packing our clothes, souvenirs, and a week's worth of incredible memories.

Our flight was leaving Taipei the next morning.  Justin and I awoke around 5 a.m.  We tried to get the suitcases zipped and ourselves ready very quietly to let Amber Joy sleep as long as possible.  I still don't know how we got all of the stuff packed.  Amber Joy had clothes and toys from the baby center so we ended up with an extra carry-on bag.  The first flight was from Taipei to Tokyo.  We were surprised to find out that we were on the "Hello Kitty" jet with EVA airlines!  It was very cool.  The entire plane, flight attendants, even the food were themed "Hello Kitty."  There was even a "Hello Kitty" changing/nursery room in the airport.  Asian airports are the best!  There's hot filtered water everywhere and nursery rooms equipped with everything you could need for your baby.  I definitely was spoiled. 

I wish I could remember more about the trip home.  But honestly, a lot of it is a big blur.  Amber Joy didn't sleep much at all.  We had a five hour layover in Tokyo and finding the kids' area was a lifesaver.  We were able to find a large room connected to a children's play area that was just open floor.  We closed the doors and put Amber Joy's toys all over the floor.  She had a ball!  It helped us all relax for the long flight to come. 

By the time we got to Chicago, I think it was around 3 p.m. local time.  We just wanted to be home!  We talked to a nice couple at our gate for a long time.  I changed clothes, brushed my teeth, and got Amber Joy ready for her debut back in Nashville.  It was a very exciting, very emotional, and exhausting time.  We had met another family who was heading to Nashville while we were in Tokyo.  They had just adopted a son from China.  He had lived for a time at Maria's Big House of Hope, the hospital that is supported by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman's orphan care agency, Show Hope.  It was Mary Beth's book that I believe finally gave me the courage I needed to fly overseas.  We were on the same flights with them and little Isaac all the way home and it was wonderful to see all of the people gathered to welcome us all home.



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