Sunday, July 05, 2009

July 4th - A Kid's View

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July 4, 2009

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Lucy at Grandma's House

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May 2009

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April 24, 2009

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The Girls - April 22, 2008

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Taiwan - The Missing Link of Pure Commentary

I know we left off our commentary about Taiwan abruptly with Alia going into the hospital. It seemed we never caught up since then. Obviously, it all turned out fine in the end with Alia healthy and Alivia home, but here's the recount (over a year later) of our journey. I'll start from the beginning for those who many not be aware of our adoption journey and trip to Taiwan.

Alia's an in-vitro baby - she's a miracle test tube baby. We wanted more children but not by following that path again. We started looking at adoption when Alia was 2. We started with the Belarus program in Eastern Europe. Before we were paperwork ready, Belarus closed its doors to international adoption. It was a good 2 years later we thought about adopting again with Todd wondering how hard it would be to adopt from China. We discussed that China was the easiest, least expensive ($16,000), and most reliable program out there at the time and made the leap to go forward. We weren't in any particular hurry because adoptions were running 6-9 months from paper ready to referral, so we knew we'd have our child home in a little over a year. We began our paper chase early in 2006. In December, just really kicking it into gear, we were nearly paper ready (all kinds of government documents, clearances, home study visits, etc.) when I happened to look on the internet and see China's program was changing. Not only was it becoming around 2-3 years to referral instead of less than a year, but their criteria had changed and we did not meet all of it. We were assured by our agency (http://www.chinesechildren.org - an AWESOME agency) that we would be "grandfathered in" under the old criteria. I didn't trust that. I started searching on the net for an alternative. Most of what I found we'd already considered and discarded. Finally, I found Taiwan B program, an new infant program offered through Commonwealth Adoptions (now out of business). With a little more research, we switched to Taiwan B in January of 2007. Taiwan is a little different from the other programs. You receive a referral and then you do your paper chasing. The children are in the hospital from birth and then go directly into foster care with a well-trained foster family. They are medically sound, the parent(s) have made an adoption plan instead of abandoning their baby on the streets, and we would know the family history. Between January and November, time flew. We received our referral for a pudgy-faced, serious looking girl in November 2007 right before Thanksgiving. We had the opportunity to turn her referral down, but why on earth would we? She had a full head of hair and the classic Asian look. Here was our second daughter - thousands of miles away and being lovingly cared for by a foster mom while we got paper ready. That time flew as well. In April 2008, we received word of the Final Ruling and that Cheng Pei-Tzu was ours. Should have been easy from there, but unfortunately some of our crucial U.S. Government paperwork was in China and, to top it off, lost. For 2 weeks we fought with agencies on both sides of the globe to just redo our paperwork. That was the most nervewracking time of our adoption, even though we were constantly reassured that Alivia was being well cared for.

Finally, everything was in place, and my mom, Todd, Alia, and I were on an airplane to LA transferring for our first international flight to Taiwan (12-hour leg). The stewardess's uniforms were crisp and professional, the plane was huge with personal consoles for watching the latest movies and playing video games, and the food was Asian. It was Mother's Day spent in the air - we actually lost a day. Surreal.

We landed on Monday morning and were met by our driver, Mr. Yeh. He was highly recommended by our agency to taxi us around for all our crucial appointments. Todd had asked me about renting a car - we knew as soon as we got on the highway that would have been impossible. It's not that the signs were in Chinese because they were also in English. It's the fact that we thought LA and NYC drivers were crazy - not even close!! It was madness. One of the first things we noticed about the traffic is that everyone was polite and courteous, despite flying down the road at high speeds with only what seemed like inches between cars. The second thing we noticed was that our driver spoke only broken English. The third thing we noticed was that every single bit of land between buildings was planted in rice. No wasteful lands. No decorative gardens. No run-down lots.

Our driver took us to The Howard Plaza Hotel (http://taipei.howard-hotels.com - highly recommend). We settled in and then decided to go to Taipei 101, the (now 2nd) tallest building in the world (http://www.taipei-101.com.tw/). We were impressed, to say the least, and spent hours there. The food was awesome, the view unlike any other, and the shops at the mall were incredible. We were all tired and ready to head back when Alia started to complain that her legs hurt. Not unusual for her, particularly after such a long, long, did I say long? day. By the time we got back to The Howard and I got her ready for bed in grandma's room, she felt hot. I warned my mom that I thought she would probably wake up with a fever. We had brought our meds from home as we were told by our agency to do - everything - antinausea, Jr. Tylenol, Aleve, Pepto, you name it. At 1 a.m., Mom called to tell us Alia was running a fever. We brought her back to our room, gave her some Jr. Tylenol. In the morning, she still had a temp (102) even after more meds. Tuesday was the day we were to travel nearly 2 hours to Taichung (http://english.tccg.gov.tw/) where Alivia was being fostered and where the Taiwan Women and Children's Association was handling the adoption in Taiwan. There was no way we were taking Alia for what was to be a culmination of our adoption journey. That made me really sad. Good thing Mom was there - we left Alia with her with instructions on what to do and traveled to pick up Alivia with Mr. Yeh. We stopped at a rest area right before Taichung with modern bathroom facilities and a beautiful pagoda with Buddha statues and gorgeous greenery. Then it was off the TWCA to pay more money and to pick up the interpretor to go to Alivia's foster home. The streets were narrow, the city housing was narrow. Alivia's foster mom was a petite lady who spoke no English. She invited us in for tea an crackers. She handed Alivia to us as soon as we came through the door. It was strange - here's your baby!! We took pictures, cried, and drove away with Alivia. We went to the baby store - nothing but baby items, diapers, cribs, strollers, toys, you name it (no super Wal-Mart here!!). Loaded up on formula and diapers. Then headed back to Taipei with Alivia sleeping on my chest (no carseats in Taiwan).

When we got back, we made Alia put on a mask to meet her sister (people were wearing masks everywhere) and made her keep her distance. We said if she still had a fever the next morning we'd take her to the hospital for rehydration. We settled in for the night with Mom and Alia in one room and Todd, Alivia and I in another. We gave Alivia a bath and freaked out about what looked like bruises on her back - they turned out to be her birthmarks (mongolian birth spots). Went to sleep, got up in the morning to go to the U.S. Government agency to get Alivia's paperwork. That took a few hours with lost of intimidating people scrutinizing us (or so we felt). When we returned to the hotel, Alia's fever was worse, she'd had diarrhea, and she had a bad head cold. We consulted the internet groups and found we should go to the Adventist Hospital because they had English-trained and speaking doctors there.

Within 15 minutes, Alia was hooked up to an IV. Within an hour, her blood tests came back and she'd had an ultrasound of her stomach. They tests were not good. Her infection indicator was through the roof. They wanted to admit her, we wanted to put her on a plane with her daddy and get her to LA as fast as possible. In the end, we admitted her. It was just too many hours back to the States. The hospital was barebones compared to U.S. hospitals (http://www.tahsda.org.tw/en/). No soap in the bathrooms, no meals delivered. But it was great care - they focused on medicine, not fluff. Alia had an IV drip, constant monitoring. Our driver, Mr. Yeh, was so sweet to bring her flowers and let her use his handheld electronic interpretor with games on it. He was crying when he left. I will never forget him for his kindnesses.

From then on, Mr Yeh was at our beck and call. Todd spent Wednesday night with Alia and Thursday morning. Mr. Yeh took mom and I to do a little touring (we'd had so much more planned). We went to a place to buy souvenirs, to the National Palace Museum grounds (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002090&id=2751), did not go inside to the museum, but it was neat just to walk around. To the Martyr's Shrine (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002090&id=1795) and watched the changing of the guard. To The Shilin House (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002090&id=208). To the Grand Hotel landmark for a quick trip inside (http://www.grand-hotel.org/newsite/html/c/cindex.htm). It was all weird, having a new baby and knowing Alia was in the hospital and not able to enjoy any of this. Thursday night, mom watched Alivia while I stayed with Alia in the hospital and Todd got some sleep. Friday morning, they discharged Alia (they talked about keeping her over the weekend, but her temp, which had reached well over 103) had finally stabilized. The hospital administrator came down as he spoke English to ensure we understood all instructions. Todd went to pay the bill and hoped our credit card could handle it or that we'd be out of the country before it processed - 16,000 NT, which came out to around $900 U.S. - couldn't believe it. We limped our baby home via Mr. Yeh and when the hotel staff met Alia at the van, they said "Welcome home." which nearly had me crying again. I told Todd to have Mr. Yeh take him somewhere until that night when we had to get on a plane home. He'd had a rough time of it, really dealing more with Alia than I did. Mr. Yeh took him to Longshan Temple (http://www.taiwanderful.net/guides/longshan-temple). To a street of nothing but aquarium vendors on both sides (he loved this!!!).

Then it was time to depart. Alia was still fatigued and very ill-looking, but we managed to get home and I nearly kissed the ground when we landed in Florida. Turns out Alia had a stomach bug that was hitting the kids in Florida, too. She would have been ill whether she stayed in Florida or traveled with us regardless. It was just horribly bad timing. There is a ton more about our trip, including mopeds on the street like swarms of bees, shopping, food, tea eggs, Burger King, more food, snags at the airport in LA, but the main thing is, we loved Taiwan that gave us a healthy new daughter and got our firstborn healthy again.