Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Real Live Hero

One day in October, 1986, Liu Yuni was on leave, and I was at the family home in Chung-li for the weekend so we could go house-hunting. General Manager had been unsuccessful in his attempts to “find a path” to get me permanent resident status as the fiancée of a Taiwanese citizen, so we needed to get married while I still had time on my passport. Before we could get married, Mr. Liu felt that we needed to get a house for me as he had promised my father in August. At first, Liu Yuni and I looked on the outskirts of Taipei on Yangming Mountain, but his parents did not like the area because the people in the markets did not speak the Hakka dialect, and Mrs. Liu was not comfortable bartering in Mandarin. So we decided to look for a house in Chung-li. After a day of searching, we had gone back to the Liu’s rental home for dinner and were taking an after dinner stroll with Hsiu-Mei, the sister just under Liu Yuni.

We were about five blocks from their home when we saw a car hit a young girl on a bicycle. The girl lay crying by the side of the road and did not get up. The car began to back up like it was going to run her over, so we rushed over and blocked its way. Liu Yuni kept yelling at the driver to get out of the car and be sure his victim was all right. He wanted the driver to take the girl to the hospital.

Instead, the driver put the car into forward and tried to mow down Liu Yuni. Instead of jumping to the side and just letting the car get away, Liu Yuni jumped onto the hood of the car, with one hand in the passenger’s side window and the other holding the windshield wiper. The car began a series of emergency stops and starts trying to shake him off, but to no avail. As the car sped up toward the county highway, Liu Yuni yelled to me to take care of the girl and to his sister to run to the pay phone to call the police.

I went over to the girl. She was in shock, and her head was bleeding a little. I put my coat over her to keep her warm and used her book bag to keep her head off the gravel in the ground. Liu Hsiu-Mei found a pay phone in the next block and called the police. The two of us stayed with the girl, but Liu Yuni and the car did not return. We were a little bit worried. Liu Hsiu-Mei went to the intersection and looked up the street. The car was already about a quarter of a mile away. The driver was doing S-curves and emergency stops, but Liu Yuni was still riding on the hood.

Soon we heard the sound of sirens. We hoped that they would see Liu Yuni on the hood and stop the car. But no, the police and an ambulance came straight to the scene of the accident. The girl was able to give her name and phone number to the police. They called her parents and told them to meet the ambulance in the emergency room. The paramedics with the ambulance were just wheeling the gurney over to put it in the back when Liu Yuni came running up panting and yelling a license plate number. When he saw the police, he immediately gave them the number before he forgot it.

Then he gave his statement. He told the police that he had stayed on the hood of the car trying to talk the driver and passenger into taking responsibility for their actions, but when they had come close to the county highway and heard the sirens, the driver told the passenger that at his next emergency stop, the passenger should get out with a knife and stab Liu Yuni. At that point, the car slowed, and before the passenger could open his door, Liu Yuni jumped off and ran to the rear of the car. He memorized the license plate number as the car sped off onto the county highway. But then he had to run a third of a mile back to the scene of the accident. He chanted the license plate number as he ran so he wouldn’t forget it.

Since Liu Yuni had the most information, the police just took his name and information, including his contact information at the military base because his leave ended at noon the next day. They introduced him to the girl as her savior before they drove the ambulance to the hospital. Once the ambulance and police were gone, Liu Yuni began jumping around shouting: “I did a movie stunt!! I did a movie stunt!!” His sister and I thought he was crazy, but I guess he was still on an adrenaline rush. We all walked back to his home where he told the story several times, first to his parents and then to his siblings and then to the neighbors who had heard the sirens and the loud exclamations from the living room. Finally, just before it was time for bed, the enormity of what he had done hit him, and he started shaking. His mother gave him some medicinal liquor and sent him off to bed.

The next morning, the police called the Liu home to inform us that the car had been stolen and was later found abandoned several miles from the scene of the accident. Based on Liu Yuni’s description of the driver and passenger, the police were able to identify them as gang members. Mrs. Liu was even more upset.

About a week after Liu Yuni returned to the base, an old, retired military officer came to his unit looking for him. It was the father of the girl. She was a night-school student in high school, who was on her way home from class that night. The officer had made a banner for Liu Yuni and presented it to him formally in front of his unit commander and a number of the top brass at his base. He was given another weekend of leave, and there was a write-up in the base newspaper. Although we did not know it at the time, the army base also sent a press release to the Taipei newspaper, and the story appeared in the Sunday edition. One of Liu Yuni’s classmates clipped the paper and saved it. In 2007, when Liu Yuni went back to Taiwan for a family funeral, he met with several of his classmates, and he was given a copy of the article.

Since he had three days leave, we spent the time busily searching for houses. We found one that would work perfectly, but we were a little bit short of money. I arranged loans from my grandfathers and made my reservations to go to the US to pack up my things and ship them to Taiwan. We consulted with my parents and set the wedding date for the end of December. But we still had a huge obstacle: active duty military personnel needed Defense Department permission to get married. Would the Defense Department okay a soldier marrying a non-citizen during a time of emergency martial law? If they didn’t, it wouldn’t matter about the ceremonies because I would not be able to register legally and get my resident visa.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Our Dads Negotiate THEIR Terms for the Marriage

The announcement sticker from one of the boxes of engagement cakes.

The day after the formal engagement, my dad, brother, and I got onto a 40 passenger bus with several days worth of clothes and all the Liu relatives. Mr. Liu again hosted my relatives on tour of the island, except we went along and picked up still more Liu relatives in Chung-li and Toufen as we worked our way around the island. There was not an empty seat on the bus, and most of the adults were holding children on their laps. My dad, brother, and I had three seats in the front. I sat next to Mr. Liu. Behind us, it was a constant roar of noise. We went to the military base to see Liu Yuni. The commander of the NCO training unit was quite friendly, and when he saw three Americans with the entourage of relatives, he tried to give Liu Yuni several days of leave to get to know his fiancée’s family. But the training camp was ending the following day, and Liu Yuni was afraid he would get in trouble with his main commander, if he didn’t finish the course. So we met him after the tour for a meal together.

On this tour we went south to Kaohsiung and the southernmost part of the island in the tropic zone. Then we came up the eastern coast from the South and back home through the Taroko Gorge. My dad enjoyed every minute of it. He was fascinated by watching the interactions of the family in such close quarters on a three-day trip. He saw that the children were all well-behaved. There was no crying or fussing, and there were no arguments or fights. Everyone was just happy. For the most part, his assessment was correct. The entire clan was having a wonderful celebration, and no one was going to argue to break the lucky streak. My brother had trouble adjusting to the stir-fried food, but he did fine with white rice, soy sauce, and beer. The uncles made sure he got plenty of beer.

When the uncles saw that my brother Tom could drink them all under the table any time day or night and did not seem to be worse for the wear, they plotted their revenge. Most working-class men and farmers in Taiwan at the time chewed betel nut as a stimulant to keep themselves going. Liu Yuni’s relatives were no exception. Every time the bus made a stop, the men would make a beeline for the betel nut kiosks to get a fresh supply. They would stuff a betel nut lined with lime paste and wrapped in a leaf into their cheeks and suck and chew it until the red juice came out. Then they would spit the juice on the ground (or out the windows of the bus). Tom was curious as to what it was, and when he got me to ask them about it, the uncles had their chance. They bought him a large juicy individual nut and told him to bite down. He popped it in his mouth before I could caution him about not swallowing the juice. It almost made him vomit. He had one more to perfect his technique, but after that, he left the betel chewing to the Liu relatives. He much preferred the beer.

After the three-day trip, my dad and brother had a few more days with just me in Taipei. Mr. Liu insisted on inviting them back to his home for dinner because he wanted to discuss the details of the marriage contract with Liu Yuni present. It was backwards in the time frame and should have been done before the engagement, but he was not going to let this conversation drop. And so I had to translate the most embarrassing conversation of my life. I had to explain to my father about the Liu family’s financial situation. I had to make sure he knew the limits of their literacy. I had to tell my dad that they would treat me like their own daughter after the marriage. Then I had to ask my father how much money he wanted to sell me for so I could be the Liu family’s bride. And I had to help him come up with an appropriate answer.

Personally, I was totally upset that this conversation was even going on. Liu Yuni and I thought that we had eliminated the need for this discussion, but his dad was not to be deterred. Mr. Liu informed my dad that despite the bankruptcy, the family had a certain amount of money in their daughter’s name that was earmarked for obtaining a bride for their eldest son. I believe that they had NT$150,000, which was less than the going rate in those days of NT$250,000 to NT$300,000. Since I was a college graduate, I should have commanded a high bride price, but I really did not want to be sold as chattel. I expressed my discomfort to my dad, but he responded that we needed to consider their customs. If I married without them paying anything, it might mean that I was worthless or that my family thought I was worthless. Finally, my dad looked around the house and asked me about it. I told him that it was a rental with three rooms, so after our marriage, Liu Yuntian would be sleeping on the living room couch. That gave my dad an idea. He told Mr. Liu that he didn’t need the money and that once NT dollars were converted into US dollars, they wouldn’t be worth much anyway. He suggested that the money be used as a down payment for a new house with enough rooms for the entire family. Mr. Liu promised that since my bride price was going into the house, I would be part owner, even though as a US citizen I could not own property in Taiwan. He assured my dad that he would make sure I got my fair share of the profits when and if the house was sold. And he kept that promise several years later.

Then Mr. Liu asked my dad how many engagement cakes he needed to take back to US relatives to announce the engagement. He had made the traditional lard and raisin engagement cakes and had handed them out to all the Liu relatives. He did not think that American taste buds would enjoy that kind of cake, so he was ordering special sponge cake rolls for the members of my family. This, of course, was part of the typical engagement negotiations. Whoever received an engagement cake was expected to give a wedding gift. My dad took cakes back for my grandparents and a few other close relatives. Mr. Liu also gave gifts of rice wine in commemorative porcelain containers for my grandparents and parents. If we had been Chinese, we would have also demanded a certain amount of gold jewelry to be given to me at the wedding beyond my mother-in-law’s old gold necklace that had been given at my engagement. Mrs. Liu’s mother, Grandma Chu, took it upon herself to give me rings and gold ear rings for my wedding since I had not asked for anything, and my bride price was being used to buy a nice house (which they should have provided anyway). And the negotiations were done. All the men toasted each other with beer to seal the deal, and Eldest Brother-in-Law took his turn trying to drink Tom under the table. He was more successful than the uncles, but that is still not saying much.

Two days after this dinner, Tom and my dad left for the States. The entire Liu family went to the airport to see them off, and Mr. Liu delivered the boxes of engagement cakes fresh from the bakery to the airport. Now that I was engaged, I was expected to call Mr. and Mrs. Liu, Ma and Pa. When the family had parties or social engagements, one of the sisters would call, and I would be expected to go with them. I got to meet more of the very large extended clan in this way. Whenever Liu Yuni had leave, the two of us went house hunting for something large enough to house nine comfortably. There would be no wedding until we had found a house. And without the wedding, I would not be able to get a residence certificate, and without a residence certificate, I could not renew my passport in Taiwan. I had seven months left.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Engagement Pictures

At the beginning of the engagement ceremony, I served tea to all the relatives on the first row. In a totally traditional ceremony, each person who drank tea would give me a red envelope of money, but since all traditions were off, we did not do money envelopes...

These are the most senior relatives on the most comfortable and innermost seat (from left to right): the 92 year old grandma of our hosts (she was from Shanghai, had bound feet, and needed two people to support her to get her off the couch), Liu Yuni's maternal grandmother, Ma Liu and Pa Liu.

This was the third row of Liu relatives. These were the younger paternal uncles, the youngest maternal uncles, a few of the aunts, and several of Liu Yuni's siblings and cousins. They should have been further back, but there wasn't room, so chairs were added at the ends of rows. They arranged themselves by birth order in their generation with the older ones sitting further toward the front. Liu Yuntian is the little boy at the end of the last row. He was only in 9th grade and the youngest of the Liu clan at the event, so he sat at the far end near my friends.

The second row was for the eldest paternal uncle and third and fourth maternal uncles plus the eldest cousins present from each side of the family. (The second maternal uncle passed away at age 45, so I never met him. He would have been on this row, too.)

The front row opposite the couch. My dad and brother with their translator sat there with Liu Yuni's eldest maternal uncle, the host parents, and two of the elders from church.

Everybody made speeches, even my dad (at least I didn't have to interpret).

Then Joshua put a ring on me,

and his grandmother's gold necklace around my neck (to me via his mother),

and I put a ring on him.

Then we went to the restaurant around the corner for a feast. This was the head table with the couple and the parents and the elders from church.

These were my friends from work who video taped everything for me. The waitress in the background is one of my good friends. This was one of the tables of Liu relatives with uncles and cousins sitting at it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Formal Engagement

They called us "coffee and cream"

In traditional, patriarchal Chinese families, mothers can approve of future sons-in-law, but the fathers and brothers are the ones to hammer out the details of the formal engagement and wedding agreements. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, traditional Chinese marriage is more like a business contract between two family enterprises than a love affair. Since the church elders had given the okay for a formal engagement, Mr. Liu and I began to make our preparations. The first thing I had to do was get my Dad and brother out for the ceremony. They made their reservations, we set a date, and then he went to make his arrangements while I went to make mine.

I asked around, and my friends (who were single girls in their twenties) told me that I would have to serve tea to Liu Yuni’s parents and uncles, and that the engagement ceremony should be held in my home. Our living room was very small, but an elderly couple in the church lived around the corner from us. They had a spacious flat in an upscale apartment building, and they graciously offered to host my engagement ceremony. Next I tried to find an appropriate dress. I thought I would get a silk dress with a traditional high collar. I found a lucky red silk dress with hand painted flowers on the shoulders. It fit very nicely, so I purchased it. When I got it home and showed my friends, they told me that I couldn’t wear anything with both red and green on it for engagements or weddings. It was supposed to be bad luck. The flowers had green leaves done in appliqué across the shoulders of the dress, making it definitely red and green. I loved the dress and had spent more money than I could afford on it, so I had to make do with what was in my closet. My graduation dress from university was white, and the girls thought that it looked best. I wore faux pearls from my grandmother, and one of my roommates lent me a pink sash to give it some “wedding” color. My hair dresser got into the planning and decided to braid pink roses and white baby’s breath flowers into my hair. I made reservations for an engagement luncheon at my friends’ restaurant. I thought I was all set.

Liu Yuni and I had decided that there would be no bride price/dowry exchange. We wanted a minimal no-fuss engagement. My friends from church would set up chairs, his relatives would come, I would meet them and serve tea, and the elders from church would be there. We would sing two hymns, one of the elders would speak a word of blessing, Liu Yuni would put his mother’s gold necklace around my neck and an engagement ring on my finger, and we would all head to our friends’ restaurant two doors down from the apartment complex for the engagement feast. According to traditional Chinese customs, the girl’s family plans the engagement. What could go wrong?

At first, Mr. Liu agreed to our minimalist engagement program. He thought it reasonable that the engagement be done in modified Western style and the wedding more Chinese style since we were making a union of two totally different cultures. We had our date set, my father and brother had their plane tickets, and we were down to two days before the engagement. I was just about to leave for the airport to pick up my dad and brother when one of Liu Yuni’s sisters called to tell me that the uncles and aunts would not come unless there was more pomp to the ceremony. They said I had to give Liu Yuni nine gifts including a suit and dress shirt. I didn’t have time to deal with it then, so I told the Lius I would call them when I got back from the airport.

On the way to the airport, I told some of my Chinese friends, who immediately got up in arms and threatened to not attend the ceremony either because the Liu family was not being fair. So I had a luncheon for thirty ordered, and now no one was planning to attend. Plus I had to host my dad and brother and show them around Taipei to help them get over jet lag. I went back and forth and back and forth about what I would and would not do. I had purchased Liu Yuni’s suit that he was going to wear for the engagement ceremony because the family was so broke they didn’t have the money. His parents knew how much of my own money I had put out for the ceremony, and they felt that the relatives were being unfair, but they didn’t know what to do. Finally, Liu Yuni came home on leave the day before the ceremony and called me. I told him what was going on, and he called all his aunts and uncles. The upshot was, his sisters made up a tray of nine items that I had already given him with little red “double happiness” stickers on them. These were just laid out on a table as the guests walked into my friends’ living room. Since the Lius were not giving me a bride price, there would be no formal exchange of gifts and money. Liu Yuni told his aunts and uncles that we were doing it Western church style, so things would be a little different. Finally, the reason behind their strike came out—according to tradition no more than twelve of the groom’s relatives can accompany him to the engagement ceremony. But they all wanted to come. So I called the restaurant and my friends. We added an extra table, and a number of my friends from Taipei came to a make-up dinner party at a later date, so we were able to accommodate all thirty of the people in the Liu party. Fortunately, my friends had a very large living room.

After settling the matter of whether or not the ceremony was even going to occur, I dashed off to have my hair done. I came back with just twenty minutes to spare and couldn’t find my white dress. I had ironed it and left it hanging on my bed. None of my roommates knew what had happened to it. Just as I was about to have a panic attack, Mercy, the roommate from the bunk above mine, came waltzing in with my dress all done up in plastic. She had taken it to have it professionally ironed and had had to fight for a taxi to get back in time. I quickly jumped into my dress and dashed off to my engagement.

The ceremony itself went off without a hitch. I didn’t spill tea on any of Liu Yuni’s relatives, more of my friends came than I had expected, and they all stood around the back of the living room. The entire place was packed to overflowing. Liu Yuni was tanned almost black because he had been out in the sun doing military drills all day every day for his NCO training class. Everyone said that we looked like coffee with cream. I don’t remember much of the ceremony, except that I got through it without a problem, and everyone was happy.

The Lius and their relatives enjoyed the dinner, and my friends at the restaurant gave us a few extra special dishes as their present to me. There was a lot of toasting and well-wishing. A friend of mine from work did the translation, so I was able to just eat and enjoy myself. My brother was put forward as the drinker of the family, and he began what was to be his job for the rest of his time in Taiwan: drink Liu Yuni’s uncles, cousins, and brother-in-law under the table. He was quite good at it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Photo Collage: Mommy and Me in Hong Kong 1986

Me with Hong Kong in the Background

A typical vendor boat in Hong Kong harbor

The boat for our harbor tour and trip to Macao

On the boat

The Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong

A Performing Monkey at Song Dynasty Village

The Cathedral in Macao

The cliff roller coaster at Ocean Park

Mom at the Peak

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Photo Collage: My Mom Visits Taiwan and China, 1986

As promised, today's post is a photo collage. It seems that the photos of my mother and the Lius are all still in Taiwan. I just have one picture of that trip. The other pictures are of our day trip to China later that month. Next post will have some pictures of Hong Kong. Compare these pictures with the ones in my earlier post on China to see how much China had built up in three short years. (

My mom and some of the Liu family and me up in the mountains of Taiwan.

A school in mainland China, 1986

Farming country, mainland China, 1986

Newly refurbished farm house, China, 1986

Workman building a school auditorium, note the bamboo scaffolding, China, 1986

New buildings in a farm village, China, 1986

New two-story farm house, China, 1986

Bricks for new building in farm village, China, 1986

Click the following link to see pictures of China 2009 and the events in the western regions.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Mom Visits Taiwan to Check out the Future Son-in-Law

Sorry for the delay posting this. We are in the process of moving, and my photo albums have been buried in boxes. They are out now at the new house, but after we leave here tonight, I am not sure when I will next have internet service prior to July 7th. I decided to post this now and then do a photo montage of Mom's trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong when she came to check out Liu Yuni as son-in-law material. I plan to post photos on the 7th and then resume my regular posts on the 10th.
Time passed quickly with my weekly trips to Ilan and my busy work schedule. Soon my mother arrived in Taiwan. I went with friends from work to pick her up at the airport. The church had hospitality rooms on the top floor of the building, and my mom was given a room for her visit. I took her around Taipei to see the Mandarin Training Center, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, the Sun-Yat Sen Memorial, the Shilin night market, the National Palace Museum, Yangming Mountain Park, and all my other favorite places.

After she had been in Taipei for two or three days and had gotten over jet lag, Mr. Liu came to pick us up for a quick trip around the island, so she could meet Liu Yuni and get to know the family. Mrs. Liu’s brother-in-law drove for a tour bus company. He was the driver and was able to get a good discount on a 15 passenger bus. Mr. Liu did not let the whole clan in on the fun because he still was not sure my parents would approve of the match. In addition to Youngest Maternal Aunt and Uncle who were the driver and assistant on the coach, Mr. and Mrs. Liu, Eldest Sister and her two elder daughters, and Liu Hsiu-chu came on the trip. They picked us up in Taipei early one morning and drove north to Keelung.

We visited the harbor there and did some sightseeing before taking the twisty ocean road around to Ilan to Liu Yuni’s military encampment. He was unable to get leave at all because there were tensions with mainland China, and all military was on red alert. His commander said that if his parents showed up with his fiancée and her mother at the gates, he would be given a couple of hours leave to spend time with us in Ilan. My mother had a grand time on the bus ride. She made friends with Elder Sister’s children, whom she called Monkey and Sheep because they were born in the Year of the Ram and the Year of the Monkey. I was quite busy because I was constantly interpreting so that everyone could understand each other. The scenery was lovely, and with only a few of us rattling around in the 15 passenger bus, the ride was quite comfortable.

When we got to the military encampment, the MPs were quite nonplussed to have foreign visitors during a state of high emergency. It turned out that in the middle of the night, the high command had ordered all coastal encampments to participate in military exercises to show their power to the mainland. We were not allowed off the bus, and we were surrounded by military police. Mr. Liu, as a Taiwanese citizen, was escorted to the gate where he told the MP unit’s commander what his arrangement with Liu Yuni’s commander had been. After quite a while, he came back with more MPs and Liu Yuni.

The arrangement had been changed slightly. Liu Yuni was escorted out to the bus with his father and allowed to sit there with us for 30 minutes. An MP stood squarely in front of the bus door. Others continued to stand around us. The sun beat down on the bus. We were not allowed to run the motor. It was very hot inside. Everyone was sweating profusely. We sat in the bus and talked. Liu Yuni forgot most of his English again, but my mother liked his cute smile. She asked him some questions, and I interpreted the answers. All too soon, the MP at the door pounded on it and told us that we had 5 more minutes. We said our good-byes, while my father-in-law went around to all the MPs handing out money and cigarettes for their trouble. Then Liu Yuni was escorted back onto the base by the contingent of MPs that had escorted him out.

We continued on our trip around the island. We took my mom to the Taroko Gorge and to Taichung and several other scenic places. We wound up in Chung-li for a dinner with all of Liu Yuni’s siblings. My mom thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and she liked the Liu family.

The day after we returned to Taipei from our trip with the Lius, Mom and I flew to Hong Kong for several days, including my 25th birthday. We stayed in a nice hotel along the water, so my mom didn’t have to squeeze into someone’s apartment like I usually did when I went to Hong Kong. We went on the Star Ferry, up the Peak, on the cliff-side roller coaster at Ocean Park, to the Song Dynasty Village in New Territories, had dim sum breakfast, and of course, went shopping. We got some good deals on souvenirs. (Or at least we felt like we did.) We also took a day bus trip into mainland China.

I was a little nervous as we crossed the border on the bus trip, but because things had loosened up in the three years since I had been to China previously, I was using my regular passport instead of the special one I used when I was caught with contraband Bibles. Nobody said anything at the border check, and we had a nice tour of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, Guangzhou, and several farming villages in the area. It was amazing to me how much things had been built up in just three years. Everywhere we looked, new buildings were going up.

When we got back to Taipei, General Manager invited my mom and me to lunch. He also invited the housefather where I lived and the foreman from the summer project where I had met Liu Yuni. He told my mother that he had done his best to persuade me into a good marriage, but I was dizzy with being in love. He said that the housefather and the foreman had not kept close enough tabs on me, and I had fallen in with bad company on their watch. He had invited them to lunch so they could make their apologies, and my mom could scold them. (He was speaking in Chinese, of course, and I had to translate all this for my mother.) My mom was great. She told General Manager that she liked Liu Yuni and the Liu family. She said that she thought I was old enough and mature enough to know my own mind and that she fully supported the marriage. She thanked the three gentlemen for their concern and care for me over the years. She also told them that American girls usually expected to choose their own life partners. General Manager was quite taken aback at this. My mother also asked all three of the men to relay her support for the match to the church elders, so that we could have a church wedding when the time came. (This was the second most uncomfortable conversation I have ever had to interpret.)

Two days later, my mom was on a plane heading back for the US, and I was back at work with my translation group. Liu Yuni soon finished his three months of basic training in Ilan and had to draw lots for his base assignment. General Manager was praying hard that he would be sent to the outer islands like Quemoy (Jinmen) or Matsu off the coast of the mainland because once there, he would not be back to Taipei for over a year. But instead, Liu Yuni drew the base that lies about ten minutes from his family’s home. A number of company commanders were there to take the best of the best for special assignments, and Liu Yuni was picked for the Guard Company outside the Base Commander’s summer home and meeting rooms. This was an assignment that would not rotate for his entire tour of duty. Moreover, he was picked as an NCO trainee squad leader, which meant he could not be moved for the next 15 months.

I went back to the US in June and July to work at the international church conference and try to renew my passport. The passport agencies in both LA and Seattle told me that I would have to remain in the US for a full 12 months and show proof of paying taxes before they could issue me a new one. I called General Manager and asked what I should do. He said I should go back to Taiwan and get engaged formally to Liu Yuni, and then see what could be done. Now that Liu Yuni was active military, the road for us to get married was going to be complex indeed.