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 fiancĂ©e 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.


murat11 said...

Teresa: The When we got back to Taipei paragraph is hilarious. I have to keep reminding myself that General Manager was absolutely serious about "falling into bad company" and bringing the men in for your mother to "scold" them. I keep wanting this to be in actuality just wonderfully droll humor, but I'm afraid Teacher would not be pleased with my reading the social cues.

Dizzy with love...

Okay, second most uncomfortable conversation? Are you teasing us about the most uncomfortable, or have we already been given that one?

Teresa said...

Hi Murat, glad to give you a laugh. My mom and I laughed when we got back to her room, she louder than I. He was certainly serious and had his speech all prepared.

"Dizzy with love" is a literal translation of the Chinese. In other words, I was not thinking rationally, and of course, in the Chinese culture for his generation, such a thing as love was not supposed to interfere with the serious considerations needed to make a good marriage.

The MOST uncomfortable conversation is yet to come. It should be soon, depending on how it flows as I type it. Before the end of the summer...

murat11 said...

Can't wait, and good luck on your move.

Barrie said...

I'm waiting for the next installment to find out what happens with your passport!

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie,

It became a long and windy road fraught with complications. It will take several more blog posts (not including the photo essays) to explain the whole convoluted process.