Roots-finding in Taiwan

Rianne's Story: Finding Unconditional Love

2018/05/16 ,


Maureen Welscher

Photo Credit: Rianne courtesy of Maureen Welscher

Maureen Welscher

Maureen Welscher (1966) is a Dutch journalist who writes human interest stories for consumer magazines about health, pregnancy and childlessness. She is a specialist in adoption. and wrote three books about this subject: In conversation with adopted adolescents, Round trip ticket to your roots and Home in two countries. She and her husband adopted two children from Taiwan: Luc (15) and Annemei (18).

What you need to know

Rianne, 20, first traveled from the Netherlands to Taiwan to meet her biological family face-to-face in 2016. She had already established Facebook contact for a couple of years, leading to a feeling of genuine kinship.

This is a story from our feature series "Roots-finding in Taiwan". The full series can be viewed here.

Interview conducted by Maureen Welscher

When I was 12, I began to suffer because of my adoption. I wondered who I was and why I had been given away. Most poignantly, I contemplated my dual heritage: my mother is Taiwanese, my father is from Nigeria. You can see that in my looks, which confuses people.

When I was 15, I began to search for my biological family. With the help of Cathwel, the children’s home that oversaw my adoption, I was able to contact my biological family through Facebook and find the real story behind my roots.

My father was in Taiwan to learn Chinese. My parents met each other and fell in love. My grandfather and grandmother were against the relationship: My father is not only black but also a lot older than my mother. But my parents did not care about that, and my mother got pregnant.

Photo Credit: Rianne courtesy of Maureen Welscher
Rianne and her adoptive mother in the Netherlands.

A month before my mother had to give birth, my father was arrested for drug smuggling and went to prison for 12 years. He thought he could score easy money to support his family. My grandmother then made sure I was ceded for adoption.

My Dutch parents already had an adopted child from Sri Lanka, and my grandmother decided that I would be best placed in their family as I was less likely to suffer from discrimination.

A month before my mother had to give birth, my father was arrested for drug smuggling and went to prison for 12 years.

The trip

When I was 18, I went on a roots-finding trip arranged by Cathwel, which included a meeting with my mother. My father now lives in Nigeria and is not allowed to be in Taiwan because of his criminal record.

That meeting with my mother remains the most beautiful experience of my life. She wept uncontrollably, but I walked around with a beaming smile.

Photo Credit: Rianne courtesy of Maureen Welscher
Rianne with her biological mother in Taiwan.

A meeting with my grandfather and grandma followed, which I was quite nervous about. I was afraid that they would not accept me because of my skin color. But my grandparents were very happy that they could finally meet me.

In the remaining two weeks that I was in Taiwan, I was introduced to many other family members. There were language problems but it still felt nice. It was the first time I met people who looked like me.

It was nice to notice how desired and loved I was in Taiwan. Everyone constantly gave me fruit and snacks, asked if I ate enough, whether I slept enough, if I was dressed properly for the cold. My family is proud of me – they introduced me to everyone they know.

All these years, I had thought that I would not mean anything to my biological family, but I was wrong.

Photo Credit: Rianne courtesy of Maureen Welscher
Rianne with her biological grandparents.

Bridging the cultural divide

I returned to Taiwan last year. Due to my interest in my roots, I have chosen to study Chinese Language and Culture at Leiden University in the Netherlands. I can now make myself reasonably intelligible in Chinese.

However, when it comes to deeper feelings, my linguistic knowledge is not up to the task, which can be pretty frustrating. There are also clear cultural differences between me and my Taiwanese family. Sometimes I don't know if I'm doing something wrong [and] feel like I made a big mistake.

My family will never point this out, in line with their tradition. This ambiguity also makes it difficult for me. At other times they will make a blunt remark, but fail to notice when I take offense. Such moments make me uncertain.

Photo Credit: Rianne courtesy of Maureen Welscher
Rianne with her extended Taiwanese family.

I certainly see my Taiwan family as family, and they also feel like family. But “family” is a flexible term. It is not “home.” Home for me is that safe place where you can be completely yourself and where you don't have to worry about what the people around you might think.

When I am with my Taiwanese family, I still try to be the best and most polite version of myself. I get a lot of attention because of my looks, which I don’t like. Taiwanese avoid the sun and this starkly contrasts with the Dutch, who try to catch every sun beam because our weather sucks!

I see that Taiwanese are not used to colored skin and that they don’t like it. A lot of people stare at me when I am in Taiwan. I feel more Asian than African, but Taiwanese see me as an African girl.

I used to have so many vague, unfounded views about myself running through my head: I will not be good enough because I’m ”black”; My biological mother was young, so I will have been a “mistake”... Now I know it is precisely the opposite.

My parents wanted to keep me, my grandmother gave me up for adoption because she loves me, my Taiwanese family treats me like I am one of them despite my color. I now feel unconditional love from so many sides at once. What else can you ask for?

Read Next: Emma's Story: Surprising Encounters, Painful Departures

Content has been edited for clarity

Editor: David Green

Roots-finding in Taiwan:

Taiwanese kids have been adopted by Dutch families since 1989, most between 1993 and 2000, when 317 children found a new home in Holland. Now in early adulthood, many are seeking to meet their biological parents and find their Taiwanese roots. Last year, the Dutch journalist and mother Maureen Welscher made a so-called “roots-finding” trip with her two adopted children from Taiwan, aged 14 and 17. What follows is a series of testimonies of those involved in the roots-finding experience, starting with Maureen and moving on to two young women who were adopted from Taiwan, Emma and Rianne.

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