Taiwan day ten16 Mar 2023 | Adoption
return home day
In preparation for our return trip home, we slept horribly. Noah kept kicking me in the back and Jack couldn’t sleep, so we both ended up sleeping poorly on the couch in the living room.
After a final walkthrough of the apartment, we got into the massive Volkswagen T6 van for our trip to the airport. We grabbed a couple carts for all our luggage and went in search of our airline. If we didn’t have the extra complication of traveling with two different kinds of passports, we would have experienced the convenience of the automated check-in system, but instead we stood in a long line filled with people who probably should have used the kiosk.
We handed over our bags and the lady behind the counter nearly gave us a heart attack when she told us that she couldn’t print us tickets for Abbie and Noah because they didn’t have the required return tickets for their visa. After a tense few minutes trying to explain the adoption situation, she called over a superior who quickly spotted the mistake: the trainee hadn’t seen the immigration visa and assumed it was a tourist visa. Immigration visas are one-way.
In retrospect, I’d like to apologize to everyone else in the TSA PreCheck line. On the other hand, we have TSA PreCheck specifically to simplify traveling with children. The immigration processing took some extra time due to the adoption, language, and quantity of children challenges. But we had plenty of time.
The plan for breakfast was to eat in the airport once through security, but the options were surprisingly limited. We ended up at a large Starbucks so that kids could point at what they wanted in the display case. I pushed together multiple tables to use as our staging area before sending out envoys to fill waters, order food, and go to the bathroom.
Abbie refused most of the foods we offered her and ended up eating a single strawberry mochi for breakfast. Then we got on the plane.
Becca sat on the aisle with Noah and Jack and I sat on the aisle with Abbie and Than.
Whenever we travel with kids, we try to bring a hand-written card and a bag of chocolates for the flight crew. In this case, we explained our recent adoption and asked for their patience on our younger kids’ first flight. Over the course of the flight, several flight crew members came to congratulate us and thank us for the chocolate and note. At takeoff, Noah refused to put up his tray table and came very near the brink of toddler level meltdown, but one of the flight crew helped us communicate in Chinese to put up his tray table for takeoff.
Abbie settled in and deftly navigated her tablet and the in-flight system to watch a Lego movie and Zootopia. She slept a little and picked at her food at meal times. Occasionally, Becca and I conversed over the back of the chair or between seats.
Once we got up to altitude, something ruptured in my eye, and within a couple hours, it swelled shut while leaking goop. I probably should have asked for a warm towel, but instead, I used the rough paper towels and napkins.
welcome to SFO
We arrived exhausted in San Francisco and too everyone to the bathroom. The floor was a wet slick of urine and I gagged trying to get all three boys in and out as quickly and sanitarily as possible. Welcome to America.
Next, we waited though the long immigration line before going to a waiting room for immigrant processing. At that point, I was ushered away to do my Global Entry interview (it was delayed and then I missed it because I was in Taiwan). The officer asked me a bunch of questions about my past and reiterated many times that Global Entry wouldn’t work for my kids. My travel, past employment, and government interactions made the interview far more interesting than they probably expected (multiplied by my swollen/weeping eye and 17 hours of painful travel).
Becca and the four kids showed up as we were wrapping up the interview. Later, she told me about her immigration experience. While she waited her turn, she overheard parts of an interview with a woman who was immigrating to America and needed to travel back to Taiwan to help her mother sell her house. There was a misunderstanding between the officer and the woman because she had no intention of returning to live in Taiwan, but she did have a return ticket to help her mother temporarily. The officer grossly overreacted and accused her of lying to him and threatened to haver her immigration request denied and deported. With her very limited Chinese, Becca helped to diffuse and clarify the situation before she had her own turn with an officer.
My soapbox, if you’re easily triggered, skip this paragraph: immigration agents should definitely not be people with short tempers and an inability to understand English with a heavy accent. They should also have some translators available in one of the largest international immigration offices in country. This country may have some preference toward the english language, but the USA actually has no legal official language. If it did, it would have been German. Everyone here except the native tribes are immigrants, so it’s pretty gross to treat immigrants as less worthy to be here. As a follower of Jesus, immigrants are to be given special care, love, and generosity. That does not look like a short temper, threatening, and accusing someone who wants to care for their parents.
finally through immigration, we picked up our bags (we were some of the last there). With all of our carry-on bags and 6 checked suitcases, I needed a large cart to push all our stuff around the corner to re-check our bags through to Boise. Luckily for me, there were several unused 8ft carts nearby. I started loading it up before an airport employee told me I couldn’t use that cart. If I wanted to use it, I could pay him $20. I had no US cash on hand, he refused Taiwan dollars, and it felt like a shakedown. I took our luggage off the cart and he walked away with it.
A little fuming, I went and purchased two $8 carts (from two separate lines because the first wouldn’t let me take two). We walked through the customs area and around the corner where we put our luggage on the conveyor belt. The airport worker commiserated with us about the airport’s cart extortion scheme in light of other countries.
We went back through security and ate more fried chicken and fries as the kids played at the only small play area in the whole airport.
Hours passed, and I took several trips to the unsanitary bathrooms to clean my weeping eye. Becca found some Benadryl for me just in case it was an allergic reaction of some kind: it was not, the Benadryl made me very sleepy though.
When we got on the tiny airplane for our final leg, Noah leapt into the first available seat, and took physical extraction to get him to the back of the plane where our tickets put us. Most of us were asleep by the time we took off.
We did a touch-and-go, circle back, and try again landing before being welcomed by a loving group of friends and family who took all our burdens, drove us home, and gave us pizza. We all collapsed into bed and slept through the night. We were finally home.