My Childhood in Taiwan…Revisiting…
In December 2008 I went to Taiwan to do a ritual for a special family and visited the old street and apartment I lived in until 1972. I went with Irene, Seng Piow, Fat Monk and Paul to Taiwan. They came to assist me. There was a lady there by the name of Ms Kuan who was my mother’s schoolmate in Taiwan and her sister was going for a serious heart operation, so I needed to do some pujas. We did the pujas in the hotel room with the Kuan family and of course the ill sister. I did the puja today and she was checking into the hospital tomorrow. Divination said that her operation would be a success. I very much wanted to go to Taiwan to do this puja in person as I owe the Kuan family my sincere gratitude. Let me explain…
My mother is of Royal Mongolian lineage. When she and family immigrated to Taiwan from their homeland, she was a schoolgirl. She went to school in Taipei and had a good friend named Ms Kuan. My father left Tibet and had a wife/three kids already when he met my mom in Taiwan. He never told my mom and she became pregnant with me. He couldn’t marry her and confessed to having a family already in Tibet (they came to Taiwan later). My mom was beyond consoling. Her pain and hurt was tremendous. The shame and stigma that time with her parents, relatives and community was too much for her to bear. She secretly gave birth to me in Taiwan General Hospital and then gave me up. My mom immigrated to the US.
My mom’s mother (grandmother) found a Taiwanese family to take care of me for US$50 per month and would visit me from time to time. This lady caretaker was called Shi-mama. She had a husband and three sons living in a small second floor apartment across from a school. Well, I was taken there. Before my mom left she asked Ms Kuan to visit me from time to time but never openly admitting I was her son. My mom got married in the US and lived in Philadelphia with husband/two sons.
Shi-mama had her own huge problems and didn’t treat me very nicely. Her sons were very abusive towards me punishing me whenever they can for the smallest mistakes. I was a small kid. Ms Kuan and her brother Mr Kuan noticed. They would often come down to where I stayed and take me into their home in the Taiwan mountains to spend weekends. They would wash me, feed me real well, buy me toys and play a lot with me. They were VERY VERY VERY KIND to this illegitimate boy and I looked forward to visiting them. I didn’t know who they were at all, but I just remember a very nice lady with a kind brother who always was kind to me. It took thirty years for me to find them again and re-unite. It was a teary re-union. I realized now that Ms Kuan really cared about me and wanted to adopt me, but my grandmother would not let her. I don’t know why. I would have loved to stay with her and call her my mom. But that was not to be. I was taken to the United States against my wishes in 1971 and given to a Mongolian Family in Howell, New Jersey.
Yes, this was me. In a twist, I met my natural birth mother (Dewa) in the US several times. She would visit me at my step parents house in New Jersey but never letting me know she was my mother. She told me that when I was seven months old, monks and senior lamas came to her in Taiwan and said I was a reincarnated lama and that they should take me to the Monastery to be enthroned when I was a little older. She told me, she wouldn’t allow them to take me. I asked her why. She said, if I was a real incarnation, when I grow up I would prove who I am by my actions. I told my mother that whoever was watching over me at that time should have let me go since no one else wanted me. I would have loved to have gone to the Monastery at a young age. Instead I was shipped to the United States. I was very unhappy there even at a young age. I knew when I was older I would travel and live in distant lands. Where I didn’t know, but somewhere in the East was what I always felt when I was very young.
This is a picture of me with Ms Kuan who was very loving, kind and caring to me after my mother left me to Shi-mama’s care. Ms Kuan would come often to visit me at Shi-mama’s place…I looked forward to Ms Kuan’s visits so so so much…I remember clearly…She treated me just like her own child. She never married or had children of her own.
This is me with Mr Kuan. The kind and very nice brother of Ms Kuan. He used to buy me toys, take me to men’s public baths and wash me thoroughly and carry me on his shoulders. I never forgot this kind gentle man. I just didn’t know who he was at the time. In Taiwan, they have public baths and Shi-mama didn’t wash me very well, but Mr Kuan with give me thorough scrubbings in these baths. I enjoyed them very much. I think he had a lot of pity for a kid like me. I thank you so much Mr Kuan for being such a kind man. I will never forget your kindness.
This is me re-uniting with Mr Kuan 36 years later. It was very emotional. I was the kid he scrubbed and cleaned. I was the kid he use to have ride on his shoulders. I was that little neglected child that he showed love to…Thank you Mr Kuan for being so kind to a child that needed parents he didn’t have. This child now a grown up me, will NEVER FORGET you and Ms Kuan’s kindness. I will show kindness to others remembering you both always. Your kindnesses will not have been wasted on me…I promise.
The white corner building on the 2nd floor is where I lived until I was seven years old before I was taken to the United States. My caretaker Ms Shi-mama, her husband, three sons and me all squeezed into the 2nd floor of this building. The ground floor had a small store (still there) by another tenant and the 1st floor was another tenant also. We didn’t have much space upstairs, but we squeezed in.
Nearly everyday after school I would sneak upstairs to the 2nd floor and leave my school bag and cap on the stairs to the apartment and go off. I would wander the streets until late at night daily until I was very tired and then sneak into the apt to sleep. Sometimes one or two of the three boys would wake up and make me kneel on rice on the floor to punish me. I didn’t go home much because there was not a lot of care, affection or food given to me. Most nights after school I would be given white rice with sugar mixed into it and that was about all. My teeth were nearly all rotten and had extensive dental work done when I arrived in the US. There would be much punishments from the three boys and sorry to say, my caretaker didn’t care much about me much…I was a job to her…and I lived with her for 24 hours a day for years… It was not a happy time for me at all.
I went with a small group of friends from Malaysia and the store owner on the ground floor still remembers me after 36 years when we inquired!!!!! Amazing. There are more buildings on the streets but I do recognize this building I lived in. The street seemed cleaner than I remembered also. Across the street from this building are two schools (still there). One is a elementary school that I attended and the other is a high school. It was strange walking down this street and seeing the school after 36 years. Ms Kuan remembered where I had stayed with Shi-mama.
My Royal Uncle and me (The black and white portrait above is my uncle during his younger days). He has been a minor celebrity in Taiwan for being Mongolian Royalty and has been interviewed/written about for decades in their media. He is coming out with his book. He speaks fluent Mongolian, Mandarin-Chinese and very good English. It was nice meeting him. He is my only uncle on my mother’s side. My mom has no other siblings. I have more relatives from their side of the family in Xinjiang that I have never met. I heard they would like to meet me. Irene and Seng Piow visited them and connected them to me. But I am yet to visit.
This is the family I was adopted into in the United States. They are of Kalmyk (Mongolian) heritage. They emigrated to the US during War World Two. They settled in New Jersey and made a life for themselves there. This is a photo of my step mom Dana Bugayeff, her daughter Lidshma and my step dad Boris Bugayeff. Of course that’s me in the front.
I thought I’d share a little of myself more on this post. I will share more in the future. I have tons of pictures of me growing up in Howell, New Jersey and many stories to share along with the photos…
This is a short video of myself giving dharma to Ms Kuan’s family and oral transmission to the long life mantra of Je Tsongkapa. It will benefit them very much.
A video of part of my meeting with my Uncle for the first time. Remember I knew of him, but never met him. He is the only sibling of my birth mother Dewa. It was nice to meet him and get more background on my family which many things I did not know for the past fourty years. Thank you Uncle David Minh for your time. I hope your book comes out soon. I am interested to read it.
This post was originally published on June 20, 2010
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