Sunday, August 10, 2014

Preparing for Travel

When you get to the travel approval part of your adoption, your agency will probably arrange several conference calls and webinars to get you the information you need to prepare. You can find lots of blogs like this to supplement your knowledge and fuel your desperation to pack more than you could ever need.

Here is a short list of some of the things we did or wish we had done:

- Join facebook pages, yahoo groups, etc. for the province or area you are adopting from. People who adopted from our agency have made a facebook group, as well as people with an adoption connection to her town. Both have been very useful. A word of warning, though. I did leave the general (huge) Families with Children from China facebook page because people there were just so harsh about everything. The tone of a group can become aggressive so quickly, and I'm fairly thick-skinned but I didn't need them with all the other great groups I found. Maybe I'll join again later, but it was clogging up my life. So as with any internet endeavor your mileage may vary.

- Get a bunch of prescriptions for unpleasant and unusual problems. Maybe try to punk the Walgreens staff and see if you can get them to back up a few steps from the crazy lady with scabies, lice, pinkeye and intestinal worms.

I'm not going to bother listing what specific meds we'll bring, except to say it's mostly standard travel stuff plus a few bonuses for our daughter. We're prepared to help her if she has infections, parasites, or any other unwelcome travelers. One tip on the prescriptions I wish we had known was this: for things that do not require a specific dosing for a child, you can get them in YOUR name so your insurance will pay. Duh, maybe I'm the only one to think of that while walking away from the counter with my wallet gently smoldering. Otherwise, my understanding on insuring an adopted child is that you are on your own for paying until your child is in your physical custody.

-Order neat handmade gift stuff from some artsy hipster on Etsy. We did NOT do this and now leave in three days (THREE DAYS!!), but wouldn't it have been super smart?

For the orphanage director and workers, we are bringing little dollar store gift bags with chocolates & toffees in them. I was careful to check that the candy is all American made. Do I feel guilt that we bought gifts at the dollar tree? Nope. Our girl isn't in the orphanage, though she is probably there with her foster family as they are under their authority and do check in. We have spent ka-thousands in the last month preparing for this trip and I don't think we even hand them the gifts in person. In fact, in the small print our agency said the gifts are optional though customary.

For the foster family... well, that's a different story. Despite understanding this is a simple gesture of custom as well, I found choosing to be a nearly impossible task. Here is what I came up with tonight.

It contains:
1. an Oregon kitchen towel ($3)
2. bar of local Moonstruck Chocolate ($4)
3. chili garlic Beef Jerky ($5)
4. deck of Portland artists-designed playing cards ($13)
5. ceramic necklace made locally with the Chinese character for "love" on it ($12)
6. not pictured- a tote bag from the music school we run (already had it)

This collection feels like us. It's stuff we would like and I hope it's varied enough that they might enjoy something from it. It's weird enough that it doesn't feel like an impersonal business-y thank you like some of the other suggested items did for us. Of course, we haven't yet delivered it so it's possible I'll come back and revise this later.

- For your packing list, I recommend cutting and pasting several together from the internet and choosing what fits you. We are packing on the light side. We're checking one large suitcase, a small rolly that is also acceptable as a carry-on, and J will bring a rolly. We'll each have backpacks, and I will also pack a very light empty duffel bag in case there is so much to bring back that we need another space.

Almost all the things filling these bags pertain to keeping a toddler and ourselves healthy, clean and reasonably entertained in a hotel for 10 days. If we were traveling for two weeks to China on our own, a single rolly each would have sufficed. Some of it will almost certainly be left there, depending on what our girl really needs (diapers? bottles? sizes?).

And here is the reason we are doing all of these little things as best we can. A year ago or so, her foster family took her to the Children's Welfare Institute for a checkup and caught this little video. My favorite part is around the 15 second mark, when she jumps a bit and smiles for her friend calling, "JinFang JinFang!"

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