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Going to China: Carry-On Only

July 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Being that my husband is in the airline industry, we have been a family that takes full advantage of the flight benefits. Therefore, since we fly stand-by, we hardly ever check bags – because one is never totally quite sure IF we will get on the said flight until the last minute – major bummer if your bags make the flight and you don’t!


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So after almost 28 years of marriage and trips around the world and then some (including four international adoptions) and untold number of international mission trips – we have a few tips on packing you might find helpful.

Flying with only carry-on luggage is really quite freeing, gives you maximum flexibility and really helps one to not over pack and therefore break your back carrying things around the world that you never really needed in the first place. Mind you, my packing has somewhat evolved and streamlined over the years as our family has expanded to 6 children. I therefore recommend that one traveling for an international adoption pack with purpose, pack in functional luggage (we speak from experience!), pack with comfort, and pack for care.


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Pack with purpose:

Packing with a purpose is the most important component of packing and happens weeks before one ever pulls out the suitcase and carryon/backpack. Determine what the purpose of the trip is… for an international adoption it is ALL about the documents (need I say more)… your new child… and your ability to be at the top of all your faculties – body, mind and spirit – for this unbelievable adventure to enfold your new child into your hearts forever and for your witness to those you encounter. It is not about the clothes you will wear each day.

Much of the logistical and physical “stuff” that you bring in your luggage is inconsequential to the mindset and heart attitude that you have and the cultural attitude that you bring. My husband and I were youth group directors for several years and led the teens on foreign missions trips and in the weeks leading up to the trip they were required to read books to prepare themselves for the purpose of the trip. All that we do – particularly in the adoption community – is a grand testimony of God’s love for us played out in our radical faith and crazy love for our child on display for the world to see.   

I urge therefore, PRAY and prepare your heart… know your purpose… know the culture into which you will be going and pack up all the humility, patience, trust and obedience you can muster. Then, prepare yourself physically. Start walking/exercising, practice carrying that baby backpack loaded with 20 pounds of flour. I was so glad I was in shape the day we had to sprint several blocks to the US Embassy in Russia to catch our appointment before it closed unexpectedly. Our physical preparedness is directly connected to our overall well-being and attitude and will effect of overall purpose of enfolding your new child and being a witness to the world. Traveling is tiring and can be stressful, so be prepared.

Making a packing list is helpful and really essential. Most of the adoption agencies are really helpful to give you an idea of what to bring. For those using just carry-on luggage you really just bring the essentials only. Most everything else can be acquired in country if needed. The age old adage of “less is more” cannot be overstated here. I have found “four” is the operative number of items of coordinating clothing (mix-n-match) and then pack zip lock bags of detergent. One is the number of shoes to pack…. ONE! Pack one jacket/coat that goes with everything and minimal toiletries – I keep these in the outside pockets.  Keep your jewelry at home and just wear your favorites.


Pack in functional luggage:

Reliable luggage is key and I strongly recommend quality wheeled lightweight luggage and carry-on/backpack.  Every pocket should have a designated use and that way even in the dark of the night with baby and whatnot on your lap you will be able to retrieve what you need.  If you are not a seasoned traveler…practice where passports, tickets, wallets and documents will go EVERY TIME…bottles and formula…diapers and wipes, etc.  Trust me, stress and fatigue will cause you to lose things…important things…having a system in place is key for resource management.  Many people choose to keep their passports/valuables around their necks or in a travel vest with secured pockets.  Find a system that works and use it – every time!  It will eliminate your stress when you can locate something quickly with confidence!  As with anything, having the right equipment makes a world of difference.

Airlines allow 2 carry-on’s per person.  Allocate the space as you deem best but know that your child’s clothing needs to share in your carry-on’s as well.  Assuming two adults are traveling, I used one carry-on for documents and valuables/necessities and the other one designated for the child.  The 2-wheeled suitcases then are for your clothing and any additional baby supplies (baby carrier).


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Pack for comfort:

Traveling in the most comfortable practical shoes you can find cannot be overstated. You will not be in your normal routine and will be doing a lot of walking and waiting and sightseeing. Invest in a good pair of shoes if you do not already have one – I love and swear by my “Merrell’s”. Pack only clothing that fits right and is comfortable for the long flights and washes easily and does not wrinkle. Spot cleaning really is the best option when traveling.

When packing clothes for your child… remember from an attachment point of view, I strongly recommend that you continue to dress your child in the same clothing that they came to you in and do not wash it. This is a huge adjustment and grieving time for your child so you will want to keep as many things the same that you can – clothing, food, routines, etc. Ask politely if you can have some of the child’s clothing in exchange for some new ones donated.

I will never forget my youngest daughter screaming uncontrollably the first night when she spotted in a zip lock bag her fleece jacket from the orphanage. She leaped out of my “inept foreign arms” and tore open the bag and buried herself into jacket and despite the heat wore it the next few days and slept with it every night for weeks as her “blanket”. Please… as tempting as it is to put them into adorable clothes and snap the pictures – remember what would bring them the most comfort. Therefore, please pack with comfort in mind for your child. There will be a lifetime of adorable clothes – right now keep their clothing the same and do not wash “the smells” away. The clothes you do bring should be very soft, without tags and easy to get on and off as many children have sensory issues.    


Pack with care:

Gifts are expected so purchase those that will not take up much room (scarves!). Be creative and pack gift bags and ribbons to easily compile there. Secure anything that could leak in a zip lock bag and fit them into your suitcase.

In order to adequately care for health needs, bring an assortment of OTC medicines in small quantities in zip lock bags. Also bring a few creature comfort foods for yourself and for your child. The best way to start a bonding relationship with your child is with food. Another good way to demonstrate your care to your child is through massage. Pack a good non-greasy lotion that is lightly scented.

There will be very little room for toys… but know that the best “toy” is you… interacting and mirroring their play, singing, playing peek-a-boo, chase and hide-n-seek. Children never tire of these games and they need no translator.


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Lastly, be sure to pack your favorite version of God’s word… either on-line or your Bible. I encourage you to have a daily quiet time of prayer and Bible reading with the Lord. When the difficult days/nights come, and there will be some, God’s sustaining power will refresh and renew you.

Pack with a purpose with good solid functioning carry-ons, pack for comfort and care and go in peace knowing that you have all you need.

……..

– guest post by Shyla, mom to six, including Meredith who lives in China serving orphans with congenital heart defects

#ohChina

July 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

China.

Whether you’ve been there and back again 10 times or are anxiously awaiting that call telling you it’s time to call your travel agent, you can feel very much a foreigner in a foreign land.

As we’ve been those foreigners, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may be helpful to some of you as you ready yourselves to go and may help others smile as you remember your time in the place where your child’s story started.


 

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1. In China, your new best friend is named Susan. She’s lazy but don’t hold it against her; it’s what makes her amazing. Nearly every restaurant has one of these twirly deals on the table. Expect to come home wishing you had a round table for your kitchen so you could get one of these for your own family. I’m still hoping for that myself.


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2. In China, meals are about community, not efficiency. If you try to load up those little saucer plates set around your big round table at meals, you will feel like a giant…and look like a rude American. Use your chopsticks and take one bite at a time as your BFF Susan brings a dish in front of you. It’s totally okay to share dishes with your friends around the table. Stop being OCD about germs and just roll with it.


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3. In China, hot water is a cure all. It’s sorta like Tylenol. It’s a wonder drug. Accept it. Drink it. Offer it to friends to be nice. Just make sure it’s boiled first.


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4. Eating out of a plastic bag isn’t all that different than eating out of a styrofoam box. No need to squirm.  


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5. Spitting, loudly clearing your throat, slurping. You may not need to participate in these since bringing these habits home as souvenirs may cause you to lose friends and offend the family members you’re stuck with. But, in China, just expect these things. It’s all good there.


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6. Mandarin and horn beeping are the national languages. Drivers beep their horns like some people bite their nails. I’m not even sure they know they’re doing it.


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7. In China, lines are overrated. Why bother with lines? A crowd all moving in the same direction works just fine.


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8. Yes means maybe; maybe means no; impossible means just don’t want to. Glad to clear that up for you.


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9. Gift giving is the Chinese love language. They’re a big deal. And, when you give one, you’ll likely receive one. Just don’t open it right then and there unless you’re invited to. That’s rude.

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10. Chinese is not a love language. They could be saying You are the most kindhearted person in the world and I love you and it will sorta sound like they’re yelling. Don’t assume everyone’s mad at each other or you. It’ll just cause you undue stress.


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11. Do not ever buy something for the sticker price or you’ll end up making a shopkeeper very happy and pay likely 4x more than you should.


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12. There’s a big difference between the way you say Ma and the way they say Ma. Tones make a big difference in a tonal language, y’all.


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13. Expect your allergies to bother you. Don’t have allergies? You suddenly will discover you have them after all. Bring nasal sprays and tissues (for more than this reason alone. #BYOTP).


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14. Stock photos are the bomb just as they are. No need to customize.


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15. That word you are hearing over and over again is not the N-word. Ni ga is the Chinese version of ummmm.


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16. Why do the Chinese have the corner on the holiday market? I wish we all had as many holidays as they do. I think we’d be a lot happier.


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17. If it has a collar and buttons, it’s a perfectly acceptable outfit.  I so wish we had the same fashion freedom at home that I feel when I’m in China.


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18. Outdoor shoes worn indoors? Are you kidding me? It’s barbaric to even think of such a thing.


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19. Pa-pa-pa papparazzi complete with peace signs (that don’t actually mean peace, by the way, but V for Victory). Your face likely will be all over QQ and WeChat before you step foot on American soil again.


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20. In China, friends walk arm in arm. If you’re ever there serving on a team with me, I will take your arm. And, I will say something about how I totally wish that was the norm in America. Just expect it…and everything else here.

#ohChina

Contributor Q and A: “I Wish I’d…”

July 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

With more than 50 adoption trips behind us collectively, our contributor team reflects on their journeys and what they might have done differently. The consensus? Less worrying, less formal touring and more soaking up authentic daily life in China. And, we wish we’d bought a few more coffee mugs!


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I wish I’d spent more time…

Desireé: Visit your child’s finding spot.  Get as much information about your child’s foster home/orphanage as possible. It’s painful while you are in China, but you’ll want the info when you get home.

Mandy:  Making out with my husband and dating him before we left. I am serious.   

Whitney: Sight-seeing in home province. The weather was awful, though, which made it really challenging.

Rebecca: Soaking up China even more. By our second trip, we learned to appreciate the significance of the moment in time even more, and spent less time longing for home. We spent more time walking the back streets, shopping street markets and enjoying local parks and not going on the guided tours. I’d skip the pearl and jade markets and the GZ zoo.

Amy A: I honestly feel like we did all we wanted to do in China!

Stefanie: Exploring. Lots of time spent in the hotel room and I wish I’d gotten out more on foot and just walked around, taking pictures. China is so beautiful and, in my experience, quite safe – I wish I’d been more adventurous.

Katie:  Exploring

Amy S: Enjoying Beijing. We were so tired by 5pm that we were just existing after that point. Another day to sight see and soak up China before we had Grace with us would have been great.

Carrie: Asking for information regarding her finding from the orphanage.

Jennifer: Seeing China – time is limited and you are exhausted – we did what we could cram in and not totally overwhelm our newly adopted child.

Jean: Relaxing, being more tender and realizing that once home on my own turf is the time to implement behavior guidelines. Don’t worry about “teaching” much at all when you’re in country. When you’re in China you just need to survive as best you can and be as happy as you can be!


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I wish I hadn’t worried about….

Desireé: Packing so much. We had quick access to WalMart at all times.

Mandy: I was a full-time professor with a successful career. On the flight to China, I was awake the entire time working on so much stuff before my adoption leave. I wish I hadn’t worried about work and I wish I had told my boss I couldn’t do it. 

Whitney:  I don’t think we worried much. We just kept our focus on getting through each day.

Rebecca:  On our first trip, I spent a lot of time worrying about shopping, so afraid I’d miss a family member or an important souvenir. These things are important, but consumed a bit too much of my energy. I was often not in the moment because I was plotting how to get back to the island to shop in GZ! 

Amy A: No worries honestly :)

Stefanie:  Trying to buy so much to bring home. It’s great to be able to bring back some mementos, but on my first trip I tried to buy for everyone and for my daughter for every family day anniversary – it became overwhelming and I ended up missing some sweet last days in country with my new daughter.

Amy S: Oxygen concentrator drama. We only needed to use it once in flight and we used plane oxygen. The worry about the batteries and the battles with the airlines just about did me in emotionally. It wasn’t worth it.

Carrie:  All the things that could have gone wrong… It’s a long and crazy list. Everything from travel woes to major medical issues to huge emotional traumas. But the old “take it one day (or moment) at a time” adage kicked into high gear once we were there, and when we set expectations and plans aside and just responded to each situation in the moment that it arose, it felt a bit like surfing a crazy-big wave. And we didn’t drown.

Jennifer:  What anybody thought.

Jean: Do they like me? Do I like them? Why won’t she sit next to me? She’s Mommy shopping?  I worried about a lot… I should have realized God has it all under control… so I don’t need to…

……..

I wish I’d remembered to bring home….

Desireé: Chinese outfits for my son in different sizes. Now that he is grown, I don’t have anything to put him in.

Whitney:  More souvenirs. Always more. I wish I had asked for something from her orphanage while we were there.

Amy A: A Nanning or Beihai Starbucks mug.

Stefanie: A rock or some dirt or momento from my child’s finding spot/hometown. Also, we didn’t always remember to get a local newspaper on our child’s gotcha/adoption day.

Katie: More pearls as thank you gifts.

Amy S: Can’t think of anything! Probably more souvenirs. I wish I had a mug for my coffee from China.

Carrie: I can’t think of a single trinket or gadget I forgot and have missed.

Jennifer: Pearls!


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If I could re-do one thing about my China trip it would be…..

Mandy: I so wish we could’ve gone to her orphanage. 

Whitney: Bring more familiar snacks for us while hanging out in the hotels/sight-seeing. 

Rebecca: More savoring, more in the moment living, more taking it and people watching, more sitting at noodle shops and less of the guided tours that took me to factories and giant tourist buffets. 

Amy A: I would have a book of my son’s pictures to give to his nanny.

Stefanie: More questions for the caretakers. More pictures of the little things on gotcha day. More pictures and video of just the daily stuff during our trip – scenes of us on the street, in restaurants, our travel mates, etc.

Katie:  Eat more authentic foods.

Amy S: Enjoy our week in GZ. We were messed up from an allergic reaction, which lead into the consulate closing, and changing our flights home. It was hard to stay positive and really enjoy our time there because for a few days we thought we might be staying an extra week, and it ended up only being a couple extra days.

Carrie: Genuinely can’t think of anything. I felt like we had a really great trip.

Jennifer: Bring a suitcase to take home more amazing items and goods from markets.

Jean: With a few of the adoption trips we had to have “rules” in order for everyone to survive and be safe. I then went back to China and learned that not every child needs the same “rules”. Each child is so different and some only needed the guidelines.


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Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

Desireé: It’s ok to feel overwhelmed emotionally and culturally. The primary focus of being in China is to get your child, but don’t let your overwhelmed-ness blind you to the amazing culture and people that gave you your child.

Mandy: I am so thankful for the other adoptive families I met. They were so encouraging. I am so glad we asked the orphanage director to write Lydia a note telling her what she hoped for her life. I treasure that we have this letter. 

Whitney: Our trip was not one of those “good” and “fun” trips you might hear about.  We didn’t love it all the time, but we did enjoy parts of it.  It was hard.  So very hard.  But you know, even knowing exactly how hard it was, I would do the exact same trip all over again to get our girl home. 

Rebecca: Give yourself grace for any emotion that you might feel. Many of us have felt a full range of both the sweet, and the not so sweet emotions, involved on adoption trips. Take it day by day, and be lavish with grace. 

Stefanie: As difficult as it is to imagine, one day your China trip will be a distant memory. Do all you can do document, photograph and remember your time in China. Try to take a few minutes when you child goes to sleep to write down a few memorable things from the day, if you are able. It’s the beginning of your child’s “baby book” and you will be truly grateful for any efforts you make in creating something they can look back on in the future.

Amy S: Expect the unexpected. Think about where you would go for a medical emergency and notice what floor the clinic is on if there is one in your hotel especially if you’re traveling with a medically fragile child. Pay attention to the people and the sights and the sounds. You may be the only link to China your child remembers through your pictures and memories.

Carrie: Remember you’re there for an adoption not tourism. Don’t try to cram too much into the trip in your free time. Rest, walk in parks, sit by a pond… Just pretend it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in your hometown… Where your agenda would be minimal and your plans and small. But DO venture out of your hotel if your child is up for it… China is a spectacular country! Embrace the adventure!

Jean: Our children LOVE to hear about, talk about their adoption journey! They remember some of it, but not all of it – it was such a stressful time for them. We laugh about the “things we thought”, things that happened and we are so thankful for where we are now in the journey!

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Waiting to Be Chosen: Jenny

July 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Is this precious little one your daughter? Jenny is simply adorable and has waited far too long for her family. Her orphanage fee has been waived and she has a growing grant on Reece’s Rainbow.  Jenny, born March 2008, is a cutie with a big smile from a well-run orphanage. Her update says she is sociable, easy going, …Read More

Going to China: Hao Chi

July 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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Hao chi (好吃) is how someone in China is going to affirm, “This is yummy!” It’s pronounced “how chur” and all you have to do is add a “ma?” to the end to make it a sentence. Chinese food. Either you love it or you hate it, right? And then maybe you love the food, …Read More

488 Days

July 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. – Ephesians 3:18, NLT On a crystal clear night with no humidity, you can almost feel the planet spinning. Staring up at one of the blackest skies and the brightest …Read More

Find My Family: Tommie

July 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Sweet Tommie really needs a family, let us tell you a bit more about him! Tommie turned 5 years old in May and has beta thalassemia major. He receives transfusions every two months, which is not as frequently as he would receive in the US or how often he needs to be able to grown …Read More

Microtia. What?

July 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

“My ear hurts mommy.” “Which ear honey? Do both ears hurt?” “No, silly. This one doesn’t hurt. It’s not open. It’s teeny tiny.” Olivia was 3 and this was the first time that I knew of that she noticed that her right ear didn’t match the left. We had never made a big deal out …Read More

Beyond Ourselves

July 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

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It’s the pinnacle of the adoption journey. We build a beautiful image of what gotcha day will be, and hold hard to that as we wait. Much preparation goes into readiness for caring for the child we’ve seen only in pictures. We study bonding techniques and possible reactions, and pack and repack little backpacks. But …Read More

Contributor Q and A: Gotcha!

July 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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In this edition of our Contributor Q and A, we share gotcha tips, feelings on orphanage visits and ideas on how to get through meetings and tours with transitioning kids.   What is one thing you were most glad you had along with you for gotcha?   Liberty: Snacks, bottle because he was super thirsty, …Read More

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