As much as I hate to see the end of our June feature, I can’t wait to begin our July/August Feature: Going to China! We will cover all things China-trip related: packing, traveling, gotcha day, orphanage care vs. foster care and setting realistic expectations. We’ll even have some fun Q and A posts from the NHBO contributor team. It’s going to be so fun!
Our very own Amy recently traveled to China for her newest little one, Tyson. Before she left we asked her if she’d be willing to take a few moments, every day, to jot down a tip or a thought that might help future traveling families. She graciously agreed, and here are her 14 tips.
Day 1: Our family flew United Airlines and was very pleased with the experience. Ryan, Noah, and I were not seated together for the long 16-hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong. The gate attendant and flight attendants all helped move people around so that we could sit together. The food was fine, nothing too special, but I felt satisfied after eating. The first meal (chicken with noodles, carrots, and green beans, a roll, a brownie bar, and a house salad) was served a couple hours into our flight. Then, midway into the flight we were given a snack of a deli sandwich on a small roll, chips, and a cookie. Last, about an hour before we landed, we got a last meal of either chicken and noodles or an egg dish. I chose the eggs and liked them just fine! There was some type of potato au gratin served in the shape of a triangle, and the flavor was ok. I skipped the meat patty; honestly, I’m not sure if it was beef or sausage or somewhere in between. They also provided another roll and cookie. The drinks came throughout the course of our flight, and if you needed additional water, coffee, or tea, you could walk to the galley at the back of the plane to serve yourself. The bathrooms were kept clean throughout the flight. Consider bringing a bottle of water or a reusable water bottle on the plane with you in order to refill it versus being given those small plastic cups during your flight. I also grabbed a sandwich at the airport before we took off, and I ate at the beginning of the flight and the other half during the flight. Ryan filled out our immigration forms (one for each person in our traveling party) on the plane, so they were all ready to go once we reached the airport.
If you are flying into Hong Kong, the airport is very easy to navigate. Just follow the immigration signs until you reach the line. We made it through immigration very quickly – maybe 10 minutes total with many people ahead of us. We found a kiosk to figure out where to pick up our luggage, as I was not a good listener on our flight. Our luggage came out quickly and without incident. When you exit the airport, there is a train ticket counter in the very next room. Although it was our original plan to take the train all the way to our hotel (which would mean switching trains twice at different stations), the gentleman at the counter showed us how we could take the Airport Express Train to the Kowloon Station and then take a free airport shuttle bus to our hotel. It was all very easy to navigate and did not cause any stress! So, when you arrive in Hong Kong, breathe easy and trust that you will be at your hotel before you know it.
Day 2: Ideas if visiting Hong Kong – Go to the Star Ferry station if staying in Kowloon. Feel free to visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board storefront to learn about various activities to do in Hong Kong. The the Star Ferry across the Harbour and be sure to ride on the upper deck for the better view. Buying tokens is very easy. Find the machine to purchase tokens. It looks like this (attached). Push the adult button for each adult token needed. Then push concessionary for each child ticket needed. Insert Hong Kong Dollars as directed, and then just take your change and tokens. Because it was rainy, we chose the Big Bus Tour, which is a hop on-hop off audio tour. You have three different daytime routes from which to choose: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, or Aberdeen and Stanley. We chose Hong Kong Island and loved it. We took the tram up to Victoria’s Peak, which was an incredible experience. It was a perfect adventure even in the rain! Visit the Kam Wah Cafe in Kowloon for the very best don tots and pineapple bread! Be sure to order the milk tea, as well.
Day 3: If you have the opportunity to visit a prayer room at the airport, definitely take advantage! There is something so sweet about meeting the Lord in a land so far from home.
Day 4: Before meeting your new child, consider writing him/her a letter. Pour out those raw emotions to help your child know someday what was on your heart. You will be so glad that you did! Focusing your thoughts and prayer on your child will help you be in the right frame of mind on Family Day.
Day 5: Do not stress out about the gifts you buy for people in China. They will not open them in front of you. Consider buying gifts that help an organization. For example, we purchased two purses from By Tavi, which is operated by women in Cambodia, striving to make a better life for their families. We bought the dozens of small $1 hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works to give to many people. Our guide said, “Let everyone know not to get the men a green hat!” He said this is very bad in China, as it means that you have had an affair on your wife or girlfriend. Beware of green hats, adoptive momma friends!!
Day 6: Even when you are not feeling 100%, and you are considering skipping that tour of the local park, please go anyway! You will be so glad that you did. Your time in China is so short, and you will want to take in as much of your child’s country as possible. This is your chance to fall in love with China and learn about its rich history. Sweating buckets of sweat in 110 degree heat with a baby strapped to your chest in an Ergo is totally worth it!
Day 7: Really, really consider visiting your child’s orphanage and finding spot. This is such an important part of your child’s history, and one day, he or she will have a lot of questions about his/her past. Having pictures and video of your visit to both places will be so valuable. Consider having the nanny sing a song that will be familiar to your child. If your child was in good care, be sure to thank the people who filled in the gap until you could arrive. Some may not want their child to experience these two trips, so maybe your spouse or another adult traveling with you can document those parts for you. Remember, the short term situation may be difficult, but in the long term, the benefits often outweigh the costs. Many children experience their goodbye at the orphanage as a positive one.
Day 8: When leaving your province, consider letting your children, who are traveling with you, watch Chinese cartoons. Our son loved them! Also, if your in province guide left an impression on your heart, writing a letter to thank them and including it with your gift might be a great idea! Pack plenty of snacks for the airplane ride to Guangzhou. Remember, in country China flights are often delayed.
Day 9: During your child’s medical appointment, consider taking the usual snacks and drinks, as well as something that will entertain your child and the other waiting children like bubbles. Take the time to smile as you see so many families with other agencies and from other countries working to bring these children home. Do not give your child a blue sucker before the exam, as one parent learned that blue suckers equals blue lips and tongue, which is concerning to doctors who then might think your child has a heart condition!
Day 10: When shopping in Guangzhou, think about buying your daughter or your son’s future wife a pearl necklace to give before her wedding. If you want to buy good chops, I highly recommend Peter’s Place on Shamian Island. He will sell them for 55 Yuan, which includes the ink. His craftsmanship when carving the chops is beautiful!
Day 11: If your family is Christian, consider buying a English/Chinese Bible from Jenny’s on Shamian Island. I have purchased one for both of our sons from China. Each page has one column in English and one column in Mandarin. I’m sure you can purchase these in the US, but having one from China during the trip when they were adopted is so special.
Day 12: When you go for your consulate appointment, ask your guide to take a picture with your cell phone outside of the consulate and then hold your phone for you while you go inside for your appointment. You will treasure that picture! Do not go to the Aeon grocery store on Tuesdays because that is double point day. Every housewife in China will be shopping there, and you will wait forever to check out.
Day 13: On your final day(s) in China, make sure you go out to eat with families you’ve grown close to during your time in China. These are special friendships that will last a lifetime! You will miss them when you go home, and you will be glad to have one last meal together.
Day 14: When you travel home, don’t bother worrying about how the trip will go or how you will keep your child entertained. Take things one step at a time and don’t look too far ahead. Focus on each small segment individually, and once you complete it, think about the next part. It is a long trip home regardless of your worry, and remember, the flights will end. You will eventually be home, hugging your children, family, and friends, and you will sleep in your bed soon enough.
— photos by K&R Photography