It’s the final countdown! (*insert music as appropriate*).
Wow, our departure is getting close–we’ll be on a very long flight two weeks from today. Our flights and hotels are booked, we’re installing car seats, and we’re waiting for our passports to be returned to us with China visas. Late last week, we also received our itinerary for our trip. Just in case you’re interested, here’s where we’ll be, and when:
- June 19: Wheels up! We fly nonstop to Beijing (about 13 hours of flight time)
- June 20: We arrive in Beijing and meet our first guide. We’ll hopefully start to get ourselves on China time (one time zone for the whole country!!!)
- June 21 & 22: Tons of touring, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and lots and lots of other places. Families have told us we’ll be exhausted by the end of Beijing, but sounds fantastic!
- June 23: We fly from Beijing to Taiyuan, Shanxi Province and meet our in-country agency rep for the remainder of our trip. We’ll want to rest up for our big day.
- June 24: Placement Day! We will get custody of Alexander at the Civil Affairs office in the afternoon
- June 25: We will return to Civil Affairs with Alexander early in the morning to register his adoption.
- June 26: We’ll take our first family outing to Pingyao, an amazing UNESCO world heritage site.
- June 27: We pick up Alexander’s passport, notary papers, and take a tour of Taiyuan.
- June 28: We fly from Taiyuan to Guangzhou in the late afternoon.
- June 29: Alexander’s medical exam
- June 30: A day touring Guangzho, the Chen Family Academy, and Yuntai gardens
- July 1: More city touring, and visa/medical exam report paperwork pickup
- July 2: Our Consulate appointment. Alexander is approved to immigrate to the US.
- July 3: Our guide picks up Alexander’s new US passport/visa. More local touring.
- July 4: We depart Guangzhou via van for Hong Kong. We fly back to Chicago. With the time zone change and flight times, it looks as though we’ll arrive home in early afternoon and in plenty of time for Independence Day fireworks! We’ll clear US Customs, hand over all of the immigration paperwork we’ve been gathering, and Alexander becomes an American!
Aside from big things (like flights and formal appointments), our schedule is fairly flexible. We can’t wait to explore these cities with our new son!
No, that is NOT Alexander’s current weight! Our little guy, like many internationally adopted children, is very small for his age. Although he turns one early next month, his measurements and weight are much more in line with a child less than half his age. Though that caused some initial panic from us, our medical team ensured us that he’ll sprout up and fatten out as soon as we get him home and on a more advanced diet. Additionally, because of his medical condition, eating is a much more laborious task.
So back to the 44 lbs! As Brian mentioned in a previous post, we attended our first travel meeting this past week. We focused primarily on the itinerary and logistics of our upcoming trip. We were handed a huge suggested packing list with one caveat– for our several week trip, we can each have only 44 lbs of luggage (based on the luggage restrictions for in-China flights). Yes, 44 lbs is a lot of weight, but that has to include a fair amount of baby gear, enough clothing for at least a few days, and several small gifts for ceremonial gift exchanges with various officials. We also hope to do a fair amount of shopping during our journey to gather some things from Alexander’s home town and province.
Does anyone have any suggestions for packing light and packing smart for international travel? Especially you parents out there– do you have any creative ideas on essentials to include and what to just leave at home? One thing we’ve definitely decided is to bring a soft baby carrier to help with attachment rather than to haul a stroller.
This past weekend, we got to share our incredibly good news with several friends in the city during an annual Super Bowl party chili fest. Of course, much was discussed regarding our upcoming travel and grand adventure ahead. The big discussion though, was the important conversation about which order Brian should show Alexander the Star Wars films (answer? Read this) and which Star Trek films are essential for a proper upbringing ala STNG.
Equally important to geekifying our child, if not more so, is that we are now able to request updates and send care packages to Alexander. So far, we’ve received one update of photographs and are waiting on a developmental update. As far as care packages are concerned, we have been told to hope for the best but to expect the worst. More explicitly, we are encouraged to send a few photographs of us and a small comfort object in the hopes that their caregivers will share these to begin our bonding before we even meet. However, given the uncertainty of where Alexander is and who is caring for him, we need to be prepared that the package may never reach him, that it may be given to him on placement day, or that anything other than photographs are redistributed.
After a fair amount of agonizing (too soft! too pink! too tacky!), we settled on a small green and white polka dotted security blanket with a soft polar bear attached and a cushy, colorful photo album with Mandarin captions. The security blanket also came with a larger green and white blanket, which we’ll bring with us to China. Ideally, he’ll come to us with a well-worn album of photos and his little blanket. If the blanket doesn’t make it to placement day, perhaps he’ll remember the feel of the blanket or maybe even the texture/color. After seeing all the photos of little Alexander with stuffed toys and colorful clothing, it’s hard to believe that our little care package will be our first contact with our little guy and the first way of showing him how much we love him already.
Picture this: you’ve just spent an exciting and grueling few weeks in a foreign country. You’re bringing home a child who doesn’t know who you are, other than that you are the latest in a long line of people taking care of him. To him, you smell weird, look weird and act weird. He’s not exactly comfortable. After a traumatic trip in a loud fuselage for what’s basically a whole day, you have one unhappy little kid on your hands.
For most parents, a situation like this is certainly difficult, but manageable. Most parents have had the opportunity to develop a bond with their child, and that relationship helps them through tough situations like that long plane ride. For the parents of internationally adopted toddlers, that plane ride is doubly difficult, because the parent-child bond isn’t there yet. The child doesn’t find comfort in or trust the parents. There’s no attachment.