Wednesday, December 12, 2007


For the folks at home, whether or not you are contemplating adoption in the future, here are the answers to some of the questions you may have.

Q: Why China?
A: Why not China? But seriously, China has millions of children who need parents and there are millions of parents out there who need children. So it's a match made in heaven.

Q: Is adoption expensive?
A: Frankly, yes. There are travel expenses (yours and the agency staff's, international and in-country), administrative expenses (tons of paperwork for you and for professionals such as notaries, translators, medical staff, lawyers, social workers, etc), fingerprinting and orphanage contributions which are factored in. This is just the tip of the iceberg and we are by no means accountants, but this gives you some idea.

Q: How long does adoption from China take?
A: We're not going to kid you here; we spent more than two and a half years on the journey to Xiao-Ling and it was that short only because she was declared a special-needs child. Certain time factors remain out of your hands, such as document-processing turnaround time, the number of families adopting at once (this is a good thing) and government bureaucracy both at home and abroad. Remember to stay in touch with the team that's helping you to adopt your child; you can call them often with questions but be nice! Today's glitches will be soon forgotten, especially (1) when you know they're beyond your control, and (2) when you're holding that bundle of love.

Q: What should I pack to bring to China?
A: You'll need plenty of clothes for whatever climate you'll be in, and make sure to check weather conditions for where and at what time of year you're going. Our December trip has ranged from 30° in Beijing to 80° or more in Haikou and Sanya. Guangzhou is pretty warm too, and everyone goes to Guangzhou. If we had planned a little better, we would have brought more warm-weather shirts and found a way to leave our winter coats in Beijing until we got back at the end of our trip. But we managed nonetheless. You have to plan for your child's clothes as well, since you'll be bringing about a suitcase-worth of clothes for him or her.

The things we didn't have to bring but you probably will are diapers and formula. Our daughter is nearly five and potty trained - now we're trying to train her not to use up a whole roll of toilet paper every time she goes to the bathroom! It would not be out of the question to include bathing suits, sunscreen and winter hats and gloves for both you and your child. You will receive a list of your child's measurements as an aid to shopping for clothes stateside prior to your trip.

Bring Ziploc bags, both quart- and gallon-size. We were very grateful for this tip before we packed. They enable you to separate snacks from lotions, garbage from non-garbage and medications from anything else. They're also good for dirty clothes in a pinch.

Q: Anything I should not bring to China?
A: Pick your reading material carefully. Don't bring anything that can be construed as critical of Mao Zedong, the Chinese government, etc. Granted, you won't have much time for reading, but it's good to keep in mind.

You don't need to bring snacks, as they're available everywhere.

Also please check your attitude at the border. Leave behind any notion that the good people of China are here to do your bidding. You are here as a guest; an honored guest, but a guest nonetheless. Not everything is going to go as it does at home, nor is it supposed to. You are here to become parents and you are here as an ambassador. Don't do anything that would make anyone happy to see you leave.

Q: Will I need to learn Chinese before coming?
A: If you're adopting an child under 2, not at all. There will be a guide with you almost all the time. Due to our daughter's age, we wanted to learn a few words and our guides were very helpful with that. At this point, we understand each other 95% of the time even though we address our daughter mostly in English and she speaks to us almost entirely in Mandarin.

Remember that "please" and "thank you" are your tickets to the world. You should learn these words in the language of any country you visit. It also never hurts to buy a pocket dictionary for translation on the go.

Q: So how's the food?
A: Pretty darn good, but since we both love Asian food in general and Chinese food in particular, we may not be typical in this respect. People will also tell you that Chinese food in China is different from Chinese food in America, but this is true only if your idea of Chinese food is store-brand frozen egg rolls. Whether you enjoy noodles, rice, vegetables, different kinds of meat or all of the above, we promise you'll find something you enjoy without having to stray too far from your comfort zone.

If you read some of our earlier posts, you can check out some of the new foods we tried, such as dragon fruit, congee, duck eggs and star fruit. If you're willing to be a bit adventurous, you might be pleasantly surprised. However, do not under any circumstances use tap water here for drinking or brushing your teeth without boiling it first; not even the natives do that.

Q: When do I get to meet my child?
A: As soon as possible, depending on where he or she is located. Your first meeting will be filmed by agency staff, so don't worry about the Hollywood aspect of this important moment. Relax (hah!) and let your child take the lead. Bring along an unwrapped cuddly gift - we chose a pig because this is the Year of the Pig. (Xiao-Ling takes it everywhere and calls it Zhu-Zhu, which is a very loose translation of "Piggly Wiggly.") Bask and enjoy.

If you have any other questions, just ask them in comments or E-mail us privately.

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