You made it!
**As a disclaimer, many adoption agencies are very specific on their travel itineraries & timelines. Everyone’s time in China will follow the same basic steps, but specifics may vary from what is represented here. Your agency will finalize your specific travel agenda before you leave. For families in a medical expedite situation, these scenarios are dependent upon your child’s condition & urgency & your time in country may be greatly reduced.
You’ve finally caught up on all your reading, movie watching, and sleeping on the plane (ok seriously, who is able to sleep?) & you’ve landed in your child’s home country! The city you fly into may differ depending on the sightseeing you plan to do while in country, but most folks will fly into Beijing first. Beijing offers lots of amazing things to see & do! Noteworthy attractions that are highly recommended are the Great Wall, the Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square. Practically all agencies will offer these experiences within your travel itineraries & you will be with a group of other adoptive families, however, for families that have gone multiple times, want to save time/money or are in an expedite situation & need to get to their child quickly, you may skip Beijing all together & fly directly to your child’s province. Jet lag will hit pretty hard during this time, so make sure you are getting some rest & staying hydrated! Also if you have allergies or asthma, please be prepared for the smog, which may be worse depending upon the time of year you travel.
Most family days are on Mondays, so families will fly into their child’s province that Sunday. This will be the last night before you meet your child. Make sure you have everything together & have your guide tell you where the nearest convenience store & places to eat & shop are. Prepare a special backpack for your child, get your gifts ready, charge your camera & try to sleep :).
The next morning you will go to the SWI or government office to meet your child or some provinces bring the child to the hotel. Have no specific expectations for this day. Be prepared for a great, seamless meeting or one that might be filled with tears. Have quick meals ready at the hotel or consider room service to be able to concentrate on your new son or daughter. Day one is a huge range of emotions. Allow everyone time to process what family means without feeling pressured by an agenda.
The next day you will return & sign official adoption paperwork. Congratulations! You will also take your child for their visa photo & notarize all other paperwork. Although this will be an appointment intensive day, don’t worry! Your guide should handle all of this. At this point if you are expediting, you might go ahead & fly to Guangzhou, otherwise, you will stay in their home province through the rest of the week. There will be time for sightseeing in province, shopping & visiting your child’s SWI if allowed. Visiting the orphanage is a choice that is very personal for each family, but I highly recommend getting all the information you can while there. Most importantly, be honest with yourselves & your guide about your time there & what you need emotionally & physically. We’ve stayed back from sightseeing trips because we just wanted to cocoon in the hotel room or quite frankly because we were tired & overwhelmed. Don’t feel like you have to do it all.
At the end of the week, all families will fly into Guangzhou for your child’s medical exam & visa processing. Most medical appointments are done on Saturdays unless there is an extenuating expedite for a life threatening issue. You will meet with doctors who will give your child a physical exam as well as TB testing depending on the age of your child. Your child will need to be medically cleared to leave the country, including a negative TB test if applicable, read a few days later. Early the next week you will go to the consulate for your child’s visa. This usually takes a few days to process, so most families leave the end of the week for the journey home. Again, these timelines vary if expediting.
Guangzhou is a modern city & you will find yourself probably feeling more “at home” here. There are lots of opportunities for shopping (pearls, jade & silk are always popular favorites) & many families enjoy visiting the Safari Park, Shamian Island or taking a Pearl River cruise. The weather in Guangzhou is temperate, so it may be a nice change if you are coming from a colder province! Lots of families get together to eat at a wide variety of restaurants or get out & explore temples & historic landmarks. Your guide will provide opportunities for sightseeing & shopping here as well.
Before you know it, your time in China has come to an end & you are packing to board the plane again. Hopefully you have lots of souvenirs, pictures, new friends, a love & appreciation for your child’s home country & most importantly your precious child in your arms. You might not get to watch as many movies on the journey back (most of us could write a comedy script or drama mini-series just about the flights home, ha!), but just take in all that has happened during your amazing trip.
And be careful….you may fall in love with China so much that you return again & again 🙂