We've been home just a few days from our trip to China to receive Lucy and bring her home. I had hoped to blog while in China, but it was too difficult to get reliable internet service- plus I was just plain exhausted at the end of every day. I remember realizing at about day 10 that I hadn't actually had any introspective thoughts that I could recall for the majority of the trip- which is so unlike my normal rhythm. I was just in pure survival mode most of the time.
So, I journaled my thoughts as much as I could while we were there and promised to blog later- in hopes that I might have a more well-rounded perspective looking back.
Our adoption trip took place in 3 cities- Beijing, Guiyang City (Lucy's birthplace), and Guangzhou. This is our first adoption, but believe that most adoption trips follow a similar format.
A couple of interesting facts about the trip:
- Only 1 trip is required, and from the time we met Lucy, she stayed with us.
- We didn't know our travel dates until about 2 weeks before we left (which was a little stressful seeing as we are approaching our busiest work season with weddings). Our dates hinged upon our appointment date with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, which would issue Lucy's visa to come to the U.S. Once we got our appointment, we were able to set travel dates and book our flights.
- Speaking of flights, it's complicated. We had 6 total in our party going, 7 coming back, with no round trips and restrictions on which countries we could have layovers in coming home due to immigration laws. We consider ourselves pretty travel savvy and have booked many a flight in our time, but when we literally had hours to book flights to China for 7 people, we reached out to adoptionairfare.com and they were AMAZING. They were able to get us better flight schedules and humanitarian rates lower than we'd seen anywhere online- and they were extremely fast. After we contacted them, we had flights booked in about 5 hours. I would highly recommend them!
LUBBOCK -> BEIJING
We had an early flight out of Lubbock on a Thursday morning. I'd literally been packing for two weeks and was a ball of nerves- worried that somehow we'd miss our flight or forget something essential. Our courteous friend Brandon picked up Shawn, Knox, Liv and I in a borrowed 15 passenger van (nothing else would fit all our luggage!) at 5:30 a.m. and then we headed over to pick up my parents.
-When we began our adoption journey 5 years ago, we had an almost 3 year old son (Knox) and wanted to treat this trip as if we would a visit to the hospital when a new sibling is born. We'd always envisioned him being there when we went to get his sister. When Liv was born two years into the process, that changed a bit and we felt like she would be too young to go when we went. Time passed, though, and God spoke to both Shawn and I separately about it. A month or so before we received our referral phone call, we decided to take Liv as well, now that she was old enough to possibly remember, and to help ease a new one into our family. So, once we knew we were actually going to China, we decided we would need some HELP. And thankfully- oh, SO thankfully- my parents were willing and eager to come with us.-
The flight over went really well- we had plenty of fun toys packed for the kids in their backpacks and plenty of movies and games on the 13 hour flight to Beijing. China is 13 hours ahead of Texas, so it is literally like doing a 180 when you travel to China. To help with the jetlag, we gave the kids melatonin for the first few days which helped get them to sleep at the right time.
One of the best parts about the trip is that we had to plan little to nothing- our agency did it all for us. This is really not my usual approach to any trip or vacation, but there are so many appointments and unfamiliar territories that it was extremely helpful. We were given an itinerary the week before we left. The first two days in Beijing were meant to get over jetlag before meeting Lucy and experience some Chinese culture. I couldn't wait to watch my family experience China!
Our agency plans travel in groups, which I thought was a little unusual until we got there. In the end, I was so thankful for these two other families- a husband and wife with their 8 year old daughter from Maine, and another couple from Nebraska with 3 other children who stayed home. They were all so extremely nice and low-key- journeying with us the entire trip. The very best part about group travel is having someone to talk to face-to-face who is going through the same experience with you. You already know what each other has been through just to get to this point, so I already had a lot of respect for them from the beginning- not to mention after 2 emotional, draining weeks.
After eating breakfast at the hotel (which was quite decent and had great espresso!), we boarded our bus for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (where the emperor used to live). I had seen Tiananmen before, but never been inside to the Forbidden City. It was a good bit of culture shock- the sheer amount of people and crowds were astounding. We had many stares (it’s not rude to stare in China)- especially Liv with her blonde hair- and people asking to take photos with her. She handled this okay- though I’m not sure anyone got a smile out of her, haha!
It was really neat to see how huge the Forbidden City is and amazing to imagine it when the emperor lived and ruled from there. Everything is incredibly ornate and expansive. We probably walked 3 miles that morning before heading to lunch. After lunch we visited the Summer Palace, which was a much less formal environment- still huge and ornate- but more gardens and trees- and it sits on a lake which makes for a beautiful view.
We got to eat a Peking Duck dinner that night- it was delicious- but by 8 pm, our kids were asleep at the table and we were all exhausted. We were all wide awake at about 3 am that next morning, but a little melatonin got us back to sleep- at least until it was acceptable to eat breakfast. :)
The second day, we needed to pack up all of our things again (not the easiest feat with 6 people!) and be ready to go by 8:30 am. So, so thankful for that espresso in the lobby restaurant! We headed to the Great Wall. It was a gorgeous day- no clouds and 70 degrees. I have been to the Great Wall a couple of times before but never this section. It was SO incredibly steep! I had Liv strapped to my back in the carrier (here's a similar one) and I am so glad we had that- the thought of her running free on those uneven, crowded steps makes my anxiety level rise even now. At some portions of the wall, the steps were a foot tall and so steep all you could see was the next steps in front of you. I was so impressed with my parents who climbed up further than we did! By the time we descended, our legs were complete jello but we could at least say we’d done it.
That afternoon we walked the National Stadium area where the 2008 Olympics were held. The structures there were amazing and they also had some cool sculptures. Then, it was time to get to the airport to board our flight to Lucy's city.
I was so thankful we had our AWAA guide with us to help us with our domestic flight. We were a large group and had been given very vague details on baggage requirements from the airline- so there was some chaos and moving things around from bag to bag. Before leaving, our guide, Summer, gave us some special shirts she had designed for our kids with their Chinese names on it. I think we all cried before we turned to enter security.
Security for this flight was no joke. Maybe it’s because we were totally exhausted from all the activity the two days before or just emotional at the weight of what was about to come- but I felt a little violated after getting out of that line, haha! I had been patted down, asked about every piece of carry-on luggage I had, and they ran my backpack through the scanner 4 times! Ugh. We saw McDonald’s on the way to our gate and shoved french fries in our faces to cope as Chinese men and women just stared. Who even knows what they were thinking about all those Americans with their McDonald’s! I just didn’t care at that point.
Our seats were at the very back of the plane, and it was a late flight with a rough landing and mystery food. The kids slept the whole time, which was great. Once we arrived, though, things got better.
Stay tuned for part 2!