There are several things to take into account when in China.
Here's my small list of what to think about BEFORE you go:
- do you have any food allergies or airborn allergies?
- does pollution bother you?
- does it bother you when someone invades you personal space?
- do you mind wearing clothing two or three times before laundering?
- are you uptight in unfamiliar places and situations or do you go with the flow?
- do you mind flying?
- do you get car sick?
- do you mind people staring at you or even touching you (without asking)?
- can you ignore or politely decline offers to sell you something or ask for money?
- do you mind being followed?
- will you eat something that looks back at you?
- will you eat dark meat?
- could you survive on noodles for two weeks?
- are you willing to fight for a spot on an elevator?
- are you willing to have your heart broken over and over again?
- are you willing to look the other way when you see injustice and not punch someone?
- are you capable of leaving behind children in a place no child should have to live?
- Can you make it through a day and not think about the ones left behind?
- are you able to answer the question, "Is this child satisfactory?" without screaming
Let's start with the logistics of the trip.
You will be flying for what seems like endless hours in cramped conditions with no privacy. (do you snore or slobber when you sleep?) Be prepared with a pillow, blanket, and ear phones/plugs. Trying to sleep in a plane is like trying to sleep in a cardboard box next to a room full of kids at recess.
Comfort is nonexistent and sleep will evade you. My suggestion is melatonin or Benadryl. It will at least put you in a haze so you don't care about the slobber.
You may have a lay over where you will be in an airport with very few English speaking people and no Diet Coke. You heard me....no Diet coke and NO ICE. Breathe....you can DO this....
There will be no ice for the remainder of your trip that is safe for you to eat. Usually it is not offered.
Drinking refrigerated soda with no ice will be the norm. Don't expect any diet drinks to be found either. Holy Aspartame Batman!
Pollution is a very big concern in China. You may need a mask for the entire trip if you are sensitive to it. It is enough to make your throat sore in a matter of days. Be ready. PLEASE bring your inhaler if you use one regularly. You might was to bring some sinus spray as well. I remember flying in to Beijing and as we were landing we went through the black area I thought was a thunderstorm. I quickly realized it was the thick layer of smog that resides over Beijing.
In the USA, personal space is part of our culture. We all know to sit with at least one seat between people at the movies. We usually don't choose to eat at a table right next to someone else. We don't stand in line too closely waiting to pay for our items and we usually allow someone waiting ahead of us to go before we do. We certainly do not touch someone else for any reason. China is very different.
Our first adoption trip I had taken Cassie out to shop and get fresh air. I was pushing a stroller and carrying bags on the way back to the hotel. As I entered the hotel and came to the elevator, I was too late to get on the car going up. I waited and was joined by several other businessmen for the next trip up to the higher floors. I was the first person waiting for the next car and THEN was joined by the men. In the USA, the men would have allowed me to enter first because 1) I was a woman with a child, I was loaded down with bags, and I was pushing a stroller. Not to mention because I were there FIRST.
As the doors to the elevator opened the men rushed in for their spot. I was squeezed out by a petite guy with a gotee and a large briefcase. NOT A CHANCE. I must have looked shell shocked as the doors closed and I was left there holding my bags with a look of disbelief on my face. In China it is every "man" for himself when waiting to go somewhere...the elevators, the taxis, in line for a table, etc... Be ready to throw down for your spot. I mean it.
Do you have blonde hair? Do you have curly hair? These are things that the people of China never see. They will stare at you and may even sneak over to touch your hair. My daughter Chelsea was blessed with light blonde hair that hung in ringlets when she was younger. The first time she went to China she was stared at and someone even tried to feel her hair from behind her. She was totally freaked out at the age of 12! My son-in-law went to China with my husband in 2012. He was wearing dreadlocks in his blonde hair then. They were pretty long and, as he found out, hard to hide.
As a world traveler, Matt seemed to roll with the punches and was ready for anything. Anything BUT the attention he drew with his "weird" blonde hair. He quickly found a way to cover them with a bandana for most of the trip.
Our first trip to China, we took our whole family plus my mom....ya know, because we were never gonna go back again (insert eye roll here). Our daughter, Karli, was about 16 and she had very long bleach blonde hair. We went to WalMart one day to get some things to donate to the orphanage and took the whole family. As we were checking out, a crowd began to surround Karli and we were all looking at each other wondering what was going on. We soon found out that the young teens thought she was Britney Spears!
Another cultural difference in China is that most stores have people that will follow you around while you shop. The intent is to carry your items back to the appropriate register for purchase but it feels like you are being stalked and it quickly became a game for our family to try to lose them in the aisles. Some hotel floors even have attendants to track if you are in your room or not. You first think - wow! this is cool to be greeted every time you come back to your room. Then it hits you that they are tracking if you are in your room or not. Talk about "Big Brother"...
Obviously, food in China is very different from the United States and, be ready, because food in China is VERY different from Chinese food in the USA. The chicken breast is considered dry and no good by the Chinese culture. They want dark tender meat to eat. Breast are the least expensive to buy and wings and thighs are the premium meat. Fish is cooked everywhere in China - the whole fish. So don't be surprised if its looking back at you when it it served.
Our family totally enjoyed the "noodle shops" found on every street corner in the cites. One adoption that was a daily meal for me. Whats funny is that as the appetizer they give you noodle broth. Yep, the juice --- plain old broth with all that cloudy gluten swirling around. Don't feel obligated to drink it - unless you are traveling in the winter and need a drink to warm your bones.
Pointing?? -- In the US it is rude to point or stare. Not. In. China.
It is a regular occurrence to have someone walk up close to you and stare....even before you get your adopted child(ren). It will be worse after you have a Chinese child in your care. Many people will give you the thumbs up or a quick smile. Makes you wonder if they ever had to give up one of their own children because of a special need or the "one child policy".
To me, the hardest part of the Chinese culture is that you never see a person who has a special need. No one needs a ramp in China. No one needs an automatic door to open for them. There are no handicap spaces in front of the noodle joint. (Actually a very small percentage of people even have a car in China....they walk or ride a bike everywhere) The only Chinese I ever saw with a special need were the beggars on the streets. One man was laying on his belly with his shirt pulled up to reveal a huge scar on his back...he was painting on the side of the street with a tin cup nearby.
You quickly realize that any child that had a special need was abandoned. (I wont get into the reasons why in this blog post ) So, most of the adults and children with special needs are living in an institutional setting with gates surrounded the property. They are hidden away from society. Never seen unless they are begging.
When you finally get to the point of adoption day there are no words to describe how you feel.
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