gotcha trip packing list

I've been keeping a mental list of stuff that I either wish we had taken or am glad we did. This isn't a comprehensive list, of course. They are just the things I didn't read on a lot of other blogs while preparing for the trip. So, if you are getting ready to travel for a "gotcha" trip, feel free to consider them.

A small jar of peanut butter. I thought about this, but I didn't pack it because I was afraid of adding weight. That was a mistake. Trustworthy food in China is not nearly as cheap as we were expecting, so being able to make PB sandwiches in the room is a massive money saver. Also, about day six, you start to feel like you are going to choke if you smell one more plate of breakfast noodles. Breakfast is a major meal here, so you will smell cabbage and ham fried in dark sesame oil at 6:30 every morning. Also, the hotels charge a fortune for extra breakfasts. PB gives you a protein kick and allows you to hide out in the room with a loaf of bread and your coffee maker, if you need to do that. (Another tip? We asked the hotel to sell us a half loaf of raisin bread, and they did.)

If you have an iphone or itouch, definitely download a good English/Chinese translator. This has SAVED us multiple times. Also, there is a free measurement conversion application that changes international currency, weights, lengths, times, etc.

A list of email addresses and phone numbers for people you might need to contact in the US. Written on actual paper.

Bug spray. Especially for Guangzhou.

Vick's vapor rub. The pollution makes breathing difficult. This really helps. (Also, Ricola. Also, Tylenol cold/sinus meds.)

Instant coffee/ dry creamer . The coffee in China is more like espresso. It's bitter and strong even for people who like strong coffee in the US.

Teabags for hot tea. (I know, you should be able to find tea in China. But teabags are lightweight, and familiar brands are expensive here.)

Water-flavoring packets. Sometimes the bottled water here has a really strange taste to it. But you need to drink to keep hydrated in this heat. These can help.

Packets of hot cocoa with dried milk in them. Chocolate is hard to find here. So is good milk. This would be a nice supplement.

Energy bars/cereal bars. Especially during the first part of the trip, the schedule is rigorous. Do not expect to get time for meals just because you are hungry. Tucking these into a backpack can save you. Make room for at least three boxes of them.

Cheap socks to throw away (I read this on many, many blogs before leaving; but I was too much of a tightwad to go for it. I thought I could just wash out socks in the sink and hang them to dry. Or, I thought I could buy them here. Neither has been true. They will not dry before mildewing. It's too humid. And the socks in stores here are very thin and sold by the pair. That makes them more expensive than US socks. If you pay to launder socks here, some hotels charge $2 a pair. So, buying a $6 pack of socks in the US and throwing them away is much cheaper than sending out laundry here. )

An extra flat iron OR a super good converter. These apparently fry really easily here, even on the typical converter.

A travel iron. None of our hotels have had them.

Febreeze and a tiny scented candle in a tin case. Some of rooms have smelled fine. But if you get a funky-smelling room in China, you will REALLY wish you had these. It's not just that stale cigarette smoke smell you get in US hotel rooms. It's not just human body odor. I was prepared for those. This is like old fish + bowling shoes + really strong industrial chemicals + burned hair. It's very hard to relax at the end of a super long day if your room smells like that.

Chewable Pepto. Lots of it. I accidentally packed two boxes, and thought it was overkill when I realized that. It wasn't.

Light reading books in English. There are places to read, but no bookstores. The books I brought are too weighty for relaxation at the end of a crazy day. I should have just brought some biographies or story fiction.

Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, etc. We have spent hours doing these for some reason.

I wish I had brought our Camelbaks. :( I tried to save space by leaving them at home. That was a mistake, especially for staying at the Victory where drinking water is provided.

Thin, cheap slippers to wear in the hotel rooms. The floors feels icky with all of the humidity. And they leave your socks gross.

A lavender sachet. This sounds crazy, but I stuck one in my backpack at the last minute on a whim. I have used it on crowded buses, airplanes, etc. It really helps when you are in a cramped, stinky situation that would otherwise feel clostrophobic.

Extra AA batteries. Of course.

The $12 folding umbrella stroller we bought in Zhengzhou has been fine for our trip. We debated for a long time about this, but I'm glad we did that instead of the heavier, bulkier ones. It's much easier getting in and out of the charter buses and taxis. Even though I want a sturdier one when we get home, this has been way better for cramped transportation needs here. And it has been OK on the bumpy construction in Guangzhou. (Moses is 30 pounds, BTW.)

Big, vinyl-coated bibs that wipe off with a diaper wipe. Baby spoons. Sippy cups. (All hard to find here.)

A backpack/leash for Moses. I found this one with a write-on/wipe-off board at Ross for $4.
I don't know what we would have done without it. When he needs to run a little in airports or in busy parks, this is a lifesaver. It has a big pouch for storing things, and it's cool enough, he doesn't mind wearing it. The furry animal ones are cute, but would be would be WAY too hot for Guangzhou weather in the summer.

A lightweight, mesh laundry bag. I wish I had brought one to transport dirty laundry to the shop and to hold dirty clothes in the room.

A portable DVD player would have been nice. You can buy Chinese kids' movies here cheaply, but the TV's won't play them.

Ask your guide to write this in Chinese for you on a little card, and carry it with you everywhere after you receive your child. You are likely to want it if people on the street treat you with anger or suspicion. Many of the Chinese people have heard about child trafficking, and some are genuinely worried when they see Americans with Asian children. We have found this explanation to be very helpful for those who are truly concerned. : "This child had serious medical issues at birth, and was left as an orphan. We are adopting him/her as our new son/daughter. We love him/her very much and will provide excellent medical care for our child, and a good education. We are very grateful for the opportunity to give our son/daughter a loving and happy new life."

That's all I can think of for now. I'll update this list later if something else comes to mind...

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Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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