Thursday, December 17, 2009
One Family's Journey: Packing and Checklist
We are the kind of people who usually pack the night before a trip, whether it's a 6 week trip to Colombia or a weekend in Seattle. And to be honest I'm sure we'll be throwing stuff in the suitcase the night before we leave but in a nod towards preparation I've been soliciting advice from experienced adoptive parents on what to bring. Here's what we've got so far:
1) Copy of apostilled and updated FBI clearances (if you are currently waiting for referral and your fingerprints are about to expire I suggest requesting new ones. The FBI is currently backlogged and taking 8-10 weeks to turn them around. We've been waiting more than four weeks for ours already and will need a friend to apostille and overnight them once they arrive. This quite frankly sucks, and is only possible because we will be in Colombia longer than usual. )
2) Copy of post-placement letter from agency updated with child's birth name.
3) Passports, Colombian visa if you are not Colombian, Cedula or contrasena if you are colombian.
4) Whenever we travel we scan our passports and other relevant ID, credit cards numbers etc and send them to ourselves. It's a good way to have access to your info if you lose it.
5) ATM Card. -Remember to call your bank/credit cards to let them know you are traveling before you go so they don't freeze your card. US ATM cards work in Colombia but there will be a small charge for each withdrawal. Our bank charges 1% of the amount withdrawn.
6) Credit cards-You can use them almost anywhere and it's much more secure and easy than carrying cash around. When you use them people will ask you how many payments you want because they many stores will do charges in multiple installments, this system isn't common in the U.S. and confused us the first time we encountered it at Crepes and Waffles. Also it's smart to check with you card before you go about the amount of the foreign transaction fee.We got a Capital 1 credit card 5 years ago precisely because they have no foreign transaction fee.
Stuff for Baby
Just a disclaimer. We don't have kids, we are NOT kid experts.
1) Clothes: Word on the street is that baby clothes are more expensive in Colombia for unknown reasons. We are bringing about a weeks worth of clothes for him.
2) Toys: It was suggested that we bring some noisy, distracting stuff to help him have fun during the Encuentro. I have a strong aversion to toys with batteries and plastic stuff. I know, what a snob! We got him a Xylophone, maracas, board books, an inflatable ball (per Melinda's suggestion) and some foam blocks. I figure the blocks will be nice for the plane trip home. No sounds, light for the suitcase and will not cause law suits if he starts chucking them at other passengers.
3) Stroller - We weren't going to bring ours but it stated in his report that he really enjoyed daily stroller rides and it might also be nice for our 5 hour layover in Houston on the return trip. Stroller=Hopefully a place to take a nap.
4) Ergo Carrier - Not everywhere in Bogota has sidewalks that would work for strollers, although as a whole it is a very walkable city. My cousin says it is a huge advantage to be hands free.
5) Digital Camera -Even if we weren't going to pick up our most precious cargo ever I would NEVER go to Colombia without a camera. It is an extraordinarily beautiful country. Tomorrow I'm posting all sorts of pictures to prove my point!
1) One complete children's outfit to leave with Bienestar. This is sort of a swap for the clothes that your child comes dressed in.
2) Cookies for the people working at Bienestar. Our facilitator suggested that we bring treats since we're coming right before Christmas.
3) Diapers, extra clothes and kid food for encuentro. I've heard that for a child welfare agency Bienestar is surprisingly un-prepared for situations like hungry children and wet diapers.
4) A small present for the Foster Mother. (Although it's still not clear to me if we are allowed to give her one)
1) Clothes for 70 degree weather. -When I'm in Bogota I always wear long pants(usually jeans), lightish shirts and a light jacket. A day in Bogota can be sunny and warmish or rainy and a little cold it's really hard to know which when you wake up. It's a bit like San Francisco that way. In my opinion Bogota is also more formal then where I live (California) so no flip-flops on the street or that kind of stuff. I also bring all my more uh "fitted" clothes for two reasons, both of which are vanity-based. 1) Most of the women in Bogota will be wearing insanely tight pants and I feel sloppy wearing big clothes there. 2) If I don't it's waaaaaay to easy to eat too much of the delicious food there!
2) Light water-resistant jacket-Bogota rains whenever it darn-well-pleases so I never go anywhere without a light jacket even during dry season.
3) Bag with a strap -Bogota is like New York, there are pick pockets etc. My husband lived there for 10 years and said everyone he knew got mugged at some time or another. I don't think Bogota is unsafe or unfriendly, but like any big city I like to keep an eye on my stuff and make it a little harder for would-be purse snatchers. And with a baby I have enough to worry about without holding onto a purse too.
And a couple random travel tips.
1) If you arrive on a really big plane sometimes immigration gets backed up. You'll notice that sometimes people go crazy running off the plane to the immigration line. If I've learned anything about avoiding a 1.5 long wait at immigration it's this: Go to the LEFT. The room opens up three other lines there and all the frequent travelers go left. :) You're welcome!
2) Many public restrooms in Colombia do not have toilet paper so don't leave home without it okay?
3) Look both ways before crossing the street... and then look both ways again. Have fun!