Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Journey to Kai – The Preamble

If you are reading this and you are not a stranger to Waiting for Xiao Hai, then you have not read anything by me yet.  My blogging forte has always been then “trip report” and those people who have been following this blog who are a member of our huge family of Disney Community members might know of me from my rather lengthy trip reports of our trips to various Disney theme parks.

Well, I’m sitting on the plane on our way to Taipei so I thought it would be a good time to get some words to “paper”

We found out on November 9, 2009, that we had received our TA (Travel Approval) from the CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs). For those not familiar with the process of adopting a child from the People’s Republic of China, this is a big, major milestone.  This piece of paper tells us that China has given us the “thumbs up” to head on over. 

But, with all things like this, there are two sides to the coin.  Even though China has given us their permission, we cannot really travel until the US Consulate in China (located in Guangzhou) gives us an appointment date and time.  This appointment is a multiple day deal.  It’s where our son, Kai will have his immigration and visa paperwork finalized, get a freak load of inoculations (a Hague convention requirement), and get sworn in as a citizen.

So, even though we knew we could travel, we needed to wait until we got that CA (consulate appointment) until any travel arrangements could be made. So, while we waited, I was stuck looking at flight arrangements without any idea on when we’ll travel and there are so many options. Do you fly a domestic carrier to China (American Airlines, Continental, Northwest Airlines, or United) or do you go with a foreign-based carrier (Cathay Pacific, Japan Air, China Air, etc).  We had been given a great website back in the beginning of this journey that really helps gauge overall prices (  It was very helpful getting a baseline idea across many airlines what we might be facing. 

In my gut, I was sure we’d be traveling on November 25, 2009.  That would’ve been the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

To add to the pain of the wait was that the Wednesday after our TA was Veteran’s Day. That meant all US government offices were closed which applied to overseas offices as well.  So, no CA’s were being handed out for that day.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a whole lot of respect for our men and women of the armed forces.  My father is a member of the USMC.  But, I had a hard time handling the fact that the holiday was adding time to an already stressful process.

Oh, did I forget to mention, that I found out that they were applying for a Consulate Appointment that would put us in a travel group that would start on November 18th!!! Yes, if we got that appointment we’d be leaving the very next week.  But, as each day was ticking by the thoughts of us not being able to travel at that time was slipping away.  Because even if we got the appointment, you still needed to find seats on planes to get us from Oklahoma City to Beijing.

Also, being last minute, prices surely would be escalating by the hour.  Sometimes, while searching the web, I felt like I was watching stock prices as the airfare would rise and fall throughout the day.

On Thursday, November 12, 2009, we got the call from Sheri at CCAI (our adoption agency) giving us the good news.  We got our Consulate Appointment.  Now the real fun began……planning travel to China.

I also forgot to mention that I told Nancy to make sure that she was working full-time so that Murphy’s Law would work to our favor.  For you see, the way Murphy’s Law works, if she’s on the schedule to work in the Emergency Room, then we’ll get travel while she’s still got shifts to fill.  If she had just started her leave on November 1 which was the original plan, then we’d have traveled later because we wouldn’t have been inconvenienced.  I know it’s asinine logic, but that’s the way my mind works sometimes….I’m a bit superstitious…haha

I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t we just go another week so we’d have more options.  Since Nancy was 24 weeks pregnant and her OBG/YN insisted that she had to be back in OKC by her 28th week of pregnancy, we couldn’t afford to wait at all.  Every week of pregnancy the baby will grow a ton and make travel even more concerning.  So, we jumped at the first date we could get.

With Nancy being pregnant, I was telling travel agents that we were ranking comfort higher than price. So, I’d take a slightly more expensive ticket for more room or recline of the chair.  This quest brought me to the name of Cathay Pacific airlines. When CCAI found out that we were interested in Cathay Pacific, they put me in touch with Todd Gallinek who, they said, was the go-to guy for booking trips on Cathay Pacific for adoptive families.

Todd was awesome!  When I called him and explained our predicament, he said that he’d be happy to help us with a reservation on Cathay Pacific, but strongly urged us to consider Eva Airways.  As he explained it to me, they are a Taiwan-based airline who has a deluxe economy that compares to business class on most airlines. He also said that we would not be upset and those two airlines he’d recommend without concern.  Also, the price of the Elite Class (Eva’s deluxe economy) was slightly more expensive than Cathay Pacific’s economy class.

I had never heard of this airline until the day before when one of my oldest and best friends, Brandon, gave me the name as one of the airlines his dad recommended for travel to/from China (his dad travels there a lot for work).

So, Todd sent us several itineraries to choose from.  It turns out that we’d save a few hundred dollars per person and get home 7 hours earlier if we flew with Cathay Pacific, but we decided the extra room and comfort on Eva was more important and the more I read up on Eva Air the more I liked what I read.  So, we told Todd to book it.  The travel was finalized late on Thursday, November 12.

On Friday, the fun of finding trip insurance began.  CCAI recommended a company called Travel Protectors, but by the time I got around to calling them it was after the time they closed (they close earlier on Fridays than they do other days of the week). 

We also had our pre-travel conference call with Josh (one of the founders of CCAI) on this day. Nancy was working a princess shift at the hospital (fancy name for a 4-hour shift) and the shift ended at 3PM which was the start time of the call.

She had great luck and was able to jump on the call about 10 minutes into the call.

I can tell you one thing, between the call and the giant Final Travel Packet we received, I was scared.  I don’t know how many times I read, “If you don’t do X correctly, you will be delayed at the US Consulate”.  When I talk to friends and acquaintances about the adoption process, many assume that the Chinese government would cause all kinds of headaches.   They assume incorrectly.  Granted, the biggest headache from the Chinese Government standpoint is the wait to get matched.  Once that happens and if you can avoid any major government holidays (which we didn’t) everything from their side of the equations goes like clockworks.

Now, with the US government standpoint, it works like how you expect with dealing with the US Government or as I like to call it "Operation Hurry up and Wait”.   So, I shouldn’t be surprised when I see there are so many ways to screw up your kids immigration and citizenship paperwork.  The whole concept really perplexes me.  It’s not like Kai is choosing to immigrate into the United States.  Adults are making the decision for him.  In my mind there shouldn’t be any difference between adopting a kid overseas and giving birth to a child overseas.  Once our government approves the adoption (meaning they say everything is legal and above board), then that should be it.  But that is a post for another day….I digress.

Nancy worked the weekend.  So, I was left with “the list” and was running around town trying to complete it.  By the time we went to bed the night before our trip, I probably made 4 trips to Best Buy. In this highly technological era we live in, there is so much you need and so many devices that require direct access to electricity.

When I made these overseas trips in the 80’s to go back and forth from Singapore (where my family was living at the time), most things ran off AA batteries,so you were set on both sides of the ocean.  That isn’t true now.

I also had to make a couple trips to Radio Shack (or The Shack as they want to be called now).  The last trip I ran into a really helpful lady whose husband travels to Asia a lot.  She set me straight and I was on my way.

Monday came and this was the last full day before our trip.  Nancy, fortunately wasn’t working.  I pretty much told her that I was going to need her to pack for me.  I was still buttoning up loose ends at work (who has been about as supportive of this whole process as family would be). This will be the first time I’ve ever been really “off the grid” in the 9 years I’ve been working with them.  Not only that, I don’t think I’ve really called in sick in about 8 years.  My vacations typically would involve Walt Disney World or Disneyland and with my iPhone I was always reachable.  Well, that won’t be the case on this trip.  So, my mind is scrambling to think of all the things my clients and co-workers would need to have at their disposal to get by in my absence.

I didn’t even get a chance to pack up all the electronics until around 11PM and it was several pack and unpack attempts before getting something that I thought would work.  Plus, I ended up having to displace some clothes from my rolling bag to my computer backpack.  Since I couldn’t take a camera bag, my Nikon D300 and extra lens (50mm) was packed in my rolling bag.  Nancy did a fabulous job supporting it with clothes. Well, I didn’t want the bag packed too tight so I ended up moving a few items to my backpack.

Speaking of work, I had a major project that literally ended the day we got our Travel Approval so timing couldn’t have been any better on that. So, once that pressure was off, the weight of what I was about to do (become a first time dad at 38) was finally hitting me.  It was something I couldn’t allow myself to deal with because of the aggressive timeline at work I was dealing with.

Needless to say I didn’t sleep much from the TA onward.

Well, we got to bed at 1AM and didn’t really know how well we’d sleep. 

So, that is the frantic run up to our trip.  Stay tuned for the real fun


Ash said...

Nancy and Ray,
Congratulations!! And Ray, I loved your blog post, "Preamble". I can hardly wait for "Act !". First time parents, I love it. Nancy, hope you are feeling well, hope you both traveled safe. - I can hardly wait to see you holding your beautiful son Kai!
Blessings to your family,
:-) ash

Presley family said...

I just started crying lookin at sweet kais pictures. Oh, my heart is smilling so big for you right now. Skype me!!!!
Love y'all!!!