Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things to do in Poland: Our favorite place!

After 2 months of touring different places and seeing different historical sites, we can officially say that we have a favorite activity to do in Poland. And the best part is: it's FREE!!! That's right, completely free and they have bathrooms for no charge. So, what is this amazing place and where is it?

It is a park located in a nearby town of where we lived in Poland (Milanowek, Poland). It was a 45 minute walk from our apartment (5-10 minute car ride). This park has a really cool playground for children really small to really big. It has a big rope jungle gym (about 40 ft. high), a mini rock wall, lots of slides, and swings. The park also includes an outside work out area for adults, a water feature to play in (for kids, but adults can totally take advantage of it), and lots of benches and picnic tables.

This park also includes a restaurant called Piknik. They have coffee, hamburgers, sandwiches, and ice cream.They even speak English, which is a big plus. Here is their website: http://www.piknikgrodzisk.pl/.

This place is really a one stop shop with hours of fun. We would walk 45 minutes there and play for a couple of hours then walk back. We really enjoyed our time playing here; it was one of our many highlights of the trip.

Another place to get coffee in this town not far from this awesome playground is a place called Grano Cafe. They also speak English here. Grano Cafe is about a 5 minute walk from this park. And McDonalds is a 15 minute walk from this park; which they speak English as well. On our way home we would stop at McDonalds for ice cream.


If you are in the area, this playground is a great way to kill some time and see a beautiful park. I hope to add some pictures of this park to this blog post at a later time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How did you convert your U.S. cash to Zloty?

This is a great question to ask if you are traveling to any country. When we first got off the plane (at the airport), we converted a very small amount of our cash to zloty at a terrible exchange rate. We were unsure of our next couple of hours after the plane ride, so we wanted to exchange just a little of it. Big mistake, don't do it, and learn from us. We used atms. They have a better exchange rate, but of course check your debit/credit card company for any fee that may apply. After your plane ride just find an atm. Atms are everywhere. If you are traveling to a particular city, google and see if there are any atms available. Every atm that we have been to is both in Polish and English.


How do you feel about using a kantor/money changer?

I feel the same way about the airport kantor. Terrible. I don't like to waste my time and have to go to someone to convert my cash. And first of all, I hate having to carry a lot of cash on my person. Why not use technology? Atms!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Questions the Judge asks you in Adoption Court

Here are most of the questions (from what I could remember) the judge asked us in court :

-How old are you?
-When did you get married?
-How much do you make in a month?
-What is your occupation?
-How far away is family?
-How do your parents feel about the adoption?
-How often do you talk with your family (siblings and parents)?
-How many siblings do you have and what are their ages? Are they married / do they have children and/or families?
-Are there any children in your family for your adopted child to play with?
-Do you know someone who speaks Polish where you live in case there is an emergency?
-Why do you want to adopt from Poland?
-What was the first meeting like with the adopted child?
-Was she happy to meet you? Was it positive?
-What day did you take custody of her?
-How do we want the adopted child's name on the birth certificate?
-What is your education level?
-What is your living arrangements? How many sleeping rooms do you have, kitchen, office, living room, swimming pool, or parks nearby, etc...
-How did the bonding period go?
-Did your child cry during that time? Did she sleep well?
-Are you aware of her psych and developmental delay needs?
-Are you prepared to give her the necessary help or specialists that she may need?
-When did you decide to adopt?
-When did you start the process?
-Does the child prefer one of you over the other?
-Do you want a full adoption or a half adoption? (we said full)
(in Poland there are 2 kinds of adoption: full adoption where biological parents and other family do not have any rights or guardianship over the child, vs. half adoption where the biological family and you can share in the adoption and they have the same rights as you regarding the child--that's how we understood it)
-Have you ever spent the night or have experienced kids for an extended period?
-What are your adopted child's favorite foods? games? toys?

After asking us lots of questions, the foster parents of our child had to answer some questions from the judge. Here are those:

-When did you receive care of this child?
-How long have you had her?
-What was her condition like when you received her?
-Have you met the biological parents?
-Have the bio parents shown any interest in the child?
-What are the child's current delays or issues?
-What kind of therapies is she attending right now?
-What grade is she in?
-What does she like to eat, play with, games?
-What was the first meeting like with the adopting couple?
-Was the child excited?

Things to do in Poland: Check out the town you're staying in!

Most of our time spent in Poland was in Milanowek, Poland. A small town outside of Warsaw. It is a nice little town with small playgrounds. And of course, seeing everyone in our family everyday, we got cabin fever really fast and bad attitudes-can't forget that one. So we had to think of some cheap-o ideas for us to do outside our apartment.

We went on the town's website to see if they had any tourist information of things we could do. We wanted relatively cheap touristy things, see here for more cheap ideas. We found a cool walking tour of the town. The town has lots of WWII history. Here is the link that we found the walking tour, and yes, it is in English.

If you are staying in one town for an extended period of time in Poland, check out the city's website and see what's going on in the city and if there are any tourist attractions.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shopping in Poland Part II

A couple of months ago, I posted about shopping in Poland. In this post, I'm going to share our experiences of shopping that we had while in Poland.

We bought most of our groceries at Tesco. It is basically like a WalMart. They even have a Tesco brand for most items, similar to Great Value brand from WalMart. The Tesco brand is much cheaper than the name brands. Tesco takes all major credit/debit cards. They even have a Tesco card, which we did not get before we left. I wish we had because it is like a Winn Dixie card and you can get percentages off and/or free products if you spend a certain amount. Another place that we would occasionally do grocery shopping is Biedronka. It is not as big as Tesco, but they do have more fresh breads and pastries, my favorite. Our Biedronka only accepted Zloty, so make sure you have enough before you make your purchases. There are other smaller grocery stores where we got "pick me up" things. Those stores usually accepted debit/credit cards.

While we are on the subject of grocery shopping, one thing that I am so glad I brought with me are my reusable shopping bags. Although most stores have plastic bags (for a fee, usually). One thing I wished I bought when we first got here is a shopping cart. Trips to the grocery store were not far from our apartment but carrying enough food for a couple of days and 5 liters of water, your back and shoulders start screaming at you. We invested in a cheap cart for about 67 zloty ($23 U.S.). And it was totally worth it. I wish we could have brought it back with us, but there was no way that it could fit into our suitcase.

For most of our shopping we tried to use our credit card, but had a couple hundred zloty just in case a store did not take credit cards.

When we would go to a mall or a shopping center, almost all of the stores take credit/debit cards. I have several posts about the different malls that we went to while we are here.

Saturday is market day. They block off one road and have it filled with tents of people selling various items. You can get eggs, bread, clothes, kitchen appliances, and vegetables. There is no bartering here, mostly set prices.

Here's a neat resource about grocery shopping in Poland.

If you would like to share your experience shopping in Poland, please post a comment below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What does a medical exam for a visa clearance look like?

Let's be honest. I don't like doctors. I don't like lab work. I feel like the doctors always find something wrong with me and they usually do. But Sarai, you work for a doctor's office, right? Yea, I do. I guess my problem usually does not rely on the doctor, him or herself, but rather the whole medical exam part. The exams always get me so nervous. So I couldn't even imagine what my adopted child's thoughts would be when we went for our medical exam for visa clearance.

In order to get a medical exam for a visa clearance, you have to find a doctor that is approved by the U.S. Embassy. The medical exam itself took around 45 minutes. The doctor will ask all the standard questions that you would expect a U.S. doctor to ask on a well check up. For an adopted child, the doctor may ask about the birth parents (if you know any information), about the patient's birth (full term or not?), any developmental delays, any vaccinations, past living conditions, etc... And then the physical part of the medical exam starts. In Poland, they make you disrobe to your underwear for the medical exam. I work in a pediatric office in New Orleans and I am so thankful they do not make you do that.

And then Doc McStuffins' Time for a Checkup song pops into my head:

Time for a checkup - Time for a checkup.
I am gonna Check your ears, check your eyes, find out how much you've grown.
(Time for a checkup)
Then I listen to your heart beat, fix you up - ready to go.
(Time for a checkup)
It's ok if you wiggle. This will only tickle a little.
Time for a checkup - Time for a checkup.


Yea, I think we watch too many cartoons here.

The doctor, who was very nice and spoke perfect English, was really great with our daughter. He performed a well check up exam with a vision screening. And because of the new regulations about tuberculosis screening in Poland (children age 5 and up have to get blood drawn), we had to draw some blood. And that's it. It was not bad at all. The cost of the medical exam and the blood work was about 500 zloty (about $170 U.S.) for one child.

 Here is the website of where we got our medical exam done:
                www.wilanowfamilypractice.pl

Thursday, October 24, 2013

European to U.S. Clothing Size Conversions

Going shopping in another country can pose many problems. Language, money conversions, do they take credit cards, am I getting a bargain, and most importantly different sizes/measurements.

There is nothing like finding a favorite cool shirt and not being able to try it on and not knowing if it is your size. Down below is a link that has helped us figure out if clothing would be too small or too big and give us a general idea of our child's size. The link also includes shoe sizes.


http://www.ebay.com/gds/Size-conversion-chart-for-US-UK-EUROPEAN-clothing-shoes-/10000000002181633/g.html

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rubella Outbreak Notice and New Tuberculosis Test Requirements for Poland

Notice: As of October 2013, there is an outbreak of Rubella (German Measles) in Poland. Click here to see the CDC's recommendations regarding this notice and prevention of this disease. If you are planning to travel to Poland make sure you are up to date on your vaccines.



Also, there has been an increase of tuberculosis cases in Poland. Because of the increase, the U.S. Embassy in Poland is requiring all adopted children age 5 and up to get a blood test before they travel to the United States.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Golden Terraces, Tomb of the Unkown Soldier, Palace of Culture and Science, and Saxon Gardens

Golden Terraces
All I can say is way too crowded. The train station is located next to this mall, so you see lots of people running around with luggage. It was cool going under the street and seeing the little shops underground to get to this place. The mall itself has lots of stores to choose from, both high end and low end. The food court is a disaster. Because of the heavy foot traffic from the train station, grabbing your food at the food court and then finding a seat can be challenging. If I had to pick between Blue City and Golden Terraces, Blue City for sure. But if you are in the area and want to shop, it's not too bad. Hard Rock Cafe is located in front of it. The Palace of Culture and Science is located near the Golden Terraces.


Palace of Culture and Science
This building is so beautiful on the outside. It makes for a great picture. We went inside the building and got overwhelmed. I would not bother going inside the building, just take a picture of it and move on. You can pay 20 zloty to go out on the viewing deck, but I heard it wasn't worth the money so we didn't do it. There are some museums inside this building, but we did not want to venture through it. It is the tallest building in Poland and was a "gift" from the Soviet Union to Poland. Originally, it was known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We really wanted to see this place on our way to Saxon Gardens. Unfortunately, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was under construction during our visit (October 2013).


Saxon Gardens
Wow, what a beautiful place. We visited in October and all the trees were yellow and orange, so picturesque. There is a beautiful water fountain in the middle of the park. There is also a small playground for children. The Saxon Gardens are located directly behind The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.



What do you think? Have you visited these places? Any other places in Warsaw that we need to visit?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Old Town/New Town

Old Town is very beautiful. So many things to take pictures of, so many little shops to visit, and lots of eating places. We spent about 5 hours one day in Old Town. Old Town is located on the Royal Way, which is a big road that has lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee houses, etc...

Old Town has lots of souvenir shops, most are reasonably priced. There is no bartering for items. Almost every store has a set price for an item, which is nice that you don't have to haggle over an item for a good price. They are very friendly to tourists. About 50% of the store owners that we visited spoke English. I visited several store before making my purchases to find the cheapest shop owner.

There are lots of different restaurants in Old Town, Italian, Russian, Polish, Japanese, Chinese. You name it and they probably have it. There are so many to choose from on the Royal Way. Most restaurants have their menu posted by the door so you can see their prices and what they offer. The prices vary with the restaurant. We wanted perogies, traditional Polish food. We went to a hole in the wall restaurant and spent about $20 for 3 people, not bad. There are also tons of coffee shops, as well. My favorite was Coffee Heaven. Coffee Heaven is like Starbucks, but WAY better.

Lots of "touristy" things to do in Old Town. We first visited and took a picture of the President of Poland's house (similar to the White House). It is very beautiful. Next was The Royal Castle in Warsaw. This is site to see. On Sundays, they have free admission into the castle, but keep in mind that almost everything is closed on Sundays like shops, restaurants, etc... For 2 adults and 1 child, we spent about 30 zloty ($10 U.S.). Old Town also has lots of monuments and statues of different people who fought in WWII. There are beautiful churches located in Old Town. Almost everyone we spoke to, spoke English or knew enough English to understand what we wanted.

I'm sure there is a lot more to Old Town that we did not cover, but I think 5 hours was enough time spent seeing the different sites and shopping (my feet sure think so). One thing we could not visit because it was under construction was the Old Town market, which is a big square of lots of vendors.

We did venture up to New Town Warsaw just to see what it was like. It is roughly the same as Old Town, but more locals. It was not as busy as Old Town. Plenty of restaurants and such, but not a lot of touristy shopping places as Old Town.


Have you visited Old/New Town in Warsaw? If so, post what you saw or what your favorite thing about Old Town in the comment section.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gotcha Day!

Yesterday, October 18th, our daughter became legally ours! No one appealed the Judges decision.  Yea! Whoohoo!

Now, we will work on birth certificate, passport, and visa. Hopefully those things will only take a week to collect.

Things to do in Warsaw: The Planetarium

The Planetarium is located directly behind the Copernicus Science Center, along the Vistula River. It is a small Planetarium. I don't want to sound negative, but it was kind of disappointing. They didn't even have astronaut ice cream, which I thought is a staple at planetariums. I was so impressed with the science center that I had high expectations for the planetarium.

The show that we wanted to see is only available once a week and of course, you have to get tickets in advance. They have a small cafe with hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks, and coffee. You basically just show up 10 minutes before your show, watch your show, and leave. No gift shop or no interactive educational models, just a dome where you can watch shows about stars.

We spent about 50 zloty ($17 U.S.) for 2 adults and 1 child for the One World, One Sky show (Big Bird and Elmo show). The show we watched was great and our daughter enjoyed it. The cafe is reasonable in prices. We spent about 40 zloty ($14 U.S.) for 2 cheeseburgers, a hotdog, and 3 drinks. Most of the people that work at the planetarium speak or understand English.

I don't think we will be back for a next visit, maybe if we had older children who could understand more. If I had to pick between the Science Center and the Planetarium, I would definitely choose the science center.

Here is their website for more information about shows and ticket prices:
 http://www.niebokopernika.pl/planetarium


Friday, October 18, 2013

Free Fun Activties to do with Your Children

The Polish government requires a 3 week bonding period with your child before the final court happens. And then after that a 2 week appeal period. So yea, we had a lot of time on our hands. We visited museums, shopping malls, a zoo, and a couple of parks. Ok, so now what do we do? We still have a couple more weeks left and we don't want to spend all of our money on attractions. We do have some expenses waiting for us when we return.

Here are some ideas Wes and I implemented during our stay in Poland. Most are free and/or cost very little.

1. Pretend to be a famous painter/sculptor.
Gather your paint supplies and/or playdoh, head out to a nearby park bench, and let your creative mind go to work.

2. Scavenger hunt/Treasure Hunt
Take your children on a hunt. On a piece of paper write and/or draw items for them to find in your neighborhood.  You can put random items on the list or have a list that might lead to a treat like a ice cream shop or hot chocolate/coffee shop. Here are items that we included on our list: flower, leaf, bird, a swing, a park bench, pizza, a book, and tennis courts. Our scavenger hunt lead us back to our home, where I hid a favorite stuffed animal that we had to find (last).

3. Go on a picnic
If it's not too cold. Let your kids help pack and make sandwiches. Take a walk to a nearby park and/or beautiful scenic place.

4. Visit a park or playground.

5. Play Airplane
If your adopted child has never been on a airplane, you might want to prepare them for what it's like. We gathered up all the chairs and stuffed animals. We made tickets out of scrap paper for boarding passes. We took turns being the flight attendant. It was great fun.

6. Dance party
This is a good one, especially if it is raining. Have a "dance-off". Wear crazy outfits and dance to a favorite song.

7. Have a tea and/or hot chocolate party
Dress up, wear hats and gloves, drink with your pinky out, and talk with a British accent. Oh, and don't forget to invite the stuffed animals.

8. Take pictures of monuments or historical sites.
This is a great one if you are in Poland. There are so many little monuments remembering different battles and such. Take your camera, snap a picture, and when you return home, google and research what the monument is commemorating. This is a great free history lesson!




Do you have ideas like these? Please post them below. We are always trying to find creative things to do, especially educational.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adopt Debt Free: Collect Cans

One way we were able to save money for our international adoption is by collecting aluminum cans. I know, it sounds like a daunting task. But I found out that it was one of the most easiest ways to fundraise for our adoption.

First, gather all your friends and family who drink/use canned products and make a pact with them to start saving them for you. Secondly, go to their house once a week to collect their used cans. Don't forget about step #2; I'm sure your friends will appreciate it. And thirdly, take a trip once a month to your local recycling/salvage shop to turn them into cash. Only 3 steps! That easy.

Now if you live in a big city and have multiple places to recycle/salvage, call around at the different places to see who has the highest rate of return for your aluminum cans.  Good luck!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Hello Kitty Rumor in Poland

While living in Poland, we have learned a lot about food, culture, and language. And now since we have added a daughter to our family, we are learning all about Polish cartoons and toys. Disney characters are very popular here.

There is a popular email going around about Hello Kitty, a popular girl cat character. You can read about the rumor here. We were confronted by our social worker about the Hello Kitty rumor (because we gave our daughter some Hello Kitty notebooks and pens). Of course, I do not believe the rumor is true. We looked the rumor up on snopes.com. We do allow our daughter to have Hello Kitty items in our house. Poles are very religious (Catholic) so they may reject Hello Kitty items because of the rumor. If you are traveling around in Poland with Hello Kitty don't be alarmed if you get some funny stares, it is probably because of the rumor.




*Because of some set backs, the court will rule today if our daughter gets to become our daughter.*