Saturday, November 30, 2013

What was the U.S. Embassy like? Was the Visa interview difficult? How long does it take to get a visa?

What was the U.S. Embassy like?
The staff at the embassy is very accommodating to U.S. citizens and they are very helpful. They answered all of our questions and made us feel like first priority. Like any U.S. governmental office, you have to go through a screening process before you can go to the waiting room for your visa interview appointment. It is a typical screening of all of the your bags going through the X-ray machine and you walking through the metal detector. But be careful about your bag size! If your bag is too big you will not be allowed in--of course, I did not know that and I'm a fan of medium sized purses and I was not allowed in with it. The waiting room was filled with lots of chairs and a play area for children. The play area is for smaller children (2-6), but older children could find something to play with if they wanted. Once you enter into the waiting room, you go to a specific window that the front desk has told you to go. The lady at that window will take your information and give you a number and then you wait for your number to be called for the interview.
*All you need to take with you to the U.S. Embassy is your passports (including your adopted child's) and nothing else.

What was the visa interview like? Was it difficult?
The visa interview was super easy. No hard questions at all were asked. We had a lady conduct our interview and she was super friendly and helpful. It did not feel like an interview at all. It was really informal. We presented her with our passports and she had the paperwork that we had previously submitted. She asked us a couple of questions, not a lot. The interview took about 10 minutes.

Here are some questions she asked us:
How long have you been in Poland?
Which adoption agency did you use?
How did you like your stay in Poland?

And that's it! You are able to go home and wait for the embassy to process your application.

How long does it take to get a visa issued?
It usually takes 1 business day for them to issue your visa. Check their website for holidays and days off. Because you are in another country the embassy is closed on all major U.S. holidays and Polish holidays.

*We had to wait an extra day because we had the incorrect type of birth certificate. The embassy needs a full birth certificate, not the short one. So when you are getting your child's new birth certificate with new names and such, be sure to get a full one for the embassy. 

Click here for U.S. Embassy in Poland contact information.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Near the U.S. Embassy

Ok, so this could possibly be my last post about things to do in Poland for awhile. We are now home with our daughter and trying to get a since of normalcy.

While we were in Warsaw at the U.S. Embassy for our visa interview, we had a lot of down time between the visa interview and when they issued the visa to us. What were we to do? We didn't have anything planned and did not look up anything in the area beforehand. So we went exploring and this is what we found: Near the U.S. Embassy there is a coffee shop called Green Cafe Nero (Green Cafe) with free wifi and excellent coffee (and bathrooms!). They speak excellent English here and it is literally a half a block away from the embassy. If you get a chance to visit, try the Charlotte drink-it's so good. Also in the area is a KFC- a taste of home after being in Poland for 2 months. The KFC has public bathrooms and they speak English. Another fun place to go nearby the embassy is a park with a big playground, sand boxes, beautiful gazebos, and a large area to let your kids go and run.

We spent about 6 hours doing all of the above. I'm sure there are more stuff we could have seen or done in the area, but hanging out in the park was relaxing and free, especially since our minds were getting ready to get on an airplane with our newly adopted child.

Have you had to kill some time near the U.S. Embassy? What did you do while you waited?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What did you pack for your adoption trip?

Here is a list (random order) of things we packed for our trip. We had 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons (per person) going to Poland. Most of our clothes were packed in our carry on.

Black notebook  (that saved our brains!)
Energy bars and other snacks (goldfish, fruit snacks, candy)
Dry Soup mixes (easy meal -just add boiling water)
2 rolls of toilet paper
Ziplock bags
5 travel size laundry detergent packets
Crystal light packets and coffee singles
3 water bottles
2 Adapters/Converters
Couple of travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and body washes
Basic toiletries to start off with (you can buy almost any toiletry that you would need in Poland)
Hair dryer/ straightner (mine did not blow up)
Duck tape
Scissors, clear tape, couple of pens and pencils, and a notebook
Rain jackets and umbrella
Reusable shopping bags (for groceries and I’m so glad I brought these)
Plastic bucket with top (to put things that we don’t want to break or get squished to and from our trip)
Plastic jar of peanut butter (instant and easy meal on the go)
Copy of “Where there is no doctor”
Clothes for 1 week and 1 pair of tennis shoes and flip flops per person
Court clothes and shoes
3 Towels and 2 hand towels
3 neck pillows (for the airplane)
2 Blankets
Laptop, mp3 player, and tablet
International Cellphone (we could purchase phone cards while in Poland)
Playing cards and other card games
Gifts from our hometown for people (adoption coordinator, etc..) that we would meet and build a relationship with (I found our small gifts at Walgreens)

Here are some things we brought for our daughter:
We did not bring a lot of toys to Poland because it either wouldn’t fit in our suitcases or we would just buy little toys while in country that she could pick out.

Blow up balloons (dollar section in Walmart)
Alphabet flash cards
Princess suitcase (small)
Clothes (we did not bring a lot of clothes for her because we did not know her size and Poland has plenty of places to go shopping)
Stuffed animal (dog)
Crayons, markers, and coloring books

I hope this post helps you as you prepare for your adoption travels. Adoption travel is like no other travel. You want to be prepared and bring everything that you could possibly need, but you also need to save space to bring home your adopted child(ren)’s items. And remember less is more!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What was adoption court like in Poland?

We were the pilot family for our adoption agency. We did not know what to expect or what they were going to ask. I've tried googling "what adoption court would be like in Poland", but of course nothing came up.

Here is our experience with adoption court in Poland:

Court took a total of 2 1/2 hours. You have one head judge and 2 other sub judges, a prosecutor, and someone transcribing. It was a very small court room. The first 30 minutes or so we were begging the judge to make the ruling that day and she couldn't because of some incorrect paperwork. The judge asked me, Sarai, to go first. I was questioned for about 40 minutes by the judge. Then the prosecutor asked me additional questions, which took about 10 minutes. Wes was then called up and was questioned for about 40 minutes by the judge as well. Then the prosecutor questioned Wes for about 10 minutes. I have almost all the questions on a separate blog post. Click here for those. Most of the questions were standard (name, date of birth, date of marriage, employed or not, etc...) and some were personal.

Then our daughter's foster parents gave their testimony. I was then called up again to confirm some information that I had already stated. The judge also asked what our daughter's name was going to be and how we wanted it on the birth certificate. And that's it. Court did last a little longer than expected (I expected around 1 hour), but we were almost in there for 3 hours. The prosecutor and the 3 judges were very friendly and nice. We had a translator who translated the questions and answers for us and he was also nice.

We were completely exhausted by the time court was over. It was emotionally draining. It was also a little intimidating having 3 judges and a prosecutor. I was so nervous before we got in the court, but during the court proceedings I did not feel nervous at all. Overall it was a positive experience during court even though we still had some paperwork issues to work out with the judge.

7/10/15 Update: It seems like the amount of time you spend in court is up to the judge. Families that have followed my blog emailed me saying that it took them 10 minutes or 30 minutes or 1 hour at the most. I guess we just had a difficult judge who was skeptical about foreigners adopting in her district.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What was going through immigration like?

Going through immigration was easier than we had expected. I had preconceived ideas of us being shoveled into a small room, waiting for an hour while they go through our papers, and then asking us hard questions. But that wasn’t it at all. When we went through immigration, the officer checked our passports and let me and Wes gain entry into the U.S. For our daughter, we handed over the packet of information that the U.S. Embassy gave us in Warsaw. We then were brought into a waiting room with lots of chairs and a tv. We waited literally 5 minutes and they stamped our daughter’s passport and we were on our way. The officers were so nice. They even joked with our daughter. We were not asked any questions because we had done all the hard work before coming home. It was really easy going through immigration.