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Travel tips from the experts

Reprinted with permission from Amy Eldridge, Founder of Love Without Boundaries. This article is a summary of Amy's posting in response to inquiries about gifts for SWI visits. She has graciously agreed to share her insights for Lotus travelling families here.

Gift Suggestions for Adoption or Return SWI VisitBy Amy Eldridge, Excutive Director, Love Without Boundaries

I can tell you what I have been told by officials and aunties.
They really do not need any more baseball caps or pen sets. I was in a government office one time and the man I was speaking with said, "do you want a pen set?" and he opened his lower desk drawer and there must have been 100-150 pen sets in there! ha ha....it was priceless. If you think about how many adoptions each province processes, I am sure they add up. Bythe way, I gave a pen set on my first adoption trip. Too funny.

Aunties: Here is what they have told me specifically that they love from parents:

* potpourri envelopes (they are great because they pack flat). They cannot get anything like that in China and it makes small apartments smell great. They also like the pretty room fresheners (like the glass ones) but they are heavy to pack. I am asked for these over and over again.

* Jelly Bellies (again, not usually found in China. Nestle and Cadbury chocolate is everywhere now and easy to buy, so this is more unique)

* Anything "pretty". Gifts do not have to be expensive. Simple things like postcards of flowers, sunsets, etc are so popular because they can be hung on a wall. Similarly, books of flowers, gardening, etc or calendars with beautiful photos are great as well. Postcards from your home state are always fun, and can be given to their children or relatives to collect. They should be nice scenes, however. I remember taking one of Oklahoma with a tornado on it and no one wanted it. Too unlucky I guess! Just remember that aunties get paid minimal salaries and so they often do not have the funds to buy pretty things like this.

* Deodorant. Okay, I have to admit that I was stubborn as all get out on this one when asked to bring it. I kept saying "there are so many rules about gifts and there is no way I am taking deodorant because I am afraid it will imply that I think someone smells." My Chinese friends in China kept saying, "trust us...you cannot buy this in China and they will love it." So finally two trips ago I took Secret deodorant that smelled great (the flower ones). I took a whole basketful, along with other gifts and presented a basket to aunties saying "pick what you want". The deodorant was the first to go and they were all standing in the orphanage learning how to use it and laughing and smelling it, and now I have been asked to please bring more. You really cannot buy it there! On my last trip I gave it to both men and women and they loved it.

* Wrap around ear muffs. The flat kind that go behind the head. Most people in China ride bikes or scooters and in the winter it is cold. These have been an enormous hit and I have been asked to bring more the next time I come.

* Make up. Soft colors, any type.

* Lotions. You don't have to spend a fortune on these. The Walmart kinds are fine (the pretty ones with flowers and good scents). I take travel size ones, along with travel size luxury soaps.

* Local treats. This is always fun for them to try. If your region has a specialty like pecans, walnuts, Frango mints, a certain cookie, etc....this is a great gift with a note that it is from your hometown.

* Cash. Please make sure you will not upset your agency if you do this, but a red envelope with a bonus for the aunties is always appreciated, as their salaries are low and most have families of their own to feed. Remember that the numbers 2, 6, and 8 are good numbers and make sure the RMB is in one of those amounts. Do not do anything with 4. Normally, I will give $10 each, so 80 rmb. That is a very, very nice gift. Some agencies are okay with it, some aren't. Do not ever give cash to an official.

For officials, just remember that many times the gifts you give will be given to their friends and relatives, so you can do any gender (male or female). I really have given just about everything you can think of, including penlights, pocket knives, golf shirts, bracelets, scarves, binoculars, and CDs with show tunes. I do not do t-shirts as most officials I have met dress very, very nice and would never usually wear something like that. But that isn't to say they couldn't give them to teens in the family. I don't get a lot of feedback on these gifts, except I was told once that some really nice disposable razors I took were much appreciated (the top of the line ones here). I would not stress at all about the gifts. It is the thought that counts. I know it is so controversial to many people, but if you want a gift for a man, you cannot go wrong with Marlboros. I am completely against smoking but it is still the most appreciated gift I take. I think directors like being able to go to meetings and other functions and offer their friends these. Yes, you can buy them in China but they are more than many people can afford. I really stressed about buying them the first time, but once I saw how truly appreciated they were, I got over it.

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