So we had a baby in China. And as if that weren’t crazy enough, we had to make the journey up to Beijing – approximately 5 hours away by train – to get him a passport. This must be done within the 30 days after the birth of the baby. After that I’m sure that there are probably penalties to be paid, and we didn’t want to take any chances so we left for Beijing on Wednesday. At only eight days old, we were not completely sure how this trip to the capital would go but despite the unknown, we were pretty excited. We had not left Qingdao since returning from Thailand, in February, and as you know, we sure do love to travel!
Justin’s teaching schedule is slightly lighter now that so many high school students have already finished their classes for the year. This meant that he only missed a couple of lessons for the two days that we decided to go to Beijing. We booked an early train there, and an afternoon one back. Yes, we were fully aware that 10 hours of train travel with a newborn in the space of two days would be tiring, but hey, what could we do?! Our little man needs a passport and we didn’t want Justin to miss any more classes, so it had to be done.
You are probably wondering what kind of passport Elijah gets since his mommy is South African, his daddy is American, and he was born in China. Well, even though he currently has a Chinese birth certificate, he is entitled a “certificate of birth abroad” because he was born to parents who are not Chinese nationals. He is also lucky enough to be able to choose which country he wants to be a citizen of – South Africa or America. We had to make that decision for him at this stage, and we chose America for various reasons. One of our main reasons for now is that he can visit SA without a tourist visa if he is America, but the same is no true from South African citizens wanting to visit the States. We will also probably live in the States sometime in the future, so this seemed like the wisest choice. On an international scale an American passport is just a much better one to have. We will, of course, be constantly reminding Eli about his South African heritage, but his passport will be from good old America.
Padkos for the train ride
We packed the night before – knowing that with Eli here, getting out the door takes a little longer than it used to. He seems to like to feed JUST as we are ready to go. Fortunately, breastfeeding is completely acceptable here, so we merely need to get ourselves into a taxi and then I can feed him again. It’s crazy how different our “baby-experience” is here, compared to what it would be at home. We don’t, for example, have a car seat for Eli, and we won’t for as long as we are here. We don’t have a car and taxi’s obviously have no car seat attachments. Even a stroller makes life more complicated since we often have to jump into a cab on a busy road. There is not much time to fold up a stroller and try get it into a trunk that is half filled with the drivers junk. It is easier to just jump in the cab and be on your way. Baby-wearing is the way to go over here in Asia. It is hot and humid now so the baby carrier makes Eli and I sweat like crazy, but having my hands free makes traveling much easier.
I have to say that the most complicated part of this trip was trying to hide Elijah away. As I explained in a previous post – “Sitting the month” – mother and baby are not supposed to leave the house for the first 30 days after childbirth. In fact, many of those who have caught a glimpse of Eli looked horrified that I have him out of the house. Some of them don’t feel bad to ask if he is one month old yet. To avoid the shameful looks of disgust, we lie and say that he is already one month old. But let’s be honest, it’s pretty obvious that he is only a few days old.
I have tons more to write about this, but for now I will just say that having a baby in China gives you instant celebrity status. We thought that we got stared at a lot before our son arrived, but we have now reached a whole new level of popularity. Strangers will walk up to me, and reach out to touch Eli. It drives me crazy, so I will have to learn how tell them not to do this in Chinese. Much to my horror, someone we know even let Elijah hold their finger and then put it in his mouth. It seems people are offended when you tell them not to do this, because they think that you are saying they are dirty. But the truth of the matter is that with a newborn everyone is dirty, and living in China makes that infinitely true! I guess we will have to stop caring about hurting peoples’s feelings since our son’s health and well-being comes first. Despite these challenges, we managed to get through a full two day journey without a single person trying to touch Elijah. I think that this is because Justin was with me. When I am alone, I have to run away from people… (haha, Im not exaggerating – I literally have to run away from crowds of onlookers as they reach out and try to touch him).
Privacy curtain for Eli to escape all the stares from strangers
We created a curtain next to my window seat so that Eli could come out of his carrier and rest on my lap without being gawked at. When he is a little older this will bother me less, but for now I try to avoid the horrified looks we get because he is “too small to be out”. The poor little guy was covered in sweat, and he likes to stretch out, so this was good for him. It also helped for breastfeeding him discreetly.
Once we got to Beijing we went straight to the hotel to check in and drop our bags off. We were pleasantly surprised by our hotel (second and third picture below) which was located in the Sanlitan area. Even though we were exhausted, we freshened up and then went out to find some food and buy a couple of things. Although we live in a very modern city, there are still some things that are way easier to buy in major cities. There were tons of people out and about, and being a warm summer night, the atmosphere on the streets was incredible. The Sanlitun area of Beijing is GREAT!
Elijah’s first night in a hotel
This journey marked a number of firsts for Eli. First train ride, first time on the subway, first night in a hotel, and first time going to a new city. He slept a lot along the way and ate less than he ordinarily does, but he never fussed or cried, so it was a pleasant experience for all three of us.
In the morning we made our way directly to the American Embassy to apply for the passport. It was a very simple process and while we were in the embassy it felt like we were back at home again. The foreign services agents were all so friendly, and during Eli’s citizenship interview we had a good laugh while talking to our interviewer. We had all of our necessary paperwork, forms, and photographs ready, so everything went through smoothly and his passport will be ready for pick-up in about two weeks. In 3-4 months his social security card will be delivered to our address in Texas. We had no idea that this process would go down so easily, and that we would be sorted before lunchtime even arrived. We decided to kill the next three hours at a restaurant that we found on our last trip to Beijing. Seeing that it was a hot day, we sat outside next to some misting fans and Eli got to spread out over the bench next to mommy. He was such a happy baby!
Justin had a delicious Quesadilla Burger with fries and a salad, and very predictably, I had an full American breakfast. I don’t know why I’m so crazy about all-day breakfasts, but you can’t go wrong with a classic! We enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching the activity on the street down below. Eli slept the entire time, probably because he was happy not to wrapped up in his carrier getting all sweaty. This little man likes to sleep all sprawled out! We showered him with kisses and cuddles after we were done eating.
After lunch we started to feel sleepy so we made our way back to the train station and waited out the remaining hour in a Starbucks. Thank goodness for Starbucks with it’s air-conditioning, comfy couches, and amazingly refreshing drinks. At 4pm it was time to head back to Qingdao, so we made our way through the crowds, security checks, and onto the train.
We were all pretty tired on the way back home. Thankfully, the train that we take to and from Beijing is really clean and comfortable so we were able to rest without any annoyances. The boys slept but momma was awake for the entire journey. In two weeks we need to go and pick up the passport. Only one of us has to do that so we won’t go together since it’s $100 each for the return train ticket. Justin will be on summer vacation by then, so he would be able to leave at the crack of dawn and be back home with us before bedtime. That would mean roughly 12 hours of traveling in one day, but it’ll be worth it to have Elijah’s passport in our hands. The next step is to get him a Chinese visa, which our school will help us to organise in Qingdao. Without that we cannot leave and re-enter China.
Traveling with a one week old baby turned out to be a pretty pleasant experience.
Elijah is now an American and soon he will be able to travel internationally.