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Our 12 ½ year old son, his Dad and I traveled with the Ties Program to Cambodia at the end of December 2013 and beginning of January 2014. It was a journey that will be remembered for our lifetimes, one that is hard to describe adequately in words. This would not have been possible without the kindness, care, and attention to detail of the Ties Program. This included a painstaking prior investigation for each family in an attempt to locate birth parents, nannies, orphanage directors and others who were significant in our children’s lives while they lived in Cambodia . We were prepared very well (we were sent a 45 page Pre-Travel booklet outlining EVERYTHING!), and were impressed by the compassion shown by Sarah and Matt while we were in country.
Jesse made new friends who I truly believe will be lifelong friends, as did we with the parents. Our family has grown! I can’t underestimate the importance of this for not only the kids but us parents. The Ties Program provided this unique and very special opportunity for our children to feel like they were “home”, to feel special and part of this incredible culture and people and for the parents to see our children grow and absorb their homeland and culture. The Ties Program is aptly named: our children are “tied together” as are we with their parents. This was so poignantly exhibited when the children were blessed by a monk where he had them all physically connect, touching each other as the new blessing bracelet was tied on each of their wrists. Several of the kids said this was one of the highlights for them.
Each day brought new experiences for all of us: visiting the Puok Silk Farm and Artisan d’Ankor, both in Siem Reap, and then the magnificent Angkor Wat at sunrise! We were all moved deeply by the majesty, beauty and aura of Angkor Wat as well as the other temples we visited that day. While in Siem Reap we also traveled by boat to see a floating village (where the children were blessed by the monk).
Phnom Penh offered us a “taste” of city life and wow, we were all somewhat amazed by the orchestrated “ballet” of traffic: Tuk-tuks, bicycles, cars, trucks, pedestrians, all somehow not colliding! The Children’s SOS village was a special time for all of us and some parents during “Talk Time” shared that this was one of their highlights. It was for me. It is a humbling experience to see children and adults who have so little give so much of themselves with abandon. For many, Phnom Penh was where we would be visiting with people and places of great importance. This is where I am at a loss for words because there are no words to describe the immense joy meeting again (and Jesse for the 1st time since he was too young to remember) his nanny, Ra. Others during these 2 days had similar experiences which we shared with each other over many tears of joy in the evening.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the guides and in-country staff. They were informative, funny, caring, open and honest in talking about their country. It seems that guides for individual families during our days of visiting nannies, birth parents, places of birth, etc. were handpicked for each family. I would not be surprised if Sarah did some research about each of the guides and “matched” us- she is a detail wonder!
So… in reading this, if you have considered taking your child to their birth country I would strongly urge you to do so. Traveling with a group of people made the experience much more worthwhile. For the kids, it is great to have companions they can share their stories, impressions and feelings with. The Ties Program offers you the luxury and comfort of doing ALL the preparations and details for you.
Response: Thanks Shorey. It has been an amazing journey this winter. Glad you were part of it.
My 16-year-old daughter and I traveled to Korea in June of 2013, and I can honestly say the experience exceeded all of my expectations. All of the information provided in the packet of materials we got prior to travelling was enormously helpful, but I'll say that the single best piece of advice peppered throughout was to go into the experience with "patience and flexibility"! The trip was well organized down to the smallest of details, but even with all of the planning that goes into it things DO happen. However, our guides and in-country personnel were always on top of things and and you always knew things would work out. There are so many "moments" in a trip like this that it's impossible to share them all, but some of the very best moments in the trip were the unplanned ones .... like hiking the boardwalk along the beach at night with our group, beach volleyball with nothing but flip-flops serving as the net, learning to find our way around the Korean subway system (with MUCH help from quite a number of Korean natives!), and the endless search for Coke Zero! A huge part of what made the trip special was sharing it with other families. The kids immediately bonded and were even coordinating their own activities, and some of my favorite times were just on the tour bus, getting to talk to other families to hear about their experience the day before. My daughter fell in love with Korea right away, which I was hoping for and pretty much expected. What I didn't expect was how much I would fall in love with the country, and how completely "at home" I felt there. Even after being back from our trip less than 2 months, I already can envision taking another trip back. You do see so much of the country while you're there, but you know there's much more to experience too. So, yes, I highly recommend taking a tour to your child's birth country, and I highly recommend the Ties Program for that. They're wonderful - and they take good care of us!
The Russian Ties program is a treasure! For 2 years, my son Andrei talked about visiting Russia, and then I learned about Russian Ties. It was everything we could have hoped for. It was well planned and organized, and the staff we are extremely helpful in working out travel details and answering a multitude of questions. Once in country, it was a wonderful blend of group time and family time. We saw all the things to see in Moscow and St. Petersburg with the group , had some organized activities for the kids, and enough free to time to do things as a family. The trip to Ekaterinburg and Kamensk-Uraskly was amazing. Our guide and driver took us to some special places, and visiting the baby house with my son was a special experience we’ll remember forever. I’ll never forget the warmth with which we are welcomed and the care that everyone took to make our visit memorable. I would recommend this trip to anyone who has a yearning to visit their adoption homeland. A bonus was having the opportunity to travel with a great group of families and Ties staff, and to see the friendships that blossomed along the way.
My family traveled to the Philippines in June 2013. When asked how the trip was, all I can say to people is AWESOME! Words cannot describe how fantastic the experience was. I can not imagine going to the Philippines to tour the country without TIES. The adoption component was just as important as learning about the culture. I honestly did not put much thought into the "talk" portion of the trip. I actually didn't think my 16 year old daughter would even want to participate. As it happened, it was an unbelievable part of the experience. The parent talk time was also fantastic. Not only did we get to visit the orphanage that my daughter came from, we also visited other children homes that brought reflection and a wanting to help. My daughter now wants to go next summer to volunteer at House of Refuge in Manila where they take in street children and give them love and a home. Our tour guide, Glady Bunao was fantastic and has truly become a forever friend. The places we visited were truly an insight to the culture and people of the Philippines. Riding on horseback up a mountain and seeing the beautiful scenery...I cried in pure joy. The other families we travelled with made the trip extra special. All of the children bonded in an amazing way. Sharing an experience with each other that went far beyond learning about Manila. The cost of the tour can be prohibitive and it certainly was a hardship for us to save for it...but I can honestly say that it is worth it..TEN TIMES...ONE HUNDRED TIMES!. If you are looking for a homeland experience, you will not get it by simply discovering the country your children were born. I truly believe it is just as important to experience the adoption aspect of the trip and seeing how the children not only experienced their culture, but experienced their story. I said to my daughter, "These other kids you are with..they are real friends." She replied, "No mom. They're not my friends. They're my family now." Just do it.
Russian Ties 2013. Our family just returned from a fantastic return trip to Russia arranged by the Ties staff. Without a doubt, this was a wonderful experience for our family. We have never travelled on a group trip, but I have to say doing so was a bonus for our family. All of the arrangements were made with care and everything went according to plan without any mishaps. Our three guides in Russia were so knowledgeable and helpful. For us, one of the biggest benefits was learning so much about Samara (the city where our kids were born) that we didn’t learn when we were there to adopt. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone considering returning to Russia.
My son and I had the opportunity to travel with the Ties program to Kazakhstan in July 2013. Our experience was very rewarding and would highly recommend their services for those wanting to be part of a homeland heritage tour. Thanks to all for the special memories that were created!
Hello! We traveled with the Ties program on their 2013 China trip 6/26-7-10. We had been planning this trip from the day we adopted our daughter in 2001....we just didn't know when or how we would do it. It was so great to have Ties do all the work for us, we packed our bags (yes they were large) and we were off. We knew the moment we landed in Beijing and were met by Ties staff that we were in good hands. While in Beijing we had the perfect mix of sightseeing and leisure time. Our guides, both national and local were amazing. The best part though, was the other families from all over the USA. The girls (12 of them) ranged in age from 9-17, our daughter was right in the middle at 13. Our visit to the orphanage and finding site was the highlight of our trip. We were warmly welcomed and Hannah was remembered by much of the staff. We held the babies and wished we could take them all home with us. We were there on July 4th, which is also the day (12 years prior) our daughter became a US citizen, we had come full circle! Meeting back up with our group in Guilin allowed us the opportunity to share our experiences with the other families. Also, the cruise down the Li River is breathtaking and you don't want to miss it! We are thankful to the Ties for "sweating the details" so we didn't have to. This truly was the trip of a lifetime!
OK, I'll admit it. My familly and I are cheapskates. When we plan a trip, we shop for the best deals, eat peanut butter for lunch, and take it as we go. The thought of traveling with a bunch of people I don't know, letting someone else plan the details, was way out of my comfort zone- but am I ever glad that we decided to take our granddaughter back to India with Ties! It was a perfect combination of "tourist" spots, helpful organizations, host family visits, and personal locations and people. The fact that my sweet girl was with others "just like her" was the element that truly made the trip life-changing. There was just the right amount of down time and we never felt rushed or dragged along to places we didn't really want to visit. Instead we felt the support of new, caring friends every step along the way. We can't say enough about the trip, the people we met and the Ties staff. It was a joy to watch my granddaughter fall more in love with India every day! "Life-changing" sounds cliche, but there is no better way to put it. Thanks India Ties! We may have been able to go to India cheaper, and on our own, but it was worth every penny to do it with people who are truly experts. (Although I have to add that we did bring our own peanut butter :)
My daughter (age 12) and I went on the July 2012 Ties program to Bulgaria. It was a wonderful trip and a fantastic experience. The country was beautiful and the people were amazing. My daughter loved meeting the other young people in our group who were also adopted from Bulgaria. She made great friends. My daughter has a much greater understanding of her birth, her birth family and her birth country. She is proud to speak of her birth country and she now speaks with first-hand knowledge. Meeting my daughter’s birth family was emotional, eye opening and warm. My daughter was so happy to feel the hugs, kisses and tears from her first family.
China Ties 2012 was a trip that I will cherish forever. It was my first time to go back and I am glad I went with Ties because the program handled all the logistics so perfectly, I was able to concentrate on the more important things, like the emotional/cultural experience, and not worry about missing trains or flights, or anything like that. I had a very strong sense of belonging in China...I have been studying Mandarin for quite some time now, and when we went to my home city, I had the opportunity to go shopping! (And therefore, talk) The previous day we had gone to an amusement park, and we had seen a LOT of kids/teens in school uniforms. A desire to have my own uniform was kindled inside me, so the next day, my father and I went walking around and found a clothing store. I went in and asked if they sold uniforms. "You can only get those in schools" "Oh, but I didn't see any high schools. Just an elementary school." "Their uniforms are too small for you" "Yep" "Well, my daughter is graduated. You can have her uniform. Give us your next hotel address and we will send it there. Here is the phone number." I was so blessed by her generosity, we asked if we could pay her, "No, no, it's old, it's old." Well, the postage? "No, no, really, it's old, not new." My happiness in that moment was unsurpassed. As I reflect on that experience, I am glad I went when I did, as an older teen, rather than younger, so I could have the ability to more fully experience and reflect on interchanges like this. It contributed greatly to my "Chinese girl" part, --I've always known I was adopted from China but I feel more connected to those roots now that I've been there--"I am adopted from China" means more to me now. ??? ??? Eleanor Chin