Archive for the 'Vaccinations' Category
Things are finally starting to fall into place this week. You may have noticed that the “Rent Our House!” tab has disappeared from our page. Utilizing our “kindness of strangers” approach, we were able to secure a renter for the duration of our trip! Our friends, John and Alicia, were able to refer a great tenant our way. Our hope has always been to find a friend-of-a-friend to rent to, someone we can trust with our greatest asset. So, thanks guys: you’ve taken a real load off of our shoulders.
I’ve always said that once our tickets were purchashed and our house was rented, the rest was just details. With those big items checked off our mounting to-do list, I am able to shift my focus to some of the smaller (and more interesting) things that need to be accomplished before July 13. This week I began a photograph class. People keep telling me to “take lots of great pictures” on our trip, which is a tall order. I bought a nifty camera nearly a year ago, and thus far I’ve only mastered the automatic settings. Realizing I need to learn how to operate the manual settings to do anything cool and artsy, I signed up for a photography class. Once we hit the road we plan on creating photo galleries for each country we visit, so hopefully you’ll be able to witness the fruits of my labor. I’m not the ideal photographer; it’s a technical craft for which I find I have very little patience (I still can’t, for the life of me, understand the concept of an f-stop and how it relates to aperture- and shutter-priority). But a girl can dream! We’re still trying to figure out the best way to store and back-up our photos from the road. Our computer probably won’t store much, so we’ve considered buying an iPod to store photos. We’ve also thought about buying a number of memory cards and storing photos that way; or, some combination of those two methods. If any one has any brilliant ideas to this end, we’re all ears.
We finished our final round of vaccinations this week, and are now guarded against nearly every disease that one can be vaccinated for. We’ve spent so much time at the New Mexico Travel Health Clinic over the past two months that the nurse actually gave us a hug on the way out and asked us to send her a postcard. I’m honestly not sure what I’ll do with my Friday mornings anymore.
In other news, my backpack that’s been on order from REI arrived this week! I was excited to pick it up at the store and have it fitted on Thursday. I still feel a little panicked when I see how small it is, but that’s just the way it’s gonna have to be. I had an interesting conversation with the employee who fitted the bag for me, who had obviously done a great deal of extended international travel. It’s fun to find a fellow soul who you can debate the relative pros and cons of bringing more than two pairs of shoes with. We also discussed, at length, how to pack lightly without looking like a bum or about to embark on a safari. One issue in which he had a definite opinion was the Eagle Creek packing folders and cubes. The one commonality I’ve seen in all RTW packing lists is the addition of these flexible packing products. They are supposed to make your backpack infinitely more organized and compact. Stay tuned as The Mystery of How to Get Eight Months Worth of Stuff in One Bag continues…3 comments
Do you remember Debbie Downer? Anyone who’s talked to me lately might notice a striking resemblance between me and that down-in-the-dumps SNL character made famous by Rachel Dratch. I’m hoping it’s a case of that old adage,”it’s always darkest just before the dawn,” but everything seems to be getting me down these days. Pervasive news reports of the sinking dollar are depressing. As I was reading my Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook a few days ago, I couldn’t help but balk at the price of the “budget” accomodations; then I realized they would certainly be considered budget by euro currency standards. News of South American skirmishes has also planted doubts squarely in my mind — what if we have to circumvent our travels to Ecuador? World events can change on a dime, and I realize we might have to alter our itinerary at a moment’s notice at any point on this trip, potentially nixing a location we’ve dreamed about visiting for years. Maikael was incredibly sick last night, possibly a side effect of all these vaccinations, which doesn’t bode well for the next three weeks of upcoming shots. And the last week was filled with continued frustration over the purchase of our plane ticket. By Wednesday I was beginning to doubt if it would ever happen at all. I never knew something so simple could be so complicated.
I am a worrier, no doubt about it. In order to stay sane on this trip I will have to exercise, as the Thai say, mai pen lai, which literally translates as “never mind.” In other words, I’ve got to let it go. Perhaps this emotional roller coaster ride is strength training for the journey ahead? I had another dream about the trip this week. My leg had been run over by a train, and when I got to the clinic, I had to wait hours to be seen by a doctor. Why? A bunch of people ahead of me needed vaccinations. When I was finally seen by a doctor, he prophetically proclaimed, ” Your leg is broken.” “I know that,” I said, “that’s why I’m here.” As the doctor ensconsed my leg in a cast, he said, “You won’t be able to get around well for eight weeks.” It was then that I realized that our trip started in a week. A wave of panic washed over me. What would we do? I woke up, reeling from the dream, and spent the next few days trying to sort out its meaning. There are the obvious themes of the need for patience, as well as the worry and anxiety that are bombarding my subconscious, a sense that catastrophe is lurking around every corner. But more importantly, legs, in dreams, symbolize our perceived support and strength. Clearly, I am feeling emotionally run over, flattened, broken.
If I competed in track and field events I would be a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. I am nothing but enthusiasm incarnate at the beginning of a race, attacking the field with gusto. But I quickly peter out, spewing a plume of spent energy in my wake. A task like planning a round-the-world trip requires the tenacity of a marathon runner; someone who races at a steady pace. I am no marathon runner, but I’m lucky enough to be married to one. If it weren’t for Maikael, I’d probably be lying in a pool of my own tears by now.
It’s time to start the race again. What I need is something to get me excited about this trip once more, a proverbial shot in the arm. But please, don’t send another vaccine.3 comments
Getting vaccinated is the first tangible thing that’s signaled to me that this trip is really going to happen. All of this talk of airplane tickets and accomodations and renting our house is still just that: talk. Today, I have the bruise and sore spot on my right arm to prove that we are leaving in four months. We’ve saved and saved our money, but until yesterday, there has been no financial committment to this trip. I was warned that the vaccinations alone would run us around $400, so this felt like a big step. There was no going back now.
But lo and behold, when we checked in for our appointment, we discovered that the insurance plan through Maikael’s work covers all travel-related vaccines and medications. We were shocked, which was soon followed by a feeling of intense gratitude. On behalf of The Thomas Family, we’d like to say to Maikael’s employer, “Thank you.” So we still have yet to make any financial obligations to this trip — even the plane tickets that will be purchased in the next week are fully refundable — but I’m sure it’s coming soon.
There is a national shortage of the yellow fever vaccine. The vial, which provides up to five doses, must be used within an hour, at which time it becomes inactive. Therefore, the clinic tries to get five people in at the same time to make the most of the vaccine. We shared the lobby with a young UNM student who is preparing to go to Africa to help a team of opthamologists in rural villages; an older gentleman bound for Kenya who loudly shared his “hilarious” story of videotaping large game in Africa; and a woman preparing for a mission trip to Uganda. As always, we were the odd ones out. And it wasn’t your typical doctor’s office conversation. “So tell me, dear, where are you going that has yellow fever?”
They like to make the most of your vaccination visit. The attitude seems to be, “Hey, you’re going to feel like crap whether we give you one vaccine or four, so why not do four today?” After receiving our yellow fever vaccine, Maikael and I stayed behind for our “pre-travel consultation.” I imagine this takes your average traveler about 10 minutes. We emerged two hours later with a ream of paper, a stack of prescriptions, and a gigantic box filled with medicine.
I loved the consultation office. The walls were graced with such cheery poster as, “Asia is wonderful. Japenese encephilitis is not.” There was also a table piled high with fake food, including rubbery-looking green beans, a plastic pork chop, and a very realistic looking tortilla fashioned from a folded round of felt. I tried to prod as to why the faux food was there — something to do with nutritional education, I imagine — but never got a clear answer. Our consultation included not only what vaccines and medicines we would need, but how to handle a wide range of general travel health issues. I now know that there are jellyfish in Australia that kill within three minutes of a sting; how to remove a stingray’s barb using only a tub of scalding water; that a jellyfish stinger can be removed with a razor and shaving cream; how to use iodine to sanitize my salad greens; and that I should poke a hole in the bottom of my bottles of water to avoid them being re-bottled with local water and given to unsuspecting travelers. We also debunked some myths, learning, for example, that rabies shots are NOT given in the chest or stomach as we had always suspected (turns out, that only happened on Lassie — it’s how rabies shots were administered in the 1950s after someone had been bitten by a rabid dog).
In the midst of the consultion, I realized that, depite the amount of preparation for this trip, there’s still so much we don’t know. At one point, the conversation went something like this:
“How long will you be in India?”
“Uh, three weeks? But we’re not really sure.”
“And will you be going to Iguassu Falls when you’re in Argentina?”
“For how long?”
“Uh, maybe three days?”
“How much time will there be between India and Indonesia?”
“Um, well, it depends on if we end up going to India or not. We’re just not sure yet.”
“So how many days between?”
We also discussed our required and recommended vaccinations, which will be administered in a series of doses over the next four weeks. By the time this is all over, we will be BFF with the NM Travel Health Clinic. Our vaccinations will include: Hepatitis A&B, yellow fever, meningitis, rabies, tetanus, polio, and the flu shot. We will also receive oral medication for malaria and, my hands down favorite, typhoid.
The nurse said, “I’m sending you home with the oral typhoid vaccine.” ”Okay,” I’m thinking, as I look around the room, ”where is it?” ”It’s in that box,” she says, pointing to a large shipping box. “And don’t laugh when you get home and open it.” I’m not sure what she means: is a Jack-in-the Box going to pop out or something? But when we get home, her warning is obvious. Packed inside this gigantic box, nestled between the styrofoam walls and ice blocks, are two boxes of typhoid vaccine that I can easily hold between my thumb and pointer finger. We gingerly place them between the yogurt and spaghetti sauce, happy that this journey has really begun.1 comment