Friday, June 8, 2007

There are 2 p's in Preparation: Patience and Pain

Shots have always made me shudder, and 4 at once was 4x worse. I received the tetanus, Hepatitis A, yellow fever, and meningitis vaccinations, 2 shots on each arm. Worse was that my arms stayed sore for 1 week! Two additional vaccinations were received orally: (1) the typhoid vaccination, a series of 4 pills taken every other day and (2) anti-malaria pills, to be taken weekly starting from 1 week before exposure. I was unable to receive the japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccinations because they require you to see the physician that administered the vaccination after 30 days, and I had gone to the travel nurse too late. MIT Medical does have a travel nurse who gave me all the information I needed about the vaccinations and gave me recommendations on what I should take. He also gave me an information packet including water treatment methods, things to watch over, and overall travel safety.

The pain from the shots was overshadowed quickly by the pain of getting visas. Not having ever needed a visa in the past, I naively thought that you sent in your applications in the mail and they sent you a sticker or a form. Unfortunately, getting a visa requires you to submit your passport to the consulate or embassy. Thus my trips to New York City and Washington D.C! NYC has consulate offices for nearly all if not all the countries in the world, but I have family, including a 5 year old cousin I don't see nearly enough, so my parents and I made the required visa search a family vacation!

Once in D.C., we went to all 5 embassies and found that the India embassy was extremely picky about what you wrote and the Tanzania embassy took 3 days minimum (compared to the 1 hour expedited processing time the Tanzania consulate in NYC had told me!) This was a surprise, but an important lesson. Next time I will either (1) start early and mail in for visas or (2) go to NYC for the visas. Waiting in line for between 1-3 hours just to submit my application and waiting 1-5 hours for it to be processed proved to be time consuming and required lots of patience. However, I did meet a lot of interesting people and found that if I started a conversation while waiting, the quiet, serious room turned into a lively one full of people with interesting experiences and eager to hear about others' experiences!

Needless to say, the originally boring search for visas turned into an interesting adventure. Walking from the Indian consulate, across NYC to the Tanzanian consulate, we made it 1 minutes before they were supposed to close. Thankfully they were extremely nice and processed the visa right then and there!

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