Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Four Days

When I got back to Olympia, I realized that I have too much to tell all at once.

For one, things are going too fast. My camera doesn't work half the time: I pull it out to photo my exploits and it's been draining its batteries in my backpack. I can't record anything I'm doing. Hell, the most I could pull up about Olympia was this lame picture off the web. (It doesn't even look like this, it's been 45˚ and foggy here. Yesterday it hailed. Typical late winter.)

Secondly, I've still got to go back over and fill in things I've left unanswered yet. If you've been reading this, you probably still don't know what I'll be working at in Africa. Or what my "senior project" will be (not that I know very well myself). Or how many trips I've made to Target buying travel gear, or how much I've packed.

Well, I'll fix that now. I'm gonna sketch out how much I've done, and what the gameplan is over there.

Here was my list one week ago:

  1. Call clinic for malaria pills
  2. Get $100 in traveler's checks
  3. Get mosquito netting
  4. Grab camera, start taking pictures
  5. Photocopy IDs
  6. Update Student ID
  7. Condoms, crayons
  8. Digital Recorder, hiking boots, laptop case, clothes
The clothes and recorder and such are bought and sitting in my room. (Cost me an arm and a leg). There are two boxes of condoms sitting next to the boots, but I'm still short on crayons. IDs are all photocopied. My camera has social issues, so it's tough to take pictures when I want to: I'm constantly charging the leaky batteries. Traveler's checks turned out to be a rip-off. You can't get them in $20 chunks anymore — smallest denominations are $50 checks — and banks will only sell you $150 worth or more. I feel a little too poor for that, and I'd rather use my debit card anyway. I'll probably wind up paying for that.

My search for malaria pills is an epic on its own. Two months ago, just after Christmas, I went to an appointment at the University of Washington clinic in Seattle for a consultation on vaccines. I wasn't sure what to get vaccinated for, you see. You hear about so many diseases and parasites in Africa, it's hard to know which to protect against. A lot of the vaccinations are expensive, and my budget is sadly finite. Before the consultation I was warned by friends about typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, malaria, a litter of Hepatitises, rabies, and traveler's diarrhea. And some people warned me about the hundreds of worms and parasites — mostly people who were thinking of the Congo or some other jungle, not realizing most of South Africa looks like this:

In the end, I got shots for polio, Hep B and the flu (it was that time of year anyway). I got prescriptions for typhoid, traveler's diarrhea and malaria. My problem was with the pills: my typhoid and diarrhea went through without a hitch. Except when the pharmacist assumed diarrhea was a chronic condition of mine, and told me very loudly how to take them "whenever you get your diarrhea." But the malaria prescription? Never filled. I handed them everything, I thought. I must not have gotten a prescription after all: I'd spent twenty minutes arguing with my consultant about whether or not I needed them, I thought she might have had lingering hard feelings. I spent two weeks calling my clinic back, asking (more and more angrily) where my malaria prescription was. They called me back once while I was in class, then stopped returning my phone calls. I was ready to give up. Then yesterday, I found a paper in my medical files stamped DOXYCICLENE. It was my malaria prescription. Yesterday, Paul proved to the world and his doctor that he is an idiot.

On the bright side, that was the last thing on my list. Now, my only list is for packing. Also, I got the malaria pills filled at Costco. I thought it would take a few days since it's kind of an exotic treatment, and I was even afraid I'd have to convince them I was worth the extra effort to have it ready before I left. But they filled it in half an hour. All world travelers: fill your prescriptions at Costco! They take most insurance policies, and they keep everything from typhoid to malaria right there in the store. It's ridiculous.

That's all for now. I'll post later today and finally disclose my internship.

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