Four days left…

With four days left to go, here are the steps that I have taken to prepare for this trip.

  1. Immunization (completed 12/16). I had to get four shots: TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), Polio booster, meningitis, and typhoid). That’s two in each arm. I already had the hepatitis shots four years ago and they’re good for a long, long time. Leaving the clinic, my arms were stinging and it was hard to do a lot of stuff later that day with stinging sensation in my biceps. I was afraid of side effects from the drugs but I did not have any, which was good, since some were time delay. The annoying part was that several people gave me healthy slaps on the arm and shoulder without knowing that they were sensitive for 72 hours.
  2. Prescriptions for malaria. Ready and I will pick them up later today.
  3. Shopping. I need 12 pairs of undies, twelve undershirts, twelve pairs of socks, four pants, a first aid kit, oral rehydration tablets, alarm clock, extra belts for tourniquets and slings (just in case), collapsible and portable mosquito netting, poncho, camera batteries, and mosquito repellant and sun block. Some I already have, some I’ll have to buy.
  4. Packing. Everything in item three must go into a large duffel bag or a large backpack.  Along with everything in item 3, there are toiletries, toilet paper, Purel hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, a small eating utensil kit borrowed from my dad, and above all, my passport.
  5. Telling people. I am asking for two weeks off from work which is fine because my company encourages its employees to participate in volunteer work. And even better, the time off is not counted towards the employee’s regular paid time off. It is an entirely separate perk for the employees. A separate foundation associated with the company will put for matching grants if the employee does choose to request so.
  6. Language training. Learning how to count to 10, please, thank you, and “Hello, my name is…”
  7. Culture training. Much to my dismay, I didn’t learn as much as I thought I would. Here’s what I did learn.
    1. Gender segregation. Indian culture really separates men and women. What would be considered friendly gestures in the West between men and women who are unrelated and not married to each other would be a major social gaffe in India. It would be considered the opening rounds of courtship or advances.
    2. Food handling. Eat with the right hand because the left hand is reserved for wiping poop.
    3. It’s polite to eat everything place in front of you and not waste the food.
    4. Within gender, people are much more demonstrative of affection physically.
    5. And that was about it. Everything that is true there is true in Arabic countries and cultures. What about tea? What do people eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What are appropriate snacks? What are appropriate gestures of sensitivity for places of religion? Where is that information? The answer: “You’ll know when you get there.”
  8. Hygiene and health briefing. Done twice.

Having done all this and done over the course of several months, suddenly, I’m having second doubts. Why am I traveling? Why am I spending so much time away? I want to sit in the comfort of my house in California, away from mosquitoes, unsanitary conditions, etc. I could do the same type of volunteer work here. The answer was always the same: when one goes overseas for volunteer work, it’s not about you. It’s about the other person. And that puts things back in perspective. Pain and physical discomfort are temporarily but acts of love lasts forever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s