Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trains and Planes in India

I know I should have been blogging this whole time while I have been in India. It’s just as soon as I got here everyone else seems to have a blog too and I realized how lame I am to think my blog would be anything special. I just continued to e-mail my friends and family instead of blogging but you know what I don’t care I am going to blog! It is kind of like keeping a very public diary but whatever it may help someone make a decision to go to India. If you are thinking about going to India just go. It was a great choice. I left January 14th 2011. It is now April 24th 2011 and I am not going home until my visa runs out June 1st. I was scheduled to be home March 6th but I canceled my plane ticket home and e-mailed my husband to come travel with me. I really love India. The smells, food, colors, and all the people, they have such huge hearts.  

They must have heart there are 1.2 billion people here and they are all on top of each other. Nothing is private in India everyone knows everything about everyone and everyone shares absolutely everything. I love it. It is like have a new family in every new place we visit. I have been here for three months. My first glimpse of India was when I was in the airport in New Jersey. I was getting in line to leave for a 14 hour flight to Mumbai. When they started to board the plane it got chaotic. No one made a straight line and just started to push through to get to the front. It was almost like everyone was panicking to get on the plane because if they didn’t in a hurry the plane would for sure leave without them. Do they not understand we all have assigned seats and its not going anywhere until everyone is on? This really was the first taste of India and I wasn’t even there yet. This is how India operates everywhere. 

I was buying a train ticket on March 20th in Chandigarh to go meet my husband in Delhi. I had already missed the first train so now I had to push my way to the front of the line to the ticket counter. Everyone was sticking their arms into the little hole at the ticket man handing him their form. I jabbed some guy with my hip and pushed until I got my arm in there too. I got the very last ticket on the that train. People will push you out of the way if you patiently wait in line. You will not survive or make it anywhere if you wait in India. When getting on and off trains it is the same way you have to push your way through. At home it is just an unspoken etiquette that when the doors open to a transportation such as an elevator everyone knows to let the people off first before getting on. That does not work in India. You have to fight the current of people to get on the train as others are getting off. It can get irritating especially when you have a huge backpacking pack you are also trying to push on and it is 100 degrees outside.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time Zone

It is 9pm on Tuesday at home right now.  In India it is 7:30am on Wednesday.  While I am in India just remember I am 10.5 hours ahead of you!

I packed my bag today.  I am only going to bring a carry on and a purse so I do not have to check any bags.  It is hard to pack all my liquids and lotions into 3 oz containers that will fit in 1 quart Ziplock bag.  I at first thought it was a gallon bag.  That would have been easy, but now I find out it is 1/4 of that, it is much harder.

I am very excited about my sweet comfy Nike sandals that Jamie and Mandy got me for Christmas.  They are going to be key because they are my only shoes I am bringing.

I leave in 3 days!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meeting with the Nurse

I went to a nurse the other day that specializes in traveling health. This is basically all the health information you need to know when traveling from the US to India (save your $65 I spent to meet with this great nurse that had an overwhelming amount of information):

A Hepatitis A and B vaccination is recommended for all travelers to India:

What is it?
Hepatitis A is a disease that affects the liver.  
What are the symptoms?
Flu type symptoms, diarrhea, jaundice
How is it spread?
Carried in the stool of a person with HAV.  close contact, food or water that is contaminated with HAV.

What is it?
Hepatitis B is a disease that affects the liver.
What are the symptoms?
Acute: loss of appetite, tiredness, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and pain
Chronic: liver damage, cancer, and death.
How is it spread?
Blood or bodily fluid of someone with HBV.  You can get this even by touching an object that has the blood or fluid on it. ex: toothbrush, razor, or a needle.  

My experience:  I did not get the complete series of my Hepatitis shots when I was younger so I had to get these.  You can get a series of two Twinrix shots which is the Hepatitis A and B shot in one. They have to be given a week apart.  I did not have time for the series because I leave Friday! I did not plan ahead very well with these shots.  The nurse said I could not get just one Twinrix because it is not enough Hep A coverage but it is enough Hep B.  The health department gives out Twinrix for free so I got one shot from them which gave me my Hep B coverage.  I had to dish out the $85 for the Hepatitis A shot at the doctors office.  So now I have extra Hep A in me.  Hmmm...I wonder what that does to the body?  The nurse said it does not matter and we over vaccinate in this country all the time.

A Typhoid vaccination is recommended for all travelers:

What is it?
Typhoid is a disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi.  
What are the symptoms?
High fever, headache, loss of appetite, and sometimes a rash.  30% of people die if it is not treated.  
How is it spread?
The stool of a person with Typhoid or contaminated food or water.

My experience:  The nurse told me I can get this vaccine in a shot form which will cover me for 2 years or I can take the pill and it will cover me for 5 years.  So why not just take the pill?  Taking the pill can be annoying.  Also, I am a little worried I will not take it correctly.  She said it is very important I take it exactly right because I am keeping this bacteria alive and taking small doses of it.  I decided to go with the pill!  I have to take 4 pills.  1 every other day.  It must be taken on an empty stomach with warm water.  The pills must be kept in the refrigerator.  They should be taken at least a week before traveling.  Well my last one I take is on Tuesday I leave Friday.  Hopefully I do not get Typhoid because that does not sound fun.

She also recommended these vaccinations:
Tetanus, Diptheria (Td) or Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis (Tdap)
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)

These are not on the recommended list I found at MD Travel Health.  I have been vaccinated recently for all of them anyway for my preparations for the Peace Corps.  

Schistosomiasis- This is a parasite or a worm that can enter your skin through fresh water.  She said not to even touch fresh water.  It causes bleeding ulcers and other terrible things. I can not really prevent this so I am not really going to follow this one.  I am going to touch water.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Leishmaniasis- This parasite is spread by sand flies.  This is the flesh eating parasite.  It causes open seeping ulcers.  Gross.  She just said be cautious around the sand.  I am not going to be looking out for sand flies and I am going to be on the beach.  Hopefully I just don’t get this one either.

Arboviral Infections- She said I am at risk for Chikungunya which is a virus spread by night time biting mosquitoes.  I am going to use insect repellent.  She told me to buy 3M Ultrathon insect repellent lotion.  This Repellent is 34.34% DEET and it is dispersed in a controlled release polymer. The controlled release will help prevent it from absorbing or evaporating.  Just one application lasts 12 hours. I am suppose to put suntan lotion on in the morning and then put this on top.

Dengue Fever-  This is called the bone breaking disease because it is so painful. This is a disease spread by day time biting mosquitoes.  I am just going to wear my bug repelling lotion.

Yellow fever- Only worry about it if traveling from certain places in Africa and South America.  

Zithromax- This is just in case I forget to keep my mouth shut in the shower. If I do not boil, peel or cook my food, or if I have a salad (especially lettuce) or any sort of fruit mixture.  This is a 500mg dose that I will take if having diarrhea and stomach pains.  I will also take Imodium at the same time.  I have 6 of these pills. I only have to take one zithromax if I have these symptoms.

Doxycycline- Malaria Prevention:  I have to take 1 a day.  I start it 4 days before my trip begins and stop taking it 4 weeks after my trip ends.  These pills are only 12 cents a pill.  It causes skin sensitivity to the sun so I have to apply sunblock a lot.  My olive Mediterranean skin will never get color like this!  I am very pasty because of this bitter dark Midwest winter. I could take Mefloquine instead but I guess it can make you anxious or crazy. I really don’t want to deal with my own craziness on this trip.  The other choice was Malarone but its $12 a pill.

Diflucan- This is in case the doxycycline causes me to get a yeast infection.  I pop one of these and it will take care of it.  Really?  I don’t even know if I want to take the malaria prevention pill.

The nurse gave me so much information it really was overwhelming so here are some websites she recommended:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  
 World Health Organization

Travel Insurance:
The nurse really wanted me to get travel insurance that will cover medical evacuation.  This is an organization that has information about it:  International SOS

I have insurance that I bought with my plane ticket.  It covers maybe $50,000 for evacuation costs.  It is not nearly enough.   It is good to have things lined up for precautionary measures. It is also okay to live freely and relax. I am going with the second choice. Do not worry about everything all the time.

Mostly free or just good organizations to know about in case something does happen:
International Society of Travel Medicine
The Blood Care Foundation
Traveler ER