Sunday, October 6, 2013

How this journey began, by an email...

Have you ever gotten an email, that you opened, read and then saved? You did not "delete" or "file it", you just left it there to read again later. Well that is what I did the beginning of August when I read an email for a Rotary Opportunity: Subject: 2013 Polio Immunization and West Africa Project Fair Program.

An opportunity to travel internationally, and to participate in humanitarian work. My initial thoughts were, I can't take 10 days off from work, this is not in my budget." But as the month went on, I kept going back to the email and reading it.  I forwarded it to my dad, also a Rotarian in CA. Unfortunately, I did not get the response that I was hoping for. I still did not let go of the idea.

Then I got to drive back to CA from MO with my dad - he was driving back from MN after spending the summer there and we took the scenic route. Ok, to change the topic for a moment, we stopped at the Grand Canyon - my first visit. Beautiful! Awesome! Magnificent!

So while in CA, I went to his club's breakfast meeting and mentioned the trip to a few other Rotarian's. Things started to shift.  So I sent an email to the organizer of the trip at some point to get more info. Needless to say, by the end of August, I was going to West Africa. I would make this trip happen!

Preparation for my first West Africa trip

Immunizations:  So like many things that I don't know, I googled: "immunizations, Togo, West Africa" and found the CDCs website:

I then found Passport Health, - the are located very close to where I work three days a week so this was very convenient. The cost for the convenience was worth it, but next time I might shop around.

The only immunization that is actually required is Yellow Fever.  Togo requires an Immunization Yellow card to enter the country. Good for 10 years.

Other vaccinations that I got were:  Hepatitis A (transmitted through food and water) and B (blood and body fluids) - these are actually given together, so if you get one you might as get both. Tetanus/diphtheria - it had been more than 10 years since my last tetanus, and as I will be helping to build a school, better to be safe than sorry. And, Meningococcal Meningitis - possible exposure in the hyper endemic region of the meningitis belt of Africa.

Oral tablets taken for Typhoid, transmitted through food and water, good for 5 years; and for Malaria, take starting two days before you leave/arrive in the country of risk, take while you are there and for seven days after return.

School Supplies
When I first got word that we could take two suitcases on Delta/Air France up to 50# each for free, my thought was, "Can I fill two suitcases with school supplies?"  I put the word out to my club members in the Rotary Club of Webster Groves,, to co-workers and friends. 

THANK YOU!!! to everyone who donated supplies and to those whose would have if the two suitcases ha not gotten full.  I actually had to let people know that I could not accept anymore. Paper, pencils, crayons, paint supplies, paper, folders, headbands and bracelets for the girls, flip flops, and so much more.  I can't wait to unload all of the supplies. :)

Due to the mosquitos, it was recommended to spray clothes with Permethrin, which is a repellant and since I seem to be a mosquito magnet when outdoors, I did spray my clothes. Once dry, you can't smell it and tell that there is anything on my clothes.  Will last for several washings, so I can't wait until I return home to see if the American mosquitos are repelled as well. 

I took the clothes outdoors and laid out on the lawn on a sunny day. Then hung everything up to dry indoors. Pretty easy.

My friend Trish helped me to do some shopping, but was pretty lucky in already having lots of "outdoor" type wear that I could use for this trip. She also helped to make sure that I did not "overpack", which I often do, but as the two suitcases were full of supplies, all of my clothes needed to fit inside my large backpack that I will take as a carryon. Gotta love those storage bags that when the air is vacummed out, they are really space savers.

I had most of my clothes ready to go two weeks go, but did not want the clothes packed for that long, so I got them all packed last night, the night before I lave town.

The morning of my flight from St. Louis to Detroit
Anyway, I still have to get some last minute things done, so I am  not sure when I will "blog" again. I am not taking my laptop, will have internet at the hotel in Togo, but not sure how many computers they may have (hoping they have a business center - things we take for granted sometimes) and with 41 other Rotarians and guests going on the trip, not sure how much access I will have.

If possible, I will keep you updated on the activities and upload photos - again, assuming that this is possible. Otherwise, we will all have to wait until I return on the 24th to blog again and upload photos.

I will fly on Delta/Air France from St. Louis to Detroit, leaving at 2:10 pm, arrive in Detroit at 4:44 pm - I think the same time zone. Then an hour and a half layover before boarding a flight to Paris, France. It is a 7 hr 40 min flight but it will be 6:20 am on Wednesday when I arrive. With a 5 hr and 40 min layover before flying to Togo, I thought I might be able to go see the Eiffel Tower, but am not sure that this will happen, unless I meet up with some other Rotarians, do not want to leave the airport alone, and have to go through security/customs in a foreign country by myself - will only be about 20 mile from the tower. So tempting, but do not want to miss the flight to Togo.  We leave Paris at 2:05 pm  and have a 6 hr and 20 min flight to Togo, but it will only be 6:25 pm when we arrive. Time travel, time zones, this will be an interesting experience as I have never done this much flyng, except when I flew to Madrid, Spain with my husband Rich back in 2003.

Coming home on the 23rd/24th, we leave Lome, Togo at 10:30 pm, arrive in Paris at 6:40 am on the 24th. Then an hour and a half layover before flying to Atlanta, 9 hr and 45 min, it will only be 12:05 pm when I return to the states. Just under two hours in Atlanta before flying home to St. Louis, arriving at 2:42 pm - assuming no flight delays.

I will have no phone service, no texting, so unless I can get wireless or find a computer, not sure when I will talk or write to all of you again.  I will be visiting with my husband Rich, who now lives in a nursing home (15 months) before leaving. Please keep Rich and I in your prayers until I return.

Bon Voyage!!!