Travel Meds

Sooo. I don’t have health insurance (yet). I managed to get the hook up on a prescription for malaria pills and the typhoid vaccine, which meant I didn’t have to pay for a doctor visit fee ($75-$90). Score!

Except. My meds cost $135!

This post is just to say…OMG and Thank You.

I am thankful the meds were accessible to me, and that I could pay for them.

Countdown to Haiti: 10 Days

I’m about 10 days out from my trip to  Haiti and I am feeling a bit anxious. But first, some updates.

Everyone keeps asking me when am I going to Haiti, so here’s a reminder: December 26 – January 2. Eight days.

I had optometry clinic training this weekend, a follow up from my training last month. This time we reviewed the things we learned last month, but performed our exams in Haitian Creole. No, many of us do not know Haitian Creole, but we have several interpreters that will be with us. Still, it helps to know some key phrases for an eye exam. I learned a few phrases and will hopefully practice them between now and the trip.  I’m told the interpreters can get bored after a while and tend to wander. It makes sense though, who really wants to repeat “follow this light with your eyes” dozens of times a day? We also learned how to do eyeglass fittings. We are taking 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses with us–which is SO AWESOME. They’re not the most expensive glasses in the world (think: the prescription glasses you see in the drugstore or at Target), but a company donated them to us, so we have a good range of glasses to offer. Some of them look pretty dope too. Not that fashion is a priority or anything 🙂

I’m still deathly afraid of getting sick, but I’m a hypochondriac like that, so this is nothing new. I’ll be fine. Working on getting myself military strength bug spray and a mosquito net for bedtime.

Safety is still a big concern. The State Department issued a travel warning the other day. Reading the details of the warning did not comfort me. On the other hand, the State Department is supposed to deter you from wanting to travel, so mission accomplished! My team leaders are very much on top of the situation though. We are of course operating under the assumption that the trip could get postponed due to saftey concerns. In the meantime we have the following things in place:

  • Our mobile clinics work in a way such that we go out each day to various tent cities to provide free medical services. So, we are making sure the tent cities we go to are the safer ones, away from downtown Port Au Prince
  • All clinic hours end exactly at 3pm, so we have time to get home before dark
  • Nobody on the team can travel anywhere, for any reason, after dusk
  • We’re staying at a medical compound in a more rural part of town, known for being safer than normal
  • We have travel insurance to pay for emergency evacuation should we need it. We also have emergency evacuation plans for each clinic day.
  • Team leaders are monitoring safety everyday, and making adjustments as needed (i.e. relocate clinics as needed)

Internet access is not so reliable in Haiti. You already know this is a problem for me, as I am an Internet addict. I am thinking about bringing an old laptop just in case there is access. I’m not sure. I’ll definitely bring my iPhone (with the International calling plan activated), which I always do whenever I travel internationally. My dad freaks out if he doesn’t hear from me via phone or text message, so I already know the drill. We also have a team cell phone that can receive incoming and outgoing calls.

All this talk about safety makes me nervous…on the other hand, I have a high tolerance for chaos. I’ve seen a lot of things and been to a lot of places in life, so while I know Haiti will be like nothing ever experienced, I think I am emotionally prepared for what I am about to experience. I am not going to play when it comes to my safety. In Rio and Salvador, I wandered away from my group several times, for several hours. Of course, I was smart enough to discern wandering around Ipanema was safer than trying to wander around City of God…but I won’t be taking any chances at all in Haiti. You can believe that. I do wonder what in the world are we going to be doing at the medical compound from 3pm until the next morning though. Twiddling our thumbs? Probably reading our Bibles, I’m sure 🙂

Prparing for Medical Mission to HaitiWe had our last official team meeting last week, where we went over our packing list and other logistics. The medical students and professionals on the team went over a lot of ailments popular in Haiti though. Basically an attending physician going down with us provided scenarios of mock patients, and the team attempted to diagnose the mock patient and recommend treatment/medication. Everyone seemed to be on their toes when it came to answers. Many of the things we’ll be treating are diseases not seen in America because we have a fairly stringent immunization system in place.  This exercise confirmed for me that I made the right decision when I finally decided to drop Biology at MIT: I am not cut out for medicine. Medicine makes me squeamish. I do enjoy science in general though!

This weekend we have a “packing party,” which is where we bring two empty suitcases to someone’s house and pack all of our medical and team supplies. The personal items we bring will have to be in our carry-ons only, while our checked luggage will be for medical and team supplies only. There are 32 of us going, so we will have a decent amount of cargo going down with us. Somehow the team is going to coordinate taking 64 bags of luggage to JFK on the 26th. I’m not sure how that’s going to happen, but okay.

This Sunday, I am going to four services at my church. My church donated funds to my trip’s project fee, as well as the project fee of a friend, so we will be brought on stage for four services so the church can pray for us, and learn a bit about our trip. The church donation came out of our Beyond The City fund, which is a special offering/campaign we raise money for once a year. I think it will be great for the church to be aware of how this special offering is helping in a very tangible way. My church has six services each Sunday, but we are only going to four (at two different locations). I’m interested to see what it’s like to “do” four church services on a Sunday, as I’ve always wondered how our church staff manages it.

All of this preparation has made me highly sensitive about many things. Like, water and safety for example. Mentally preparing myself for 8 days in a third world country is somewhat taxing on the mind.  In America, we really don’t have to think about the safety of our running water: is drinking this water going to take me out? We don’t have to think about our safety or curfews: must get home before the sun sets. Furthermore, all of my mental preparation is for a measly eight day visit. Imagine living this year round? Or living this without the luxury of having an emergency evacuation plan to America? I take so much for granted, and I complain about my life way too much.

I have so much more to say about this trip, but this post is getting long enough. Thanks everyone for reading, and for sharing your words of encouragement and thoughts. I really appreciate it.

Booked & Prepping for Haiti

I finally booked my ticket to Haiti. $596. December 26th to January 2nd. I’m not sure if that is a good price or not, but I do know I was looking at ticket prices all weekend and I was preparing to have to pay $780, so this is a win for me. My seat selections are somewhat questionable, and the airline I am flying is not my favorite. But, it is what it is. You do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do. /cliches.

I almost put the ticket on hold for 24 hours. Then I thought, no, go ahead and book it. I think my apprehension was due to my being a little scared and nervous about this trip. I guess for as long as I didn’t have a ticket, it wasn’t so….final? Even though I have been raising money for this trip, I may have had some slight denial in my mind. I do that from time to time. After I booked my flight, selected my seats on the plane, and filled out my passport info on my reservation, I started to get a little emotional. I wanted to cry and vomit at the same time. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe it’s my nervousness as well as my excitement. I wasn’t nervous about this when I first signed up, but I guess as I keep reading the news and things in Haiti keep getting worse, I guess it creates more concern in me. But, I’ll be okay. If I lived in a vacuum I am sure I wouldn’t be nervous about this at all.

We have our final team prep meeting tomorrow night, where we will go over the logistics of our trip. This weekend I have another optometry clinic training to finish up. A few days before the trip we will have a packing party, where we will pack all of our extra luggage with materials we’re taking with us such as medical supplies and clothing donations for our patients, and medical textbooks for our Haitian team of doctors and med students.

I have been thinking over my personal game plan for preparation leading up to the trip. Luckily I have been making really good friends with people who are going on this trip with me. One of my favorite new people went in May with a team our group coordinated, so she gave me a rundown of what to expect and how to plan for it. We plan on taking some bottled water with us, as well as some powdered electrolytes in order to ensure we stay hydrated. Luckily we know a food scientist who can make us some flavored powered electrolytes (random, I know). Yum. We also have some military-strength bug spray to keep the bugs away. Bugs love me, especially mosquitoes, so of course I am wary about this.

We’ve been asked to pray for Haiti daily from now until our trip. I plan on fasting for the three days leading up to the trip, (three for the Trinity). Yes, this means I am fasting on Christmas. Who does this? Me, that’s who. It’s just how the calendar played out. I figure my Christmas is already “different” since I am stuck here in New York, away from my family. I once had a “Jewish Christmas” in Philly, having Chinese takeout for dinner, so a fasting Christmas won’t be so abnormal given my track record. I thought about fasting on the trip but I think it’s best for me to have as much energy as possible while there, so I nixed that idea.

Other than that, the next item on my checklist is figuring out how to get malaria pills with no health insurance. One of my friends said she didn’t get sick on the last trip and she was pretty up close and personal with most patients, more so than others on the trip. She said almost everyone else on her trip got sick though (including one person who got the mumps!). I need to get my immune system super charged up as these final few weeks play out. This means no junk, no booze (o, rly?), and just…focus.

I can’t tell you how much it has meant to interact with all of my donors. I have to get a final count but I think I may have something like 80 people who have donated to this cause for me. I have emailed them all individually and the responses I’ve received are so encouraging! Many of them are people I do not know personally, but they have given and sent words of encouragement and faith. I often go back to my inbox and re-read their messages because they keep me focused and encouraged. I’m so thankful for them.

Alright. This post is long enough. More later!

I’m a GRAMMY Community Blogger–Again!

the 53rd GRAMMY AwardsI’ve been keeping a secret for some time now and I guess it is finally time to let it all hang out. I have been invited to be a Blogger At Large for the 53rd GRAMMY Awards! You may remember that I was a GRAMMY Community Blogger At Large earlier this year for the 52nd GRAMMY Awards, and I am honored to be invited back for their blogger program for the ceremony in February 2011.

Sooo, what does this mean exactly? Well, as Blogger At Large I will be writing content for, attending related events (including the 53rd GRAMMY Awards and the official After-Party!), and I’ll be tweeting about these events and blogging about my experiences. I am so excited about this! I had so much fun this year, and this is such an awesome opportunity. I really dig what The Recording Academy is doing with bloggers because it’s not just simply flying us out for a one night event. We get to write content for, attend several events, and we work together for a few months leading up to the ceremony.

You might be wondering why I’m involved, as most of the other bloggers in the program are music bloggers. Well, specifically I will be writing content focusing on the social media aspect of the 53rd GRAMMY Awards and related events. I’ll be reviewing their mobile app, talking to staff about their marketing campaign (and its use of social media), and I’ll be covering scheduled events from the perspective of a web nerd. I think I am good at being a web nerd, right? I got this!

First up, I am flying to LA tonight so I can go to “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!” tomorrow night. I didn’t get to go to this last year, so this will be my first time! I’m excited to be back in LA and working with my friends over at The Recording Academy. On Thursday, I’ll be at The Recording Academy interviewing staff about their social media projects and tech initiatives for the 53rd GRAMMY Awards. I usually get a sneak peek at a lot of their projects, and they always have awesome secrets for me to keep 🙂  Last year’s campaign was quite impressive, so I am anxious to see what they have in store this year.

Anyway, be sure to follow me on Twitter, as a lot of my GRAMMY info will be there first!

You should also watch this tomorrow night:

The GRAMMY Nominations Concert LIVE!! — Countdown To Music’s Biggest Night

LL Cool J will host and Justin Bieber, B.o.B, Miranda Lambert, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry will perform live on Dec 1st (10/9c) on CBS.

#GRAMMYNoms is our official hashtag, so make sure you follow it on Twitter.