This week, I’m taking the oral vaccination for typhoid. It’s a 4 pill series to be taken over 7 days. The directions are very specific—take the pills at the same time each day, 2 hours after eating, with a large glass of cold water. The pharmacist emphasized that the water must be COLD because warm water could activate the bacteria and actually give me typhoid fever. Yikes. As an oral vaccine, the pills contain a low dosage of live bacteria, but because the capsules are stored in the refrigerator (and taken with cold water), the bacteria are inactive. So far, no typhoid and no adverse symptoms.
Preparing for this trip to India is weird. I’ve never traveled to a place where I had to do so much work beforehand! The medical preparation required for going to India is quite involved. I can’t count how many times I’ve been handed a print-out of the CDC guidelines for India. Besides the typhoid vaccination, I had to get a polio booster and vaccines for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and swine flu. Luckily, I had gotten the Hep A and B shots a few years back and my tetanus shot was up to date, so I only had to deal with a few needle sticks. On top of all of those shots, I could have also gotten vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis (2 shots) and Rabies (3 shots) but decided against both of them. Those vaccines are only recommended for people who are going to be in rural areas for over a month. I’ll be in a city for almost exactly a month, so I think I should be ok. Don’t worry, I’ll have health insurance just in case!
Now that I’m good to go on my shots, I’ve also got to take malaria pills for the duration of my trip and for a few days on either end. Mom and Dad have made sure that I have plenty of bug spray (the hardcore kind with DEET and all sorts of stuff that will probably give you cancer before it kills the bugs). I’m sure I’ll be dragged to REI to look at mosquito nets soon, even though I’m told that the guesthouse where we’ll be staying provides nets on all the beds.
I’m in the process of applying for my visa. I’ve traveled abroad before, but I’ve never had to do the visa thing. American citizens don’t need visas to travel to Aruba, Italy or Australia, but I was in all of those places for less than 3 weeks. I’ll need a student visa when I spend the semester in Rome, but for India I’m applying for a tourist visa.
The whole thing seems like kind of a racket—you have to send in all your information (and your actual passport!) to a company called Travisa that takes your stuff to the consulate/embassy to get the visa approved. Travisa has a College Board-like monopoly on the visa business—it is the only company through which people who don’t live near consulates can obtain Indian visas. And Travisa basically forces you to pay with a money order by threatening that “service may be delayed with credit card payment”. Obviously I don’t want to risk not getting my passport back, visa or no, so fine, I’ll pay with a stupid money order. Who uses those anyway? I had to Google it to figure out what it was and how to get one. According to the Internet, a money order is like a pre-paid check that you can have made out to a specific person for a specific amount of money. You can get money orders at gas stations, post offices, and drug stores. Sounds kinda shady to me, but whatever. Please just don’t lose my passport, Travisa.