Tomorrow I head out to Rwanda as part of the TechWomen delegation trip. There has been so much to think about and plan that I haven’t been able to appreciate that I’m really, really doing this!
A few notes about a few things that caught me off guard during the planning process. Maybe they will help another traveler some day.
Vaccinations: Insurance doesn’t seem to cover so-called travel vaccines. Yellow fever vaccination: $170; Typhoid fever pill-form vaccination: $127; Malaria pills: $85. I assume insurance companies believe it is worth the gamble to save a few dollars on “optional” vaccinations and risk having to pay the hospital bill should I return with malaria. Wise choice there. (Sarcasm). The yellow fever shot is required and you must have a certificate stating you received it 10 days before you enter the country! For the record, it hurt like heck and made me feverish and achey the first day. Yuck.
Plastic bags: Disposable plastic bags (including Ziploc bags) are banned in Rwanda. I think this is awesome – but then I started packing. I had to rush out to REI and find a reusable bag for my carry-on gels and liquids. I also realized I put my shoes in plastic bags and take a bag for laundry. Hmm…that caused some re-adjusting and adapting. Oh and I take snacks in … sandwich baggies. Oh oh. It is moments like this when you realize that while you think you are all eco-green friendly, you are in fact NOT.
Mosquitoes: They love me. Here in the States and everywhere else I’ve traveled I’m like the newest delicacy as soon as I arrive. In Italy the big, scary bugs found me. Spiders crawled around mocking me. In New Orleans bugs devoured me. In Ohio the bugs chomp on me non-stop. So I have no doubt the mosquitoes in Rwanda will find me super tasty. I’ve stocked up on DEET products but I learned the stuff at your average drugstore is 25% or less DEET. By going to a camping shop like REI, you can find the 30-40% DEET. I was also advised to stay away from the Jungle Juice – which is 100% pure poison DEET. (Yikes!). There is also a permethrin spray for your clothes which the travel clinic recommended. A woman at the store also said it was great and she uses it locally – spraying a bandana and tying it to her backpack when hiking. Clever. So I have a bottle of this stuff and I’m about to go soak all my clothes (and wait four hours for them to dry before I can pack them).
Money: I felt like a weird criminal at the bank. We were advised to bring $100 bills only – preferably clean and crisp, newer than 2006. Can you imagine going into a bank and making this request? I wanted to add “non-sequential, unmarked bills” into the conversation just so I could sound like an episode of White Collar or something. On our briefing call we were told the currency exchange at the airport in Rwanda is particular and following the guidelines would make it easier to exchange money. And no, the US airports do not see fit to have Rwandan francs here for exchange.
So there you have it! I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be I think. The trade-off from all this prep work are some amazing life-changing events. Here are just a few of the things we will see: please do watch the videos and click the links – amazing stuff!
Gashore Girls Academy – This is just going to be amazing. In the video, the story of Josine made me cry – she shows such determination to give more back into life than she is getting that I was just blown away by her and her story.
Millennium Village – I’m very excited about this day trip! It came together last minute, so I’m not sure what to expect but it looks like a great chance to learn about the rural areas.
Our first day we will visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial – I’m not even sure how to process this one and probably won’t even as I stand there. The sheer scale of what happened in Rwanda in such a short time is stunning. What is more amazing is the recovery that is also happening.
I’ll be blogging if / when I can, but you can also watch for updates on Twitter: @tinashakour.