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Next month, my father and I will be travelling through Honduras and Guatemala, visiting coffee farms and farmers along the way.
I’ve been casually learning Spanish on and off for the last few years, and have really ramped up my learning in the last couple months. My personal goal is to conduct an interview with a Central American coffee farmer in Spanish. Yes, I will have my recorder with me, or you all won’t get much of an interview :).
Today however was for serious business. I had an appointment this morning at Passport Health, a chain of travel medical clinics where nurses review your itinerary and destinations and provide professional advice on what shots you need. To answer your question…yes, I was poked with many needles today. What did I get?
We started with malaria. I don’t know how bad that is, but I know it’s bad. It’s in the jungles of the countries we’re visiting, and although we’re not visiting the jungles themselves, I’d rather not dance that close to the fire. Of the medication options, I opted not to pick the one with the night terror warning, and instead went with one that seems to have only mild side effects provided you follow the instructions very carefully. I’ll be taking that pill weekly from prior to the trip to weeks following it.
After that, we got into Hepatitis A and B. Hep A transmits through food and water, and I’ll need plenty of both on this trip, so it’s not even a question. Hep B transmits through body fluids, such as a food server that didn’t wash his hands. Also not a question. I got a shot of each. Two shots of Hep A separated by six months will make you immune “for life” – this was my first one so I’ll likely get the other one in six months and be Hep A Invulnerable. I received a Hep B shot a few months back, so the second one today increases my ability to fight Hep B to about 80% if I came into contact with it. Another shot in six months, and I’ll never need to think about Hep B again.
I abstained from a number of other shots. I’ve never had a flu shot in my life, so I opted out for this trip. Hopefully this doesn’t become the story where I finally convert to getting flu shots like everybody else, because I have a feeling it would be a little worse than a stay-home-from-work day. I also opted out of the rabies shot, so I’ll have to control my urge to play with every dog I see.
The last was typhoid fever, common in both countries, and transmitted by food and water. I took home some medication to take over the coming week that will make me immune for the next five years. This is another thing I don’t know well and don’t need to know well – make me immune to it.
These precautions seem perfectly normal to me. My father and I will be getting off the beaten path, and I don’t want something that could’ve been easily avoided to get in the way of our coffee exploration. Nothing puts you in touch with a love of coffee more than a trip to where it all comes from. I can’t wait!