Tag Archive | public health

Nepal – Briana Cranmer (2012)

Briana Cranmer

Briana Cranmeris a medical student at the University of Arizona.  During the summer of 2012, Briana worked in Nepal, providing direct health services in small villages as part of the Village Volunteer Program.  Briana received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Briana’s travel safety tips:

Preparation to leave:

  • Register with the U.S. Embassy
  • Schedule an appointment with your local travel health clinic to determine appropriate immunizations and necessary medications.  Malaria coverage is a necessity.  I recommend a few doses of ciprofloxacin to cover any episodes of severe diarrhea.  The travel health clinic will likely give you azithromycin instead of ciprofloxacin, claiming the ciprofloxacin does not have good coverage.  This is not completely accurate and I suggest taking both medications with you.
  • Obtain international health insurance.  I used STA Travel Insurance.
  • Make multiple copies of your passport, credit cards and all other important information.  Give a copy to someone at home that you trust.  Also, take a couple copies with you.
  • Book your flight.  I highly recommend Suraj at Zen Travels (he is a local Nepali with U.S. training).  He speaks English, is easily accessible by phone and email, and I personally met him while in Kathmandu.  No extra charges for commission and he can book domestic flights.
  • If you have a smart phone, bring it.  Otherwise I recommend buying a cheap phone while in country.  For 100 rupees (a little over $1 U.S. dollar), you get 30 minutes of talking time.
  • If you are unsure about water safety bring a water filter and water purifying tablets.
  • Shower shoes!
  • Have a back up plan for all situations.  Have a hotel name, address and number to go to in case you are lost or your ride does not show up.  Have all contact information for U.S. and international program directors you are working with.

In-transit and in country:

  • If you fly through Doha Qatar and have a layover >8 hours you will receive a free hotel voucher.  I was skeptical, but I met four other people with the same layover so we all went together.  You have to pass through customs/immigration to leave the airport and immigration on the way back into the airport, but there is plenty of time.  If you are still concerned about leaving the airport or your layover is <8 hours, the Oryx lounge costs $40 and offers showers, clean bathrooms, coffee and drinks, food and internet.  Highly recommended.
  • Domestic flights only allow 20kg or 44lbs per bag, so pack appropriately.
  • Domestic flights require payment of an airport tax +/- 200 rupees.
  • Don’t ride motorcycles, head trauma is severe!  Also, passengers rarely have helmets.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and actively participate in your safety.  I actually felt very safe in the city and villages, but I still wore a money belt and only carried part of my money.  I spent most of my time in the village so I cannot comment on other forms of travel throughout the country.  When I did travel it was with a group and we used a local taxi driver.
  • Be friendly and make friends with the local people.
  • DO NOT EAT food from local people.  They do not know how to prepare food for the American belly.
  • Avoid going out at night.  If you do go out at night, always take a local person with you and go in groups.
  • Dress appropriately.  Nothing revealing ladies.

Argentina – Kimberly Ellenson (2012)

Kimberly Ellenson

Kimberly Ellensonis a graduate of Cornell University.  Kimberly is living in Argentina for six months, where she is volunteering with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and focusing on increasing access to health care for impoverished citizens.  Kimberly received a $1500 scholarship  from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Kimberly’s travel safety tips:

The Argentine Northwest is replete with breathtaking landscapes, soaring mountains, and vertigo-inspiring scenery. If you are fortunate enough to travel through the region, there’s a lot to see within hours of each other – the Atacama Desert in Chile, the colonial city of Salta, the marketplaces and jungles of Jujuy, and mountain pueblos throughout the provinces steeped in tradition and culture of the indigenous people. The proximity of these wonders means that travel throughout the region is frequent and possible. Unfortunately, this also means that common and not-so-common travel awareness is necessary.

  1. Common travel tips: don’t carry large sums of money, make copies of your passport and put them in different places, travel with someone whenever possible, ensure others know of your travel plans and destinations.
  2. Read Lonely Planet or other travel books/blogs to familiarize yourself with the area before you go. Often you will find location-specific safety tips that will heighten your awareness and make you a savvier traveler.
  3. Prior to arriving in a larger city, find the number for the local remis (taxi) service. These remises are required to register their pick-up and drop-off points. Never enter an unmarked taxi, even though they will frequently stop if you need a cab. If you cannot access the remis number, only enter marked taxis, and be sure others know of your whereabouts.
  4. Always carry an extra phone card on you. Local cell phones operate on credit, and at times I would find myself out of credit but needing to call a taxi or friend. I always had an extra 30-peso (about $5) phone card on me just in case.
  5. Speak Spanish if and whenever possible. Locals will appreciate your efforts.
  6. Wear darker or subtler clothing. Argentines are conservative dressers and well-dressed, from blue-collar to white-collar individuals. Clothing with loud or bright patterns will peg you as a foreigner.
  7. If someone begs for money, respond with a polite “no gracias”. When you are courteous, the person simply turns around or stops asking; if you ignore them, they are more likely to follow you.
  8. If you are unsure about a destination or bus stop, just ask someone! Argentines are very friendly and love to help foreigners, and often times they will “have your back” and make sure you get to your final destination safely.
  9. Try not to engage in political talk. A common sentiment found in Argentina is that Americans have an Imperialist mindset and act entitled. The best approach is to remove yourself from such conversations or comment that your government doesn’t define your thinking.
  10. Stay away from plazas at night.

Traveling through Argentina is a life-changing experience. Be open to the wonderful people you will meet, things you will see and learn, and delicious food you will eat. Just use common sense and familiarize yourself with the places you’re going, and you will experience all the wonders this beautiful country has to offer!

India – Olya Clark (2012)

Olya Clark

Olya Clarkis a doctoral student in public health at UMass/Amherst. Olya traveled to India where she worked at an educational center, focusing on creating a program for abandoned  women.  Olya received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Olya Clark’s travel safety tips:

My first travel tip would be to read the tips posted by the other Sara’s Wish Scholarship Recipients.  They contain much sage advice and here I will try to add to the list, rather than duplicate the excellent advice that has already been written.

My advice is simple to say, but hard to do: study the history of the places you are going.  Every place on earth has its own unique history: wars, imperialism and colonialism, exploitation and so on. That past creates the present into which we enter when we travel, and to be oblivious of that history puts us at risk. For example, it would be very hard for a foreigner visiting the United States to understand contemporary race relations in this country if they knew nothing of America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  Yet, the legacy of that oppression and struggle for freedom is with us every day, and every person is situated somewhere with respect to it by the color of her skin, even if they are “just visiting.”

Sometimes the history one needs to be aware of goes back hundreds of years, and sometimes it is much more recent than that. Unless you are the first outsider to visit a country, there will be a history created by those tourists’ actions that can also affect you.  For example, in India, where I spent my time, many outsiders travel to places like Goa. There, they seem only interested in the beach, in drinking, and in obtaining drugs.  Heedless of local social mores, many women sun topless on the beach.  These actions form a history that creates a climate in which women – particularly white women from the United States and Europe – are seen as morally loose and sexually promiscuous.  The narrative of this history puts all women who come after them at risk.

So my advice is to get yourself some books – preferably written by the people from the country itself, not other outsiders – and learn the history. It will make you safer and it will deepen your understanding of, and appreciation for, the country you are about to visit.