Yesterday, I spent the day packing. Weather reports show the temperature in Goa, Delhi, and Mumbai to be in the high 80s and possibly low 90s, so I’m just bringing shorts. I’ll have one pair of long pants, and those will be the pants I’ll be wearing on the flight. The Mission Rabies handbook says that I’ll need long pants when we go out on our vaccination rounds, but I really don’t want to wear long pants on such warm days. I borrowed two pairs of scrub pants from my good friend Robb. He’s a nurse. If they insist on long pants, scrub pants are nice and light, and being that we’re on a medical mission of sorts, scrub pants seem appropriate enough. I’m bringing about 8 shirts, 8 pairs of socks, and 8 pairs of underwear. All of these hotels will likely offer laundry service, and given how affordable things are in India, I’ll just have my clothes laundered as a I start to run low.
I’m trying to fit everything in a carry-on. I have one carry-on suitcase, and one large backpack. I don’t plan to check any bags. Ever since the airline lost my luggage on my trip to Burma, I’ve been paranoid. Even though this is a non-stop flight, I just feel more comfortable if I have everything with me at all times. I won’t be able to bring an extra pair of shoes, unfortunately, as I just don’t have enough room. I’m not too concerned about that. I have my insect repellent, a hat, sunscreen, mosquito netting, and anti-diarrhea meds. Today I started my anti-malarial drug regiment. I am prepared. In my backpack, which I will keep tucked under the seat in front of me on the airplane, is a book, several magazines, 18 Kind bars, three ziploc bags filled with mixed nuts, headphones, a charger, and a very cool travel pillow called the Ostrich Pillow Lite, which can rest on your head, cushioning your head against the wall, or positioned lower, so that it covers your eyes as well, giving you total darkness in addition to the cushion, or even lower, so that it’s around your neck. I can’t sleep on a plane, no matter how tired I am and no matter what drugs I take. But… if there’s any hope of me getting any sleep on this 15 hour non-stop flight, it’ll be due to this Ostrich pillow.
I’ve been in contact with the Mission Rabies organizers via WhatsApp. We formed a What’sApp group to make communication easier. I’ve been informed about the driver that will be picking me up from the Goa airport on Saturday. I’ll look for him, holding a sign with my name on it.
It’s been implied throughout all of our communications that each team member will be sharing a room with another person. I’m fine with that, however, I’d prefer a single room just because I’m such a terrible sleeper. I asked if there was a possibility for a single room, and that I’d be willing to pay extra if necessary (assuming it wasn’t super-expensive). I told them that if this wasn’t possible, no big deal, I’m fine with a roommate. That’s what earplugs and Ambien are for, right? But today I was told that my housing issue is settled. No details were given, but I’m assuming, by the tone of the message, that I’ll be lodging alone. I really need to be well-rested for our daily mission. We were told that we walk, on average, about 12 miles a day.
It looks like they’re taking good care of us. Our arrival day, Saturday, has been set aside for us to just rest and relax. Throughout the day, we’ll be meeting other team members as they arrive, and then we’ll all convene at the evening meal. Our first full day in the country, Sunday, will be for orientation. The entire Mission Rabies briefing will take place on Sunday. We’ll be told exactly how the project works, and be given a demonstration of the Mission Rabies app, which is used to collect data on every dog that is vaccinated. We should have time on that day to also visit a bank and exchange money, and hopefully just get to see a little of the town.
Monday to Friday are working days. We start early, when the weather is cool. That means we’ll be out and ready to roll at 6:00 a.m! We’ll be walking through our allocated ward, vaccinating every dog we find, basically. Breakfast and lunch occur in the field, with our team. They promise us a variety of Indian food. I love Indian cuisine, so I’m looking forward to that part of the trip. After the afternoon vaccinations, we head back to our base, before dark. Our main task at the base is to prepare our kits for the following day: dump the used needles and syringes on the beach (kidding), restock with fresh syringes, needles and vaccines, and synchronize the data that was collected on the app. Then it’s back to our rooms to freshen up, have dinner, and relax. I’m sure that will consist mainly of blogging, reading and sending e-mails, and maybe chatting with friends online. The time difference makes that a bit difficult, though. By the time I retire to my room around 8 p.m., it’ll be 10:30 a.m. in New York. I won’t be able to do any FaceTiming or Skyping with my partner Mark. When I wake up at 5:00 a.m, though, it’ll be 7:30 p.m., a much better time for doing all of that.
I am delighted to announce that in February 2020, I will once again be joining a team of Mission Rabies volunteers on another vaccination drive. The destination: Ghana! Our intention, as always, is to vaccinate as many dogs as possible, with a goal of immunizing 70% of the dog population. At this level of immunity, the rabies cycle is broken. To do this type of work is expensive and requires many resources. If you support the work that I am doing with this amazing organization, I ask that you make a donation to the cause. Every dollar helps.