Mission Rabies Tanzania: The Adventure Begins Pt1

Mission Rabies

So, after what seems like an interminable wait, the Mission Rabies Tanzania journey begins.  My college buddy, Mike Rosen, is joining me on this trip, and he arrives here in New York in about 8 hours.  He’ll stay overnight, and then we both depart from JFK airport tomorrow evening. 

In these times of Covid-19, planning this trip has been a logistical ordeal. We initially booked our flights with Turkish Airlines and had things all worked out, and then we received notice from them that two of the four flights were being canceled.  This made the entire itinerary impossible; there were no suitable replacement flights with Turkish Airlines, so we had to scrap that entire itinerary.  

The only remaining option for us was the Dutch airline KLM.  I fly to Amsterdam regularly and have flown with KLM numerous times, and the flights have always been great.  The flight itinerary with KLM differs from that of Turkish Airlines in two ways.  Instead of arriving in Tanzania on the morning of January 14th (like Mission Rabies requested), we arrive on the evening of January 13th. The coordinator of the project, Helena, said that this wasn’t a problem, that a Mission Rabies representative can still meet us at the airport and take us to the guesthouse where the volunteers will be staying.  We do have to pay for an extra night’s lodging, but that’s no big deal. The only concern that I have is that our visas list January 14th as our start date.  When our itinerary changed, I tried to contact the Tanzanian embassy to see if they could send an amended visa, but in these days of the pandemic, all offices are closed.  You can’t reach anyone by phone, and all e-mails have been unanswered.  I can’t imagine they’re going to make us wait until midnight before letting us through, but bureaucracies can be crazy, so you never know.  

One major hassle with this trip is the Covid testing.  KLM airlines requires a negative Covid test no later than 72 hours before flying.  Last week, I had one of those tests before my colonoscopy and I tested negative, but that test isn’t valid for this trip.  I need to get another one.  My appointment is in two hours.  There’s a commercial on TV showing someone getting the test, and it shows a regular Q-tip just barely inserted into the patient’s nostril.  In reality, the swab is like a skewer, and they insert it up your nose practically into your brain.  It’s a very unpleasant feeling.  I know I’m cutting it close by getting the test today, but the results of my last test came in about 14 hours after they submitted the sample, so I’m not too worried about getting the test back in time for the flight.  I’m not worried about the test results, although, if I were to test positive, it would derail absolutely everything. So fingers crossed. 

After our Mission Rabies project, Mike and I are going to fly to Zanzibar for some beach relaxation and cultural sightseeing, and then to the capital of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, which is where we depart from, on our way back to the U.S.  Foolishly, we hadn’t really thought about our Covid test requirements for the flight back.  KLM requires a negative Covid test if you’re going to pass through the Netherlands, and our flight back does stop in Amsterdam for the layover.  Well, Dar Es Salaam does have a clinic that tests travelers for Covid, and you get the results in 48 hours. (It’s very pricey; $180.)  If we had stuck with our Turkish Airlines itinerary, we would have been in a bind, because the flight home was scheduled to leave less than 48 hours after we arrived in Dar Es Salaam.  The KLM itinerary keeps us in Dar Es Salaam until late in the evening, allowing enough time to get the results.  It’s very fortunate it worked out that way.   It’s also fortunate that I emailed the Dar Es Salaam clinic just to confirm that we could get tested on February 3rd.  They said that they’re open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Well, we were scheduled to take the 9:00 ferry from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam, arriving exactly when the clinic closes, at 11:00.  Thankfully, there is one earlier ferry, at 7:00 a.m. that arrives at 9:00 a.m.  We’ll have to disembark, get to the hotel fast, drop off our luggage at the desk (it’ll be too early to check in), get a cab to the clinic (it’s 20 minutes from the hotel), get tested, and then get back to the hotel and check in.   It’s all do-able, but it’s taken meticulous planning.  It’s a good thing I’m an anal, obsessive nutjob.  

Helena will be running the show in Tanzania.  

Coming back to NY isn’t going to be a picnic, either.  When I arrive, I have to quarantine for 14 days, unless, on Day 4, I get a Covid test and test negative, which would allow me to end the quarantine early.  So, counting my pre-colonoscopy Covid test, I’ll have had four Covid tests in a span of 28 days.  

After arriving in Tanzania on the 13th, we’ll get a good night’s sleep, and then be all rested and ready as the other volunteers arrive.  I thought there was going to be 10 volunteers, but now I hear it’s 12, which is great.  I also found out that Amy Lewis will be joining Helena to help her run the project, which is great.  I met Amy on the Goa mission, and she’s so nice and so much fun.  That’s her below, gettin’ cosy with a cow.  

The 14th will be a day of relaxing and socializing, as the other volunteers arrive.  The 15th will be orientation.  And on the 16th, we start vaccinating!

I know from previous trips that I am going to be very busy on this project, but I will try to bang out a few blog posts showing the work that’s being done and the wonderful people and cute dogs that I’ll encounter.  

January 2021, I joined the team of Mission Rabies volunteers on another vaccination drive. The destination: TANZANIA! 

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. During the mission, I will be posting many photos, as I did when I was in Goa, so you can see up close the wonderful work we do.

Donate to Arnold Plotnick Mission Rabies

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