Archive for August, 2009

Kim and I received our final vaccinations last week.  Phew!  Glad that’s over, although it was not so bad this time around.  It could have something to do with the fact that I had six pretty painful shots in the mouth at my dentist visit a couple days before, but hey, whatever works.  I did, however, end up having to get an additional, unplanned shot that in turn saved me $60!! 

Rebecca, our travel nurse has been great, but that day, she must have been a little off… 

I decided to “man up” and go first to get my yellow fever shot. Not too bad.  It did sting a little more than the others.  Then, we moved on to the boosters for our previous shots. 

I was supposed to get the Hepatitis A/B combo booster.  Apparently, Rebecca recorded our previous shots in the wrong area on our vaccination records, which in turn caused me to only receive the Hepatitis B booster instead of the combo.  This is where the additional shot of 1/3 of the Hepatitis A booster came in.  BUT! Because it was her mistake, she didn’t make me pay for it.  Nice!  What would have cost me $122, only cost me $60. 

Next, it was Kim’s turn.  There was a little confusion at first stemming from the earlier mishap, but she was taken care of.  She received her yellow fever vaccine as well, and her Hepatitis B booster.  

Kim and I have been debating on which malaria medication to take.  The two options we’ve narrowed it down to are Lariam and Doxycycline.  Both kind of suck.  Lariam may cause nausea, hallucinations, bad dreams, and severe depression BUT only needs to be taken once a week.  We won’t go crazy taking doxycycline, but you have to take that every day (thus carrying around more pills) and the side effects are sensitivity to sunlight and, since we are women, yeast infections.  It’s a tough call. 

The nurse prescribed us 2 weeks worth of the Lariam, which we are currently testing out.  We seem to be reacting to it just fine.  There was a little nausea the second day, but nothing too bad.  We plan to take this in Costa Rica, and the Doxycycline in Thailand and Laos since there is a resistance to Lariam in these areas. 

Rebecca also tossed in some Cipro and amoxicillin for travelers’ diarrhea.  Not looking forward to that.  She also prescribed us some sleeping pills and anxiety medication for long bus and plane rides.  Both Kim and I have had a few transportation related panic attacks in the past and we’d prefer to do without that while veering into an open gorge riding up a mountain with a crazy driver going 60 MPH.  Thanks Rebecca!

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An Important Lesson

As I was sorting through all of my junk and boxing up old keepsakes during my move, I came across my big box of photos where I’ve stashed all of my pictures from the past ten years or so. Thumbing through the photos and reliving old memories, I came across some of my favorite snapshots from my many trips to New Orleans.  

The first time I went to New Orleans, I was not impressed.  Two girlfriends and I made the long drive to spend a weekend there during college and much to my disappointment, New Orleans wasn’t nearly as great as everyone made it out to be.  Bourbon Street was filthy and smelled like trash and pee.  The French Quarter had charm, but was not worth exploring in the sweltering heat and humidity.  To make matters worse, the food (one of the main attractions I was looking forward to) wasn’t anything to write home about.  I’ve eaten better Cajun and Creole food at Popeye’s Chicken than at the restaurants we wandered into.  Seriously, why the hell would I drive eight hours for this?   I had no intention of ever going back. 

Me, Mary, and Nicole in the Quarter

Me, Mary, and Nicole in the Quarter

Fast forward a few years.  My friend Nicole invited me to go to Jazz Fest, an annual music and heritage festival held every spring in New Orleans.  I was hesitant at first, but a bunch of my friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  Nicole’s Godparents, Carol and Lionel, lived in New Orleans and were going to put us up for free in their home and show us around town, so I decided to suck it up and go. 

We arrived at Carol and Lionel’s after a long day of driving and were greeted with a feast of boiled crabs, crawfish, grits and grillades.  This meal with Carol and Lionel was the beginning of a surprisingly fantastic weekend, one which jump-started an annual pilgrimage to a city that I didn’t think I’d ever visit again. 


Enjoying a soft shell crab po'boy at the festival. Mmmm...

Each year now, a group of us pile into Nicole’s car and head to the Big Easy for Jazz Fest.  We typically spend a day enjoying music, people watching, and stuffing our faces at the festival (think soft-shell crab po-boys, fried green tomatoes, crawfish pasta, jambalaya, gumbo…and that’s barely scratching the surface of the cornucopia of food choices available).  Throughout the rest of the weekend, Carol and Lionel take us to see our favorite sights.   This includes a stroll around The French Quarter, coffee and beignets at Café DuMonde, relaxing on the porch at The Columns Hotel, cocktails at The Monteleone’s Carousel Bar , hurricanes at Port of Call, and a drunken piano sing along at Laffites Blacksmith Shop.  After all that alcohol, you don’t even notice the funky stench on the street. 

New Orleans is a blast – but it’s having Carol and Lionel as our tour guides that has truly made our time in New Orleans memorable and caused me to do a complete 180 on my view of this city. 

Up until Hurricane Katrina, Carol and Lionel had lived in New Orleans their whole lives.  They know all of the short cuts, where to park, which restaurant has the best turtle soup, which bar

Care for some crawfish?

Care for some crawfish?

serves the strongest cocktail, and which lounge has the best jazz and blues.  They love to point out all of the local landmarks, take us to the places where they used to hang out as teenagers, show us the schools they’ve taught in, the first home they shared together, and the old cemeteries where their loved ones are buried.   We’ve experienced  New Orleans hospitality by their childhood friends at backyard crawfish boils and devoured one-of-a-kind tamales at a family restaurant after the doors have closed to the public.  These are moments that I could have never experienced as a regular tourist here. 

Obviously, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from Carol and Lionel that I hope to utilize on my trip around the world – get to know the locals!  They can help you experience a city like you never would as an outsider, which will change your perception of a place completely.   Thank you, Carol and Lionel, for showing me how exciting a city can be

when it is seen through the eyes of someone who has loved, lived, and called it ‘home’. 

Carol and Lionel

Carol and Lionel

I’ll miss the trip to New Orleans this April, but I know that while my friends are chowing down on crawfish ettouffee and boogying at the festival, Kelly and I will be exploring a strange and exciting city too, hopefully with a new-found local friend showing us the way…

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