Friday, June 15, 2012

OUCH! (And other bits of reality.)

Today I had my shots to go to India: Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus. I didn’t need to get Hepatitis B shots because I already had them. I also picked up my Malaria pills. These need to be taken the 3 days before leaving, each day while in India and for 7 days when we return. There is also a possibility of Dengue Fever, Influenza, and accidentally getting sick from bacteria in the water. We will be bringing an antibiotic, Imodium, and Gatorade powder in case of diarrhea.  The health department said not to drink the water, no iced foods, and to close your eyes and mouth while showering. The advice for food choices is: “boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it.” Because Malaria is carried by mosquitoes, we need to bring insecticide with DEET in it.

Here are some interesting facts from the U.S. Government website concerning travel in India:

India is the world's second most populous country, and the world's seventh largest country in area. All U.S. citizens need a valid passport and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose.
Crime and Terrorism: India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly.  The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups are planning attacks that could take place in locations throughout India. Recent incidents include the February 13, 2012 bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle near the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi that injured four persons.
 Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or buses.
 U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect conservative local dress and customs.
Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas.

Scams: Major airports, train stations, popular restaurants, and tourist sites are often used by scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction. A popular scam is to drop money or to squirt something on the clothing of an unsuspecting traveler and during the distraction to rob them of their valuables. Tourists have also been given drugged drinks or tainted food to make them more vulnerable to theft, particularly at train stations. Even food or drink purchased in front of the traveler from a canteen or vendor could be tainted.
Medical: Monkeys can transmit rabies and herpes B, among other diseases, to human victims. Avoid feeding monkeys. If bitten, you should immediately soak and scrub the bite for at least 15 minutes and seek urgent medical attention.
Medical evacuation coverage is strongly advised. (The organization we will be traveling with does have this coverage if any of us has to be sent home in an emergency. It is in addition to general medical coverage.)
Travel and Traffic: Travel by road in India is dangerous. India leads the world in traffic-related deaths and a number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years. You should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in marked pedestrian areas, and try to use only cars that have seatbelts. Seat belts are not common in taxis.
On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is to always assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. On Indian roads, might makes right, and buses and trucks epitomize this fact. Buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles. Cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce your presence. It is both customary and wise.
On the few divided highways one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without lights. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, bicycles, and free-roaming livestock. Traffic in India moves on the left. It is important to be alert while crossing streets and intersections, especially after dark as traffic is coming in the "wrong" direction. Travelers should remember to use seatbelts in both rear and front seats where available, and to ask their drivers to maintain a safe speed.
If a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of being attacked by passersby. Such attacks pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or at least of incineration of the vehicle. It is unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station.
Natural Disaster Threats: Parts of northern India are highly susceptible to earthquakes. Regions of highest risk, ranked 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 including Himachal Pradesh. (This is the state where the orphanage is located.)
I think it is necessary to look at the reality of a situation. These facts could be disturbing, but I am not obsessing on them for two reasons. First, if we were tourists in the U.S., and were going to a large city, there would be many of the same warnings about places to avoid and to be wary of sketchy people or scams. Earthquakes are also a concern in parts of our country. Thankfully the penalty for hitting a stray cow isn't as severe here in the U.S. as in India.
Second, and most importantly, God has given me multiple indications that I am supposed to be on this trip. I know, no matter what happens, God is in charge. I am going to trust Him. The focus should not be about possible danger, it should be about showing God’s love to the children we are going to serve.

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