The Tour Company sent a huge packet of stuff, including a list of things I would need to travel in Central Asia. I wasn't worried, my passport was current and I'd had my tetanus shot less than ten years ago. All I had to deal with were Visas.
Then came the fine print.
The passport had to be in effect six months after the last day that I was overseas. I made a quick calculation. Six months came out to April 10. My passport would only be good until March 31. I needed to reapply. Off to CVS for new passport photos. The new rule is that you cannot smile. The result is that I I look like I am really angry with the world. I wouldn't want me as a visitor to my country.
Further problem. I needed to send a current passport to the Tour Company in order for them to send it on for the appropriate visas and, if it took as long as the company estimated, I might not get my new passport back by the deadline for sending it to the Tour Company. So I paid the Express fee to have the passport approved and returned to me.
The Express fee paid off, I had the new passport in a week.
Next project--Inoculations. I was a bit trepidatious about these. Among the various forms and instructions, the Tour Company had sent a list of inocuilations reccommended by the State Department. These included shots for Tetanus, Measles, Polio, Pneumonia, Flu, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Malaria, and Rabies. Rabies! I didn't think so. I'd rather wait to see if a camel bit me.
I made a doctor's appointment which I'd been needing to do anyhow. The doctor checked my blood pressure, listened to my heart, asked about my general health, and pronounced me fit to travel. He signed the Tour Company's medical form and wrote out a prescription for a Z pack, antibiotics especially for what is known as 'travelers' diarrhea.' Apparently over 50% of travelers to this part of the world are expected to come down with this at one point or another on their trip. Not something I want to think about. The last time I had a problem with this disease was my post college trip to Europe in 1963. It turned out to be a precurson of Hepatitis A which could probably be traced to some cold fish soup I ate in Spain.
All this but no shots. Some of the medications need to be refrigerated and the doctor's office doesn't have the facilities to keep many of these shots around. Furthermore, apparently medicare doesn't pay enough to cover the cost of many of the shots so the Practice doesn't order them. I would have to make an appointment with Northwestern University's Travel Center to get them.
I made the appointment for the following week. This turned out to be a full consultation for which I paid. Medicare does not cover travel The nurse took me to a room and went over the shots I needed. Some I had had, some she felt were only relevant if I were staying for an extended period of time. She deleted the rabies.
We settled on three: polio (I had never had the full sequence of three shots but she felt a single polio polio booster would be sufficient), typhoid, and pneumonia. She left the room to prepare the shots. When she returned, she had three needles. Just like the Marines. I've been known to faint from just one shot. I aimed for the examining table and stretched out. I figured I could turn over for her to give the second shot in the other arm. I had no idea where she'd put the third shot. No problem, she just put all three in my left arm.
Eventually I got off the table and made my way to the parking garage and the car. My arm became increasingly sore as I drove home. Somewhere I had learned to keep flexing my arm to move the medication around. It worked, along with an Aleve before I went to bed.
Visas were next. Each of the countries had it's own application form. Uzbekistan required that its form be filled out by pen. No errors. I downloaded five. The fourth one was perfect.
I sent these along with my passport, extra copies of the first pages of the passport and additional passport photos required by the various countries to the Tour Company in time for the deadline in June. About a week later the Tour Company emailed us that Uzbekistan was now requiring a letter from our employer, guaranteeing that we worked there. The company enclosed a template for the letter which I duly printed, took to the Department Chair for signing, and then faxed back.
Two and a half months later, early September, the passport with the visas attached, came back. I was now a legal traveler.
Filed under: Central Asia