Vaccinations

Sorry we’ve been MIA for a while. Nothing bad has happened, but we’ve neglected the blog a bit in favor of interacting face to face with people. This has resulted in a bunch of posts that will be forthcoming, so stay tuned. We’ll start with today’s adventures and work backwards in the coming days until we’ve caught up!

“Vaccinations” might be an odd title for this post considering that we’re not little babies any more and we’re not traveling to any crazy places. Uruguay is not a third world country and does not have any crazy disease carrying monster insects. Well, turns out that we will be traveling to a crazy place with crazy disease carrying monster insects while my parents are here visiting in a couple weeks.

We are traveling to Iguazu Falls which is in the northern-most part of Argentina and borders Paraguay and Brazil. It’s the jungle and the mosquitos in that jungle sometimes carry yellow fever. It is recommended for people traveling to this area to get vaccinated for yellow fever, but it is not required. See these sources about yellow fever and where vaccinations are required: National Institutes of Health¬†and Vaccination Info. Since yellow fever is a very serious disease and at the request of my parents, we got vaccinated for it.

Montevideo has a dedicated office at the port for travelers who want to be vaccinated against yellow fever. I imagine this is because there is a very real risk of yellow fever in many northern parts of South America and many countries require travelers to be vaccinated against it before being granted entry into the country. This is definitely the case for travelers to Brazil.

So what does one do to actually get vaccinated for yellow fever? Well it’s a four step process. The first step is a phone call. This was a very interesting step considering my tenuous understanding of the spanish language and the lack of facial expressions and hand gestures for contextual support. After figuring out how to actually make a phone call on my cell phone (dial 0 and 2 before the number in case you’re wondering), I fairly easily stated what I was calling about, told the nice lady where we were traveling, and set up an appointment for 9 am Friday morning.

Then she said she had some questions to ask me. I understood that, but could not for the life of me comprehend the actual questions she asked me. This became apparent fairly quickly and she handed the phone to a man who’s english was just as bad as my spanish. After some exchanges in “spanglish” I managed to answer the questions to his satisfaction and he wished me happy travels and hung up.

The second step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is to figure out where the heck the office is. The office of “Sanidad de Fronteras” is at the port of Montevideo, which is a fairly large place. There is a cruise line terminal, the buquebus (boat to Argentina) terminal, and a variety of large and imposing brick buildings. On google maps it was very clear where we were suppose to go. Unfortunately reality sometimes doesn’t look like google maps.

What did we do? We asked someone who said to go until reaching the big brick building and the office was at the end. He also pointed in the direction we should be going. At the end of this brick building there was a pair of glass doors that looked like it could be a doctor’s office. We went in and asked again and were told it was around the corner. As we were walking out one of the dock crew smiled and pointed around the corner. Guess we’re just that apparent.

Looking toward the end of the very large brick buildings. The Sanidad de Fronteras is at the very end!

Well we got to the unlabeled door around the corner and went in. Signs were plastered everywhere saying that the yellow fever office was on the first floor, so we went up.

The unmarked doorway to the vaccination clinic.

Signs posted up in the office.

Stairway up to the vaccination office.

The third step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is waiting to get the shot. On going upstairs, we found ourselves in a dark foyer with several closed office doors (looking deserted), a locked bathroom, and one door in the corner that said “Fiebre Amarilla” (i.e. yellow fever). There were 5 people already standing in the foyer. They had all made appointments for 9 AM and were upset about having to wait in line and apparently it doesn’t matter if you make an appointment because they just call the next person in line.

While we were waiting the man behind us saw our passports and asked incredulously if we needed them, at which time we told him that we were from the United States and that we were told to bring them. Our answer quelled his fears and he asked us where we were traveling.

The fourth step in getting vaccinated against yellow fever is actually getting the shot. We were called into the office which consisted of one room containing three people: a woman acting as receptionist, a man answering phones, and a nurse. The room had a couple desks which the first two people were sitting at and a corner with a curtain where the shots were actually administered. The nurse was wonderful and put us at ease right away while the receptionist took our information and drew up our international vaccination cards. We paid $352 pesos each (about $17US) for each shot, and that was only because we didn’t have international vaccination cards already. I think the shot is free for Uruguayan citizens.

Before we actually got the shots we had to answer a bunch of questions, many of the same ones that I had already answered on the phone: allergic to eggs? allergic to antibiotics? pregnant? and other vaccinations in the last 30 days? The she gave us some mandates and advice… Don’t get pregnant in the next 3 months (check!), keep eating and exercising regularly, and if we got a fever to just use an over-the-counter remedy. All this in spanish. She spoke slowly and deliberately, but we both understood every word she had to say which also put us both at ease.

The shot itself may have been the least painful shot I have received in my adult life. Here’s to hoping that there aren’t any side effects! We thanked them heartily and made our way home.

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The Cellular Adventure

We all have working cell phones!

None of us were sure that we wanted cell phones while we were here. We spent many a night back in Atlanta joking about buying “burner cell phones” that we could burn when we were done with them, just like some kind of James Bond movie. We talked to a bunch of people. Okay, mostly frisbee people, that told us about all the options for cell phones here in Montevideo. In the end, and for the price, we decided it would be silly not to have them.

Some info about cell phones here…

Everyone has one. And most people have the expensive fancy ones. There aren’t a whole lot of IPhones wandering around because of the import taxes but there sure are some close copies. Most of the small cell phone stands and electronics stores only advertise their most expensive wares (some things don’t change regardless of where you are in the world).

A lot of people have pre-paid plans. These aren’t as common in the U.S. but it seems like it’s the way to go here. Each month you pay between 10 and 500 pesos which gets you minutes. Depending on your plan, each minute you talk can cost from 4-10 pesos. In addition to the minutes you pay for up front, you also get 1000 minutes to call three free lines. You can call 1 other cell phone for free, you can text 1 other cell phone for free, and you can call 1 land line for free. When it comes time to re-charge your phone you can just walk down the street to the Abitab (they are everywhere and can do lots more than just re-charge phones) and give them your number.

So we went out in search of cell phones last weekend, only to realize that stores are only open from 10 am to 1 pm on saturdays and it was almost 5 pm. We tried again on tuesday. We got to the store and of course it was closed for lunch, but just our luck Matt had wandered a bit in that area trying to get to a bus stop and saw another cell store.

The security guard opened the door (it seems that most stores have security guards at the doors) and we went straight to the counter and told the lady that we wanted the cheapest cell phone they had and a pre-paid plan, and oh by the way, that we didn’t speak spanish very well. That sealed the deal. She was very nice, spoke no english, and kept asking us if we understood what she was saying. We had all prepared a bit for this adventure (Asa more than Matt or I) by translating the majority of the cell companies’ website and knew most of the key words we would need for the interaction. We understood her pretty well, or at least didn’t have any major miscommunications.

So Asa and I both got the same, cheap $30US phone which we are still figuring out how to distinguish from each other. We got SIM cards to put in them which came with a 300 peso pre-paid plan. Matt had his iPhone which he jail broke and just got a new SIM card to put in it with a pre-paid plan.

So Asa and I can call each other for free, we can both text Matt for free, Matt can text me for free and call Asa for free, and we can all call the phone at The Little House for free. We’ve got a nice little free cell triangle going on!