Holiday To Do List

Scary-To-Do-ListI am sitting across from my doctor. He is on the phone with an international disease hotline and looking through a catalog of diseases that you could use to club a giraffe silly. He is making lots of disconcerting sounds one hates to hear from a doctor: “Oh,” “Hmmm,” “Fakt? Really?” and “Ohhhh.”

I take this interlude to study the To Do list in my notebook and wonder if I have lost my mind. At first, Ethiopia was the perfect holiday destination. It encompassed some of my favorite aspects:

1. It was adventurous.

2. It was exciting.

3. It was six months away.

But now, Ethiopia is a week away and I have a lot of things to buy, medicines to aggregate, shots to have, advice to get, and bits to organize. There’s definitely a “Holy crap, I’m going to sub-Saharan Africa in 7 days” feel to my daily life. Everything I buy now is connected with this trip.

The doctor hangs up the phone and lets out a long breath like this: “whoooooo.” It turns out that on top of the three other inoculations I have gotten, I need a typhoid shot. He gives me a twenty-minute lecture on water safety, sun safety, food safety, heat safety, skin safety, and bug safety. He sends me to his nurse so he can “make a list of things I need at the pharmacy.”

His nurse and I are old friends at this point, and we engage in small talk as she prepares my vaccination and I strip out of my shirt. We move with the practiced air of a long-married couple getting ready for bed. She asks about my cat and then plunges a needle into me. She slips on the miniature Band-Aid and stamps my yellow inoculation passport. When it’s over, the doctor hands me a list of prescriptions and other needs and sends me to the pharmacy.

“See you next week for tetanus,” he says as I leave.


“See you. Tell Bela hello,” his nurse says.

At the pharmacy I say something like “Hello. I am going to Africa soon and now I need all of these medicines,” and I hand her my list. The woman in turn hands me a number and tells me to come back later so they compile everything. I step out onto the quiet Vinohrady street, very aware of the safety here in Prague. Chances are that no mosquito is going to give me malaria, no water will give me typhoid, and the sun won’t burn through me like a snowcone. I get on the tram and wonder just how different my surroundings will be in a week.

Up until very recently, my Ethiopian adventure has been sort of theoretical. Something that was occurring in the future at some point. To talk about it made me feel like Indiana Jones: “Oh, my holiday? Ethiopia. You?” It also served as a delicious excuse and explanation: “Sorry I can’t make it then, I’ll be in Africa.” It was a great tidbit to drop casually into a conversation, “I’ll be in Africa then.”

But I am leaving for this theoretical trip in seven days. And all of the things I have to take care of and organize, all of the worries and risks I have to address, and each item I buy are a reminder of this. In the parlance of those much hipper, much younger, and much cooler than me: shit is getting real.

It gets very real today. After work I meet PJ. We have a beer and a fried chicken steak to settle my nerves before I go pick up my laundry list of medicines, gear, and ointments. We go to a camping shop and I buy a mosquito net. It hangs from the ceiling. I am now a guy who owns a mosquito net, which has got to put me on some kind of a weird mailing list.

The woman at the pharmacy nods gravely and gets my bag. There are malaria pills so expensive I’m bringing them in my carryon luggage. There is prescription diarrhea medicine, just in case, in the doctor’s words “it gets dangerously bad.” There is also allergy medicine, just in case I might be allergic to some aspect of Ethiopian cuisine (which I have never once tried). My bag also consists of creams for sun rashes and bug repellent.

PJ makes his way home and I rationalize that since I now have dropped a load of money today, a little more of that will go to numbing my twanging anxiety box with Irish whiskey. Besides, I have saved a few articles on Ethiopian etiquette to Pocket that I’ll read over a drink.

Don’t get me wrong, the nerves and anxiety I am feeling now are a good thing. If you don’t feel nervous before an adventure, then what’s the point in going on it, after all? It’s just that things get very real for me when I start ticking items off of my holiday to do list. There are many things still on it, but they can wait for tomorrow. Now, it’s a time for a conversation and a drink.

I tell my bartender about my medical expenditures for the day. Unfortunately, I have stumbled across the only bartender in Prague who has a backlog of “malaria gone wrong” stories. He follows this up with advice on how to apply bug repellent correctly. Apparently, it’s all in the wrists.

I have one more drink. “Get advice” is on my list.

  1. #1 by Lonnie on June 30, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    Oh man – can’t wait to hear your story upon your return! Assuming you return…

    But seriously I’m like totally jealous and at the same time like 100% thankful that my summer adventure was to go to Rehoboth where the extent of my safety precautions was to bring a few condoms in case I decided to go gay(er) for the weekend.

    Have a blast!!

  2. #2 by Lee on June 30, 2015 - 6:52 pm

    As your official tech support guy I have a few tidbits of advice for you on your trip:

    1: Take long strips of narrow paper. These are more easily rolled up and attached to a pigeon leg than a USB drive. These will suffice to cover you as far as email goes.

    2: I have adapted your old ‘turn the handle to power’ emergency radio set to charge your mobile while you are out there. You won’t be able to use your mobile for anything except taking selfies of yourself which we can use for important medicinal diagnosis purposes, but it will come in handy for my next point:

    3: Keep your mobile powered up at all times. It has GPS. We will be able to use it to find you and make sure you have a decent burial. Don’t worry about recording your final moments, Mark will make it, so he can tell us all about it. With an exquisite Joycean flair.

    Bon voyage my old friend, I am soooooo jealous. I look forward to the great stories you will tell when you get back.

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