The trip to India is taking up most of my thoughts these days.  I keep imagining when I step out of the airport in Hyderabad and wondering what I will see and what I will smell.  It’s funny what your thoughts come up with when you haven’t experienced something.

I remember when I was 6 and my parents told me we were going to live in Canada.  As a child, a mystery was exciting to me, something new something exotic.  I remember imagining that Canada was always snow-covered.  Being born in a country where there is no snow, the thought of having this weather was exhilarating. How do people stay warm?  Are there houses?  How do they get around?  In Portugal, where I was born, at the time there was no in-door heating.  We had fireplaces and rubber hot water bottles, which we would put in our beds to warm up the beds before we would go to bed.

I remember thinking the streets were covered with snow and people would take horse-drawn carriages to work and it was simply a Christmas winter wonderland all year round.  How would I know that in the summer the humidity was unbearable?  In Portugal, there was a dry heat, it felt great under the shade and the sun would toast your skin a nice golden brown.  The beaches were so much fun, but to have snow all the time?  That must be so amazing!  The people in Canada must always be happy because it’s always Christmas.  I wondered if Santa had a house in Canada.  Did he have a house big enough to have the elves live with him?  Did he have enough land to also have a stable for the reindeer?  I had so many questions and no answers.  I would ask my parents and they would smile and tell me, I would just have to find out for myself.

This is how I’m feeling about India.  Instead of being overwhelmed with wonder, I am so eager to experience India.  I believe there will be a severe culture shock also.  I keep being told that there are so many people, that the noise can be a shock to your system.  Oh great, for someone who loves to be by himself and not have too much human contact, I’m going to the most populated country in the world.  I read that the current population of India is 1.2 billion.

BILLION??  Oh man, what have I signed up for here?

Ok let’s breathe.  I still have so much to do before I leave.  I took care of the VISA, which we received a FedEx notice at our door when we got home today to go pick up the passports at some random company just a couple of kilometers away, and we have to pick up the passports no later than this Friday.  The other thing I had to check was making sure I have all my shots.

Going to Portugal is easy, I was born there and my system can handle drinking the water and eating the food, but we are talking about a country which my body has no immune system to handle.  The first thing I was told was not to drink the water. I must always buy bottled water and I really can’t handle really spicy food.  I love spicy flavour but if it’s too hot, my stomach will take revenge on me, (and everyone around me).  So, I made an appointment with my doctor.

I went 2 weeks ago, and told my doctor that I was going to India and was concerned about making sure I didn’t come back to Canada and start a pandemic of some sort.  I actually didn’t say that but I definitely thought it.  Yes, I know, crazy thought, I mean hundreds, even thousands of people, tourists travel to and from India everyday and we never hear about some exotic strain infecting other countries.

I think I watch too many zombie movies for my own good.

So, there I am sitting in the doctor’s exam room and she has this iPad making notes about how long I am going for and where I will be staying. I was actually impressed she was writing everything down.  I really like that she is that thorough.  Then she asks me,

“Does India have malaria?”

How should I know? I have never been there.  All the tourist videos I have seen on YouTube mention nothing about malaria.  Don’t people die from that?  I can see the headlines in the National Post,

MAN, VISITS INDIA AND INFECTS ALL OF CANADA WITH EXOTIC STRAIN OF MALARIA

So, she tells me that I need to have a blood test.  Is this to compare my blood when I get back just to see what I picked up?  Not quite, I remember that she is my new doctor since I moved and she has never taken a blood sample.

Yes, that would be a more rational explanation.

She tasks me with doing research on India and if they have malaria and what kind of strains.  Also, are any of the places I’m visiting going through any out breaks and if so what is the likelihood of contracting malaria.  I did my homework, the day I was supposed to go back and see the doctor, that was today.  I googled it.

None of the places I am visiting have malaria.  The doctor was happy about it and I can see on her face what she is thinking, I don’t need to be treated for malaria.  So, I ask,

“What if I run into a person that lives in an area that has malaria and I contract it from them?”

So, she decides to write me a prescription. I thought I had to take a shot.  Isn’t malaria a virus.  According to my doctor, it’s not, it’s a parasite.  I have just trembled in my skin with the thought of having some microbial organism swimming through my blood.

(que the hibbey-jeebs)

Once a week I have to take 2 tablets.

For 9 weeks!!

I start 2 weeks before I leave and throughout the 3 weeks I’m there and then 4 weeks after.  I’m quickly doing the math.  I quickly conclude that there will be no way I will infect this winter wonderland with the tropical exotic disease called malaria.  No headlines will be written about me. My 15 minutes of fame will have to wait.  I spend 20 minutes or so with the doctor and she writes me the prescription and I get home and program my phone to remind me every Friday around 8pm I must take 2 pills after dinner with a glass of water.  I make a mental note that I will have to adjust my phone time so I don’t miss the scheduled dose when I’m in India.

I have this thought of when I get back and go see my doctor, I get blood work done and she calls me in to discuss the results.  I enter the exam room, sit down and then I stare at her as she stares back at me.  Is she too scared to tell me?  What did she find?  Is all of Canada doomed?  Will I have to be quarantined?   I take a deep breath and say,

“Give it to me straight doc…I can handle it”

Nah, that’s crazy.  I am going to have the best time of my life!

Right?