In preparation for the big trip, today I had to visit the travel clinic. It's a little scary when you manage to shock those people with the places you're going. I mean, this is their job. But, the good news is, after checking everything over the nurse declared that they have no more shots to give me. Happy day! I'm finally invincible with respect to third world diseases ... or something like that.
At the travel clinic, they give you a long compilation of the travel warnings from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia that lists everything bad that could possibly happen in the countries you're visiting. I read the 28 pages of panic on "my" countries tonight during the building committee meeting. Here are some of the less-than-typical-even-for-Africa things you're supposed to worry about if you're visiting the DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Zambia, and/or Zimbabwe:
- Kidnapping (Burundi/DRC border)
- Not stopping your car when passing a national flag being lowered at 6pm (DRC)
- Volcanic eruptions (DRC and Rwanda)
- Train derailments (Kenya)
- Pirates! (Sudan)
- Fundamentalist armies (Uganda)
- Getting arrested for carrying prescription meds outside of their labeled containers (Zambia)
- "High-density suburbs" (code language for slums(?) in Zimbabwe)
This is why we take government-issued travel warnings with a grain of salt - it's rarely this bad so long as you stay out of contested areas. In four trips to the continent, I've seen a train derailment and been to slums and neither were unmanageable situations. Things can go horribly wrong, of course, but in general, I've found that most people in Africa are generous and kind, and that a little common sense goes a long way in avoiding lava flows, rebels, and pirates.