Friday, October 03, 2008

Toward Africa: Needles and Nuns

Hey Fam, Hey Friends!

Just a little report, as I make some headway toward this next journey abroad.....

Today, I got my shots! Woohoo! Two of the four injections that I'll have to have, thank you very much, before traversing the diverse landscapes of Africa. (South Africa, to Tanzania to Zanzibar to Kenya to Uganda to Ghana. Really? We shall see...!?)

After hearing this line up of countries, Dr. Raje at Open Cities Health Clinic advised that I have a Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis), Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccinations, along with Malaria meds. Thanks to Latitia, the lovely nurse I've developed a nice rapport with in the past couple years, I received two of my shots pretty pain free. (Though not without tears! The needles don't hurt, but I just wasn't expecting that we'd have to shoot into both of my upper arms.?! Thanks, mom for your text message of support!) ....

I have to make a small note here about Latitia, because I'm not sure how many other people really get to know or feel comfortable with their medical practitioners. Latitia is like a former student of mine. In reality, we discovered she used to date a former student of mine. She is young and sassy. She is sweet and clever, and though sometimes seemingly overworked, she is honest and kind with me. And in the last office visits I've paid to this clinic, we have found our way to this comfortable place of being prayerful in any medical treatment approach. Our conversations have taken us all over the place, from education to politics to faith to love, and ultimately, we have shared some kind of spiritually-calming experience.

Today, after learning that Latitia did not watch the Vice Presidential debates, because she was at church planning for her pastor's and grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary, we talked about this gift of her faith community, and the gift of marriage. I did my "Thank you, God" litany for these people and circumstances in her life, as she proceeded to prep my right arm for injection. Whew. I started up again then when she grabbed the needle.

"Thank you, God for nurses. For vaccinations. For clean needles. For clinics. For being able to travel abroad. For..."
And she jumped in, "Thank you, God, that Melissa has the money to travel and see the world!"

It was so freaking sweet. Okay. I just had to share that.

Next: I drove downtown to the Department of Public Health to get my Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Malaria meds. I remember this from the last go round, but I forgot that they only give out these shots during specific hours of the day. (Do other people have to go to the Department of Public Health when they travel abroad? This strikes me as funny, now. Why didn't my clinic have these vaccines? Is it an insurance thing? A public health issue?)

Anywho: Then I was onto the nuns in North Minneapolis. Mass and lunch with the Vis sisters and spiritual direction time with Sr. Mary Margaret. God bless me! Visiting were a brother from St. John's, a monk from Collegeville, MN, who said mass, and then Fr. Bill Donnelly from Villanova, PA. I love who shows up at this place! I was just at mass on Tuesday, and sharing a bit more of the unfolding details of my trip to Africa, when I asked Sr. Karen about her friend who lives someplace on the southern end of the African continent. She promised to look this info up for me, as she didn't quite recall where this priest was....Well, don't you know that this visiting Augustinian from Philadelphia, after learning of my ensuing Africa-travel- plans says, "Oh! You must look up Frank Doyle! He's a good, good friend of Karen and mine who lives outside Durban. Yes."

I mean how cool is that? This guy Bill is in town for less than 24 hours (after escorting a sick friend to the Mayo Clinic) and here he is: pointing me in the direction of a guy I was looking for earlier in the week, across an ocean? I love the convergence, or connecting information!
So: Fr. Frank Doyle. Augustinian outside of Durban, South Africa. I make a note of this. I say "thank you;" I move on.

Spiritual Direction with Mary Margaret is like the most sacred thing a being might have the privilege to do on this planet. An hour, 90 minutes, with a wise woman of God, who just wants to hold open the space for you, as you reflect on how you hear God, feel called by Love to be, serve, act, travel, ask questions!? It's a privilege! Pure privilege! I highly encourage everyone to get themselves into spiritual direction! It's simply an amazing, amazing gift!

Sr. Mary Margaret and I discussed this current space, this current plan to travel, and we prayed. And like those vaccinations I got earlier to ready me for travel, I felt just as prepared by this wise woman's council and spiritual medicine, as I did receiving the literal injections of medicine.


Final note: I BOUGHT MY TICKET! I leave November 10, flying into Johannesburg, I return December 21, flying out of Accra, Ghana.

Stay tuned. As the unfolding of events shall continue.

November 4: Election
November 8: I turn 40.
November 10: I depart.

In there, there are parties! As I make my way and lean into this call to love, be change, build relationships, learn and serve.

Amen. Peace,


Melanie said...

How exciting of a trip for you! I just finished writing a paper for my global health class and then get to read about your fantastic adventure to be had. I am so very happy for you. I would love to take a trip like this w/ you some time. The more I learn about the health issues in Africa, the more I have changed my focus on what I would like to do there. I always thought I would provide medical care, but now I think I would be more useful in digging ditches. That's something we could do together! How 'bout it cousin?!

Oh, the question about vaccines and having to go to dept of public health: most PCPs only carry common vaccines. All the others are carried by Public Health. Since vaccines expire, it would make sense for your PCP to carry the ones they give on a routine basis.

Meg Brudney said...

This is so darn exciting. Are you going alone? Do you know where you will stay or will you be guided by the Spirit?
Will you keep blogging? Do share a bit more!

Marie Teehan said...

Hi Melissa,

Small world: our official parish is Villanova U's St. Thomas of Villanova. We have an old and dear priest friend, a former Augustinian Provincial, Fr. Joe Duffey who we will be getting together with soon. He resides in the facility on campus for retired and ailing clergy. I'll ask him about Fr. Bill Donnelly and Frank Doyle.

When things come together the way they seem to in your preparations for your trip to Africa you can see the Holy Ghost at work. It is fate and faith!

Glad you don't leave until after the election results. What is your aim on this venture?

Hope you aren't too sore from all the shots.

Regards, Marie

Pat said...

I am excited to hear more of this journey. What carries you to the places you have chosen? What invisible forces await your arrival?

Ann B. said...

"I am SO excited for you!!! And jealous:-) What an amazing journey you are about to embark on to an absolutely amazing, beautiful continent that is so near and dear to my heart. You have all of my prayers, joy, excitement, etc. as you prepare to sojourn on this safari of a lifetime. I'm proud of you! You go girl! Let's grab a drink or sushi or whatever sometime soon!"

Jane O. said...

Have a magnificent trip - and stay well!!

Shannon said...

so glad to be receiving these parts of your story Melissa! Thanks for adding me. Can't wait to celebrate your birthday, Obama's win, your departure to the motherland of us all. good business, that's what this is, November.
see you soon-

Colleen said...


It sounds like a fabulous trip! Be sure to send lots of pictures!!!

I had to get the typhoid shot for a trip to Brazil about 10 years ago. I remember it making me very sleepy. I also learned that if you forget your malaria meds, drink lots of gin, as it contains natural quinine.