Stories from The Infectious Disease Clinic

My shoulder aches like a heavy bruise from the particles they injected into it, making it difficult to pick up the lightest of objects.

Yesterday, I couldn’t help but to think about the seriousness of the title, “Infectious Disease Clinic” as I frantically fought through the maze at the BAMC (Brooks Army Medical Center, a hospital). Do people go there when they have infectious diseases or like me, to prevent them? The feeling was surreal–almost apocalyptic.

When I finally stumbled into the clinic, minutes before my appointment, I threw the door open and when I tried to shut it, it would just open back up again. I thought about leaving it open on the off chance that it would close itself, but decided to go against the laziness and reach for the handle. Once again, the door fought me. I tried a third time, and to my horror, the man at the desk says, “It’ll shut itself”. I blush, giggle, try to break up the awkwardness, which the man appeared to enjoy simmering in. His stoic “I am not in the mood for your ignorance face” was actually more comforting than anything he could have done to make me feel better. I had made it through the maze and trick door into the clinic. One more step to Vietnam.

Three years prior, I had visited my first travel clinic in Colorado Springs, CO. Though that one was much easier to navigate to, it was far more intimidating. The waiting room was stuffy, almost suffocating, increasing every fear I had of the unknown country I was supposed to travel to. My mom and a friend of hers had given me a long list of vaccines I would need to get in order to scare me out of traveling there. Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid. Cholera; Hepatitis B; Japanese Encephalitis; Rabies; Yellow Fever. 

Though I hid it well, it did bring me some discomfort. Vaccines are expensive and are truly nasty things to put into your body, AND my body hates the simplest of things I put into it, like food, ibuprofen… you know, anything besides water. Everything made me sick. How was I going to handle all of this?

The doctor at the clinic made me feel worse, as he read through each potential disease from a packet of papers, word-by-word, then asked which vaccinations I would like. I decided on Hep A, Typhoid, and Japanese Encephalitis, and quickly took back the last vaccination request as I realized it was $360 a shot for multiple shots. But, what if I end up with the disease? Would I regret this moment?

The doctor did nothing to make me feel like I was making a good or a bad decision.

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(Photo credit: http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/)

This time was different. This time, Vietnam wasn’t so foreign and scary. I knew my Typhoid had expired and I would need that. I considered the rabies vaccine because monkeys are going to do whatever monkeys want to do. I was still considering the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine though, because with my health care I could actually afford it this time. However, this doctor only recommended Typhoid, based on the amount of time I would be in the country. I read that while doing my research, however, having a doctor actually recommend something this time was both unexpected and comforting. She even prescribed me medication and antibiotics to take if I got sick fro the food there (unexpected luxury number two!). This Infectious Disease Clinic gets 5 stars!

I waited for a bit for the nurse who would put the vaccination in my arm. When she arrived, she made small talk, warning me how awful the vaccine would make my arm feel and commenting, “I would never travel anywhere to a place that would require me to get a Typhoid vaccine.” I smirked. Luckily this wasn’t my first round to Vietnam, because if the nurse in Colorado Springs had said that same sentence, I may have been disappointing friends and canceling plane tickets.

This time, I’m ready to explore some new territory in a familiar country. Still, I almost miss conquoring the fear. This experience, these fears of the unknown is what keep many people from traveling. The money is an element, yes, but if someone can afford to make 30 payments on a $750 phone, they can afford a plane ticket across the world. It’s about priorities and fear.

But once you face that fear one time, you grow from it. Get out there into the world. Don’t let the magical Infectious Disease Clinic unclose-able door get the best of you. Let it leave the door open. Trust me, it will stay that way.

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As I Watch My City Burn: A Poem

My city is literally burning
In front of me
As I sit in my apartment
Staring out the window
Feeling the familiar feeling
Of helplessness

This is the time for prayer.
Can a thought be
Powerful enough
To save them?

Live videos are playing
I can’t look away
San Antonio is burning
And we all sit and watch
And wait

Fear
Panic
Uncertainty
Grip my guts
Putting my mind
Into a cloud haze
Not unlike the smoke

And we wait
For the ashes
The aftermath
Of a blaze
Hotter than hope

I wish I could do something
Besides wait
For the ashes

I want to stop thinking about
The people who watched
In London
As Grenfell Tower
Crumbled in flames
Taking 79 bodies
And turning them to ash
As people
Sat in their apartments
And prayed
And hurt
And cried
Hearts yearning
And burning
For answers
And prayers
To save
Our people
This city
Please save us

 

Why do we Travel?

This question has been planted in my brain as my husband and I are 11 days out from Viet-freaking-nam. I remember Jonathan asking me why I wanted to travel when we first began dating. These were my answers.

  1. Allows me to grow
  2. Experience new people, places, and FOOD
  3. Travel forces me to be present
  4. Confront fears

Let me unpack this a bit. I don’t know what I don’t know. I have a belief system that is likely not all that different from the Americans around me. I love challenging my own beliefs and values. I love learning new ways of thinking and being in the world; travel gives that to me.

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This trip in particular holds a special place in my heart.
It is a 3 year reunion with a country that changed who I am. 

Almost three years ago, the vagabond friend I mentioned in my last post proposed we should go to Vietnam. I was intrigued, confused, and to be honest, a little terrified. Before I said all this, I simply said, “YES! YES!”. Even as we planned the trip, it felt unreal. We were looking up buses, trains, hostels, beaches, ect. and I still couldn’t wrap my mind around how it would be when we got there, and to be honest, IF we got there. Even after we bought the ticket, I was still uncertain we would go. As we neared the day of the trip, I was still waiting on my Visa on Arrival (VOA). I woke up the morning we were supposed to leave and I still didn’t have it in my inbox. I frantically emailed the company and they wrote me back in broken English saying they would finish it up. I just knew I had been scammed. Despite my skepticism, the company quickly sent me a VOA that morning. We were off!

All the reading and research I had done prior to the trip (or more Heather’s research I should say) still didn’t prepare me for the kind of trip we had. It was MUCH easier and less stressful to get around than I ever imaged it would be. There was WIFI at most cafes and restaurants and in the bigger towns, most people spoke English and were friendly and willing to help when we needed it.

People from my mother’s diner had warned me that I was going to get kidnapped, thrown into a bamboo hut, raped, and if I was lucky, murdered. Funny enough, the only thing we had to worry about was petty crime, not much unlike here in downtown San Antonio. I am more scared taking my dog out at night at my apartment than I was anywhere in the places we wandered in Vietnam.

The food, which we were skeptical to eat at first (especially the street food) was cheap, wholesome, and delicious. The landscape was unlike anything we had ever seen before. The mountains were lush and green, very different than the Rocky Mountains I grew up around. The beaches were clear, still, and beautiful. Vietnam, to this day, holds a very special place in my heart.

And now, in less than two weeks I get to share this experience with the love of my life.

Our tentative itinerary:

We are backpacking the North side of Vietnam (Heather and I stayed South for the most part), so that we can make brand new memories of this fantastic country together. We will take a boat ride around Halong Bay (and hopefully Cat Ba Island), ride motorbikes in Sa Pa, take a plane to Da Nang to swim at the crystal clear beach and perhaps visit the Marble Mountains. Next, we will retrace a little more territory from my last trip and visit Hoi An before heading to the historical site of Hue. That’s the tentative plan anyway, but as I’ve learned from past experiences, it’s better to book the first night or two and just go with it. We shall see where our travels take us!

Needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited! All of this has made me realize another important reason to travel:
5. To share the experience with loved ones

What more to life is there than experiences and memories? Wether those memories are 20 miles away or 9,000, I believe they are what make us human ❤

Embracing Identity in the Dynamite City of San Antonio

This post is going to be a bit cliché. Typically, my writing routine since graduation back in December 2014 begins with dissatisfaction, illness, or heartache, but my heart needs more than a poetic outlet for pain. Today I write because my heart in this moment is completely full and lusting for words and connection. I am reigniting my writing and letting go of the daunting perfectionism writing brings. Welcome to my thoughts and musings about various aspects of life, love, health, fitness, dogs, coffee, ect.

Today it is about an added element to my identity: being a military spouse.

You would think that moment happened long ago, when my then boyfriend Jonathan and I journeyed out to Sierra Visa, Arizona, but no.

I fought the idea of being a “military spouse” tooth-and-nail.

First and foremost, I am just Jaclyn, after which, I am a spouse, and the military is just a career my husband chose. Period. Done-zo. But it is more than that. There’s no point in fighting it (and no reason to). Before I started my wonderful OTA program at St. Philip’s College, and my vagabond-friend Heather moved here from Colorado almost on accident, the military community was all I had, and it will be what is waiting for me wherever we go next. I have to admit, it’s pretty darn wonderful. Despite resisting, this identity has suddenly woven itself into the most essential part of my life. It determines who we know, what Jonathan does, and most importantly, where we go, creating and shaping my days. It’s about time that I faced it–I am a military spouse, and yes, I love it.

But lately, we have been finally reaching one of the bittersweet aspects of it: the goodbyes. This is a well known element of this lifestyle, but for me, it’s fresh, new, and a little more painful than I expected. I feel as though lately I’ve been preparing myself for more and more of it, as I catch myself saying, “I’m going to miss (insert mostly food items, restaurants and the occasional person here…)” instead of saying, “My this is wonderful! I’m so lucky I get the chance to enjoy it!”. I have to consciously stop myself in order to stay present instead of cramming in as many experiences as possible in the fear that we won’t have enough of them.

After being in San Antonio, TX for just over a year and a half and we are coming to a time where some pretty wonderful people are moving on to new horizons and I am realizing that I am more attached than I knew. I am attached to the people and various activities that have become staples of our lives here in San Antonio, and soon they will be gone, and a year or two later, we will be. It’s bittersweet.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this city, but the people here, the warm nights, the breakfast tacos, new businesses on every corner, the lush vegetation, and rivers and lakes have my heart aching to stay here as long as possible (not to mention Heather is never going to leave… or maybe she’ll just follow us wherever we go? To be continued…).

Now and forever, this place has a magical place in my heart. I feel blessed that we will be here for a while longer ❤

EvaPearlJun2017