July 18, 2019

International Travel Medicine Kit

International Travel Medicine Kit

Two family members recently traveled to foreign countries and suffered from illness while on their trips. I won’t mention names (but – ahem—you know who you are!).  It shocked me that neither of them went prepared with the proper medical kit for international travel.  For example, it may shock you to know that traveler’s diarrhea has an attack rate of 30-70% of international travelers!  Be sure to check with the CDC Traveler’s Health page before your trip to find out if your destination is a moderate to high risk location and possibly ask your doctor for prescription medications to take with you before you leave.  Some cities have travel clinics that will do all the legwork for you including letting you know what extra vaccines you need, but on the downside they can be expensive.

On the other hand, when we travel within the USA, we usually take a very minimalist kit: wound cleansing wipes, antibiotic ointment, bandages, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Motrin).  Unless we are dealing with an acute illness while we travel, we don’t usually bring more than that with us.  Sometimes we throw in a digital thermometer for good measure, but being nurse and pediatrician parents, we sorta wing it with the ‘ole hand-to-the-forehead maneuver.  If it seems mild, then fever is our friend. Ride it out, friends!  If they’ve got rosy cheeks, feel like a furnace, and seem cranky, then a dose of fever reducer is in order. 

However, if traveling outside the USA where there isn’t a CVS or Walgreens pharmacy on every third corner, the items are packaged in a foreign language, or if jet-lag is going to be involved, then we are careful to always pack our trusty med pack.  It’s a very cliché “black doctors’ bag” kit now that I think about it.  We keep it stocked and ready to pop in the carry-on or checked luggage. Sometimes we put major essentials (as listed above) in a separate quart size Ziploc bag in the carry-on and check the med pack in the luggage if we are running tight on space.  

My goal in writing this is to inspire all of you international travelers to create your own medical “go bag”/medicine kit.  You can even let it double as your own First Aid kit at home.  I find making my own kit is better than most of the pre-packaged kits you get out there, but in the past, I have purchased one of those and added to it if the bag allowed for the space.  The one I currently have is a toiletry/cosmetics travel bag with clear pockets and dividers so I can find things easily.  

Here is my checklist of essential items you need for international travel (click item for Amazon Affiliate links):
Basic Traveler Pack:
Prepared Traveler Add-ons:

Luxury / OCD Traveler Pack Add-ons to all the above:

Prescription Add-ons based on needs:
  • o   Antibiotics for Travelers Diarrhea (azithromycin or ciprofloxacin)
  • o   Anti-parasitic for parasites/amoeba (tinidazole/metronidazole)
  • o   Anti-nausea /vomiting (ondansetron/Zofran)
  • o   Epi-pen for traveler with severe allergic reactions
  • o   Malaria prevention (such as - atovaquone-proguanil /Malarone)
  • o   Daily Rx meds you may take

In conclusion, you may ask yourself, “Is this really all that necessary?”  Of all the items listed, and of all the travel we have done internationally, I literally can’t think of one item above that we have never used in the pack.  Even the items considered luxury come in handy for a pulled muscle, sunburn, loud hotel room, pesky mosquitoes, sunburn prevention, and yes – that instance when all else fails and a clinic or emergency room is where you land!  At this point, I probably have enough international air miles to have circled the globe a few times.  We’ve always been able to stabilize the situation with our “go bag” until we could get extra reinforcements from local medical professionals. Oh! Don’t for get your trusty travel insurance policy and yellow fever card as well!  It may very well come in handy! I can’t tell you how many folks I know who have needed the traveler’s insurance or forgotten their yellow fever card and been stranded!

February 25, 2019

Couple Checkup: Identifying Strengths & Growth Areas

Photo credit: Christopher Visuals

Recently, several life events in the lives of those closest to me inspired me to make an effort to pursue excellence in marriage.   For all of us who are dating, engaged or married, I think excellence is something we give very little thought to.  After all, our partner is sometimes (often) the person who gets the brunt of the up-close and personal version of ourselves. 

I was recently listening to a Bible study podcast by Jen Wilkin called Abide.  In week 5, she said something to the effect of: ...sometimes the people who are closest to us are those we compete with, take advantage of, etc. But we should celebrate each other, bear with one another, share in losses.... That really stuck with me, but then her podcast lesson in week 6 hit me again.  She said that when Christian marriage functions as it should, it is an ANOMALY.  It is a picture of the love of God made manifest to the world before it.  Let that sink in...

Photo Credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/d/divorce.html

With the divorce rate in Christian marriage as high as those outside of Christianity, I think we should all stop taking our relationships with our partners for granted. I don't claim to be an expert in marriage, but I do know that God has laid it upon my heart to spur others on towards excellence as well.  My marriage will never be perfect.  Indeed, Christ was the only perfect human to walk the planet.  However, we are called to align ourselves with His standard - it is not a goal you set; a standard is something you will never reach, but something that you keep striving for (also week 5 of Abide).  Doesn't that mean that we should check our relationships? Shouldn't we periodically take stock and get a check-up like we're told to do annually with our physician?  Going with the physician analogy, God is the Great Physician and he can heal and repair broken marriages and enrich relationships! Let's not be scared of what we will find or continue being distracted by our busyness, thus letting our relationship deteriorate.

Let's get a checkup.  Jeremy and I have recently initiated the process and it was really easy.  It took about 20-30 mins for each of us to complete an assessment.  I used www.couplecheckup.com  The reason I used it is because of the premarital counseling curriculum that our pastor and his wife used.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/p-3069179/?no_redirect
When a couple of college-aged couples I know got engaged recently, I started reflecting on the challenges and obstacles of studying in college and getting married.  That started my reminiscing about my own premarital counseling and I reached out to the pastor to find out the name of the curriculum they had used.  It turns out, it was called Prepare-Enrich.  I checked their website to see if I could find a facilitator in the couples' area, but there weren't any. Thankfully, I kept digging around and found a 'lite' version of the program called Couple Checkup.

I really enjoyed the assessment and just this morning received our multi-paged report.  It identifies your growth areas, possible strengths, and strengths for the following categories:  communication, conflict resolution, financial management, sexual relationship, spiritual beliefs, roles & responsibilities, and family & friends.  It also provides you with a personality scale.  Throughout the report there are couple discussion points and there is a separate discussion guide you can download on the website as well.

Photo credit: Pixabay
Please think and pray about whether this assessment could be God's way of nudging you to grow deeper in your relationship with your partner, and allow you to pursue excellence in marriage.  If you're a member of a church group (Sunday school or home group), consider forming a group with a leader to facilitate using the discussion guide. There are steps on the website you can take to do this as a group - as long as all the couples (at least 5) are in the same relationship stage.  Unfortunately, you can't have a mixed group of married, dating and engaged couples, but that is probably better for having the most impactful discussions as a group.  God bless you as you seek to draw closer to Him and thus closer to your partner. 
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Alan Photography

October 15, 2017

Gaborone Urban Garden

In my last blog post, I mentioned that our transition back to Gaborone has been seamless and that we were enjoying being back.  Our household goods container finally arrived on September 5th and we worked feverishly to put our house together.  It has been wonderful having our own furniture this time.  The week after our container arrived, school started so I have been busy shuttling the kids around.  The school day here is from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM for the early years kids, so we have had to adjust to getting up early and having our afternoons free (and let’s be honest, I’ve had to get used to having less free-time during the school day!).  The girls have been enjoying spending afternoons next door at the American Embassy’s Recreation Center (Rec Center) where there is a playground and a posse of children who play most afternoons from 3-5 PM.  Jeremy has been at work and is getting settled back in. We managed to find a second car and that made life so much easier for us as Jeremy had been walking back/forth to work (about a 15 minute walk from our house).  He didn’t mind the exercise, but his shoes took a beating from walking in the red African dirt on the sidewalks.  All in all, we are really happy here and just looking forward to what God has in store for us. 
JW & CK first day of school Sept 13, 2017

Now to the reason for this post.  We were paying what felt like an exorbitant amount of money to water our grass our first month here.  Imagine growing grass in Phoenix, Arizona where it rarely rains.  Now imagine the amount of water it takes to keep it alive in that climate.  Our climate is similar, though not as intense.  It is raining more here than our last 3 years we spent here, but it is still very hot and very dry.  We cannot use the city water supply to water our gardens/lawns, so we must pay for borehole water to be delivered to our giant green JoJo in our yard (a JoJo is a type of giant reservoir where our water is delivered).  Our garden hoses are then pulling water from the JoJo to water the lawn, and that water costs more than city water, but due to years of drought in Botswana, the water restrictions have been in place to maintain the drinking water supply.  It seemed such a waste to water the grass just so we could have a green lawn.  So, we decided to stop watering the grass and let nature take its course with the lawn, and rather spend the money to water something that will give us something back in return.  A garden! 
Our garden:  green cylinder in the corner of the photo is our 'JoJo' water tank

We have been busy buying seeds, compost, fertilizer, potting soil & pots, and a host of other things necessary to make our urban garden work.  We live ‘in town’, but the plot of land our house sits on is quite large.  There was a ton of dirt space without dessert garden landscape or grass, so our gardener has been busy tilling up the soil and making the soil ready for seeds and transplants. The girls really get excited about the growing process. They are fascinated by it all, and to be honest I am too. There is immense satisfaction in growing something from a seed.  It is really a miracle to see something go from nothing into an amazing plant.  There is also sadness when a plant doesn’t make it due to transplant shock, extreme rain, lack of water or the extreme heat.  We are doing everything we can to make our urban garden work.  

Watermelon seedlings - gonna have to thin them out because I planted 4 just in case 1 didn't work!

Parsley seedlings

Basil seedlings

Mixed baby lettuces

I just love this one - catching the action of the seedling bursting forth

However, we are not just gardening for our own use.  Sure, having a stable crop of vegetables and fruits would be fantastic as sometimes we find it difficult to find tomatoes or carrots at the grocery store on a given week, but our garden has a greater purpose.  Community.  We really want to bless our staff who work with us with the ability to have “free” fruits and vegetables.  The goal is to allow them to feed themselves and their families from our garden.  The pay here is very low compared to wages in western countries, so sometimes meat is scarce on their table and vegetables if not grown in their own backyards may be limited to just 5-6 staple ingredients each month in addition to the local traditional foods of corn meal (mealie meal/super maize meal) and sorghum (mabele).  Can you imagine going to the store each month only to be able to afford onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and greens (kale/spinach)? 

Mustard greens in the foreground and 'rape' in the background - a spinach-like green that is soooo tasty
We also want to bless our neighbors.  We have a tight-knit community here and we all pitch in to care for one another when spouses are traveling, folks are sick, or when you need a helping hand with a project or a lift around town when your vehicle is out of commission. God has blessed us with this amazing space and opportunity, so we want to be good stewards of what he has given us so we can give to others freely.  It’s kind of a throwback to the olden days when you said thank you with a crops or a pie! 😊  The crops don’t belong to us anyway – every good and perfect gift is from above (God), after all!  So, as strange as it may sound, would you pray for our garden? We would love to have a bounty to bless others with.  There are garden pests, lack of rain, harsh dessert sun, and a host of other things to contend with, so we are going to do our best to combat it all with our staff pitching in to help us.  If you have any gardening tips, please let us know by leaving a comment!  I have somewhat of a brown thumb when it comes to growing things, so I have been reading up a bit and mostly watching YouTube tutorials to get a better sense of what we need to do to make our garden the best it can be!  Thankfully, our new gardener, Boyce, seems to have a good grasp on when to water or not, so at least I won’t be drowning my plants with too much water 😉  I can't wait to update in a couple of months to show you the produce! 

Aphids taking over the new growth on our citrus tree

Sweet little baby lemons, I'm told

Container gardening our tomato plants - need to make some trellis/stakes

We grew this one from a seed - cherry tomato plant

Our first squash blossoms - zucchini

I spy with my little eye - tomato blossoms forming :)