costa rica – day 0 (before the trip)

In a little more than a week’s time, I will be jetting off to embark on my two big adventures for 2009: starting third year at Queen’s (this is THE year) and, even better and perhaps more importantly, going to Costa Rica for 12 days to volunteer in medical clinics across the country. I’ll be going with VIDA, which is a relatively newly-formed non-profit humanitarian organization based in Costa Rica. As one of the dozen pharmacists I contacted today so kindly put it, “Yeah, never heard of it. Let me put you on hold.” Ten minutes later, I hung up the phone, sadly realizing that I was probably hung up on within the first two minutes of holding. So much for professionalism, eh.

In case you are ever in my shoes and are frantically calling places around the city for drug donations a mere week before your trip, allow me to share some well-learned words of wisdom:

  1. Start early. As with anything in life, procrastination only leads to more procrastination, which finally leads to frantically calling places around the city for drug donations a mere week before your trip. You also end up realizing you’re supposed to take Chloroquine/Mefloquine starting two weeks before the trip instead of one, which may or may not lead to faulty malaria protection and prevention. I’ll let you know.
  2. Instead of saying “drug donations”, use larger words like “medical donations” or “pharmaceutical donations”. Asking for drugs kind of makes you sound like a not so sneaky prescription pill addict, or worse (“Hey, think you could spare some drugs for my uh…street project?”). If you do like being concise and avoiding those three to five syllable words, be prepared for questions like, “Sorry, what kind of donations were you looking for? Please hold…I’m transferring you to, um, not the police…”
  3. Large firms probably won’t be able to help you at the store level. Instead, you’ll have to go through upper management which means rolling through lots of bureaucratic crap, I mean, tape. You probably won’t even end up talking to a representative, you’ll end up filling out a five page electronic form with login ID: Pear123 and password: PrettyCard. I kid thee not. Where do they get this stuff? As well, they’re less apt to give you something out of the goodness of their hearts and more likely to ask, “so, how much air time will I get from this?” To be perfectly honest, while I’m somewhat annoyed by this process, I can’t blame them. They must field dozens of calls asking for money daily. It doesn’t matter that you’re asking for drugs. In some dark and shady circles, drugs = money. Like at your doctor’s office. What were you thinking of?

Aside from the long list of things I have to do before I leave, which includes taking everything with me back to Toronto that I’ll need from now until Christmas, I’m actually really enjoying these last days in Calgary. I love planning and counting down, it’s often on par with the actual event itself. Anticipation, like breakfast, should be considered an endorphin. The itinerary looks amazing. I read it over and over whenever I am feeling down. We will be volunteering in clinics from 8am to 5pm most days, with activities in the evenings like learning Latin dancing…yay? We have a couple days off when we’ll be going white-water rafting (so pumped!), and touring a few cities, coffee plants, and national parks. We’ll also have the chance to visit a hospital’s obstetrics ward where we might be able to see “something special”. Any guesses as to what that may be?


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