the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Grab your backpack!

Hey! How you doin’?

So, tomorrow I’m headed out of town, and then out of the country to another continent in another hemisphere.

A couple of months ago, Christy Turlington asked if I’d like to join her as a guest to visit maternal health clinics in Bangladesh with her organization Every Mother Counts. We’ll also be screening her movie No Woman, No Cry over there. And I will actively be trying to hold it together because one, Christy Turlington, and two, do you know how far away Bangladesh is?

I mean, that’s at least a hundred miles, right?

The country is slightly smaller than Iowa, yet more than 150 million people live there. I know you will think I am a huge liar when I tell you that I am a sensitive little flower, but a friend of mine from India told me to be prepared for a major emotional roller coaster in terms of what I see and experience. I truly believe that this trip is going to be a life changer.

In preparation for this trip I visited the travel clinic at the University of Utah, and I tell you what. The woman who provided the consultation was super excited about diseases. I did not know one could be so passionate about typhoid or malaria or dengue fever, but the true shocker was just how thrilled she was to tell me about traveler’s diarrhea. It ain’t your mother’s diarrhea.

(I don’t want to think about my mother’s diarrhea.)

To quote Travel Clinic Lady: “This is the kind where your poop just keeps shooting out of your butt. On and on and on. It doesn’t stop.”

I now randomly shout that description in her Utah accent during casual conversations. You should try it.

I know. I’m talking about poop in a post about charity work. What?

So I got a typhoid vaccine in my upper right arm, and whoa, that one hurt. I couldn’t lift my arm for two days. I’m prepped for malaria and hepatitis A and traveler’s diarrhea. I’ve got bug repellant, a water purifier, sunscreen and several books to read on the almost twenty-four hour flight. Only thing missing is a magical cure for jet lag.

(If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment! SOLICITED ADVICE, AHOY!)

I’ll be gone for eight days, so I’m going to publish some of my favorite posts from my archives while I’m gone. Jon will be holding down the fort here in Utah, so right now I’m going to remind him that Leta needs to practice piano every day. And it’s okay if they eat pizza every night.

I’m a little nervous but at the same time I’m electrified by this opportunity. This is just so awesome.

See you soon!

  • brekee

    2011/06/15 at 12:55 pm

    magical jet lag cure? AMBIEN.
    also, you might want to bring some antibacterial hand soap.

  • jessiCat

    2011/06/15 at 12:56 pm

    Have safe and happy travels, Heather! And try to avoid taking pictures of Christy while she sleeps, I hear she frowns upon that. 🙂

    I can’t wait to hear your stories and see the pictures from this journey. I know you will capture them perfectly.

    I don’t say goodbye, so I will just say this….send me a postcard! have fun! don’t eat anything that is still moving! don’t forget your bug spray! Bon Voyage, my dear!

  • devoyka

    2011/06/15 at 12:59 pm

    How amazing is this? Super-freaking amazing! Good for you, good luck and come back safe!

  • ADDGirl

    2011/06/15 at 1:02 pm

    What an incredible opportunity! I think a good cure for jet lag is totally mess up your sleep before you go, and make sure you don’t sleep during any “awake” hours when you are on the plane. Good luck!

  • amybonk

    2011/06/15 at 1:03 pm

    Try Melatonin for jet lag. But give it a whirl at home one night before your trip. I have a friend who is on antidepressants and was told that melatonin can make you groggy in the morning if taking certain medications. Other than that, it’s a life saver.

  • OKMom

    2011/06/15 at 1:05 pm

    Have a great time!! You will come back a different person. (I think that’s a good thing?)

  • barbara

    2011/06/15 at 1:05 pm

    Wow! How incredible!

  • MissMita

    2011/06/15 at 1:05 pm

    Toilet paper or packets of tissues. I know it sounds silly, but when I lived in China public bathrooms didn’t have it. And it’s all sorts of sucky to be caught unprepared.

    And tampons if necessary.

    Have a GREAT time. It will be amazing.

  • hmdean

    2011/06/15 at 1:07 pm

    Eight whole days? You might be over the jet lag by the time you leave for the States.

    I speak from experience — I’ve been to India a few times, once for just a week. It’s key to sleep on the plane, and the key to *that* is wine and benadryl.

    You are going to have such a shocking, amazing time, one that will change you and stay with you.

    Safe journey.

    p.s. Take a few packs of antibacterial wipes. They come in handy more often than you’d think.

  • Schmutzie

    2011/06/15 at 1:07 pm

    Fabulous. Just fabulous! I must admit to a hefty dose of jealously on this one 🙂

  • The Dalai Mama

    2011/06/15 at 1:09 pm

    Congrats on this opportunity. I am sure it will be amazing and life changing. When I traveled to Ethiopia, I thought I was ready for the poverty, conditions, etc. I wasn’t. It is hard.

    Have an amazing journey.

  • theurbancowgirl

    2011/06/15 at 1:10 pm

    Mind.Blown. That is just so, so awesome!

    I went with the Gravol (I think it’s Dramamine in the States) and wine induced sleep on the plane to stave off some jetlag. Then just stay awake until bedtime in India. The first day might be rough, but so long as you do that it should be mostly okay.

    Again. Wow!

  • koskersidlewild

    2011/06/15 at 1:11 pm

    First, I was totally expecting a post about Dora with that title.

    Second, bon voyage! Trip of a lifetime FOR SURE!

    Third, I have had success with taking an OTC sleeping pill (actually Tylenol PM, but my RN hubby hates when people use that instead of just a sleeping pill) ON THE PLANE during the destinations’ nighttime (it’s ok to drool on your seat buddy). When you arrive, change every clock on your body (please let us know if there is more than 1 ’cause that would be fascinating). Take one more sleeping pill your first night. VOILA… you are on the right schedule!

  • Gulliver1

    2011/06/15 at 1:13 pm

    Excited you’re going and more excited to hear about it when you get back! Your blog may begin to take a whole new direction!

  • annstarrr

    2011/06/15 at 1:14 pm

    If you’re arriving during the morning, the key is to sleep on the plane. (Read: Ambien, followed by coffee and/ or Adderal on arrival)

    If you’re arriving during the evening, the key is to NOT sleep on the plane and then crash when you get there. (Read: coffee and/ or Adderal, followed by Ambien on arrival)

    The idea is you use the time on the plane to get used to the local time zone.

    Have fun!

  • Lauren3

    2011/06/15 at 1:15 pm

    That Christy Turlington is one smart cookie.

    A) She started what is clearly a wonderful and needed organization. And she didn’t even have to, because she has a hawt bawdy.

    B) She smartly picked you, Valedictorian of Blogging, to help her bring attention to it.

    Plus, she probably wants you along for the ride because she thinks you’re funny and entertaining and crap, who knows. 😉

    Best wishes, H-dawg!

  • Fifi Coon

    2011/06/15 at 1:15 pm

    I just read her (Christy Turlington-Burns) article in More magazine. WOW. You go girl!!!

  • c_girl

    2011/06/15 at 1:15 pm

    Re malaria, DON’T LET THEM MAKE YOU TAKE LARIAM. It makes people crazy–especially people who might be, for example, prone to anxiety and depression.I once thought I had a nervous breakdown that was really more of a Lariam-lunacy episode, but didn’t put the pieces together for years.

    Also, tangentially related but equally important, you should take the new Ann Patchett book, State of Wonder, with you. It’s about traveling to somewhere unsettling and it is amazing (and also features Lariam!)

  • meltem

    2011/06/15 at 1:15 pm

    I would suggest bringing some PeptoBismol with you. Also, I don’t know if you can get this in Bangladesh (I found it in India) but there is this mosquito repellent called Odomos that’s way better than anything I’ve ever used.

  • Brandy in Canada

    2011/06/15 at 1:16 pm

    Melatonin will help with jet lag AND give you vividdreams!! Can’t wait to see the pics!

  • Sian - MummyTips

    2011/06/15 at 1:17 pm

    Hey, I’m new here at your blog.
    I went on a trip to Bangladesh with Save the Children last summer. You will have an amazing time but be prepared to return a different person.
    Christie’s film is AMAZING. I watched it through tears having seen these things with my own eyes.
    If you want to read a little about my trip – here’s a link to my blog.
    My tips.
    1. Travel light. if you have to go anywhere by sea plane (you will) they have tight weight limits. We were allowed to carry 5kg of baggage. My camera and computer etc weighed in at 11kg, so I left EVERYTHING behind in the city.
    2. Buy yourself a lightweight sleeping bag liner. It’s hot and if you do have to ditch your belongings you will still have somewhere clean to sleep.
    3. Pack your bag full of bubbles for the children. The soapy kind that you blow. They LOVE them.
    4. Don’t cry.


  • kristanhoffman

    2011/06/15 at 1:17 pm

    WAY. COOL!

    (Btw, the trip seems a bit shorter if you look at the map the other way, with the Pacific Ocean in the middle instead of Africa. But I don’t know which way you’re flying, soooo…)

    For the jet lag, try to schedule it so that your body will be exhausted at the right times when you land. Like, if you’re landing in Bangladesh at 5 pm, try not to sleep too much that way you will be EXHAUSTED by the time you get through customs, have dinner, and settle into your hotel (or wherever) so you can just CRASH that night and wake up more or less on schedule the next day. Alternately, if you’re landing at 9 AM, sleep as much as you can during your travels so you have energy to push through that first day. Other than that (and the help of caffeine) there’s not a ton you can do.

    I can’t wait to hear about your adventures over there, and about Jon’s here, hehe. Best of luck to both of you!

  • Sian - MummyTips

    2011/06/15 at 1:18 pm

    btw… you dont need anti malaria unless you are going into the inner wetlands.

  • sherrye22

    2011/06/15 at 1:19 pm

    Yeah, Xanax is your friend for a long flight like that. Also, a First Class ticket. Although I assume Christy Turlington is helping you out with that one. If not, well, Xanax AND Ambien.

  • inimitablej

    2011/06/15 at 1:19 pm

    Seconded/thirded the handwipes and toilet paper. DEFINITELY take toilet paper.

    I’d also add a couple more tips:

    * to help with jetlag on the ground: if it’s before noon, take a nap. When you get up, eat lunch, and stay up as late as you can. If it’s after noon, stay up as late as you can and eat at normal times for your destination time zone.

    * take a microfiber washcloth. Face towels are often nonexistent in Asia.

    * to keep from dehydrating, eat as much fruit as you can – the fiber helps you retain the water contained in the fruit longer than drinking water by itself.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/06/15 at 1:20 pm

    Buy a ginormous bag of starlight peppermints and ginger candies …. NOW!!!

    and please don’t take sleeping pills … the last thing you need is to appear doped up on a “mission trip” – get some tart cherry extract capsules instead

    have fun … take lots of pics (duh) and don’t mention hamburgers

  • the transient 1

    2011/06/15 at 1:21 pm

    baby wipes. seriously. no good soldier leaves home without them.

  • sherrye22

    2011/06/15 at 1:21 pm

    Also, your blog post about the Every Mother Counts organization prompted me make donations to it in lieu of Mother’s Day gifts for my mother, MIL, stepmother and stepMIL. 4 new midwives will have the materials they need to practice when they graduate!

  • armarti

    2011/06/15 at 1:25 pm

    You should go punch your vaccine lady – you can actually take the typhoid vaccine in oral pill form AND it lasts longer than the shot.

    Loved the documentary – so thrilled that you’re adding to that work.

  • JWysok

    2011/06/15 at 1:27 pm

    Be safe. Be well. Sounds like the experience of a lifetime!

  • KirstenPR

    2011/06/15 at 1:28 pm

    I would recommend Juice Plus for the trip. I could Fedex it to you or if you are traveling through Los Angeles, I would be more than happy to drop it off to you. What is Juice Plus? 17 fruits and vegetables in a capsule.

  • atpanda

    2011/06/15 at 1:31 pm

    Jet lag is a b*tch. I travel to Europe from AZ a lot for work. My advice: don’t drink on the plane (alcohol, that is), and if you have an overnight flight, SLEEP on the flight. The first night in a country on the other side of the world is MISERABLE whatever way you look at it, but night 2 will be much better. Promise. What an amazing experience!

  • ChickWhitt

    2011/06/15 at 1:32 pm

    how awesome for you!

  • devanshi_shah

    2011/06/15 at 1:32 pm

    Oh wow! Have a great trip. Cant wait to see pictures from trip.

    For jet lag the key is to set your watch to the destination time as soon as you board the plane and try to follow it. If it night at destination, force yourself to sleep and if it is day, force yourself to stay awake. We try this everytime we go to India.

  • atpanda

    2011/06/15 at 1:32 pm

    Oh, and DEFINITELY take probiotics with you. My husband and I swear by them for eating questionable food in foreign countries.

  • jewels421

    2011/06/15 at 1:34 pm

    1. Acidophilus is a pretty good way to prep your stomach for unfamiliar bacteria (i.e., to prevent the butt-shootin’ poops).

    2. Travel in that part of the world can be a little overwhelming the first time you go, as your friend said. Hopefully you have someone going with you who you can process things with.

  • GC

    2011/06/15 at 1:37 pm

    You must not leave without a sleep mask and ear plugs. The sleep mask might seem kind of pretentious and stupid, but if you get the one asshole on the plane who leaves his light on THE ENTIRE FLIGHT sitting in front of you, putting on a sleep mask is a superior alternative to murder. Same goes for ear plugs, in case that asshole is also loud, but they’ll be handy on the ground as well.

    I hope you have Malarone. Pretty much zero side effects! (In my experience anyway.) If you don’t, maybe ask your doc about it?

    I will second the advice on a lightweight sleeping bag liner. Very handy.

    And maybe Rescue Remedy? I like that stuff for when I need to calm the eff down.

    As for jet lag, sleep on the plane (knock yourself out) when they turn down the lights. If you arrive during the day, don’t stop — run yourself into the ground. No naps. No matter how tired you feel at the end of that day (and probs day two and maybe day three), take a long-lasting sleep aid.

    I am excited to read your experiences and reactions! Have a good trip!

  • WindyLou

    2011/06/15 at 1:39 pm

    Wow! What an amazing opportunity. Have a wonderful time. I’m going to put in my order now for your 2012 Bangladesh/Every Mother Counts Calendar.

  • sarahdoow

    2011/06/15 at 1:40 pm

    Best of luck, it sounds like an amazing trip. I look forward to hearing all about it when you get back!

  • annecat

    2011/06/15 at 1:42 pm

    I know, everybody’s got advice, right? 🙂 Mine is just to be careful if you sleep a lot on the plane because of blood clots. I have a co-worker who very recently nearly died from them after extensive flying. Make sure you don’t get stuck not really moving for hours and hours on end.

  • jathompsn

    2011/06/15 at 1:43 pm

    Dude, bring toilet paper. Nothing says welcome to a third world country like wiping yourself with a wet rag that has been used by countless others. And when you’ve got the shits???? Ugh, you’ve totally stirred up memories that I’ve kept locked in the back of my mind!

  • Kansas

    2011/06/15 at 1:48 pm

    I studied abroad a few years back and we had a 10 day spring break during which we had to entertain ourselves. I asked one girl where she some others were going and she said, “oh…a couple of places…Bangladesh, I think…” and I said, “Bangladesh?” “Yeah, and maybe Amsterdam…” and I said “Bangladesh? Really? Kind of by India?” and she started getting annoyed with me after I asked again, “Seriously? Bangladesh? That’s like, far away.” (We were in Italy)Finally I suggested, “Belgium? Are you going to Belgium maybe?” and you could see the lightbulb go on in her head. “Yeah! I mean Belgium!”

    And I will forever remember that exchange when someone mentions Bangladesh.

    My jet lag tips are to just go to sleep the first night you get there and wake up when it’s morning. And drink lots of water. I can’t wait for your posts!

  • Divya

    2011/06/15 at 1:50 pm

    Mundane advice:

    1. Start taking multivitamins at home and then take them with you when you’re abroad – the continuity helps with completely strange food.

    2. Protien bars. I’m obsessed with them, and they’re convenient when you don’t want to seem like a weird picky eater but aren’t up to some of the food, or when you’re not going to be around food for a long time. (Though when we visit family on the subcontinent, the problem is usually leaving too full).

    3. Speaking of not being around food, there’s some glucose thing you can put in your water that helps if you’re going to be out in the sun all day. In his fragile youth, my brother passed out in the heat and then we all started drinking that. I think you can get it locally.

    4. Beware of food made with local water, like chutneys. I usually eat them anyway, but a good thing to be aware of in case you’re ever in a position where you CAN’T BE SICK TOMORROW.

    It sounds like a fantastic trip! Have a great time!

  • diane-in-amsterdam

    2011/06/15 at 1:52 pm

    any chance you have a stop-over in amsterdam?!

  • RudeAwakening

    2011/06/15 at 1:53 pm

    Dammit, I’m jealous. Take me with you.

  • Onewithbooks

    2011/06/15 at 1:53 pm

    I am so excited for you and this trip. My best advice? Yogi tea. They have energy teas for a pick me up, Throat Comfort tea for sore throats, and they have the BEST tea called Stomach Ease that help whatever belly ache ails you (e.g. gas, cramps or “just keeps shooting out of your butt. On and on and on. It doesn’t stop”). I don’t leave home without an arsenal of a variety of Yogi teas in my bag. (Especially the Woman’s Moon Cycle, as it cures nasty cramps.) If you like tea, I would try this route. I have found them in grocery stores in the organic foods/beverages aisle, health food stores, Amazon. com and their own site.

    Cheers to a healthy adventure!


  • adamsrice

    2011/06/15 at 1:54 pm

    I hope you’re practicing your Bollywood dances. I image they do flash mobs on the street a lot like in the movies, and you need to be prepared.

  • Jawnbc

    2011/06/15 at 1:55 pm

    Hiya Heather,

    I travel a lot–a lot–and have done most of the insanely long flights out and about. Like 24 hours on one plane from Australia to Europe via Singapore. OK they let us off the flight in Singapore…for like 20 minutes. Part of my travels brought me to India once–big honkin’ Mumbai and rural urban centre Nagpur. Not extensive, but not a stopover either.

    Bangladesh: expect to be sensorly overloaded for at least a day–maybe longer, maybe the whole time there. Everything is magnified there: colour, noise, scents. And poverty. The grinding poverty is almost as distressing as the average middle class South Asian’s propensity to ignore it (or at least not demonstrate any awareness of it). It’s a cultural thing–not universal, there’s lots of South Asian folks fighting poverty even if they themselves are affluent.

    Long flight: Get your doctor to write a ‘script for immovane/rhovane/zopiclone. These are hypnotic sleeping pills: longer lasting than an ambien and easier to snap awake from if you need to. One caution: they can take 5 minutes to kick in or an hour.

    Long red-eye flight plan
    1. get your ear plugs, eye mask, slippers, water bottle in a handy dandy place
    2. Figure out if there’s anything on the in-flight you want to watch. Otherwise figure out whatever you wanna watch on your tablet/laptop
    3, Read a bit before dinner
    4. Eat dinner. FYI Asian vegetarian meals are often nummy nummy veggie curries
    5. Sleep or watch a movie or read

    When you’re ready to sleep:
    1. go for a wee wee
    2. While in the ‘loo make your eye mask a bit damp (from the sink, not your wee wee)–it’ll cool your head a bit and make it easier to fall asleep
    3. take your pill
    4. At your seat get yourself comfy. Taking off shoes often helps (hence slippers or thick socks), position the chair, put pillow where you neeed it to sleep. Note: if you fall asleep sitting straight up with the sleeping pill that’s the position you’ll stay in.
    5. earplugs in, mask on (if you can go right to sleep) or on your head while you read.
    6. AS SOON as you feel drowdy, pop the mask on and just relax

    The pill will keep you asleep longer (easily 5-7 hours) whether you need it to doze off or not.

    When you get to your destination, stay up until a reasonable hour to go to sleep, take another pill and you should sleep most of the night. The next night take half a pill. If you need to, one more night with the other half pill should get your body clock sorted. Taking the edge off the jet lag also takes the edge of the crazy…something we share. 🙂

    I’ve refined this after flying to/from Asia, Australia, India, Europe, Africa. 9/10 friends who try it find it works for them. I lost a couple years of my life to jet lag because I wasn’t aware of those magical little “footballs.”

    And I’ll be using this on Sunday when I fly from Vancouver to Serbia.

    Have an os-some time!

  • SMudgal

    2011/06/15 at 2:03 pm

    For jet lag, I second what devanshi_shah said. Don’t drink. Walk about the plane every once in a while.
    About the diarrhoea-stick to bottled water, NO uncooked food like salads and raw fruits and veggies, use hand sanitizers and you should be fine. Toilet paper, YES. But if you are going to be put up, even for a short while, in one of the more reputed hotels like Sheraton or Best Western, they will have toilet paper and will tell you where you can buy them in B’desh. This way you save some space in the luggage to carry stuff to give away-bubble makers, small toys.
    MOST IMPORTANTLY-Forget about expecting to get shocked or crying. Just go with an open mind. It’s a different world, but like you said more than 150 million people live there and survive every single day!

  • REBottoni

    2011/06/15 at 2:01 pm

    My lifelong friend, an RN, goes to Myanmar every two years (also a 24 hr flight with many many plane changes) to work in an orphanage. She raves about the beautiful children.

    My husband had a Pakistani phlebotomist who came to the house to draw blood every couple of weeks – he would go back “home” every two years and he said he always counted the days until he could come back to his “adopted home” – he said all of India is DIRTY. For instance, a person walking down the street eating a banana will just toss the banana peel on the street.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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