An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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!

  • katdenk

    Jet Lag major helper: Melatonin. You can get this in the vitamin section at walgreens or your local drug store. It’s the hormone your body makes to regulate day and night. Can’t stress this enough. Melatonin, it’s amazing.

    And have fun!

  • rosie260

    Bangladesh was the first place I traveled outside the us. Get prepared for a TOTAL mind-freak, which has tured out not to be such a bad thing 10 years later. This will change the whole way you look at the world.

    Get some good scarves, the blond hair will attract a LOT of attention (trust me).

    Also – plan for some serious reintegration disturbances when you get home. It’s almost harder than going, the coming back.

    Preparing myself to relive the experince through your eyes.

  • missusclark

    Oh, my. What a great, mind-blowing, emotional experience that will be!


    Jet lag blows. You’re gonna feel wretched the first day, no matter what. But… Try to sleep on the plane.I recommend Benedryl and 1 cocktail (just ONE, Heather!). Do remember to hydrate. The sleep mask and earplugs are very helpful. Once you arrive, try to stay on the local schedule.

    Anti-bacterial wipes and probiotics also endorsed here. Pepto is a life saver. You won’t want to miss anything!

    Make sure you take all your meds. In fact, you may want to check with your doctor on dosages, since A.) you body will be stressed, and B.) you mind and emotions will be stressed.

    Don’t forget that basket Christy’s gonna need to haul you outta there…. On the plus side, you will appreciate the richness of your own life so much more.

    Go safely and come back safely.

  • leappiah

    As a semi-veteran of long, trans-continental flights, my advice for jet-lag is to sleep as much of the flight as you can (if you’re like me, by a few hours in, you’ll be unable to wake up, which is NOT a pleasant feeling, but does make the trip go by faster). I have also had great success taking melatonine pills. It will be far worse coming back than going. Also… don’t be surprised if your period decides to accompany you the entire time you’re there, whether it’s scheduled to or not.

  • Geneva M. Wilgus

    I’m so excited for you! I did a similar trip (my first trip out of the US) to Tibet to work with a girls orphanage… which meant dealing with 12 hours of time change + altitude. My biggest piece of advice: bring sleeping medication to help you fall asleep and stay asleep in your new timezone. Don’t be afraid to power nap (no longer than 30 min), and stay crazy hydrated so that it’s only pee shooting out of your body all the time (there’s an image).

    Cannot wait to hear all about it! Best of luck!

  • stephaniekaloi

    I haven’t been to Bangladesh, but I did visit India for three weeks a few years ago. I will say this (which was advice from a professor of mine who is from India): when you see kids begging on the streets, one of the best things you can do is give them FOOD. If you give them money it most likely goes to the person who is sending them out there in the first place. If you give them FOOD (or candy! We would keep little treats in our pockets and give them to small kids, who loved it. It’s not good for them health-wise, but it’s something they never just felt nice), it’s instant gratification. We also encountered a few mothers who needed something for their kids, and we gave them food as well.

    Seeing the sheer number of children on the streets was the hardest part for me. Seeing kids with diseases that are eradicated in the States was hard. Having tiny little fingers tapping on my elbow and looking down to see a four-year-old asking me for money was hard.

    I’m sure there will be so many experiences you’ll have that will be monumentally challenging, especially since you’re going to be visiting maternal health clinics — I can’t even imagine. But I also believe you’re going to see so much that is amazing and humbling, and have wonderful discussions with people. You’ll get to share baby photos and stories, all of that jazz. It’s going to be awesome.

  • ExSchutz

    My husband and I went to India in January. Here are a few tips that helped with the travel. Everyone told us we would get sick, but miraculously we didn’t.

    Plane tips:
    Bring an eye mask to help you sleep.
    Get up every few hours on the long plane flights. Your seat mate might be cursing you, but your legs will be thanking you.
    It’s easy to get dehydrated on long flights, bring a bottle of water with you and every time the flight attendants pass out water, take some and drink it even if you don’t want to.

    When you get in-country:
    Adjust to local time right away. Don’t cheat. Stay up the full day.
    Eat the yogurt. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it will help your stomach safely adjust to the local bacteria.
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. You will stick out, so make the most of it!

  • Daisee

    How wonderful! I cant wait to see photos of this exciting trip! Happy travels! Be careful and safe!

  • ljos

    Not for jet lag, but musts for travelers to developing countries: Cipro(for the traveler’s diarrhea) and if you are at all prone to motion sickness, get a couple Scopolamine patches. (I believe it’s prescription only.) If you’ll be doing any traveling by bus, there’s a possibility of seriously bumpy roads which, for me anyway, cause serious motion sickness. The patch works wonders, but drys your mouth a bit so take gum or hard candy to help counteract. Sounds silly, but Scopolamine saved what could have been a totally ruined trip to rural Nicaragua for me. Dramamine works too, but makes most people sleepy.

  • mfm

    Have a wonderful trip.

    For jetlag when your legs ache, try putting your legs up the wall. Lie on your bed with your butt close to the wall and put your legs straight up the wall, old yogi trick. It works and you look like a crazy American while doing it, it’s a win win.

  • tallhottie

    My Dad travels A LOT to india (and I know you’re not going to India, but these tips might help).

    -Used bottled water to brush your teeth. Even that small amount to rinse your toothbrush can make you sick where “poop just keeps shooting out of your butt. On and on and on.” And try to take a quick shower and keep the water from going in your eyes and mouth.

    -Like other people said, stay awake until it is bedtime where you are visiting. It reduces jet lag significantly.

    -Don’t give money to the children beggars. I know it’s tempting, but once they find out you have money they’ll swarm you.

    -Antibacterial hand gel goes a long way.

    -Enjoy yourself and take a lot of pictures!

  • specialkrispy

    I hope that going to Bangladesh with Christy Turlington doesn’t make you too good for us, Fancy Lady.

  • jeccat

    If you will have a free afternoon in Dhaka, visit Hindu Street. There is a famous harmonium shop (Jatin?) that has been making harmoniums for 100+ years. ALSO: Take a local (male) guide if you can. There are very very few women (read: NONE) walking around by themselves in the non-international part of town, and you will not be comfortable going without a male companion. Really.

    Be prepared to spend long hours in traffic jams.

    If you visit ICDDR,B (International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh), say hello to Dr. Pradip Bardhan for me!

  • lh

    Christy Turlington totally went to my high school. You should probably ask her about Danville, California. If she describes it as a sick blend of Pleasantville and Desperate Housewives, you owe me $5.

  • Just Jill

    Awesome advice from everybody. Well, I guess it is, anyway as I’ve never left the US for anywhere near that exotic! But if I ever become a world traveler, I’ll have to remember some of this stuff.

    I just have a small request: I want you to kidnap Christy’s husband Ed, and bring him home to SLC for me. That dude has been #1 on my list for a long, long time… but he’ll probably be staying home with their kids, huh? Damn.

    Be safe – and may this experience be totally enlightening for you!

  • Rebecca from Texas

    Oh hugs! So happy for you! Have a wonderful time – can’t wait to hear ALL abou it when you return. Safe travels & much love from Texas

  • soniawings

    What an incredible opportunity! So excited for you.

    Here’s what you need:
    – Benadryl (for any random allergies you might discover, as well as to help sleep to get over jet lag)
    – Non-drowsy allergy meds
    – Pepto
    – Melatonin for jet lag
    – Tissues

    Whatever you do, don’t drink tap water. If someone brings you bottled water, make sure it’s sealed. I’ve been served tap water in bottles in India – tricky! Tap water is a surefire way to have a great story for Travel Clinic Lady to add to her excitement.

    Can’t wait to see photos!

  • CathyJean

    Someone who is into nutrition and natural remedies told me that they never travel abroad without taking grapeseed extract (GSE) (to avoid/lesson the affects of foreign cooties/viruses). I’ve not tried it, but it sounded like a good thing to look into. Have a fab time! Can’t wait for the pix! 😉

  • scorpio21

    Hi, I’m Bengali American. I’ve been to Bangladesh a few times and I still experience culture shock when I go there. I hope you have a great time, you should definitely do some shopping and buy salwar kameez for the girls and a sari for yourself. A fair warning, the weather is extremely hot right now and there is a lot of dust in the air. Traveling by car (in Dhaka) can be a pain because traffic sucks.I know visiting a foreign place can be intimidating and you should definitely be careful with what you eat, (keep anti-bacterial wipes, and a first aid kit with you at all times). However, Bangladesh is a fascinating place to visit, the people and the lifestyle is very different from the US. You will have a very enriching experience. Travel Safe.

  • pandabear

    The solution to jetlag is to manipulate your body on the plane so you can enjoy it on the ground. That area of the world is exactly opposite us – 12 hours’ difference. When I went to Nepal we changed time zones the second we got on the plane both ways, suffering to stay awake in one direction and taking Ambien in a sleep mask to force sleep the other direction.

    Also: devastatingly humbling. Life-changing. You will truly never look at your own life the same way again.

  • francabollo

    Speaking as someone who has never been to Bangladesh … listen carefully.

    I think anyone travelling to Bangladesh understands they will experience an emotional impact from witnessing the plight of the Bangladshis and therefore try to prepare themselves so as not to be overwhelmed. But what is forgotten, especially by someone like you who shares my deep compassion for animals, is the shock that comes from witnessing their mistreatment. Maybe knowing this before you go in will help steel yourself.

    On a lighter note … Snacks! Take lots of high protein snacks.

    Safe travels.

  • kathrynlurie

    Heather! Congratulations! What a terrific adventure. I can’t wait to read all about it.

  • TropicalPopsicle

    Well what great timing! A friend of mine just told me last weekend that the best cure she’s ever found for diarrhea is Pringles! She’s traveled around the world and she says you can find them anywhere. Eat a can of those and it’ll plug you right up!

    Congratulations on the amazing opportunity!

  • tallnoe

    Awesome. I cannot WAIT to hear about it!!

    Take garlic pills (they don’t smell, promise) and B vitamins to try to get the mosquitoes to stay away.

    And I echo the sleep sheet idea. If there’s an REI in SLC, GO TO ONE. I left the country for an undetermined amount of time a few years ago and the best things I bought in advance were: sleep sheet, chacos and my backpack.

    Sleep sheet is AMAZING.

    Have a great time. So excited for you.

  • emmajames

    1) Have an amazing time!
    2) Accept you can’t fix everything.
    3) Remember that every single thing you DO do will be of great value.
    4) Be prepared for the seeming incongruity of meeting people who may be in the midst of the most abject poverty but express a capacity for joy rarely found among those who have everything. Try not to let that lead to an existential crisis.
    5) Be prepared for as much culture shock upon your return to Utah as you experience upon your arrival in Bangladesh.
    6) Consider switching sexual orientations, because Christy Turlington is a goddess inside and out.

  • Chloe

    I never experience jetlag traveling west to east (Pacific Northwest to Italy is my usual route). Coming back it’s a problem. I can hit the ground running and never look back.

    Don’t drink alcohol on the plane – I know that’s contrary to what everyone is telling you but it dehydrates you too much – drink lots of water, walk around, gotta watch for that deep vein thrombosis.

    If you arrive and it’s light outside, stay awake until it’s dark. If it’s dark, go to sleep.

    My MIL told me about “tush wipes” – that’s the name – too late to get those now but individually wrapped Cottonelle wipes are great to carry when faced with no TP. Don’t freak out if you see the “hole in the ground” toilets – I’ve seen them in posh restaurants in the middle of Milan – but hope you have good balance.

    I’ve tried everything on planes to “sleep” and nothing works – your experience may vary. Love the planes with the individual screen at each seat with the games and movies on demand.

  • Mindy Lee

    Heather, I simply cannot wait to read about your experiences on your upcoming journey.

    You’ve received excellent advice already, so I will just say “safe travels.”

  • Cecily

    I’ve heard Melatonin helps jetlag. I swear by the stuff.

  • msmona

    We’ve always affectionately referred to traveler’s diarrhea as “The B.U.” (boo), which stands for “butt urine.”

    Perhaps a bit too descriptive.

  • duchess

    Hi, I am from Bangladesh. We go there pretty frequently and I go all the way to the village, not just stay in the city.

    A few tips – most flights arrive early in the morning (like 4am) so if you can, sleep on the flight, and then take a nap after the noon prayers. It will help you make it to a sane bedtime instead of passing out at 7pm.

    There are bunches of bottled water. MOM is the most reliable one. Try the others at your risk.

  • dkat

    jet lag sucks, keep super hydrated. It sounds pretty simple, but it seriously helps. LOTS OF WATER. Before. During. After. Also, when I first went to London I got super sick, only ate oranges for 4 days straight while I was there, anything else I would throw up. Came back and found out my body was just under stress (go figure!), since then I always take low dose dramamine. You wont be drowsy, 1 tablet should do. Have TONS of fun and stay focused in the moment.

  • lfar

    Dooce, when I’ve traveled in places where showers and clean water aren’t always available, I found the only thing I needed sometimes to feel clean was a face wash. I recommend you bring some face wash towelettes, just for the times when you don’t even have access to water to splash your face! I never knew how much I valued having a clean face until I couldn’t wash it. (I sound so spoiled!)

  • Laura Mauk

    Wow. I’m impressed and in awe and envy. Such a wonderful opportunity. It WILL be life-changing…and just think how much you will have to share with your daughters–and us!–when you come back! Can’t wait to hear–and see! Laura@

  • mcsturm

    Be careful with your photography– that’s a hard thing to do when traveling with privilege.

  • dykewife

    something topical for athlete’s foot. this will be especially important if it rains. i can’t remember when the monsoon season is, but best to be prepared because once your feet get wet they may well stay that way.

    it will be very hard, in the short time you’re there, to get over the culture shock. my friend said that as well as the sensory overload was profoundly difficult for her. there was always noise (some of her trip was spent in delhi), smells (from strong flowers to faeces), profound poverty and incredible wealth and people. people were everywhere and nearly always in close contact.

    don’t eat or drink anything that hasn’t been cooked, not even salad. only eat fruit that has been peeled. the tales of squat and squirts are true and can be devastating, especially on someone who doesn’t carry a lot of body fat.

    don’t wander off on your own. men there have a very different view of the role and place of women in society. you could find yourself in a very difficult situation.

  • medkid

    Hey Heather just a heads up!

    I’m not sure which anti-malarial you’ve elected to take/which one they suggested for the species of mosquito/malaria they’ve got running around there but larium/malarone/(hydrox)chloroquine can so some crazy things to the ol’ brain chemistry. I never had experienced a depressive episode until I left the country at 17 y/o and spent 3.5 months on chloroquine on which I sobbed every day and went to bed at 6:30 PM. My host family didn’t know what to do with the loca gringa yea! Not that it wouldn’t have developed at some point seeing as the genetics are a party o’ missing neurotransmitters, but now I dance the sometimes graceless dance with chronic depression and have joined the “on meds for life” club.

    SO! If you’re starting to feel a little emotionally bonkers, besides all the crazy different and tough stuff you will see, honestly, long pants and bug spray would have been my better choice (and I’m going to be a doctor in 11 months…look at me doling out bad advice!).

    Be well! Bring Cipro! Don’t eat the ice! 🙂

  • Anu

    Congratulations! And yes, it will be an unbelievable roller-coaster ride. I am from India, living in the states for the last 13 years. I go back every two years and I’m struck by the scant value for human life every single time.

    I would recommend carrying baby wipes in your handbag. And be sure to take a bag with a zip closure, preferably cross-body so it is in your sight at all times. Cotton shirts (will be super hot and humid), linen pants, no shorts…helps keep bugs and men away…wait…they are the same 🙂

    Anything can happen so have an open mind and go with the flow and you’ll have fun. Can’t wait to read about your experience.

  • rasavapa

    A few other people have mentioned it as well, but DO NOT take Lariam/mefloquine as your antimalarial prophylaxis. It can have really severe effects on your metal state, especially on those of us prone to anxiety and depression. It can also cause night terrors and a plethora of unpleasant physical side effects- I took it a year and a half ago, and still have occasional neuropathy and heart problems! Travel clinics usually push it on you, but say no. Malarone and Doxycycline are much, much safer, and the only side effect is a possibility of nausea.

    Have fun, and do you. Thank you for using your voice for something that counts.

  • treetop567

    This is so wonderful, Heather! I know this will change you, and then we’ll get the opportunity to grow, too, when you share what you’ve learned. Can’t wait to hear more!

  • RuthWells

    Holy canolli! What a fantastic opportunity. Have fun and be safe.

  • jlo

    I never travel without a few protein bars. And not to sound commercial, but I take Clif bars specifically because they don’t have a chocolate/yogurt coating — they taste and look the same even after being mushed at the bottom of my bag in 100-degree weather for a week. Also take some packets of powdered sports drink mix, the kind with electrolytes (or better yet, Pedialyte powder). You’ll need it after a bout of the shooting poop. Do every possible thing to avoid contact with untreated water — keep your mouth closed in the shower, brush your teeth with bottled water, be careful about using ice. Eat produce that is either freshly cooked or freshly peeled. You can have salad when you get home.

  • peacegirl

    If there is any way to learn from my experience in international relief work, from which I still suffer PTSD, my hope is that you are able to separate yourself from what you see. I saw so many things I couldn’t begin to describe. I thought I was going to help others and what I really did was experience all through a very ego-centered, selfish place. Whenever I saw anything that upset me I thought it was all about me and I HAD TO DO SOMETHING right then. It made me miserable and my job was compromised. All of this is to say I think you are more mature than I was and know your limits as well as your gifts. At the end of the day, for me, my most important job was to bear witness to the beautiful lives people were living in very difficult circumstances. Sometimes that was all I could do and it was enough.
    May you bring love and light to Bangladesh.

  • nolaliz
  • Just Julie

    This movie is a bit old, but for some reason, what stuck with me when I watched it a few hours ago is this: (oh, the movie was Slumdog Millionaire)
    —when the boys in the movie were little, working in a restaurant, the older boy grabbed a used water bottle out of the trash, went to the sink, filled up the USED water bottle he’d just fished out of the trash can WITH TAP WATER. Then, he put the cap on, and used this little tube of something, thinking it was superglue? and made the water bottle to look as if brand new. . . what a scary thought, eh?
    You ask for bottled water, and you get handed one. Could just be a used bottle filled with tap water.
    then the squirts begin!

  • megmcg

    Don’t eat the thin skinned fruit in the hotel, my aunt says to give it to the kids outside instead of money. They’re hungry and any money they collect gets kicked upwards. And there are cows everywhere. Trashcans are constantly being dumped out in the street for the cows to pick through.
    Indian Cows=American squirrels+Jesus

  • Jennifer Daddio

    You mind will be blown in ways that you won’t even be able to explain. I traveled to Nepal years ago and the only way I could describe it to others was that my heart opened up so much I thought it would explode. That trip changed my life and the way I look at everything today can be traced back the the transformation I went through on that trip.

    Bring a couple of rolls of tp, hand sanitizer and a couple of big boxes of crayons, bags of balloons, or bags of candy. When you come across children begging hand these items out to them. Those little items will bring them SO MUCH joy.

    Best wishes to you for a safe and happy journey.

  • benderhill

    Heather – amazing that you’re getting this opportunity. And amazing that you’re giving your time to help raise awareness for Every Mother Counts. Safe and fruitful travels! Be well. And avoid the poop that doesn’t stop.

  • Heathers Garden

    PDF your passport photo page and email it to yourself. That way if your passport is stolen you can easily access the passport number and provide a copy to the embassy without having to rely on someone at home to send it to you. To cure the jetlag stay awake at your destination until local bedtime. You’ll be exhausted and want to fall into bed (who wouldn’t after a 24 hour plane ride), but it will get you on local time much more quickly. The problem will be the return, it just sucks and there’s not much you can do about it. You’ll be tempted to booze it up to make the horrific flight less horrific, but don’t. Dehydration makes jetlag worse and drinking alcohol on a plane is a quick trip to dehydration. If you must drink (and who wouldn’t on a 24 hour plane trip!), have an equal amount of water with each drink. I also like carrying individually wrapped wet-ones with me when I travel. You’ll be amazed at how many different uses you’ll find for them. But above all, have fun!

  • Heatherface

    When I went to Israel (15 hour flight from L.A) I was jet lagged and just plain cranky by the time I finally got there. An apple perked me right up.

  • srising

    That sounds like an amazing trip! It will be a life changing one for sure.

    As for jet-lag, I also would say melatonin to sleep. To stay awake – just stay busy during the day, stay in the light (it helps the body recalculate) and drink LOTS of coffee and/or black tea.

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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