Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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!

  • amanda_v

    Bring a yoga mat and practice your Adho Mukha Svanasana if you want to impress Christy. She’s the celebrity Queen of Yoga.

    I also like the idea of bringing gifts for kids…like bubbles or sugar free gum.

    I can’t wait to hear about this when you get home. Best wishes!!

  • lauraksanders

    Having traveled to a number of developing countries, the best advice I can offer is: ALWAYS carry your own toilet paper, preferably in a ziploc baggie.

    Enjoy the trip…it will be an amazing experience

  • Mrs_Wormwood

    Have a great trip! Hope you stay well, and bravo on doing charity work.

  • Greygirl

    I’ve never been to Bangladesh but I’ve done the India shlep often. I find that going over there you will be so hyped up that you won’t feel tired and you’ll just go go go on adreneline.
    My best advice to you is this: give yourself AT LEAST a week when you get home when you will feel as if someone hit you in the head with a brick. Do not plan ANY activities, espcially anything that requires a sharp mind (or any mind, really).

    If you don’t already know the site journeywoman.com, check it out. Lots of good (and some crazy) ideas and tips for women travelers.

    It will be a life-changer – have a blast!!

  • MsRachelC

    Best Wishes!!!I can’t wait to read about all of it and see your pictures. You’re amazing!

  • RovingAcres

    Bangladesh is amazing. I spend 3 months there studying endangered gibbons up in Srimangal and have never met nicer people. Be prepared to drink a lot of tea and get offered jackfruit by everyone you meet. They are predominantly muslim so beef is ok, pork is not so much but no one I met ever made a big deal about religion. I never felt the need to cover my head for instance, but I would have if I had been visiting a mosque.

    You’re going to be there in monsoon season (I was too) so be prepared for endless pouring rain and seeing drowned animals (and sometimes people unfortunately) in the streets. Especially if you are going to be in Dhaka a lot. Also be prepared to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer chaos of the cities. All the colors and crowds and smells after being in a plane for a day are just too much sometimes. I went to bed early the first night, with the help of ambien, and was much more ready to face the world the second day. Also they have terrestrial leeches, but not in the cities.

    Things I was really glad I brought:
    -A mosquito net with permethrin
    -Gallons of DEET
    -Comfortable, water resistant shoes
    -Raincoat/rain pants
    -flashlight
    -extra toilet paper
    -hand sanitizer (Did you know it kills leeches? Very useful)
    -Body powder (like Gold Bond)
    -An open mind and heart

    Get some biryani and some gulub juman for me! Or the little white cake ball things. Mmm. Bangladesh has the best sweets.

  • Midnight

    I’m sure a hundred people have already said this, but if you can, avoid alcohol on your flights and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Also, reset your watch to the local time in Bangladesh and try to get as much sleep in flight as you can.

    Once you arrive, try to immediately adapt to the local time, rather than going to sleep and trying to sort it all out later. I believe I’ve heard that if you can get out in the sun for 15 minutes or so that it will help reset your circadian rhythms.

    Have a terrific trip!

  • WarsawMommy

    What an amazing opportunity…..

    I went to Bangladesh several years ago, when I lived in Asia. A few things that caught me by surprise:

    1. The lack of women in public places – many, many times I looked around a market, or busy street, and I was the ONLY woman as far as the eye could see. I expected to see some, out in pairs, with a husband or male relative, and sometimes I did – but far more often, no women to be seen at all. It was jarring to my eyes, to say the least.

    2. As a white woman with blue eyes travelling alone, I attracted loads of attention everywhere I went. It was totally normal for me to be surrounded by a huge group of men (and yes, I do mean completely surrounded, like encircled) as I made my way around. They did not enter my personal space, and shuffled to keep the circle huge while still moving. The only time a man would enter the circle was if he spoke English, and then they politely approached and asked if they could talk to me. When I said yes, they’d ask me questions and shout out the translated answers for the other men. This was a surreal experience, and once I took a photo of all the faces staring back at me (after asking permission, of course). Whenever I show that photo, women freak out, but truly, they were very respectful and polite. They were just very curious. I also got the sense that they were trying to keep me safe in places like train stations, and acted like an odd group of shuffling bodyguards.

    3. The poverty. This is indescribable. I had spent time in India and thought I was prepared, but I was not. One image that sticks with me to this day is the towering mounds of garbage in the streets of Dakha, with small children rooting through them for food, and fighting with wild boars for the best scraps. This is the truth, so be prepared for sights like this. They are even harder to bear when observed from an air-conditioned taxi, so be prepared for feeling some guilt, as well.

    4. The early morning calls to prayer, blaring from loudspeakers on each street corner. Too. Early. Gah.

    All in all, my time in Bangladesh was amazing and yes, life changing. Take care, be prepared to see some hard stuff, but trust in the welcome and kindness of the people. In my 3 weeks there – alone – I never felt myself to be in any danger (despite being a Western woman on her own), and rarely felt uncomfortable.

    Safe travels, Heather.

  • LittleWeeOne

    Whenever I travel to Southeast Asia, I do not sleep the night before and take two melatonins on the flight. Then I conk out.

    I recommend having a pdf of your passport in the clouds. It SUCKS when you lose it.

  • karahmarie

    Don’t forget you can’t use ice cubes, either, unless they are from purified water. We didn’t have a lot of drinks on ice over there.

  • doublebuttons

    Melatonin….OTC and won’t make you crazy. So safe, my 5yo uses it (he has ADHD and would never sleep otherwise).

  • doobrah

    You’ve probably already left, but one thing to keep in mind in a Muslim country is how men regard women. Many look right through you. If space is tight, and one is walking toward you, they do not get out of the way. You can either walk into them (once you get really tired of their treatment) or get out of the way yourself. You will see many women walking a step lock-step behind their husbands. Very subservient. If you buy something, hand your paper money to them by the corner and don’t touch them if you hand them change. It’s a respect thing: the men do not touch women they don’t know. Cover your decolletage, dress loose and conservative (covered).

    Wherever you have a layover, if it’s a reputable airport (Dubai, for example), they have many Western items that are safe to eat and drink. I recommend the curries on the plane — they are delicious.

    If you happen to fly Gulf Air, the food is delicious and their version is muzak is excellent.

  • Vivienne

    There was a study a while ago that showed that jet lag was closely linked to meals. So if you regulate your meals so that they match those of the destination, you can get over jet lag very quickly.

    I guess the trick is to not eat very much on the plane, and then immediately match you eating habits with your destination’s time zone.

  • carepackagegirl

    No Jet-Lag.
    That’s the name of the product. I’ve had friends travel from California to China, Thailand, and all over Europe and all of them swear by this stuff.

    Should be safe with prescription meds too.

    Envy envy envy.
    Bangladesh. Wow.

  • mamaguru

    I’ve traveled to Aisa many times and I’ve always adjusted well to the time difference. I switch my watch over to the new time zone as soon as I board the plane and try my best to conform to the new time. I know conformity is not your strong suit, but try.

    I don’t want to freak you out, but in India (& maybe Bangladesh) a lot of people sell bottled water that seems unbroken and new, but is really from a local tap, so use those purifying pills or boil for 5 minutes. Beware of ice.

    You will have an amazing time! It will be beautiful and horrible and horribly beautiful. I am so excited about this cause and wish you and Christy the best. Let me know how I can help. I’d be happy to post something on my website or participate in any fashion. Safe travels!

  • Carolyn H.

    I just took a trip to India a few months ago and I searched the Internet high and low for anti-jet lag tips before I went. There are actually some people who believe that by not eating for extended period of time (like 12 – 18 hrs.), you can reset your body’s internal clock and avoid jet lag. I was not about to pass up the 6+ meals you get served when travelling around the world, so that wasn’t an option for me.

    Instead, I recommend:

    1. Drinking as much water as possible. Literally, it is not possible to drink too much water when travelling.

    2. My jet-setting boss sets his watch to the destination time from the moment he gets on the plane and then tries to start living by this time. (For example, sleeping if it’s night in India, even though he’s in Minnesota.) He swears by this.

    3. I believe in getting as much sleep as possible on the plane, which involves using the earplugs and eye mask they give you. And, in my case, also putting a blanket over my head. I’ll never see these people again. I don’t care what they think of my blanket head.

    4. Getting up every few hours on the plane (when not sleeping) and walking around, doing stretches and squats, etc. (Again, who cares what my fellow passengers think about that crazy lady doing squats and stretches over in the corner.)

    5. Starting to do things on local time from the minute you arrive. (If you arrive at 2 a.m., go to bed. If it’s noon, grab lunch.)

    6. Getting out into the sun as soon as possible. The sun is so helpful in re-setting your body’s natural clock.

    Have a fantastic trip! That sounds like an amazing opportunity.

  • tksinclair

    My mother invited me on an all expense paid trip to Europe for three weeks. I was going to say no. You just made up my mind for me…I’m worried about EUROPE being so far away from the kids and work and how will the world all hold together if I’m not holding all the strings and you’re going to Bangladesh and taking poppy medication….I think I can let go and drag my poor self to Europe…yes, it’s coach, no business class…and rough it through Paris, London, Spain, Portegal, Italy, Gibraltar yep, I’m going….leaving next week. Thanks Heather…you made up my mind for me…

    Yes I will be sharing a room with my mom for three whole weeks which should equal out your exposure to typhoid, malaria, dengue fever and travelers diarrhea…..I’d say we’re on an equal playing field now….

  • xuanla

    Be safe. Be well. Sounds like the experience of a lifetime! i think so
    http://ecomtech.vn

  • jholland

    I spent six months in India and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the emotional roller coaster in indeed intense, but so well worth it. I can’t wait to see the photos you bring back. Just remember – brush with bottled water.

    Have an amazing time!

  • Sirene786

    WHAT? My parents are from Bangladesh! I’ve been there tons of times to visit my relatives. Let me know if you have questions!

  • goodhousewife

    WOW as a midwife I am both envious and appreciative of such a worthy trip, would love to hear more about it and would love to be involved in something like that myself one day!

    Love your site

    http://goodhousewife.wordpress.com/