The Ghana Files: My pre-departure to do list

I guess now is as good a time as any to start blogging about my Ghana adventures. I haven’t left yet, I won’t be leaving for several weeks. I don’t have an exact departure date yet, all that I know is my assignment starts in early October. Rumor has it there may be an on-site orientation in late September. Like I said, I’m not sure yet. Nonetheless, I am trying to get my ducks in a row as soon as possible. There are countless things to be done before I go!

First, I must fulfill all of the visa requirements:

  1. Have a valid passport with 4 to 6 free pages. Check! I just received a shiny new passport with 52 blank pages, waiting to be filled with visas and stamps! My old passport would have been valid long enough (2013) but I didn’t have enough pages left to meet the visa requirements. I was planning to add the extension pages, but in the end I just went for a new passport. The extension pages would have cost me $80, while a new passport was $100.
  2. Two identical passport photos in color. Check! I just bought a few extra when I went for my passport picture. I look *really* grumpy in these pictures, though I distinctly remember being in a great mood that day!
  3. Police certificate of good conduct. This one requires me to go downtown to the police headquarters, stand in line and pay $30 for fingerprints and a background check. I had to wait on this one because it also requires me to bring a passport.
  4. Certificate of immunization against yellow fever. Also known as a Carte Jaune, this small yellow booklet shows proof of vaccination and is required for entry into many countries. The yellow fever vaccination is not given by typical doctor, and is usually obtained at a travel clinic. Oh, and a fun tip: the travel clinic doesn’t usually take health insurance.

That brings us to my health requirements. I must get a pre-departure physical, and have my doctor sign off on my general health. Unfortunately, my doctor has taken an extended vacation. I have been calling their office non-stop to ask them to help me find someone to vouch for the following:

  1. My general health, allergies, family history, etc.
  2. My mental health history, and how my doctor thinks I will react to stress.
  3. A variety of lab tests (blood test, TB test, hepatitis) and a chest X-Ray.

On top of those requirements and the yellow fever vaccination, the CDC also suggests getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Polio (another dose), meningitis and rabies. I already have the Hepatitis B vaccine, it was given to me as a public school teacher in New York City. I’m not 100% sure about the others, which ones I may have gotten before going to college. At any rate, I don’t imagine it is going to be very fun to get all of those vaccines. Then again, it wouldn’t be fun to get Typhoid or Polio either.

After all of those requirements are met, I need to pack and otherwise prepare. I have found the suggested packing list for Ghana provided by the Peace Corps to its volunteers, even though I’m not in the Peace Corps the information still applies. I also need to sort through my belongings, and decide what needs to be packed up and put into storage, and what can be sold or given away. I also want to make some trips to see family members before I head off!

At any rate, I guess this concludes my first post about Ghana. As you can see, there is much for me to get done! I am glad that I have the summer off to take care of these things. I’ll be honest though, I’m really not looking forward to all of those shots…

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