Charming the Yellow Fever Nurses

When we arrived back in Nairobi from Mogadishu, we were routed through a different hallway to customs than we were when we flew in originally from Zurich. Before getting to customs, we went through slightly more involved health checks, including Ebola screening with a very excitable man in mask and gloves. The last checkpoint was a couple of very serious nurses asking for the “yellow passports” indicating valid yellow fever vaccinations. The trouble with that part was that none of us have had our yellow fever vaccinations. You see, the CDC and WHO don’t provide hard yellow fever vaccine recommendations for the specific portions of the countries we’re visiting on this trip. From the standpoint of actual risk of contracting this illness, there is minimal to no risk for us on this specific trip. However, the CDC and WHO don’t make the rules. The rules state that if you go anywhere in Somalia or Ethiopia or Tanzania, you need the vaccine entering Kenya. If you go to Tanzania from Kenya, you need the vaccine. If you go to Seychelles from any of those countries, you need the vaccine. This is good information that may have been just slightly glossed over ahead of time. Anyhow, here we were without any of this when asked to show our yellow passports. When we told them we didn’t have them, they sternly asked “Why not? You’re required to have this documentation with you.” We all kind of shrugged and they got a bit more serious with “Have you ever had the yellow fever vaccine?” Well, there was really no other way to play it. We just told them straight up no, played dumb, and submitted to their will. It would be $20 each for the vaccine, but the real problem is the “passport” is only good ten days after the shot and we were headed to Zanzibar the next day. So, despite it being December 11th, Greg asked the sassiest of the nurses if it was December 1st. When she replied that no, it was definitely December 11th, he gave her a wink and was like “no, but it’s really December 1st amiright?” She kind of chuffed and sent us back to our seats to wait for another nurse to give us the shots. I was pretty sure that 1. She got what we were hoping for and 2. There was no way in hell she was gonna give it to us. Lo and behold though, after a lot more winking and agreement that just maybe we had actually first arrived to Kenya 6 days prior, and when you think about it 6 can be rounded up to 10… maybe we’ll just keep it simple and round the day to 10 days prior. With that, we were set! . It turned out that Larissa already had her yellow fever vaccine from overseas. Those $20 vaccines in Kenya were a $300 special order vaccine when we considered it in the USA, so score on that!

After another nice evening in Nairobi, we were back to the airport to our next destination: Zanzibar. We ended up having to take a flight to Dar Es Salaam rather than a direct flight to Zanzibar. However, the whole process actually took less time. Nairobi to Dar directly was a comfy 1-hour flight. About a 20-minute cab ride to the ferry docks and then a 90-minute ferry ride and we were there. I would still recommend anyone avoid arriving in Dar on one of the late night flights to try and do this the next day. With our morning flight we were in Zanzibar around noon. At the docks in Stone Town, they certainly did check our yellow passports, so we were pretty glad things had worked out well the day before. We definitely need to bring some chocolates for the yellow fever nurses when we fly back in the last time from Seychelles.

So…. What to say about Zanzibar? Photos don’t quite capture the place. It’s not filled with monuments or any particular postcard spots that you can capture in a single frame. Zanzibar is a mixture of things, subtle and unique. It has a relaxed island feel that kind of takes me to the Caribbean. The architecture is a unique blend of Portuguese, British, and Arabic that hints at their long colonial history. Stone town is a maze of narrow alleys connecting all kinds of historic buildings and open storefronts. It’s a truly beautiful and relaxing place to spend the day just walking around. And that’s pretty much what we did. We saw the old slave market (one of the last to close in the late 1800s), the fort, and did some shopping in the bazaar. There’s a shop with some vintage western signage and license plates out front that turned out to be a gold mine of east African antiques. We had some great food, local and… not so local. Zanzibar is certainly a tourist hub, but it has a unique feel for this part of Africa and is definitely worth the stop. Off to Ethiopia for a brief stop!

Tanzania slideshow should load below:

One thought on “Charming the Yellow Fever Nurses

  1. What a small problem was those yellow fever cards. Good winking greg. I always hoped to go zanzibar and dar es salam. Many many stories in the old piratd movies about those places. Enjoying the pictures. Be safe

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