Warning: Very long rant ahead.
What a terrible week it’s been for my “Japan Plan”. Sorry for the flood of blog entries, but honestly, this venting is the only thing that helps me not just quit. I’ve come close to giving up a few times the past few days.
The problem is twofold.
- The medical system
Trying to figure out how to get to Korea from Japan, I soon learned there are NO embarkations in Korea whatsoever. I’d previously thought some were allowed, but no. I was rudely addressed by an agent from the top freight travel company. I figured it would be best to contact them since they happen to have an office in my city, but quickly regretted my choice. When this person offered me an alternate route traveling via ‘China’ (no specification on which ports), I asked if there was any other possibility, since China travel would require more vaccinations and Visas (which boils down to more TIME, which I’m short on if I want to make this trip before 2016). I already had a weird vibe from the agent, and chose to also consult an indie company out of Germany.
In the interim, I learned my only route home is via Shanghai. When I asked my first agent to confirm no alternate ways to get back into Canada, I got a snippy response saying ‘Well, I offered you China but you didn’t LIKE THAT.’ I wanted to say, NO, you offered me China and I’m specifically asking about alternatives to using Port of Shanghai (of which there are even two). There are numerous Chinese ports and an agent from the top tier freight travel company should know that, right? It’s their job!
Though their company was offering boarding for slightly cheaper than their German counterpart, I decided I’d prefer giving my $$ to a company who went completely beyond what I expected from them. Not only was the German agent helpful, but also gave me a valuable link to a ferry website I hadn’t found on my own. All ferries I researched were discontinued, whether I chose to travel from Taiwan to Japan, Japan to Korea, Korea to Shanghai, etc. This new info means I can travel directly between Shanghai and Japan on a 2-day ferry for a relatively low price (and cheaper than 5-6 extra days on the freight ship had I been able to do that)
In short, the German company now wins my business. They’ve provided extra information they really weren’t required to do. I didn’t even ask about VISAS and was given the rundown of what I’d need with my new itinerary, since the boat passes through the US as well. I was kept up to speed on hidden port fees and taxes, bank transfer rate fluctuations and useful travel advice. And by the way, the first company unceremoniously dumped an extra 300$ fee on me to disembark in Busan, Korea. Port tax seemed a bit high when I compared to fees for other ports. Considering ports in China are between 5-25$, and some in Japan tax up to 100$, isn’t it a bit odd that Korea would charge 300$? ON TOP of the pricy sailing fee of over 2000$ USD (one way). Well, something must be fishy, since the German company includes the port taxes and ship maintenance fees in the price they quoted.
So that’s the silver lining in my list of roadblocks. Unfortunately, I’ve had to alter my entire route, and am not pleased about the stop in Shanghai. Mainly, I know nothing about Shanghai, can’t speak the language, don’t know where anything is, and that’s extra stress and research for me. Given another situation, I’d love to see a random new country. Nothing against Shanghai, don’t get me wrong (except for their required Yellow Fever vaccinations).
THE MEDICAL SYSTEM
For those of you who believe Canada is great because of our free healthcare system, please think again. It’s fine if you have a cold or a sprained ankle. Anything really serious, and the system is a complete embarrassment. I’m unsure if it’s the same across all the provinces, but I’ve heard varying degrees of satisfaction depending on where people reside.
So where does one go to get a Yellow Fever shot? It isn’t given in regular hospitals, clinics or doctor’s offices. All vaccines I’ll need must come from a special Travel Health clinic. None are covered by our ‘free health care’, by the way, but I knew I’d be doing this out of pocket when I started my “Japan Plan”. Anyway. I wasted three days trekking back and forth across my neighborhood on a wild goose chase. None of the travel clinics I located online were even running. One moved. One became a test laboratory. One was the shadiest thing, with a window display boasting Vaccinations + Botox. They operate out of a residential duplex. Their receptionist didn’t seem to know what to do when i walked in. Because the wait time was long, he mentioned that I can try coming back on a day that the nurse is onsite, but hmm, come to think of it, she didn’t show up last week, or the week before and who knows if she’ll be here this week, but well, you can come by and see if she’s here!
Shady, disorganized weird place, I will not let you inject me with foreign substances thankyouverymuch.
After the three attempts to find a legit travel clinic, I walked into a district walk-in clinic to see if they had any info. I received a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a …yes, the text on the sheet was barely legible because it had been recopied so many times. All addresses and the first half of corresponding phone numbers were blanked out by a photocopy ‘margin’. Lovely. And guess which clinic was at the top of the page as their recommended clinic? The Vaccinations + Botox people. Really? If this is the top travel clinic, I’m a little scared about the clinics near the bottom of the list.
Following these three angering days, I decided to take a break. I was getting depressed and didn’t want to continue, but knew if I distanced myself for a few days, things would look better when I returned to my research.
Our medical system.
I could write poor haikus about it. Part of the reason I’m stuck relying on slow-travel, is exactly because the medical system has failed me. If a person with glaucoma can use eye drops before boarding a plane, why can’t I? The drops treat the same issue, which is intra-occular pressure. Declared ‘low vision’ several years ago, I receive no services and no perks because I’m not ‘blind enough’. I was told I see ‘just fine’ when I held a book to my face at a 10-cm focal distance. Did they expect me to walk around the rest of my life reading instructions, directions, emergency procedures, etc. THAT close to my nose? I had to quit a job once because I was told to get new glasses if I can’t see the monitor. I was docked points in an ergonomic evaluation because I needed to have my monitor less than a foot away from me in order to read the minuscule fonts of their database.
But here! Have a discounted ticket to the Opera. For your companion. Because it must be a chore to have to be someone’s seeing-eye dog. Meanwhile, you can pay full price. This is what our lovely system does for its patients. Don’t even get me started on the costs of serious illnesses. They will make you sell your house just to afford Chemo. They’ll inject you with tuberculosis to cure another illness. Oh look! TB is now an epidemic and we can’t offer you a Tetanus shot because it’s boostered with TB, which is sold out due to said epidemic of an illness you don’t want to be immunized against in the first place. Had it when I was a kid, thanks. Once was supposed to be for a lifetime.
And let’s not even speak of malpractice. More people should be suing. Deaths, sicknesses and more due to incompetent and under-qualified staff. Patients given the wrong medication (happened to me, happens to many), wrong dosage; being treated for a sleep disorder with anti-depressants. Have a hip injury? Don’t worry, we’ll give you a triple dose of anti-depressants. Oh, yes yes, in this dose, they act as painkillers. Have migraines? Here! Some more anti-depressants! How about your Alzheimer’s? Don’t you want some yummy anti-depressants?
It’s sick. I used to like living in my country, province and city. But as the population ages, and the medical field becomes more haphazard, maybe I should just MOVE to Japan!
Sorry for the lengthy babble-rant, but this is what made me so angry that I needed a time-out. That time-out costs me more days where I’m not getting vaccinated. Yellow Fever, some Hepatitis shots and maybe others require several rounds, and I won’t have enough time to get them all in if I need to arrive in Japan by December (so, traveling through November).
This has a domino effect, since I don’t want to apply for Visas until I know I’m immunized. Will I receive all three Visas I’ll need? I don’t know and it’s giving me such grief not to be able to trust other people to assist me. I’ve always been someone who does as much as I possibly can for myself because outside sources and help may not be reliable. And here I am, at the mercy of the Canadian government and medical system.