Whew!! It has been a very busy roller coaster ride of more pre-planning these past two weeks–so busy, in fact, that this is my first chance to write about my experiences. I have my studio apartment reserved and the accessibility tools I will need in RJ being shipped to me this coming week. I decided it is better to take what I need in a separate suitcase from home and fly them to RJ than to try and buy everything in Brazil. I learned that I can ship my medical supplies luggage for free via my air carrier–good info to know for future travels. We shall see…
PANIC MODE: Two and a half weeks ago, I was excited and terrified of going on this trip. Today, I am much calmer and still very excited. Two weekends ago, I had a ‘dry-run’ excursion to Los Angeles to attend my great niece’s graduation. I was able to get a sense of traveling with my bad knee, and overall, everything went quite well. I have much more confidence today that I will be able to pull off this Brazilian journey.
PROGRESS: At first, it seemed I was not getting the assistance I needed from the Rio Program leaders. I spent a lot of time emailing back and forth between RJ trying to find an accessible place to stay, The Rio staff came up only with first class hotel rooms that were WAY out of my price range. Finally a UNM friend, who is living abroad in Jordan, gave me links to finding places to stay in Rio de Janeiro (and destinations all over the world). I was able to find an accessible studio apartment, three blocks from my classes, at a very reasonable price! I list three of the rental links below:
START-STOP-START: The electric wheel chair I plan to rent for six weeks in Brazil came through then fell through. The Rio staff is currently working to procure another electric wheel chair (or scooter) for me by the time I arrive in Rio. I hope it will be a wheel chair versus a scooter since my left hand and arm cannot functionally steer the scooter. UPDATE: I just signed a contract, via email, for a power wheel chair. It looks small from the photo, so I hope they will have others, if needed. However, I will make the most of it, if it is all they have. Dar um Jeito (there’s always a way)…
It’s less than a week before I leave for Brazil, and I still do not have a personal assistant to help me with shopping, food prep, etc.(more PANIC MODE) BUT, my dear friend in São Paulo, who helped me last September, may have found me her RJ relative to assist me. Updates to follow soon…
SUPPORT SYSTEMS ARE A MUST! The UNM Accessibility Resource Center (ARC), Mobility International, USA (MIUSA), and the UFL Accessibilty Resource office have really provided excellent moral support these last few weeks. MIUSA has a variety of practical resources, as well. Several visits to their website (http://www.miusa.org/ ) are a MUST. Here are just a few “gold mine” links:
Personal Assistants: (http://www.miusa.org/ncde/tipsheets/personalasst)
Portable Accessible equipment: http://www.miusa.org/ncde/tipsheets/packingmobility, including lightweight reachers, portable ramps, hand anchors and shower chairs.
Funding Tips for International Exchange: http://www.miusa.org/ncde/financialaid/index_html/?searchterm=funding
Study Abroad Funding Tips: http://www.miusa.org/ncde/financialaid/studyabroadfunding/?searchterm=funding
** IMPORTANT HEADS UP: It is a very good idea to check with one’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) for funding opportunities early on in one’s planning. I missed out on this because I waited until the last minute to ask for equipment funding. Allow at least 2-3 months turn-around when requesting DVR financial assistance.
Here, I want to say a huge thank you to Joan of ARC (pun NOT intended, but it does apply), Ashley of MIUSA and my wonderful sister, Marti, for their patience and comforting words that got me through some VERY stressful moments. They always took my anxious phone calls and were able to calm me down in mere seconds!
The emotional roller coaster of these past several weeks is a whole post unto itself. To be continued…