June 26, 2019

Crucial Things You Must Do Before Visiting Strange Countries

Jewish people know a thing or two about how hard it is to visit certain countries. Try traveling around the Middle East with an Israeli passport stamp and see how far you get. It’s definitely not easy to visit every country on the planet.

If you intend on traveling to strange places you’ll need to sort a few things out before you go. Some will be absolutely necessary, whereas other will just keep you safe. Here are a few of the top tips you’ll need to keep in mind.

Ensure You’ll Actually Be Allowed In


Even if you sneak onto an airplane it doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed into a country. You might need to obtain a valid visa before you leave. The ESTA application helps the US and various countries have similar systems in place.

Obtaining the correct visa beforehand is vital, but there are little things you need to remember too. For example, if your passport doesn’t have enough blank pages or it’s running out you’ll be in trouble.

Paying a Visit to Your Local Doctor


When you visit your local doctor tell them exactly where you’re going. They will look on their computer and tell you the vaccinations you will need. Before you know it you’ll have needles sticking out of your arms.

Keep in mind, needles are a lot more pleasant than being sick in some countries. You’ll need to talk about your prescription medication too. You will get in trouble visiting a few countries if you don’t have a note from the doctor.

Be Careful When You’re Packing Clothes


The weather is completely unpredictable, so it’s important to know what to expect. This will be a problem in places off the beaten track if you don’t pack correctly. You should be able to handle any situation.

You don’t want to visit Vietnam expecting sun only to find out it’s freezing cold. What will you do if you can’t find warmer clothes? Even though they’ll be available they’ll be too small for you.

Pick up the Correct Travel Insurance


There are many types of travel insurance you’ll need to read about in-depth. If you aren’t covered you might end up with large hospital bills to pay. I’d like to talk specifically about medical evacuations.

A lot of countries around the world don’t have quality facilities. In fact, there is a chance they won’t be able to help you. If your insurance includes medical evacuations you’ll be taken where you need to go.

Check for Emergency Travel Warnings


You’ll know how safe a country is before you book your trip. I’m assuming you’re smart enough to stay out of war zones. You still need to check for emergency travel warnings before you get on the plane.

Unfortunately, various places around the globe are a mess right now. Some are beginning to reach boiling point. You don’t want to take your family to a country where they’ll have a target on their back.

Carrying Enough Money to Last You


In most western countries, you’ll find an ATM on every street corner. The same thing applies to most developing countries too. Still, you don’t want to end up somewhere with no access to money.

You’ll need to carry enough on your person until reaching a more modern town. I would think about buying products that will help you hide it. Lots of travelers will recommend you wear a money belt.

Just Wait Until You Finally Get There


Preparing for trips is sometimes the most difficult part. Don’t let it stop you from getting excited about your adventure. When you get there you’ll have the greatest time of your life.

For Jewish UNICEF official, it’s all about the children

Whether Caryl Stern, the president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, is touring a war-torn country, a natural disaster or a refugee camp, she always sees children playing.

They may be kicking a ball made of paper or hugging a doll made of rags or straw, but they are happily playing.

The kids’ ability to smile and play through the most extreme of circumstances is what inspires her every day. Since taking the helm of the organization in 2007, Stern has guided UNICEF’s responses to disasters as varied as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the Ebola crisis in west Africa.

She has also faced criticism that UNICEF is hostile to Israel. Many years ago, one of the camps it sponsored in Beirut to keep children off the street was subsequently renamed for a suicide bomber. Hearing this, the Reform movement of Judaism in the United States ended its sponsorship of the program. Although the camp’s renaming was unofficial, “the damage had been done,” Stern said, and for years Jewish children stopped carrying the bright orange UNICEF collection boxes during Halloween.

“I stand very proudly as a Jewish woman at the helm of this organization,” said Stern, 57. “Right now is our moment. This is our opportunity to stand up for everything we believe.”

Stern, who previously spent 18 years at the Anti-Defamation League and was a 2014 Jewish Women International Woman to Watch, said that her “firm belief in tikkun olam [repair of the world] and not putting the sins of our fathers on children” make it necessary to be involved.

Her current focus is the scores of young people fleeing their countries, sometimes without adult supervision.

“I call them children,” Stern said. “They aren’t migrants. They are not refugees. They are not illegal aliens. They are kids.”

Some 30 million children — 13 million of them from the Middle East and North Africa — need a permanent place to live and a school to attend regularly, she said.

Stern is aware that these children have “scars that are going to be with them for a long time,” including physical and intellectual problems due to malnourishment and disease.

But their resiliency motivates her.

“If you turn on music, they will dance,” she said, boasting that she’s  “played ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ in just about every language.”

So many of the problems facing the children face “are fixable, curable,” she said. With proper medicine, vaccines and clean water — and with an end to war — many of their woes would disappear. Her goal is “zero hunger, zero poverty, zero disease,” which she described in her 2013 book, “I Believe in Zero.”

Stern was in Washington last week to attend Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women event and launch a new fundraising program, UNICEF Kid Power. A $40 bracelet encourages children to be more active while teaching them about other cultures in a game-like program that awards points for exercising.

The bracelet “lights up, and it buzzes,” she said. “Kids love it.” The money raised will be used to deliver food to malnourished children around the world.

Some might assume Stern’s position is an office job, but she said she needs to “bear witness” — in her eight years at UNICEF, she has traveled to 32 countries. Stern said that having grown up in a family steeped in Holocaust memories, she understands the importance of retelling stories from firsthand knowledge.

Stern’s mother was 6, and her uncle 4, in 1939 when their mother, Stern’s grandmother, kissed them goodbye and sent them from Vienna to America with a woman they didn’t know. They ended up in an orphanage on New York City’s Lower East Side.

That same year, her grandfather boarded the St. Louis, the German cruise liner filled with Jewish passengers heading to Cuba. The ship was forced to return to Europe when no country would open its arms to the Jewish passengers.

Growing up, “the two stories we constantly heard were how nobody gave a damn” to help the Jews, according to her grandfather, and “how nice people were to take my mother in and care for her.”

Stern, the mother of three sons, knew she wasn’t going to be the one to turn her back on children who, through no fault of their own, were suffering.

People sometimes hear that UNICEF has programs in areas hostile to Israel — including, most recently, the Gaza Strip — and they condemn the organization, Stern said. But UNICEF’s mandate allows it to operate only in underdeveloped countries, and Israel is not one, she explained.

There are exceptions, she added. It has set up a recreation center for children in Sderot, who grow up under the constant threat of bombing.

“UNICEF has absolutely no politics,” she said.  “We don’t deal with adults. … We only want to give the children what they need.”