It's freaking cold in Calgary

Minus 34. Celsius. (Not that it would matter much more if it were Fahrenheit.) That’s 14 degrees below my thermal underwear threshold (that would be when I put them on). That’s what it was on my way to work this morning.

What the hell is going on around here?

Calgary has been in the grips of a deep freeze since about the beginning of the year. My longjohns haven’t seen the drawer for weeks. Going outside is a serious consideration, namely, how many layers to wear? One of my co-workers (Scott) has been wearing googles to prevent his eyes from freezing.

This makes the pain in my left shoulder all the more poignant. What’s it from? Injections. Specifically, vaccines for Hepatitus A, B, and a tetanus booster. All of these I got last night at the Bowmont Travel Clinic.

Why? Because next Wednesday morning, at 06:45, Alex and I will be winging our way down to sunny (and considerably warmer) Costa Rica.

I haven’t been any place warm since 1996 (when I did a trip around the southwestern United States with my friends), and I haven’t been south of the United States since about Grade 10 or 11 (when my family went to Akumal, Mexico). I’ve never been to Costa Rica, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of fun.

We’re starting off in the capital, San Jose. We’ll be there for two nights before heading out to Arenal, noted for the Arenal Volcano, the most active in Latin America. (Relax, it’s not a pyroclastic volcano, like Mount. St. Helens or Mt. Soufriere in Monserratt — it’s more like Kilauea in Hawaii.) We’ll be there two nights before heading out to the Pacific coast and Tamarindo. We’ll be there for four days, one of which will be Alex’s birthday (which is the reason we’re going there in the first place — she wanted to be on a beach in January … and who am I to refuse?). Then we’re back to San Jose for one more night before flying out.

All of this brings me back to the injections. You’ve no doubt seen that commercial of that tasty-looking tropical drink where the narrator tells you about the Hepatitus A in the ice cubes? Latin America, even Costa Rica — which is by far the healthiest of all the Latin American countries — have high Hepatitus risks. Alex is already up to date with her shots, so it was my turn to get a couple pricks.

All three of them.

Why three? Well, when I talked with the clinic doctor (a requirement — you can get the shots with a meeting), she informed me that I had to get separate A and B shots (I was too late to get Twinrix before leaving), and while going through the list of things I should receive, she also suggested that I update my tetanus, which is a couple decades out of date. (You know you haven’t seen a doctor in a long time when…)

I hate needles. Really hate them. But I seem to hate them less now than I used to. It’s probably the flu shots that I get that help me. The more shots I get, the less I seem to hate them.

Except for Hep A. When the nurse was injecting me, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that she wasn’t stopping. For a moment, I thought that she’d accidentally hooked me into a garden hose and was flooding my arm. Turns out that the Hep A shot is a full millilitre. Doesn’t sound like much, right? That’s quite a lot more than the average. And it HURTS. I actually felt nauseated. (Not that it takes much for me and needles.)

One down, two to go. I had to breathe a few moments before getting the next two.

They were smaller, and went in quick succession. I hopped off the table and had to almost put my head between my legs to let the colour flow back to my head again. I have no idea why on earth needles make me feel this way. I hate that.

The nurse warned me that my shoulder might hurt the next day. “The NEXT day? It hurts right now!”

So this morning, I wake up to -34 degree weather. My shoulder is just shy of severe agony. I can’t raise it. It’s a dull ache that won’t go away. I can’t even lift a can of pop without flinching. Putting on my jackets (outer jacket with a fleece jacket for extra protection) is an ordeal.

But I just keep telling myself: There’s a beach in this.