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How to get medicine shipped to Europe, make good use of waiting time; doing block-ins

Although I don't recommend going on a trip to Europe and leaving your medicine in California, even a big mistake like that can have its hidden benefits. 

Don't get me wrong; forgetting medicine is a nightmare. First of all, it's illegal for someone back home to ship it to you in the Netherlands, so I had to call my travel insurance and have them arrange for me to see a Dutch doctor for a prescription which was 30 minutes bus ride away in another town altogether, and while I was waiting in the doctor's office, I had some free time to do a quick block-in.

Navigating getting my medicine consumed all of my spare brain cells for almost two weeks, between calling FedEx, DHL, finding out it's illegal to ship personal medicine to the Netherlands, then hoping if I had my daughter send it with a copy of my prescription that it would make it through customs then emailing customs, then going to the doctor who refused to write the prescription, emailing the hotel at my next destination to ask if they'd accept the package that we planned to send and hope for the best, then emailing my pharmacy and doctor back home to ask if they'd send me a copy of the prescription, whew!  For those who don't know, this medicine, Low-Dose Naltrexone is the only hint that keeps the pain at bay. Without it, this trip would be two more months of torture. 

And then I was doing all this with a nine hour time difference and only five, then four, then three pills left. 

When I got to Amsterdam, in desperation I went to the Tourist doctor in Centraal Station, paid her 97.00€ to learn that she wouldn't prescribe the medicine either. So I was stuck. 

My darling daughter got up early one day, drove to the most industrial area of San Francisco all the way across town only to end up in front of a building that looked like an abandoned warehouse, but she bravely went in and found it to be a functioning DHL

office, dropped off my medicine with David the DHL guy who said it would get stuck in customs without the original prescription and so she texted me frantically, "What do I do, Mom, send it or not?"

I hadn't heard back from either my doctor or pharmacist or customs, so I told her to just send it and I'd try to get the prescription right then. I had two pills left.

I called my amazing pharmacist Robert and asked him to email me the prescription, he said it was electronic and that he didn't have a scanner, so I asked the Tourist doctor if I could have a fax sent there, and they agreed. 

Ten minutes later, my pharmacist called me to say that the fax wasn't going through but he was willing to take a photo with his phone and SMS it to me. 

I waited and waited. And then, it came. I jumped up and down and emailed it to David the DHL guy, and waited. Even on the fast free Amsterdam wifi, it seemed to take forever to send, so I sent it again, checked my sent folder to make sure it had gone; it had. 

Half an hour later, I got an email from David at DHL

saying he'd received the prescription and that he would attach it to the package. I allowed

myself to feel some relief, but the package could still get confiscated by customs so I was not getting my hopes up. 

It was the Easter holiday weekend, so shipping the tiny envelope second day air meant that although she sent it on Thursday, it would not arrive until Tuesday, also the day I had to leave for Berlin at 11:00am. If the envelope got stuck in customs I might have to find another hotel for the night and take a bus an hour away to the customs office, paying twice for the same night because my deposit with AirBnB was not refundable. 

Or if I got very lucky and the package did make it through customs, and did get on a truck for delivery, DHL said that their delivery window was between 9-6 and so I might have to wait and possibly miss my train.

Monday night I logged on to the DHL website and was able to see that the package had made it to Europe. I signed up for text alerts and didn't sleep a wink. 

Woke nervously at 7am, checked my phone, no alerts. Showered, dressed and had some coffee. Went up to the front desk to ask if the package had arrived, which it hadn't. 

Then I got an SMS saying that the envelope was "with the courier!" Not able to believe it, I called DHL and they confirmed but couldn't give me a specific time. My train was leaving at 11 and it was already

9:30. I walked to the metro station and rode to Centraal Station to ask about alternate trains. 

The lady at the ticket desk told me there were other trains at 1, 3, and 5pm was the last one for the day. Since the Hermitage Museum was on the way to the hotel and they have one Rembrandt I thought I was going to miss because of my schedule, I took advantage of the opportunity to see the painting and add it to my life-list. 

I spent a peaceful hour admiring the craftsmanship and artistry of this wonderful painting. The empathy on the doctor's face, the spare and elegant paint handling on the dead body; it's like a poem. 

When I returned to the hotel the front desk lady (shout out to The Bridge Hotel for above-and-beyond service) insisted on calling DHL for me. She spoke to them at length in Dutch and then said,

"No promises, but the driver said he'd be here in 20


I leapt up and down and threw kisses at the ladies behind the desk. It was 1:00. And at exactly 1:19, the yellow and red truck pulled in front of the hotel and the gentlemen handed me the envelope with my medicine in it. I could have kissed everyone in he room. 

Although it had been a gigantic pain in the ass, all that waiting caused me to draw more and see a Rembrandt I wouldn't have seen otherwise, plus in order to see the doctor I had got to visit Hoorn, a town I otherwise would have missed, and as it turns out it's one of my favorite places I've been. 

Sometimes forgetting something at home can make your trip so much more marvelous. 

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