Our journey together began at the San Francisco airport at 4 a.m., and by 4p.m. we were in Oaxaca, Mexico and ready to get to the hotel and hospital to prepare for the rest of our time here.
The Rotaplast office carefully packs the medical equipment and supplies that are needed on a mission (in our case 29 boxes), and a volunteer, Rotarian Tom Fox, greets the team at the airport with a trailer filled with the weighty boxes. As with all international travel, there is always the risk of lost baggage, or delays due to customs.
As we were landing, our first sight was the beauty of the land below. Particularly enthralling is the rich black volcanic soil made over the course of centuries. The Valley of Oaxaca is one of the most fertile locations in the Americas. Upon deboarding our plane, we came face to face with the disturbing fact that only eight of our boxes had made it. We prayed that this would be sorted out prior to tomorrow's clinic day. After a rather rigorous Custom's inspection of these eight boxes, we were able to finally meet the host Rotarians. The members of Rotario Guelaguetza, an all-women's club, are the most poised and efficient Rotarians imaginable.
Rotaplast International organizes missions that are made a little more special because they partner Rotary Clubs from different parts of the world together to change the lives of children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. The Rotary Club of San Jose, California raised $65,000 to send this medical team to Mexico, and in turn the Rotary Club from Oaxaca hosts the medical and non-medical volunteers, recruits the patients, and takes care to make arrangements for their families who have come from a distance.
The ladies of Club Rotario Guelaguetza are particularly remarkable because while it remains true that much of Mexcian culture still encourages women to concentrate on marriage, and child bearing and rearing, this club is comprised of 35 successful business women who do not conform to this traditional role. It is fitting that they direct their club resources towards bettering the lives of the next generation.
A day of travel and making new friends has the ability to wear everyone out. We were delighted to end our day in the company of our new friends on the team and in Rotario Guelaguetza. We relaxed and recharged with a delicious meal of black bean soup, corn tortillas, guacamole and mole chicken accompanied by music. During this meal, San Jose Rotarian Ivonne Montes de Oca, who was born in Mexico, translated the welcoming remarks made by our hosts and local officials.
Since I've left you all worried, at dinner we also learned that our prayers had been answered. The boxes had arrived, as promised. Jim Towery and Steve Ladowitz left the dinner early to make the trek to the airport where they would be able to retrieve our equipment. The truck used to move the boxes had no tailgate so our brave quartermaster rode in the flat bed with the boxes to protect our medical equipment. Jim and Steve arrived back at the hotel after midnight, and were the last ones settled into bed to rest up for the next day of work.