After weeks of anticipation, here we are in Venezuela. Having flown all night from San Francisco and other destinations as far away as Prague, and then being up all the next day, everyone is really tired, but undaunted. There have been a few of the usual glitches, one resulting from the fact that we and our many boxes traveling from Caracas to Cumana couldn't all fit in the same Venezuelan Air Force transport. The C-130 some of us have ridden in the past wasn't available this time, so the lucky ones among us traveled in a Shorts 360. Yes, that's the airplane built by the relatively unknown but venerable Shorts Brothers of Belfast, Ireland. In case you're unfamiliar, it looks something like this:
Those who didn't make the Air Force flight arrived in Cumana by commercial carrier, but the bad news was that the airline wasn't able to transport our boxes. Arrangements are underway to get them here shortly. Little hiccups like this help ensure that Ken Funk, our team's Mission Director, won't have time to get bored!
As we deplaned in Cumana, a huge reception celebration of music and dancing led me to assume that Justin Bieber had just arrived in town, but the party was for us! The local Rotarians and Rotaplast organizers had prepared a festive and touching welcome, and invited all of us to dance. Here, dentist James Galea demonstrates his Astaire-like skills:
Can you imagine walking right off the plane at any other airport into such a friendly welcome? When the music died down, we all assembled for a classic group portrait:
Then it was on to the Hotel Cumanagoto, where the accommodations turned out to be exceptional. We enjoyed a delicious lunch buffet, and then went to inspect the hospital intake facilities. Tomorrow, we rise at five a.m. for breakfast at six, and first contact with patients at seven.
Please check back on the blog and on Rotaplast's Flickr Stream to see more tales and pictures for what I can already tell will be a fantastic mission.