The team assembled at the airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning amidst Calgary’s cold and heavy snowfall. It’s a great day to escape Alberta’s winter weather and head south to warmer climates! Many of the volunteers are well seasoned from previous years with the mission and as a result, organizing bags and equipment across team members feels like clockwork. All of the hard work, planning and organization for this trip is evident as members find their bags, collaborate and make their way through the airport’s rat maze. We felt a twinge of pain for the 2 United Airlines employees who began their 3 am shift to a train of 70 totes and hockey bags that required checking.
After a somewhat bumpy descent, we find ourselves in Houston just before noon where lunch awaited and the team had time to stretch our legs and bellies before the dinner time flight to Ecuador, which takes us through the night to our intercontinental destination. Incredibly, the checked baggage made it all the way to Quito – a stroke of luck when considering issues we have had in past years. Missing a single tote or bag could present major challenges to the team if the supplies are critical. Finally, the supplies are loaded into a truck destined for Cuenca and everyone disperses for the night for a short but very needed sleep before the final leg of the journey to Cuenca,
After a quick rest in hotels, the team hopped on a short flight to Cuenca. Upon arrival, everyone found their rooms and took a quick siesta before lunch and a team meeting. The hotel surprised everyone with a group of energetic and entertaining local dancers performing a traditional Ecuadorian dance. The performers ended the performance by sifting through the jet-lagged room, beckoning to join the dance. This was just what everyone needed in order to continue with setup in the afternoon. Lunch finished with a speech from Dr. Powell, impressing how efficient and high performing this group of people have become on these missions. Dr. Manuel Avila, a local team member also offered a blessing to everyone participating in the mission.
The afternoon was spent unpacking and setting up the core – which serves as the office and storage of supplies. Some members split off to pick up equipment that is stored locally. Each year, equipment stays in Ecuador, which allows the team to grow the mission and make operations more efficient. This is all thanks to local members of the Rotary Club and their willingness to volunteer their space for the storage of medical equipment for the majority of the year. To end off the day a few members went to set up at the rotary club for our big day of clinic tomorrow where we will determine the patients to be treating over the next 9 days. Time for the best sleep in a few days and looking forward to meeting patients tomorrow