Last Days by Rich Lopez

Friday blends into Saturday.  It went like this.  Clinic-inventory-packing-swimming-eating-dancing-snoozing-busing-flying-arriving in 30 hours.  Sound tiring?  It was.

The morning started the final day of the clinic. Patients had their last chance to see the “gringo doctors.”  While the docs were seeing patients, I worked with a team of nursing students, counting, grouping, boxing and labeling supplies in the storeroom.

As the clinic started to shut down, more supplies arrived at our doorstep.  The trickle became a flow, then the flow became a rush and soon we enlisted other students to pack up the mobile clinic.  Everyone helped, students, interpreters, doctors, nurses and volunteers. Andres’ daughter and several of her middle school girlfriends drop by and soon they were part of our team.

We packed all the remaining supplies, furniture and equipment for storage in a warehouse somewhere in Mante.  Anne mistakenly dubbed me the “heifer”  (“jefe” = boss) in charge of inventory. This was a daunting task and probably one she would never have assigned to me if she could see my desk.  When the last box was, labeled, taped and loaded onto the truck our grand total was 150 boxes.  With some luck the inventory system will prove to be accurate and helpful in preparing for next year’s mission.

After the clinic is packed there is time for a quick trip to El Nacimiento, the source of the river Mante.  The Nacimiento is a cave at the foothills of the local mountains, from which the river Mante flows.  The water flows up from a 2000 foot deep hole inside the cave.  Swimming is a refreshing diversion for everyone.  Swimming or rowing into the cave is magical.  A light shaft from above illuminates the interior of the cave and the clear blue water.  Inside the cave you can see stalagmites and stalactites.  Now it is time for the Nacimiento to “rebirth” you by floating  out of the cave.  Back on the dock we share a few snacks and drinks and soon it’s time to move onto the Fiesta.

When I returned to the Hotel Monterey, I got a phone call from the lobby.  Chelito and Petra, two local educators who have been part of the Boulder Mante Teacher Exchange were downstairs.  Over the past eight years, the Mante maestras have become dear friends of many teachers in Boulder.  We decided to skip the opening ceremony of the Fiesta (usually speeches) and have a quiet dinner.   Petra was a visiting teacher at Angevine Middle School last year.  Teaching in the BVSD was quite an experience for Petra.  The expectations and differences between Mexican and American schools are remarkable, too much to describe in this blog.  Chelito is the principal of an elementary school and a talented and gifted educator. She has been a guest presenter at a bilingual education conference in Colorado.  We catch up on family news and discuss plans for this year’s Teacher Exchange Program.

After a tasty dinner of taqutios they drop me off at the Fiesta.  I walked in just as the last speech ends..   Perfect.  When I sat down I learn that my name was mentioned by the Presidente (Mayor) in his video taped speech.

The Fiesta marks the official end of the medical mission and features food, dancing and good-byes.  The medical team enjoyed this evening despite the fact that most of them had to catch a 3:00 A.M. bus to Tampico for a 7:00 A.M. flight home.   Everyone had a great time, dancing to various Mexican dances.  It is a clear sign of leadership when the BCH Chief Financial Officer can lead a “Samba” line.  The Audiology Team closed the Fiesta about l2: 30 A.M..

The wake-up calls came way too early in the morning.  Slowly team members drifted out to the two waiting buses for the two-hour ride to Tampico.  After a short flight to Houston, we waited for our final flight home.  Calls were made to friends and family who met the bleary-eyed medical team.  Saturday night was an early night for everyone.  The medical team’s thoughts probably included memories of Mante and their week of countless miracles.

Miracles in the eyes of the patients who have had their cataracts removed and can now see; children who can hear their parents’ voice for the first time after being fitted with hearing aides, nursing students who now have a greater knowledge of the proud profession they will soon enter and others who received high quality medical care, surgeries and treatments they could never afford.  Yes, it was a week of Miracles.

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