We are in day three of our mission trip to Tiquipaya, a new mission site for Solidarity Bridge. Most of the last two days were spent traveling. Our group includes 33 missioners and 46 bags of donated medical supplies.We met in Miami Wednesday night and took a red eye flight to La Paz. We arrived at 5:15am, bleary and prepared to feel subpar at an altitude of 13,500 feet. Incidentally, we had to ASCEND to get to the La Paz airport! Most of us could feel the effects of the altitude with varying degrees of headaches, light-headedness, palpitations and fatigue. But our coordinators, Ann Rhomberg and Jodi Grahl, prepared us well and by moving slowly and helping each other we did fine. We next took a 45 minute flight to Cochabamba, the nearest airport to Tiquipaya, situated at a much more comfortable 8,500 feet. We had a breathtaking view of the Andes mountains on the way. I was stunned by the vastness of the mountain range, the cloud forests, the small isolated settlements dotting the landscape. We made our way to the Hotel Toliva in Tiquipaya. It is lovely - beautiful grounds, a pool, comfortable cabins and a contingent of friendly and entertaining dogs. Although we were all tired from 24 hours of travel, we were eager to get started. We had a quick lunch and made our way to the hospital where most of us would be working in the coming days. The hospital is about .75 mi from the hotel - an easy walk or ride. We were welcomed warmly by the staff and were honored to have the mayor of Tiquipaya and a city councilman share their gratitude and inspiring words with us. The hospital is very busy, the halls and grounds are filled with women and children waiting for their turn. They have 500 patient visits and 90 surgeries planned for our visiting clinicians. We spent the afternoon organizing for the clinic and surgery days ahead and a few physicians began seeing patients. Our first day concluded with a dinner at the hotel with the US and Bolivian teams. Father Oldershaw led us in a candle-lighting ceremony to acknowledge the solidarity of our groups and bless the work ahead.
More from Tiquipaya coming soon. I had terrific pictures and video to include here but am having technical difficulties and cannot post them today. I am optimistic that I will be able to share images with you in future posts!