There is so much for me to reflect on. The incredible mission, my birthday ... and the ending of a very significant relationship in my life.
First, I want to apologize. I am always so emotional every time I write....
Well, I am a woman. So I guess it's expected :)
I'm not sure where to even start. The mission was life changing. I met so many amazing people and saw so many amazing things. The most jolting experience was when I witnessed a 20 year old boy speak for the very first time. He had a cleft palate and the dentist on the trip made him a plate for the roof of his mouth, making it possible for him to speak. They make plates (obturators) for kids older than 10-12 instead of doing the cleft palate surgery because there are too many complications. Our Speech Therapist, Elizabeth, stood with the boy in front of a mirror for about 30 minutes, guiding him, trying to show and explain what to do with his tongue and mouth in order to create sounds. It was so incredible. When he finally said his first word, he looked at Elizabeth and she beamed from ear to ear, holding back tears. Then he looked at his father. His father looked back at him and put his hands together near his face, absolutely speechless. I was filming all of this, but when the boy looked at his father, I burst into tears and had to leave the room. I sat in the hallway and cried for about 15 minutes, unable to compose myself. Unable to grasp what had just happened in that room. It may have only been one boy, but because of Operation Smile, because of the magnificent volunteers, this one boy now has the gift of speech.
Below is a photo of Elizabeth and the boy. I also posted a photo of the mouthpiece and other dental pieces.
I also want to share the pre and post op photos of a 61 year old man who had his cleft lip repaired. He came all the way from Somalia. I spoke to his son for a while and the man had a fascinating life story. He has 4 wives back in his country, all of which live in a house together. He runs a huge farm and owns dozens of cows and chickens. He has dreamed of getting his cleft lip repaired for his entire life. And at last, he could make the trek to an Operation Smile site. When I saw him before surgery, his eyes were full of sorrow and fear. He was so nervous. I followed him into the operating room, where he laid on the table trembling. A nurse came over and put his hands on his arms and the man immediately stopped shaking. It was such a beautiful moment, full of such warmth, comfort and trust ... (I posted the photo below) ... I left the OR before they started surgery, however I went to post op the next day to visit him. I walked into the room and he recognized me right away. No words were necessary, he looked at me and gave me a thumbs up. His eyes no longer sad, but hopeful. My eyes welled up with tears.
Watching the life of a 61 year old man completely change in two days was simply magnificent... Life is so beautiful.
Here he is:
There is still so much left for me to write about regarding the mission. I want to tell you all about the people I met, they were all so beautiful. Living in America (well, Los Angeles in particular), we jut don't meet selfless, giving, caring, warm people... Also, I must post pictures from the Safari I went on! Which was part of the team bonding day :)
But I feel I should stay in the present for today ...
I have arrived in Paris (!!!!) after spending the past 4 days in London (!!!).
London is where I spent my 24th birthday. My birthdays are typically very hard for me. I don't like to be a downer, but I just don't celebrate them. To be honest, they are just a reminder that my mother is no longer here. Of course, this birthday was no different. But let me say, it was still a great day! I finally got to see Mama Mia (the show, not the movie...) And it was so fun! I sang and danced and loved every single moment of it ... However, what made this birthday especially hard was the loss of my very first love. I don't feel the need to go into much detail. All I really need to say is that me and my first love have finally said goodbye, after months of hanging on, and it is just so painful. I know "there are other fish in the sea" blah, blah, blah. However, at the moment, there is only one I see ... or even want...
How do you move on? How do you heal? I ask this, even though I know the only answer is time and patience...
Nevertheless, I am in Paris!! Which has been dream of mine for a long time now. I feel so fortunate that two of my dreams have come true in the past month. First, to finally live the dream of being an Operation Smile volunteer, which surpassed every expectation. And now, Paris! So, I am going to enjoy it. I am going to eat French bread, devour as many croissants as I can, drink champagne every night and maybe even buy myself a generous birthday gift from Chanel.
Now, I hate to leave this epic blob post on a sad note... Thus, I am going to post a few pictures from London! It was a glorious city and I loved every second!