After all the anticipation, we are finally en route to Ulaanbaatar. In fact, I’m writing this on the airplane – we are 8 hours into the flight, about 6.5 to go. The flight attendants on Korean Air are impeccably dressed in their light blue uniforms and matching hairpieces. They have been kind and hospitable, welcoming each of us individually by name. There was a blanket, package of slippers, water bottle, and headphones on each of our seats when we boarded the plane (and that’s just economy class!). Needless to say, my dad switched from sneakers to slippers almost immediately.
As we were sitting in Atlanta waiting to the board the plane, Michael, Harry, Adam, and my dad were exchanging stories about responding to medical emergencies on airplanes. Ironically enough, a few hours ago, the flight crew made an announcement asking for physicians to volunteer to help a passenger with a medical emergency. Luckily, there were about 20 doctors on the plane who responded and the passenger is doing fine. Now, we are flying over the North Pole and I can see the iced-over Arctic Ocean below me. Just the beginning of our adventures.
As the trip preparations were playing out, I wasn’t sure exactly what my role would be on the team since I am not a clinician. We thought about setting up some time at the Ministry of Health but a week is really too little time to learn or contribute much of anything, especially since I don’t speak the language. Instead, I am looking forward to spending most of my time at the Children’s Place orphanage while my dad and colleagues are at the hospital. I checked an entire suitcase full of arts and crafts, M&M’s (which Justin told me were a hit last year), puzzles, coloring books, etc. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to really just enjoy time with kiddos and I am really excited about it. My only concern is that I will want to bring all of them home with me to Boston.
There is something so liberating about leaving everything behind for a few weeks to learn about a completely foreign place and culture, especially knowing it is in memory of Jonathan. Surely we will have some mishaps (like when John put the pile of milk curds in his coffee last year) and we will share them on the blog as they happen. Something that my dad has always taught me is that traveling is where the best learning happens – I am looking forward to soaking up new experiences and also happy to have some quality time with my dad. I am sad not to have met Jonathan Soud but am so grateful to his family for helping to create this partnership with Mongolia. I could not think of a better way to honor the legacy of a very special young man. His memory is a blessing.