The clink and rattle of china and cutlery fills the dining room of our hotel in Nayphitaw. This is the capital city of Myanmar. The sun is low and glowing red in the sky as the day begins. We dodge our way through noodles and soups that don't normally satisfy our morning hunger. The team around me compares photos and videos of the previous days work. We all have our favorite patients and moments and with around 30 new patients every day there are so many lovely memories to share.
The people here carry a certain power in their gaze. I cannot speak to them without a translator but I feel so much gratitude and joy each morning as I walk through pre-op and post-op (This is where the patients are waiting for the days surgery and recovery from the previous days surgery). It is amazing how much connection I can feel with people who speak a different language.
We make up the majority of the guests at the hotel and our leaders call for the morning meeting to start in the restaurant. Safety and logistics are discussed along with a few inspirational statements. All with the goal of reminding us how important it is to work together.
Today as we conclude our meeting the thing that strikes me most is how loud the guests at the next table are clapping. We just turned their breakfast into a meeting and they couldn't be happier. They are geologists from Europe and go on about how deserving of help the people of Myanmar are. They are incredibly appreciative of what our group is here to do. I shake their hands and grab one last bite off my plate before heading out the door.
I've grown to love the rhythm of these missions. The power and beauty of humanity are so plain to see. The way an entire team of people with different origins and idea can unify for one goal is such a beautiful experience. Anyone who has had the privilege of witnessing an Operation Smile mission can attest.
The sky is hazy in the morning and afternoon. Many of the people here still cook with fire. There are so many fires burning here that it creates a soft and beautiful light. A light that reminds me of the powerful fires burning within these people whose smiles and serenity are clearly lit from within. I know that the history of Myanmar is a little shrouded in mystery but the kindness within the average person's heart here is plain to see.
This is Operation Smile Thailand's first mission located within the borders of Myanmar although they have been serving the people for years at border towns where they hold missions on Thai soil. It hasn't been an easy road to establish a presence within the country but with so many of our patients turning up with never before treated clefts that obvious need is apparent.
The people of Myanmar wear powder on their faces. It can act as a blessing and also as a natural sun screen. Often the shapes are a little abstract and make beautiful designs on the people's faces. Although on some faces I could see a question mark. Why not me. I need help too. But with a schedule already stacked to keep up late into the night adding any more cases would become a safety concern. No one knows for sure the exact numbers of patients still waiting in Myanmar, but we had to turn away too many viable patients this mission. The people here need more help. Operation Smile is a wonderful organization and on missions like this the need for groups like us shines just as bright as the fires burning within the hearts and kitchens of the locals.