Our group spent this afternoon filling suitcases with medical supplies, dental care kits, second-hand clothing, and foam clown noses in a sunlit room at the Norwich Congregational Church.
In order to maximize the amount of supplies that we can take to the Dominican Republic, we each used our airline baggage allowance to pack the biggest suitcase possible with much-needed items, and will limit our clothing and personal items to what we can fit in our carry-on luggage.
At first glance, the amount of donated items lined up on the folding tables at 2:00 seemed far too great to fit in our ten massive suitcases and duffel bags. Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Hanover & Lebanon Co-ops, and local dentists gave generously, and our first task was to sort everything into piles, from bandages to catheters to vitamin packets to a precious infant scale, which nearly pegged the meter on our 50-pound per-bag limit on its own.
Everything found a place, however. I was given the job of trying to catalog what was in each suitcase – to make accessing supplies easier once we’re out in the field – and to move items from suitcase to suitcase as needed to keep each bag under the weight limit. Justin lent us the use of a hand scale, and I struggled to lift each bag long enough for Chris to write down its weight.
Our group rose admirably to this, our first challenge, and we were done by 4:30. We stood in the fading light in the airy room for a discussion about the types of gifts we may want to bring for our host families, for a reminder about taking our weekly malaria medication, and to finalize our plans to meet at the hotel in Boston in a week.
At this same meeting, we met two of our interpreters, a friend of Rita’s, and the friend’s college-aged daughter. They’ll meet us in Cotui, after we’ve each finished our individual tasklists. After we’ve ridden the Dartmouth Coach to Boston, flown to Miami, then Santo Domingo, then taken a 2.5-hour van ride up to Cotui, to a different, warmer world.
About the foam clown noses: Dwayna is a Laughter Coach, and will certainly help keep us relaxed and happy during our journey. She’ll serve as the clown-nose Juanita Appleseed in the mountains of the DR. At this moment, the noses themselves are protecting the infant scale from harm, packed deep within my old brown suitcase.