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THE EARLY BIRD GETS A CAB

By Dawn Bentley-Harshbarger Today was filled with many firsts: our first day of surgery on this mission, the first time I wear scrubs for something other than painting and cleaning, the first time I get to see my husband perform surgery, and the first day I arrive early to get on the bus. You guessed it, the bus is late. So we take a cab. The driver asks if we want to go to the “new” or “old” hospital. Since Austin Smiles has been going to the same hospital for more than 20 years, we say “old.” Our cabby has an interesting way of maneuvering through the streets, sometimes even choosing the wrong side of the street! I am in the front but manage to be a backseat driver anyway. After several gasps and near misses we finally arrive… to the wrong hospital! Yes, the hospital we’ve been working at, the one with the chipped paint and rusty tables is...

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7:29 AM: Game On!

By Dawn Bentley-Harshbarger As you know already (because you have been reading every single one of these blogs, right?), we have arrived in El Salvador and to the crux of this mission. Let the real blogging begin! I’ve already told you how important it is to be on time here. You will get left behind. That’s no joke. It doesn’t matter who you are. Knowing this, my husband tells me he’ll meet me downstairs (smart man). I tidy the room so the maids don’t have to do too much (is that weird?), then I rush to what has to be the slowest elevator known to man. It takes too long. I run down the stairs in a panicky mess, whip out my iPhone—it’s 7:29 when I board the bus. Yes! I made it, with a minute to spare. I meant it when I said I am always “barely” on time. Two other volunteers weren’t so lucky. At 7:30, Cullington commands...

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TRAVEL TIME!

By Dawn Bentley-Harshbarger Ray’s parents arrived from North Carolina yesterday. I’m so happy they will be taking care of Jackson. It’s guilt-free childcare. A win-win for everyone. Thanks, Babi and Pa! The morning was frantic. OMG! Where is my passport?! I can’t find my sunglasses! Where are those little yellow Austin Smiles luggage tags?!  While I’m running around, Ray is in his car, suitcase already loaded, looking at something on his iPhone. You see, my husband is always on time, and I’m always barely on time—same result, but an entirely different process. The combined effect is, well, vinegar and baking soda comes to mind. Hellooo! I could use some help here! The look on his face tells me I better get my act together and get in the car. There’s no way we were going to be late meeting Kendyl at the airport. Thankfully, once we get on the road, we’re simpatico again, a veritable Lewis and Clark (if Lewis...

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READY, SET, just one more day to GO!

By Dawn Bentley-Harshbarger About a month ago, 44 volunteers gathered for a pre-trip meeting at the Austin Smiles office. The room was full and buzzing with excitement that day. Forty four people of all ages and stages preparing for the Austin Smiles 41st Humanitarian Mission to El Salvador—plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, a dentist, nurses, scrub techs, a speech pathologist, college students…. Some have been on as many as 24 of these missions, while others are going for the first time. Martha Mashburn handed us each a blue folder that was impressively complete and well organized. It included our flight itinerary, contact info, printouts about the history and political landscape of El Salvador, insurance forms … there was even a yellow luggage tag with our name printed on it. Austin Smiles Executive Director Kendyl Richards led the meeting. Kendyl has an enthusiasm that is captivating and contagious. Her presence is commanding, yet nurturing. She knows her stuff. The directives for the mission...

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AUSTIN SMILES 41st HUMANITARIAN MISSION TO EL SALVADOR: A First-Timer’s Experience

By Dawn Bentley-Harshbarger Austin, Texas This is my first humanitarian mission—and my first time writing a blog. The fine people at Austin Smiles have entrusted me with their blog space to chronicle the mission experience from a novice’s point of view. At first I struggled with the idea of writing a blog. What could I possibly have to say that anyone would want to read? The austinsmiles.org website is packed with important details about the organization and its missions—it’s the authoritative place to go for information about Austin Smiles. I suppose this blog provides an opportunity for new eyes to give a fresh “unofficial” perspective. That’s my angle anyway. It could be interesting. In any case, it’s an honor and privilege to be joining such a talented and committed group of volunteers. I am excited to share my experience with you. Perhaps I should introduce myself first. For about 25 years I have worked in publishing in a variety of...

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