Bread today, gone tomorrow

Friday, 25 August 2017
Melsisi, Pentecost

For those of you who follow Chimere’s log, you are in for a treat today as we are going to get a medical team member’s perspective and impressions of our mission. I will hand you over to Annette, our registered nurse, proficient sailor and all round good hand.


Hello All,
My goodness these skippers are pesky! First Rob and now Jon (without the H). Gentle persuasion to write the Blog! Here goes….
Yes, two skippers and two missions. I have been the nurse on Mission 1 and Mission 3. One South and One North. One with doctors and one without. One sailing to the islands and one flying to where Chimere is waiting. One staying aboard and one sleeping some of the time ashore. Different skipper and crew. Deb, Bob, Dick and Chimere remain the only constant ever faithful and passionate to complete the goal. It is so interesting to see and appreciate the subtle differences between each Mission. It is so special to be back in Vanuatu.

The Islands

It seems that regardless of whether you are in the North or the South, the people throughout Vanuatu are warm, generous, welcoming and always smiling. This is no different at Melsisi, on Pentecost Island. This morning whilst walking to ‘work’, children waved and laughed on their way to school; a man with a finely woven basket shook all of our hands with a ‘good morning’ and a family going about their morning rituals waved and shouted ‘Bonjour’ as we gasped for breath climbing the hill.
Melsisi is a village like no other I have seen in Vanuatu. One could almost think we were in the Mediterranean with hill top homes perched on the cliff, colourful concrete buildings, pillars and baguettes. Cows wander about peacefully chewing grass. There are barges collecting/dropping off cargo and this afternoon, a precariously balanced ferry dropped off passengers. There is a hospital with a compliment of staff and opportunity for those very unwell to be flown to Vila. There has been no end to chicken wings being served for lunch and dinner which makes me think all of these wings have come in a packet from somewhere else. A little different to the chicken served on Aniwa and Tanna Island where some hapless chook was sacrificed to feed the hungry team and crew.

Doctors and Nurses

On Mission One, we were blessed with two fine doctors, David and Doug who shared most of the burden of diagnosis and treatment whilst I triaged, assessed and educated. Education, always a comical display like a game of charades demonstrating lifting techniques and back strengthening exercises. On Mission Three, I am the sole representative of the medical team. However, I am not working alone. Each village has its own health service staffed by incredibly skilled and knowledgeable nurses who work autonomously and tirelessly. Somehow, they have welcomed me, shared their equipment and scarce resources and been my interpreter to prevent further charades! With the ‘yellow’ Health Workers Treatment Manual as my ‘standing order’ I have been assessing, diagnosing, treating and educating. Thankfully, Dr Graeme Duke has been invaluable answering my emails when I am not sure of a diagnosis or treatment.

Pipe cots and Floral Sheets

On Monday, the dental team and I arrived in Pangi after a scenic flight. Chimere and her crew were anchored close by however, due to the inclement weather, were unable to launch the dinghy. Whilst the crew were boat bound, we were welcomed to our accommodation: a sensory overload of floral sheets, pink and blue mosquito nets, teddy bear blankets, flowers and sarongs decorating the walls. Whilst the toilet may not have met OH & S standards, the shower (a PVC pipe nailed to a tree with black plastic lining) ‘did the job’. Our hosts ensured we had a thermos of hot water available for our use and provided beautiful meals laid out on table cloths and flowers. Whilst Chimere is certainly comfortable, there is a more functional purpose to her. However, what Chimere is lacking in colourful linen and table cloths, she makes up for with her colourful skippers and crew!

The Skippers and Crew

On both missions, both skipper and crew have been an eclectic mix of ages and personalities. Regardless, both skippers and crews have ensured the smooth and safe sailing of Chimere whilst providing plenty of opportunity to ensure her team taste the highlights of sailing about the islands of Vanuatu.
Today has been a perfect example of the opportunities galore. After finishing the dental survey, dental treatment and health clinic at lunch time, the health team, skipper and some of the crew followed a magnificent river upstream to rock pools and a gorge. We soaked in crystal clear turquoise water before ambling back to the beach. We all shared afternoon tea aboard Chimere before Deb, Stephen and I went off snorkelling amongst the coral and clown fish. A perfect day for the health team. The crew spent the late afternoon bringing the equipment aboard in the drizzling rain. During this time, local nurse Dominik requested to come aboard as he had never been on a yacht before. His excitement and enthusiasm was contagious as Deb showed him about Chimere. He wore a smile from ear to ear and marvelled at the nautical names for kitchen, dining room and bathroom.
Like all good, hard working sailing ships, a little more maintenance is required. This awaits the skipper and crew in the morning. This afternoon, the main halyard winch objected and refused to do its job whilst hoisting up the dental/medical equipment. Now that’s a story for another day…

Oh, and we got the bread!

Best wishes,

Annette Hesselmans

One Response to “Bread today, gone tomorrow”

  1. Martin Burgess says:

    Nette nice blog said in your usual articulate way. Glad you are enjoying the mission. Look forward to seeing you on your return.
    Martin.

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