Sunday 14 July 2013
Emae Island
Lyndons-saloon-cabin-still-a-bit-of-a-blur-in-the-morning
After a good night’s sleep everyone was up around 7:00am having breakfast and preparing for church ashore.  In the end, Helen, Morinda, Tony, Christine, Lyndon, Jon, James and I took the dinghy ashore and then made the 20 minute walk along the waterfront track to the village of Marae where we were welcomed into the small Presbyterian church building.

Along with wonderful singing and the message delivered in Bislama, there was a general announcement about the medical clinic we will be conducting tomorrow and afterwards all eight of us newcomers were invited to exit the building first in order to then shake hands with everyone as they too left the building.  It’s a wonderful tradition and in the brief encounter with the very young and the very old and everyone in between, in which a variety of words were shared, such as God Bless, or Good Morning, and you look clearly into each other’s eyes, a real sense of community was shared and something of the experience these people have known in this place, on this island, together over the generations; and continue to share now.

After church, we returned to the village meeting space and were soon treated to a lovely lunch of local delicacies, fish, taro, laplap, island cabbage, pumpkin and a few other things I haven’t yet identified.

Around 1:30pm a vehicle turned up, driven by local nurse practitioner Donald,  with “Ministry of Health, Emae Island” written on the door. Donald took us all aboard and returned us to the dinghy landing spot and waited 30 minutes while James, Lyndon and I raced back to Chimere in order to bring back the dental, optical and medical equipment. This was then driven to the clinic on the other side of the island in readiness for the start of tomorrow’s clinic.
Emae-health-worker-Donald-and-his-wife
Returning to the church service, whilst it was mostly in Bislama and we only took in a few words of understanding, during the clinic announcement the number “7” was heard, which we took to be the commencement time of tomorrow’s clinic.  Later we clarified with Donald about the time of the clinic commencement and he hedged a bit and said, “maybe 7:30 to 8:00am” – explaining that many people will be walking long distances to get there and so they need to start early in order to get back home again in daylight.   So it was decided that we will all be on the beach ready for pick-up around 7:25am.

On the way back from dropping the gear off at the clinic Donald stopped at a road cutting where we discovered some really good clay for the making of mudbricks tomorrow while the medical clinic is in progress.  I’d earlier met with a man called Carlo, (as we waited for the start of the church service) and he too was interested in the low smoke stoves.  He said he’d be at the clinic tomorrow so we should have a good session mixing mud and making bricks.

When we finally returned to Chimere in the mid-afternoon Ray and Kristie described an encounter with a local chap who they initially met when they’d heard a voice calling out from in the water.  Going on deck they discovered a young man floating around in the water.  Once on deck he described how he’d recently lost his spear gun, but asked
if we wanted to buy some fish, crayfish and crabs, which he intended to catch.  Ray settled on a price of 500 Vatu per kilo (about $6) but made it clear that only big fish, not little fish.  This was understood and the fisherman explained that they would not have the disease segutara (sp) which was a relief.   Having agreed on the
“contract”, the man made his way back into the water to swim the 400m or so to shore when Ray noticed that he was only wearing thongs and his mask looked very much second hand.    As mentioned in an earlier Ships Log, we have a supply of flippers, masks and snorkels aboard for giving away and so Ray invited him to take his pick, to which he thought all his Christmases had come at once.

With supplies of many goods getting low on the island, due to the trading boat not having been for some time, Ray was also asked if we had any “D” batteries we could spare; for his fishing torch.

While ashore I asked a few older folk about landing on the islands of Mataso and Makira and all agreed that in weather like this it is virtually impossible.  I noticed at the medical clinic that Donald had a display of various statistics about each village on Emau and also the islands of Mataso and Makira.  The two smaller islands sustaining
around 130 people each.  As for the island of Tongariki, in this weather I got the impression from one chap that you shouldn’t even think about it – the words “rock ledge” and “swells” being clearly understood.  This kind of gelled with a comment from someone on Emao Island the other day who in response to my question about anchoring
and then landing on the island he said…”to land you must remember, 1,2,3 GO”  for effect he repeated it with hand actions … “1,2,3 GO”; the “GO” referring to the fourth wave in the typical set of waves that break on the landing spot.

By way of update, we are still being buffeted by 20-30kt winds and we are lying in a sheltered anchorage with generally flat seas.  In driving to the clinic on the other side of the island, we caught a glimpse of the surf running on the weather coast and it’s not very pleasant.

Whilst we feel for the people of Mataso and Makira, and probably also Tongariki (assuming we can’t get to them later in the week on account of the weather) we are comforted in the knowledge that the people of this island, Emau, will receive some good care over the next few days.

On the communications front, the last few years has seen a spread of radio towers around the islands by two companies – Digicel and Telecom Vanuatu, enabling phone and internet communications to become more widespread.  Whilst in Port Vila 10 days ago I set the ships laptop up with a Telecom Vanuatu internet connection, which, although painfully slow, has enabled the transmission of photos and  emails.  For the past 10 days our old system of on-board communications, using the HF radio, laptop and modem via a service called “SailMail” has been on the blink.  Meaning that we have not been able to send or receive emails using our VKV2313 email address.  However, after 10 days of
hopeless attempts, tonight I finally managed to secure a transmission and received a couple of emails in reply.  So sorry for not replying a week ago to both of you!

From now on we hope to maintain the Sail Mail connection in working order because before long the new internet connection is bound to find a blind spot, requiring the use of the old fashioned back-up method.

After moving ashore for two nights at Emao Island, (due to the rolly anchorage) Helen and Morinda are back living aboard now – evidence of this as a nice quiet anchorage.

Helen-and-Morinda-share-the-forward-cabin

Again, it’s starting to get late and everyone has gone to bed early in anticipation of an early start tomorrow.  Speaking of everyone’s beds, I’ll see if I can send through a photo of a few bunks.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and it’s nice to have a day of rest !

Rob Latimer
www.msm.org.au