Clinic at Akhamb Island

Wednesday 9 June 2010 (Akhamb Island)
During the night we had several torrential down pours. Water came in all the open hatches and at 2am I was running around checking everything. In the back of my mind was whether we could rely on the mooring. Each down pour was accompanied by bursts of wind. The night was absolutely black with a curtain of water pouring down around my little spot in the cockpit. Into this scene of detachment from anything in the known world was a little light coming from the chart plotter. I sat watching the little ship icon wandering around. When I was satisfied that the mooring was safe I went back to bed. Now with the hatches shut it was like a sauna and sleep was difficult. This was repeated several times during the night. Martin said he also got up during the night to check our position.
Getting up in the morning was very difficult but today was going to be a busy day with the clinic so we couldn’t rest. Chris was already up when I struggled out. My first project was to make a cup of tea. I have adopted the English ways and it wont be long and I’ll be talking with a northern accent.
A little whistle drifted into my consciousness  which prompted the  thought that we needed to dash ashore to pick up a few from the medical team to come back to the boat to sort out what they wanted taken ashore. A further thought surfaced that the whistle in my mind might have been someone actually whistling from shore to be picked up. Martin and I scoured the beach but no one was visible. Later we learnt that Isabelle from the medical team had in fact whistled to us but had not made herself visible. With that little mystery solved we felt more comfortable that we hadn’t succumbed to a tropical mind bending condition.
All the medical supplies needed were loaded in to bulka bags with plastic liners that Rob had organized for this trip. It made things a lot easier. Once packed the whole lot was hoisted on the spinnaker halyard and lowered into the dinghy.
The clinic was set up on a wide verandah of the local church. The church was a concrete block structure set on a beautiful site with the beach and waterway stretching along one boundary. The clinic was well attended, with over 100 seen during the day. An albino toddler was given a special hat we had in donated stock . At first he pulled it off his head but eventually left it on and gazed around at all the people looking at him. His face melted into a beautiful smile and everyone responded with smiles and signs of approval. Later Chris went to his mother’s home to deliver sunscreen.
Christine stayed with the medical team during the day and helped in many ways. Dr Alby and Nurse Isabelle taught Chris how to conduct the blood sugar tests when Mary Grace retired for a rest and the division of labour was rearranged. Chris did very well and has been asked to do it again tomorrow. we are keeping an eye on Chris because we dont want to loose our cook to another calling.
While the clinic was in session, various other activities were going on. Paul and Grant became friends with Able Sam who gave them red pamplemoose and later in the day added a few white ones and a few mandarins.  Paul and Grant really enjoyed their socializing and also met Able Sam’s, brother, cousin and niece and included a tour of the boat in their program. Paul wandered past the clinic at one point chewing on sugar cane and  had his hands full of fruit. Even the medical crew stopped to marvel at this food devouring machine we have on the crew. At lunch Paul explained if he hadn’t become a chemical engineer he would have been a cook. Apparently the principle behind the 2 fields are the same. That’s according to Paul.
Meanwhile back on the yacht Carl and Martin worked on the auto pilot but failed to over come the habit it has developed of going blank when asked to do any work. No further comment or comparisons needed.
Carl has been very keen to see the clinic at work so, after finishing the on board jobs, came ashore. Not only is Carl interested in the clinics (and the reason he came on the trip) he also asked if could line up and have his eyes checked. Carl was last seen disappearing into the throng of patients. He passed through all stages of the clinic – first a medical record card was set up set up; Carl’s address is “Chimere, Melakula”  . Second was the blood test; All OK there (some asked for a repeat test). Then there was the blood pressure test; All Ok there too (the same people called for a repeat test ). Finally  Carl sat for the eye test. Tim, the optom, asked to see Carl’s Medicare card but Carl wasn’t to be duped. He knows there is no Medicare card out here. So Tim then asked Carl if he could read the bottom line of the eye chart.  Carl replied (imagine the broad northern accent) “I caan read ut, but I caant b’cause uts in Bislama, and aah don’t undu’staand ut”. Our crew stated laughing which set off the fascinated audience of about 20 into fits of laughter. No private consultations here.
With Carl’s visit over he wandered back to the dinghy and was hijacked by the local fast boat driver asking if he could fix his outboard motor. So Carl went out to the boat for tools and came back and got the motor going.
At the end of the day we packed up the clinic and took everything back to the boat. The boat crew came back to the boat tired and hungry. Martin cooked up a beautiful spaghetti bolognaise while Chris made bread ready for tomorrow transport duties.
Tomorrow it is a 7:30am pick up on the beach. So its an early night for our lot.
Akhamb * Island
*In past log entries I used the short spelling but have swapped to the common usage (now that I know).

You might recall in the Sunday log that Paul said he would write up his experiences at the Sunday church service. His log entry has now arrived and is included below.

Sunday 6 June 2010
Paul  Curtis
The early warning signs were clear on Saturday as shops and businesses began to close. To find anything open in the afternoon is a challenge. And so, as Sunday dawned we realized that the day had finally dawned when we had no distractions from the long overdue task of redeeming our souls at the Port Vila Presbyterian Church.
The walk was a pleasant one; a little weakening , climbing steep steps in the sultry heat and we arrived to a broad and smiling welcome, shaking of hands and led to the pew with hymn book  in hand.
The service began with an introduction in English and Bislama and a request for all visitors to stand and introduce themselves. We stood sheepishly and said our bit. Hymn 123 followed with words in Bislama and then the  sermon.  Today’s message was a simple one – Yu luk, yu savi, and yu mekem! A valuable lesson for us all that means we should look at our problems, understand the issues and then solve them.
The pastor took delight in ministering to his congregation and the hard benches began to  take their toll. However, the best part was still to come as we were progressively entertained by choirs, family groups, prayer groups and what seemed to be a free for all of volunteer entertainers. The congregation clapped enthusiastically as the band picked up the rhythm and each song burst into life.
The highlights were a visiting minister from Melbourne who performed a remarkable tune on his harmonica and a particularly lively lady who tripped up and down the altar, leading the crowd and providing a pleasant diversion from the hard benches.
Altogether, the service was quite an experience, although 2 hours was a little longer than we expected and we didn’t anticipate the instruction to stand outside the church next to the Pastor and shake the hand of every member of the church with a friendly smile and a kind word.

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