Tuesday 23 July 2013

Port Vila

For the past couple of weeks crew member Jon has occasionally let slip that his eye was playing up.  No one was exactly sure of the problem , except Jon suspected it was an eyelash which had been directed into the eye following a visit to an eye-doctor a month or so ago.

Although it was giving him grief Jon had resigned himself to putting up with it until after his return to Australia on Sunday.

Anyway, Jon and Ray had been for a walk up town this morning, finalizing details of their overnight trip to the volcano down on Tanna, and upon their return Jon said something like … “how do I get my eye fixed?”  … a sure sign that a solution was needed sooner, rather than later.

So where do you go if you want your eyes fixed in Vanuatu?  After all, we’ve been providing remote-access transport to eyecare teams and even retrieved a Dept of Health eye surgical team of 6 off the island of Tongoa just 3 weeks ago when flights had been cancelled due to the rain – now we needed their help.   So I did what anyone would do in
Vanuatu if you wanted a solution to a problem … I called Richard Tatwin.


Richard’s answer was simple and straight forward … “go to the hospital and ask for Annie Bong, or Monique”.  And so it was that 10 minutes later our bus dropped us at the sprawling array of haphazard buildings, walk-ways and huts that comprise the Pt Vila hospital  … oh, plus a construction site because they are building a new hospital next door.  Finding reception was our first challenge, but soon we were directed to the eyecare department a short distance away.

After introducing ourselves to the lady on reception we asked if Annie Bong was in.  “No, Annie is in Fiji?”  “Then, is Monique in?”.  “Yes”,  was the answer.  “Are you Monique?” I said.  “Yes, I am Monique.”

We then introduced ourselves and explained the connections between us, PCV Health, Richard Tatwin and how MSM have been providing transport to remote areas for the eyeteams.

Monique then directed us to “come this way” and she proceeded to first explain that their slitlamp machine had just blown a bulb, but that she could look at Jon’s eye through a handheld unit which she confessed she wasn’t very good at using.  All the while Monique was calm, confident and put Jon at ease as she quickly came to the conclusion that he had two eyelashes growing into his eye.  “We will need to take them out”  was Monique’s assessment … “come into this next room and lie down”


Jon and I followed like puppies and after sifting through a box full of various tweezers, (all the while with Jon lying on his back starring into a lamp and microscope contraption) Monique efficiently extracted the two hairs and then reached up onto a nearby shelf for an antibiotic drop and an anesthetic drop and explained that they should be used 3 times a day.

Jon could barely contain himself.  I asked if we needed to pay something for the service and Monique explained that it was 300 Vatu ($4) for a consultation, which included the two eyedrops.   Jon reached into his wallet and pulled out a 1000 Vatu note.  Monique said that she would get a receipt and change.  In Jon’s new-found joy in knowing his eye would no longer be giving him grief he said , “no, no, no need for change … thank-you so much, we really appreciate your help, just wonderful”

After bidding farewell to Monique, at which time we also invited her to drop by at the Waterfront if she had a spare moment in the next few days, we then retraced our steps to the front of the hospital in order to find a bus back to the boat.  Jon kept saying … “that woman is amazing, she’s a saint, so confident and caring, so understanding … back home that would have cost hundreds and we’ll be back at the boat within 30 minutes”

Consequently, we are now even bigger fans of the eyecare service, this time the Government team as opposed to those working under the Presbyterian Church eyecare service.

Hopefully Jon will now get a good view of the Mt Yasur volcano with his new-found vision – less chance of slipping or missing the edge …
On a more boring note … my deck painting has been progressing well.  It took over an hour early this morning to move the two dinghies into  the water along with all the bags, boxes and miscellaneous stuff. Then around 9:00am my worker Amos turned up and we got stuck into sanding, washing and priming.  Tomorrow we’ll get stuck into the undercoat and topcoat – which is very exciting!!  At least it is for me.

After a few cold drinks of water and cordial Amos began to open up and it turns out that he is from the island of Mataso … the very island we tried to visit last week in order to conduct a clinic.   Amos reinforced the fact that it was a difficult island on which to land, in fact he had gone back there a month ago with his two oldest children, carting sheets of roofing iron and building timber on a local boat in order to build a small hut for his extended family still living there.  As it turned out the rain was too heavy so he had
waited overnight on the island of Pele, but in the morning he discovered that the boat had turned upside down losing all his belongings – iron, wood, personal belongings, everything except a small bag of things.  Consequently they returned to Pt Vila and will try and get back to the island … “maybe at Christmas”

And to think the island of Mataso in less than 20 miles north of this main island of Efate!

Tomorrow is a big day here in Vanuatu … it’s Children’s Day !!  … a holiday and time of celebration, parties, speeches and children’s activities all over Vanuatu.   When Amos reminded me of this late this afternoon, I said, … “well maybe you come back on Thursday, if tomorrow is a holiday” … “No, I come, no problem”  was his simple response.

So, after 2 years of nearly painting the deck,  it looks like tomorrow it will finally happen.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and here’s to eyecare worker “Saint Monique”
at the Pt Vila hospital

Rob Latimer


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