Friday 12 July 2013

Emao Island

It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the water now for a whole week!

Routines have quickly become established – the preparation of dinner, the charging of batteries, the making of water, the transfer of the dental and medical equipment into the dinghy , the set-up and operation of the clinics and the adjustment to the constant movement of the boat.

Having left all the gear onshore yesterday, it was a simple case this morning of transferring everyone ashore in plenty of time to start work by 9 o’clock.  As the last of breakfast was being scoffed and tea and coffee cups were being drained, the call goes up … “all aboard for the 8:35am dinghy to the beach”.  Some take more notice than others, with some wag inevitably calling out, “I’ve just got to have a shower”, or “I’ve got to put my make-up on”. Read more…


With the wind still blowing at 20kts plus and the sea continuing to make for an unpleasant movement here at anchor, we ended up running two dinghy loads into shore, (with minimal wetness) with Ray and Jon going ashore this time, (to stretch their legs), and James and I staying aboard to work through a list of chores, including tidying up and the making of a decent windbreak across the front  of the cockpit.

Onshore Morinda did two dental talks and screened children’s teeth, with the observation that after the very bad condition of teeth in Pt Vila and the island of Efate generally, here the condition of the children’s teeth was much better – no doubt a function of the [extra] distance from lollies, sweets and the fizzy drinks so easily found in the big smoke.

Lyndon was ably supported again by Christine and Kristie, with a full days’ list of patients seen.  He was telling me earlier of a 12 year old girl he saw with 3 undecended deciduous teeth which were being crowed out by the secondary teeth coming through next to them.  With a bit of anesthetic and a lot of skill the three teeth were removed, leaving the girl very much happier.  After a while she returned and just stared at Lyndon as he worked on another patient.  After a while Lyndon asked if she would like to be a dentist and she answered, “yes I would like to be a dentist”.  And maybe she will !

Christine did some valuable work today with some mothers and carers who are struggling to manage some severely disabled children.  Again, a 12 year old, unable to go to school because he is incontinent and has impaired mental development and a 6 year old with epilepsy showing facial and other scars of falls and scrapes.  Based on Christine’s clinical knowledge, some strategies were passed on which may be of value,  but you really feel for the families and carers in such situations; and of course the poor children whose futures  appear so uncertain.  We were able to pass on some of the donated clothes to these families, along with a bag of incontinent pads which had been
donated and were amongst the bags of clothes.


When the clinic broke for lunch and I’d returned to shore to swap with Ray and Jon, I approached my new friend from yesterday, Edmund, about doing a mudbrick demonstration in this village.  He was very enthusiastic and had gone across to the other side of the lagoon to collect the clay in bags.  A young lad paddled a dugout canoe across to bring them back and obviously two 25kg bags of clay were too much cargo, because when I first laid eyes on him only his head was sticking out of the water and his canoe and outrigger were only visible from their submerged outline around him.  This he was supporting and propelling forward with a steady underwater kicking
action and all the strength he could muster.  Progress was slow but he finally made it to the shore, complete with two bags of (now totally sodden) clay in the bow.  The cargo was preserved, but with water, each bag now must have weighed more than 35kg.

In the end the mudbrick demonstration went very well, with Edmund conducting most of it, based on his experience from yesterday’s demonstration.  At the end he declared himself “the teacher”, and I left an extra mold and instruction manual for him to share with the village further inland.

As the clinic wound down James whipped out the white ships violin (bought at Aldi’s a few years back) and did an impromptu concert for all the children.  The school teacher explained that they had been doing the alphabet recently and the word that accompanied the letter “V”, on the picture card, was the violin.  So it was a thrill for many to see one actually played.  Many had imagined it was played like a guitar, but James taught them otherwise.


Loaded up and ready to go by around 4:30pm, there was still some time to watch the sun go down and say a heart-felt farewell on the beach to what seemed like half the village.  The tide was in so the maneuvering through the coral was easier than it had been earlier in the day, with the wind still blowing hard as we left the shelter of the beach.
Onboard, there was a universal “Ooo and Arrr” as James’ amazing banana cake was unveiled , complete with a sugar-brown, tasty  icing.

Jon outdid himself with another wonderful dinner and again everyone soon found their way to bed, tired, exhausted but really content that they’d done some good work today.
Morinda sheepishly asked this afternoon if it would be OK for her and Helen to again remain ashore for the night, knowing that we were keen to be away early in the morning.  With a big smile I sighed, “that’s OK Morinda and Helen” … to which they both giggled.  With our new, wonderful davits on the stern it won’t take us long to launch the dinghy in the morning, race ashore and return them for 7:30am.
Hopefully we can get away by 8:00am.  The crew has told the medical team that they can all sleep in.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and off to Mataso tomorrow.

Rob Latimer