Getting ready to go

Wednesday 24 June, 9.55pm  (anchored at Ndui Ndui, Ambae)

The Ndui Ndui clinic ends tomorrow. Today we finished testing the primary school kids and trundled off on the back of a truck over what looks like a jeep track through a botanical garden to the technical college at the village up the road. We still can’t get over seeing laden coconut palms everywhere, breadfruit trees, pamplemousse (sweet giant grapefruit), paw-paw, countless fruit we can’t name, and today, pineapple plants.

Another unfamiliar circumstance is the number of suspicious rustlings in the undergrowth as you’re walking along a path. Being Australian, although we know there are no snakes to speak of in Vanuatu, we can’t help starting and switching on to high alert at these sounds. Inevitably, a chook will rush across the path in front of your feet, going hell-for-leather just for the sake of it. All families have them, but none are caged so they wander around all over the place. Eggs aren’t terribly plentiful as the chooks lay them out in the bush where no-one can find them. Something out there is living a fat life off all those eggs scattered around and about.

Apart from this morning’s individual consultations, which for the medicos included delivering a baby, we eye-tested 67 at the primary school and 55 at the technical college, mostly students but some staff as well. In the first two days of the clinic, there were more than a dozen referrals to ophthalmologists, 17 referrals to other medical specialists, 129 prescription spectacles dispensed, and many pairs of sunglasses distributed.

We have a few short hops over the next week. Tomorrow we pick up the team after the morning’s clinic and ferry them north to Lolombaeko. On Saturday morning we move to Walariki which is Seventh-Day Adventist, so there will be no clinic on that day because of the Sabbath and church. On Tuesday we move again, this time to Lolowai. The medical team works from each place as a base, visiting other villages by truck. We make the crossing to return the medical team to Santo on Thursday next week in readiness for their departure to Australia on Friday July 3rd. The boat crew stays on until July 8th to complete handover to team 3.

It is easy to see how useful it is for the medical team to have its own boat. As soon as they have finished in one place they can move to the next, without having to rely on the vagaries of local transport. A three-hour wait yesterday for a lift down to the pier to collect the generator for the evening’s movie was a prime example of transport availability problems.

Martin spent today juggling batteries, trying to create 12 volts for the solar system from a sum of partly-functioning 6-volt batteries, each of which has several non-redeemable cells. As I watched him poring over an ancient set of scales that looked as though they were made in the 1930s in order to repair them, and lent him my eyebrow tweezers in place of narrow pliers to pull tiny springs back into place, he said “Of course, under normal circumstances you wouldn’t dream of trying to fix anything like this.” He managed to get the scales working again, which is an advantage of working with things made before the electronic era.

A lovely interlude this morning was watching the village weaver construct a fan from coconut palm leaves using only a small sharp knife, plaiting and weaving the split strands. She told me it would take about two weeks to learn how to do it, so it’s not going to happen this time around. There are very few canoes in this part of the world because of the inhospitable coastline, so the new skills department this week has been limited to two lessons in Bislama delivered with shrieks of laughter by the Ni-Vans between seeing patients at the clinic, and giving eye-tests. Still waiting for that canoe…


8 thoughts on “Getting ready to go”

  1. may i ask how babies get born when there are no medicos about? and i’m also wondering how prescription glasses are produced so rapidly.
    just as well you brought your tweezers along, eh ann? discovered an ancillary use for anything else from your makeup kit?

    and i notice your referring to’ this time around’ – those stars have got to you, have they?
    hilary xx

  2. Hi Mum

    Reading your log, I am struck by how cold, grey and barren Melbourne will seem to you when you get back here. In less than 2 weeks time! Much as I hesitate about taking you from your place of paradise and adventure, where you are doing so much good, I am very much looking forward to having you home again.

    Also, I have one exam left (aaargh!). All the important ones are out of the way, so it’s ho for a second-rate job for ENV on Monday then FREEDOM! To be able to stop addling my brain by sitting in front of this infernal machine all day! Please think of me at about 9:30am?

    Speaking of infernal machines, I’m pleased to hear that Eva’s laptop is ships computer – very proud.

    Love and love and love and hugs

  3. Hi Hilary,
    They certainly don’t need any help here with delivering babies, but the newborn was febrile so they just kept an eye on it until things settled. The nurses here are amazing. Nurse practitioners do minor surgery – like tubal ligations! – in addition to their other tasks.

    The prescription lenses have all been donated in Australia, and graded by the team before the tour. Of necessity the testing and prescription process is simple. Specs are issued to correct the best eye. If they were geared to the weakest eye, the good one would be thrown out.

    Yes, I see a trip across the Nullarbor coming on for you to check out those stars! We have the moon back now so nights are much lighter and the stars less visible.

    xo Ann

  4. Hi Kristin,

    I’m really looking forward to seeing you three as well, although if it were
    possible I’d bring you here so we could continue this remarkable journey
    together. I can’t believe there is only one week left of it for me.

    By now your exams will all be over, so I hope you’ve peeled yourself away
    from the screen and have had at least a glimpse of that bleak grey sky
    outside. I also hope that at least it’s raining!

    I’ve really missed singing, so it will be lovely to come back to that too.

    I think I’m going to feel for a while as though we live in a palace after
    experiencing how most people live here, but also a very mean external
    environment. These villages are much kinder to the earth than our cities.

    Heaps and heaps of love,

    Mum xox

  5. Hi Ann!!
    WE really miss you at singing too. Things have been quite all over the place since you left – I’ve had several times where I’ve needed to change the rehearsal, others have been here and there… so back with solid joy and earnest on the 16th.
    I’ve read many ofyour posts and it sounds just amazing. No doubt leaving that wide open, purposeful freedom will be strange and maybe difficult.
    May the last days be very good, and may you start to adjust your interior journeying to make the path homeward. I really look forward to seeing you!! A sherry and a long chat in your kitchen seems very appealing right now.
    Corrie has just finished doing the flowers for a wedding, which was huge! And she did a great job. Her sense of design is innate and brilliant.
    Lots of love to you!!
    Sal. x x x

  6. Great to hear all your adventures. Dulce is still OK. Helen M. returns on July 16th.Jock’s trial was favourable but there is another soon.
    I’m off to Lake Eyre on Tuesday 6th. back Sat.11th.Robert Lat. came to see me last week – good to see him. Craig & engineer here yesterday re jacking up house. Things moving VERY SLOWLY.
    Home is always wonderful on return even after being transported to heavenly places – especially where you can make a difference.
    Love Mum

  7. Hi Sal,

    Maybe it’s been a time of furlough for a few things.
    It’ll be interesting to see how tricky it is for all of us here to move back off “island time,” as we seem to be sitting very easily in it. In fact, transitions are always interesting. The atmosphere on the boat has changed to changeover already, clearing up from this trip, preparing for crew 3 to board early tomorrow, and a sense of looking forward to the return to homes and families. It will be sad to leave this beautiful country and Chimere behind though.
    Congratulations to Corrie on the wedding flowers – I’m looking forward to seeing the photos, and to that chat in my kitchen.

    xox Ann

  8. Hi Mum,
    It’s been a great trip, full of new experiences from culture and people through to adventures in cooking.
    I’m very glad to hear that Jock’s trial is holding well and that Aunty Dulce is OK. I’ll ring her when I get home.
    Have a great time at Lake Eyre. Do you need to be collected from the airport when you get back on the 11th?



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