Wednesday 17 July 2013

Emae Island

It was a late (final) day at the clinic with the last dinghy ride off the beach occurring in the dark with our big spotlight up front ably held by Lyndon as we bounced over the waves back to Chimere.

Now snug and warm around the saloon table, Lyndon has been regaling us with stories of each tooth extraction and filling, plus the response from each patient – some very confident, some in pain, some nervous and all very stoic.


There was also the local midwife who tried to comfort the anxious ones, keenly observing Lyndon’s hand actions and the movement of root fragments and loose teeth as he levered and cut them free with his hand implements.  She would talk in the patient’s ear saying … “it’s coming now … it’s nearly out … just a little bit longer”.    Lyndon observed that each extraction sounded very much like a birthing delivery, with her involvement having the desired effect of calming the patients.

Some of the highlights related around the dinner table tonight – for Christine, was hearing the school sports going on outside while the clinic went on.  It got so exciting that at one point she went out and watched, with the flat races, marked out grass, flags, uniforms and cheering taking her back to her own school sports of the early 1960s There was also the wonderful hospitality of the nurse-practitioner Donald and his wife Locy.  Each day bringing food and drinks for the workers and thanking everyone at every opportunity.

Lyndon was able to do some dental work for both Donald and Locy, with two teachers from the school also coming for treatment.

I leant a bit more about the school next door.  Apparently it includes a French primary school as well as an English primary school, plus an English secondary school.

I was talking to Joseph, from the next village along the coast.  He was very keen to take the mudbrick stove making technology back to his village and explained to me that some children go to French schools, some English schools and that everyone speaks Bislama, as well as the local language common to most Shephard Group islands.  Plus he said
that his village is the only one that speaks Polynesian.  I quizzed him about this and he confirmed it was like the Maori, or Samoans, which just seemed amazing.  He didn’t seemed to know why this was the case.

There was also the sight of seeing  all the children walking along the road to school in the morning; often with a parcel or container with their lunch inside.

Christine described the fear and trepidation of those who were coming to the dentist for the very first time, often in the 30s, or who spoke about dental trauma in their early years.  These patients were sweating a lot, very chatty, pacing up and down,  and extremely anxious.  After Lyndon had dealt with them in his calm, soothing manner, stuck needles into them till all feeling was lost and then probed, dug and yanked as required, they all went away with a big smile, totally thankful and appreciative.

On the mudbrick stove front, today I was introduced to the agricultural teacher at the school and he was very keen for the older students to see the mudbricks;  something he described as “appropriate technology”.  So it was that after clearing some ground, accumulating bags of clay and soil, along with coconut fibre and shovels, we were ready for the 50 students who gathered for the demonstration at 10:30am.   The interest was high and there was a lot of giggling and all out laughter when I conscripted a few of the more attentive ones to help dig and shovel the mud around.

Also with us were the French couple, Jany and Christine Cochain off the yacht Filopre.  Both are retired, with Jany spending the last 6 years aboard, starting originally in France, with Christine flying out to join him from time to time.


I think this is a link to their website.  They showed me some of their photos, particularly of the Galapagos, just amazing.  There was also a photo of a stingray flying out of the water like a dolphin

At the moment we have just finished lashing everything down and preparing for the short voyage back to Port Vila tomorrow.  We intend to up-anchor around 5:30am and hope be tied up at the waterfront in the late afternoon.  The good folk at Yachting World, in Port Vila, have kindly made space available for us at the sea wall and there are a few on board who are looking forward to some “civilization”, in the form of a Tusker and a back-rub.

Apparently internal air flights have been cancelled again, this time due to high winds and low cloud.  And how do I know this?  Well Emae is one of the islands that has a grass airstrip and in the tradition of Fletcher Christian and the HMS Bounty, some noises were uttered earlier today in connection with  selected passengers returning to Port Vila by “alternative means”.  That is, alternative to the good ship Chimere.  Rumours had got around that the return sail might be a bit “lumpy” given the high winds and 3-4 metre swells – outrageous ?! It’s all academic now, however, with their Plan B reverting back to Plan A, and the doctors bag of magic pills being eyed off for a possible cure to the effects any eventual boat movement.  Stay tuned to the final chapter of how everyone fairs.  Fortunately, although strong, the wind should remain well off the nose, making for a fast passage with minimal sail.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and back to Port Vila

Rob Latimer