Mud bricks and more …

After the Sunday rest day yesterday, it was back to work today with the medical team heading off to the other end of the island along a rather spectacular track.  Although given the view may have been a bit lost on the group as it seems it took all their effort to focus on where they were putting their feet and what they were holding onto.  The local Ni-vans seem to manage the trip in bare feet with ease, which, compared with the climb to the flat top of the mountain where there are extensive gardens must appear as a bit of a dawdle.  The climb to the top takes 2 hours (that’s in Ni-van time) and involves vertical cliff face climbs on ladders in parts.  I spoke to some of the young lads today and they seem to go up there once a week, although Bill spoke of a lady in her 70s from the Herald Bay end of the island who goes up daily.

The island population is just short of 300 and I think the medical team they saw about 200 today in the clinics, which includes the children at the school.  As has been mentioned, the kids walk from here at Mission Bay to the school at Herald Bay each day, even the littlies.  It’s too far for the kids from the village around the point from here so they walk to school on Sunday and stay there till Friday.

While the medical team was away, which included Tony and Bill, Bob got stuck into some cleaning and fixing onboard.  Scott and I went ashore at 7:30am to deliver Tony and Bill and to see them all off, after which we caught up with the group of lads who showed interest yesterday in the mud bricks.  They led us down a track towards the end of a grassy flat area which is officially called an airstrip.  There they showed us some wonderful clay soil which we mixed up into a lovely sticky mess with a total of 29 bricks being made, nearly twice the amount required to make one stove.  It was great to see the enthusiasm and involvement and as we lifted the mould off the first brick there was instant recognition by a couple of the older fellows that this was a useful thing to be doing.  One of them said … “No cement!” Which translates into … no need for money, of which there is very little.  In fact Futuna is known for their dried fish industry, with flying fish being caught at night in nets which are attracted to bright lights, however, at the moment no fish are being caught because they have no fuel for their small boat’s outboard.  And even if they had money they couldn’t get the fuel because no boat has been here so far this year.  We learnt from the medical team that it’s not only fuel that has run out.  The absence of the trading boat means no rice and no top-up of basic goods.  It’s a good things their gardens are still producing food.

After returning from their walk to the other end of the island Tony and Bill were keen to have a quiet night in and so Scott and I delivered the generator, projector and sound system ashore late this afternoon in readiness for the movie night which went off without a hitch. And what movie would you show on a remote and rugged island covered forest, cliffs and lush vegetation … Jurassic Park of course.  As a warm-up I showed a few short DVDs of last years medical mission activity and it was great to see everyone’s response to seeing Ni-vans from other islands.  One of the short films was of last years “Supporters Holiday Package to Pt Vila” which included a full day island tour and a stop at a Kustom Village.  Well as it turned out the custom village on Efate (Pt Vila) is actually a Futuna Island group and there were squeals of delight as the dancers and guides were recognised and named by the everyone in the audience.

After the movie Scott and I got back on the boat around 9:15pm, quite familiar now with the correct dinghy course from the beach.  The lads we met doing the bricks are also keen on fishing and were very keen to take us out.  So the plan is we bring 10 litres of fuel and we’ll see them on the beach at 6:00am in the morning.  It was going to be 5:30am, but as we negotiated the best time to go fishing one of them remembered “Devotions” at 5:00am … so 6:00am it was.  Given their considerate, friendly nature I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but back home in Melbourne or Sydney the typical stereotype of a dark-skinned youth swinging a machete, sporting wild woolly hair and a woven rasta hat, would not have me thinking that the first thing they do each day is spiritual devotions and bible reading.

So tomorrow we are going to catch enough fish for the whole village!?  Well, that’s the plan.  Later in the morning we’ll build some concrete and stone steps for the community hall – where the movie showed tonight.  Currently it’s a three step climb to the veranda which is somewhat alleviated by two blocks of concrete stacked on top of each other.

I think the medical team will be doing a clinic here in the village, but generally taking things a bit easier.  In the evening we plan to once again do a night sail, with everyone coming aboard around 9:00pm for the 6-8 hour hop NW to the island of Aniwa; in the direction of Tanna and Port Resolution.

Smooth Seas, fair breeze and our last day on Futuna

Robert Latimer

6 thoughts on “Mud bricks and more …”

  1. Hi Crew!

    Sounds like you’re doing some amazing stuff… and I was wondering whether I could write about it for a news article I have to write for uni?? There’s definitely potential for me to send it off somewhere if you would like a little publicity or something of the like. I just wanted to know if there was anything of significance that I should add; anything that’s different this time around, anything important about this trip etc?
    I’d really appreciate the help 🙂 Thanks!!

  2. Hey Dad (and others),

    It’s a real treat to hear the mud bricks went off well. The stove at home is still standing, which I guess is a good sign for their longevity.

    Nice choice showing Jurassic Park at your movie night. Isn’t that the equivalent of showing under 10’s at the lifesaving club ‘Jaws’ and expecting them not to be scared of the water?

    Hope everything’s still going smoothly.
    Big love to all,
    – James

  3. Hi Hannah,

    great to hear from you and happy to help with the assignment. A big part of what we are doing is training the locals and building local capacity and resources

    We have two Ni-vans, Bob & Shirley (both about 23 yo) aboard and they are training to be dental care workers. Tony Burke has been training them in the field and, after watching Tony do a couple of patients, were then doing fillings and picking away at cavities by themselves. Not what you’d see in Australia, but most appropriate here. There is a chance we’ll have them in Melb for a few months to receive more training later in the year. You’d get on well.

    The mud bricks have also worked well and are a good example of appropriate technology – no cost, no cement, no transport costs etc.

    Maybe give me more info on the angle you intend to take with your article.

    love to all

    Rob L

  4. Hi James,

    great to hear from you and love to Matt, Mum and all at home,

    You’d enjoy the mudbricks. The interest has been terrific. I really think stoves will actually be made. Despite the obvious “scaring the kiddies” Jurassic Park was a big hit, although I had reservations when a young chap asked me as the title came up … “are there still dinosaurs?”

    At the moment it’s 12:30am and we are gliding through the sea on our way to Aniwa. Most are asleep onboard, either on the deck or below and everything is quiet, wind is off the beam.

    Hopefully well arrive at dawn.

    lots of love


  5. Thanks for the help 🙂
    I think I’ve gleaned a lot of useful things from your blogs, which has been great, one thing that would be useful to have is just why this sort of trip is different because you’re on water as opposed to flying in and visiting various islands (ie more accessibility etc).

    My tutor says the article is great so far, and especially like Tony’s comment about payment in bananas and pineapples :-p

  6. Hi Hannah,

    It’s funny, after last yr we did a survey of all the med volunteers and tried to learn from things that could have been done better. Consequently the plan was to fly the volunteers in to remote places, where possible, and then sail them to nearby islands. This nearly worked, however, we were informed that there would be no flights to Aneityium until further notice, so we had to sail them all 17 hours south into head winds and horrible seas – just the thing we intended NOT to do, but at least having access to the yacht meant they could get to the island. And to the credit of the med team, the came back for the next sailing leg to Futuna and elected to do mostly night sails so as to save time and arrive at the destinations ready to start a new day of clinics. It was a real testament to their desire to see their objectives thru despite the obvious personal discomfort involved.

    thanks for your comments, catch up soon

    Rob L

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