Plans are made to be changed

Monday 19 July (Asanvari, Maewo Is  15 22.64S, 168 07.88E)

We have two Ships Log contributions tonight – from MSM Cub Reporters Mike & Graeme  (Robert’s having a night off)

Contribution from MSM Cub Reporter Mike.

Another day dawns on Chimere and we slowly emerge from our bunks – its 6.15am and Captain Robert indicated a 7.00am weigh anchor and be underway to our next destination, Asanvari at the southern tip of the island of Maewo.

What Rob has forgotten to tell the crew was that he was working on Vanuatu time, where a time of 7.00am means sometime after 7.00am!  After a leisurely breakfast of muesli, toast and citrus fruit (orange and pamplemouse), we finally weighed anchor and got underway at 7.45am.  Just like the 9.30 church service yesterday started at 10.15 – maybe ‘Ni-Van adjusted time’ is standard time plus 45 minutes?  I’ll investigate further and include my observations in a later report!

As we slowly motored out of our anchorage at Ndui Ndui there was a strange feeling of leaving special friends behind, that we had made over the previous 36 hours,  Katrina, Samsley (fiancee), Hollinsgworth (Katrina’s father), Hannah (Katrina’s mother), Graham (school headmaster and church musician), Jesy (soccer player and initial guide) and Willie (the driver with a great laugh).  We all feel a special bond with Walaha – goodbye till next time.  We hope to catch up with Katrina in Port Vila in the early days of August.

As a thank you from Katrina and her family, we received a large box of citrus fruit (oranges, mandarins and pamplemouse (grapefuit) picked about an hour previous.  Rob loves pamplemouse and Chimere currently feels like ‘pamplemouse city’ – certainly many more pamplemouse than crew. Rob must be pleased with his gift – he was last heard singing ‘I’ve  got a lovely bunch of Pamplemouse (or was that coconuts)’.

A tray of freshly cut pamplemouse, orange and manadarin is available all day for eating with its richness in vitamin C.  No chance of ‘scurvy’ for this crew.

The wind has picked up and we are now motorsailing (main, staysail and motor at 1500rpm) – 7 knots as we head towards the N tip of Ambae.  We are now entering a rain squall – the first of our 19 days of sailing! What a contrast to the previous days in having to cope with driving rain, choppy seas, 25 knot winds and waves washing over the foredeck.  Gerhard (our helmsman) comments on the lack of company on the aftdeck during the rain.  The rain lasted for 3-4 hours until after our arrival at Asanvari, our welcoming anchorage for the night.

No sooner had we dropped anchor than a dinghy approached from one of the three other yachts at anchor (the most we have seen since we left Santo) and invited us to an evening of ‘local Kustom magic” followed by dinner.  They wanted to know so that they could kill another chicken to cook for dinner.  Of course we will come, came the response – at which Walter sped off to the yacht club to tell Chief Nelson’s son Nixon, who is cook for the evening at the Yacht Club.  Yes Yacht Club!!  Unfortunately, their generator isn’t working, so there is no cold beer available tonight.

A little while later another dingy pulls up alongside and the lady (Nicola) enquires if we had any long life cream on board.  The cook is looking for long life cream for the dish he is cooking.  Sorry was our response – no long life cream.  OK, do you have any tomato sauce on board – after a few minutes an unopened bottle of tomato sauce was produced from our stores and passed to the lady.  Do you have any Oyster Sauce was the next request, then sweet chilli sauce.  After repeated ‘No Sorry’ – I think the lady gave up and tried the other yachts.  This is certainly a different experience, where the guests provide the ingredients, except the chicken and rice.

It is now some hours later and the 4.30 magic and meal started at 5.15 (or perhaps a touch later).  Maybe the local time plus 45 minutes does work after all.

Now to our plans, which seem to change day by day.  I’m not sure of all the factors that cause them to change, but we will find out in the morning of the plan for the day.  Maybe it will be in the morning plus 45 minutes!!  When we left Melsisi we had four days to ‘find the dentist’, but have completed this mission in two days, and now have two days to spare before we pick up the medical team in Abweventoro to transport them to Lolton Bay for a clinic.  The current plan is to stay at Asanvari tomorrow, I think I heard mud-brick demonstration at 10.00am – so the morning seems planned.  Who knows what the afternoon will bring! Tomorrow’s report will reveal all!!


The first 3,000 were easy

Monday, 19th July. MSM Cub Reporter Dr Graeme Duke, inland @ Ledungsivi, Central Pentecost.

Foghorn Leghorn was at it again waking me at sunrise. He was probably teaching Chicken Little: “I say boy, I say boy, nar this here is how you get that fella’s attention. Just you listen to your father, now boy.”

The drizzle had turned to constant rain. The hospital water tank repaired yesterday was rapidly refilling. During breakfast (fresh bread & tea) Robyn and I tossed the coin as to who would go with the ‘away’ team, on the back of the truck & in the driving rain, to Tanbok. Don tossed. I lost.  🙂

The local vehicle we were supposed to take was the 4WD-B truck mentioned in a previous post but it was off having it’s brakes fixed, so we had to settle for the next best vehicle.
Tanbok is a 45min drive uphill & further inland from Ledungsivi. Actually, more like a 45min Wet & Wild or Luna Park bronco ride: no safety harness, holding on to the tray, trying not to fall out, & exposed to the driving rain, while the 4WD slid and jumped and slewed along.

Tanbok is a large spread out village with a primary school of 140 students, & an Anglican church with 700 members cared for by the delightful Father Willington (sic). There’s an aid-post but no hospital or nurse.

The village is not only high up in the hills it is usually covered in cloud, as it was today. Michael, the Yr5 teacher, told me this is usual and sunny days are rare in Tanbok! So, if you are a Tanbokian you can truthfully say that you frequently have your head in the clouds.

Maybe this accounted for the high number of colds, ear infections, & 5 perforated ear drums I picked up during our screening? The cool moist air is probably a great incubator for viruses! They definitely would benefit from Rob’s ‘Mudbrick’ stove. And there’s plenty of mud & clay!

We set up in a large traditional nakamal (community hall) that doubles as a cyclone refuge. All the framework had double beams held with multiple braided-twines, low walls, one door, no windows, a central fireplace, and eaves that almost touch the ground. It was so dark we couldn’t see beyond 2m from the entrance of the 25m long ‘cyclone bunker’, so the clinic crowded near the door for the only available natural light. Outside was no better – misty, cloudy, & raining. Don had to use a headlight to choose and dispense spectacles. I could only read the BP dial  & glucometer by facing them toward the light from the door! Bob was ‘in his element’ peering into dark holes (mouths) with his head torch, & mixing ART to fill cavities.

All up we saw 112 patients in a morning. No hypertensives & no diabetics, no one overweight; they get plenty of exercise in these parts! But, as I mentioned, plenty of ENT problems.

Sadly, the worst was Pastor Willington’s bright 12yo daughter who had bilateral chronic ear-drum perforations from recurrent infections. How she heard anything I don’t know. She needs an ENT Specialist consultation and possibly complex restorative ear surgery which would need to be done in Australia.

I had a brainwave and sent an SMS to Matt, a colleague at my hospital in Melbourne who is coming to Vila in August with a specialist ENT team. We will try to get her there to see him.

The 2pm return journey to Ledungsivi was similar in “entertainment value” to the ride up. We unloaded the truck and ate the leftovers from lunch – the stay-at-home team had had a quiet morning with 25 patients and had too much time for lunch.

Afterwards we embarked on a shopping spree for luxury items like tea-bags, coffee, and scotch fingers! There are several small unglamorous buildings (along the 4wd track that doubles as the “main road” through town) with inconspicuous signs, no advertising or billboards, and dark (no lighting) and dingy, that masquerade as retail outlets. No Seven-11 or Coles or Aldi here.

Back at ‘base’ the patients were driven away by the rain so a fresh cup of Punjab tea and a Figian Scotch
Finger (use-by dates witheld) followed by a cold shower, and a late siesta in warm dry clothes seemed like sheer luxury.

And back in Vila, Richard is preparing the report for the church assembly so we sent back details of our progress and found we have ‘clocked up’ 502 patients since Team 5 started a week ago. The total for the 2010 programme stands at 3,426, not including those seen between Teams 4 & 5 (eg Merelava). This is equivalent to an average of around 100 per day. With another 3 villages to go we could even strike 4,000 for this year! That may be over 5% of the rural (non-urban) population?

Tomorrow we head back up along the same road and north to Abapuntora on the coast, in the 4WD-B which we hope is now 4WD+B, and hopefully rejoin the MSM crew who have gone on a “Doctor Dolittle” type of adventure in search of a dentist.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and here’s to the 4,000th patient!

Dr Graeme Duke

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