School too far away…

Futuna Island Monday 10 May 2010

Cub reporter – Tony Burke …

As you have probably already read, we sailed overnight on Saturday night to one of Vanuatu’s most remote islands, “Futuna” – or “Skull Island” as I have renamed it (think King Kong). This island is surrounded with cliffs up to a 100m high and very deep water surrounding that makes anchorage difficult. However, our sail from Anatom (Aneityium) and our anchorage at Mission Bay at the NE tip of the island was handled beautifully by the sailing crew. To add to the flavor of the event, a 15-16 yr old young man swam out into the sheltered bay to point out the best position to drop anchor. I have since met up with “Samuel” several times and I would not be surprised if he is Chief of Futuna (or more) in a decade’s time; an impressive young man.

The Medical team had a big day today as we walked to the adjacent village of “Ishia” which translates as “bloody long walk to go to school” (not really). It is just that this is the only school on the island and the medical team took 75 minutes to walk this distance. The kids probably do it in 30-40 minutes but it is one scary and challenging walk – and the six year olds do it with their older siblings.

As the dental team on this voyage, Bill accompanied me to assist as required. Thanks Bill for lugging the heavy gear. We surveyed the dental condition of ten 6-7 yr olds and 12-13 yr olds and I was pleasantly surprised to note that most of the young people on this island have good teeth. They could all be better cleaned and it would be nice to be able to scale/clean their teeth but that may be possible in the future.

I tended to 18-20 patients today for extraction treatment only but they were all in the late 20’s – 60’s age group. Approximately 60% of these extractions involved wisdom teeth – which surprised me. In Australia, nearly all adults of European origin have no room for these teeth to erupt. In Vanuatu, they usually have room to erupt but cleaning is still an issue. The diet of the people of Futuna is probably less contaminated with Western products and all the better for the kids.

Bill and I were also charged by Rob Latimer with taking class photos of the school at Ishia. The Principle of the secondary school, the Head master of the Primary school and all the class teachers were most helpful. A couple of observations – boys are the same the world over. During the taking of these class shots, many rabbit ears appeared behind their mate’s heads and silly grins routinely appeared on several lads faces (several images were taken of certain class levels). With respect to the girls, Ni-Van society can be so patriarchal that even looking at the camera was difficult for many of the young ladies. It is a pity because when they do smile at you, your heart melts.

I am having a no-clinic day tomorrow to act as general dog’s body aboard “the Chimere”. We are planning to sail to “Aniwa” overnight on the Tuesday evening so the boat needs to be shiny for our medical guests (if required, we do ask them to please vomit overboard – downwind). Aniwa has only one village and I have 20 local anaesthetic cartridges left – I might just make it.

Regards to all the crews families.

Tony Burke

2 thoughts on “School too far away…”

  1. Well what an adventure Mr tooth fairy. Did not read about the state of your stomach contents on those earlier days. All behind you now!

    Loved the story about P&O and the kids in your photos. Like Gel I can’t wait to see your photos. Take care
    Love Solomons

  2. Thank you to the Solomons for your interest and encouragement

    At the moment we are travelling betwn Futuna and Aniwa islands, it’s 12:30am, the sea is flat and we have a lovely wind on the side. Most are asleep, either on deck or down below. The sky is clear and the stars are bright.

    we will run another medical clinic at Aniwa upon arrival


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