Sunday – morning of rest at least

Losolava, Gaua Island

Sunday 17 September 2017

For some people in the village of Losolava Sunday is their day of rest, for others it’s Saturday; it all depends on your denomination.   There’s a rumour that some fall into the “two denomination” category in order to get both days off, but maybe that’s being a bit unkind.

Nonetheless, it was a lazy start to the day for the MSM team, with 6-7:00am sleep-ins all round; sheer luxury.

Church ashore was at 8:00am, this time of the “Traditional” Anglican persuasion, with robes, candles and bells, plus the expected Melanesian singing; which did not disappoint.

It was decided to set up clinic in the church building itself, after lunch.  So it was that around 12:30pm all the dental, medical and optometry gear had been transported ashore and carted piece by piece the short distance from the landing.

A queue of hopeful patients soon formed under the nearby mango tree, keeping the team busy all afternoon.  About 40 medical consultations and around 20 dental, not to mention eye tests and the dispensing of spectacles.

Tomorrow the clinic will be relocated 5 minutes down the track to the official village clinic building.  A “neutral” piece of ground for those locals who felt uneasy about today’s(Anglican) venue.  As for the PCV Health and MSM, we are truly ecumenical, treating all-comers and in all villages – even those of the French persuasion, Roman Catholics and non-name brands?!

To find out more about the medical side of the mission, go to Graeme Duke’s (unauthorized) MSM blog at …

While most were at the church service (older) Matt ran Chimere’s main engine and generator to both charge the batteries and run the water maker; both of which were getting low.

Returning to Chimere I started the process of making two loaves of bread, plus a slice-cake- like concoction known as “Logan Bread”, packed aboard in batch-sized, easy to prepare bags by Edith West, a  wonderful MSM supporter and also the mother of team nurse Cathy as it turns out.

It was then time to track down the man I was keen to meet, having seen him briefly yesterday when we landed, Chief John Star.  John is a paramount chief and a man I’d met on three previous occasions, (we’d even given him a lift to the next island north, Vanualava in 2009) but we’d only ever met him on the west coast of this island, which is where I’d hoped to see him again this time.  John had “retired” to Losalava, on the east coast to live with his son and family; his son (Jonathan) being a school teacher.

Having found the chief and hosting him and the primary school principal, Mark, out on Chimere, I was able to present him with a gift.  It was an unusual gift in many ways, a carved wooden statue of two dolphins, around 30cm high (about a foot for the older folk).  I came across the statue in Melbourne last year quite by accident and immediately thought of Chief John Star.  At the time  I had no idea how to get it to him, and had it sitting in my office with a Post-It note stuck to it that read – for Chief John Star, Lakona Bay West Coast Gaua – and here I am, able to give it to him in person

And why two dolphins?  Well back in 2009, our first MSM sailing mission to Vanuatu, it was John who had met us on arrival in the remote Lakona Bay.  He was paddling his dugout canoe and wore a cap with the word “Manager” on it.  In the course of showing us where to anchor John tapped the side of his canoe twice and two dolphins leapt out the still water behind him.  I remember being totally surprised and amazed and exclaimed something like … “do that again” … which he did, with the same result.

Four years later on a return visit in 2013, several men of the village put on a kastom dance for us to film, to assist them in promoting a festival they were intending to start the next year. (Matt – the younger – put a video online which you should be able to view by searching “Lakona Bay Kastom festival youtube”)  One of the head-dress costumes in the dance, depicted a model of two dolphins, in memory of the two dolphins who had lived for a time in the local bay.


Hence the immediate connection between Chief John Star and the two dolphin statue

John was delighted with the gift and so that the school principal didn’t go away empty handed, I promised we’d try and fix the leaking tap on a 5,000 litre water tank I’d noticed earlier in the day at the Primary School when I’d walked to John’s home.   Plus some fiberglass resin, matting, sandpaper and miscellaneous bits to help repair a hole in his 1,000 litre fiberglass personal water tank.

Back at the clinic late-afternoon things were starting to slow down, but there was a need to do a dash back to Chimere in the dinghy to obtain an asthma preparation for a woman in late stage pregnancy.

On top of this there was a woman on one of the other two yachts in the bay (definitely NOT a local) who had an infected foot and needed a reassuring word or two from a doctor, (or a word from two doctors – which we have) plus some antibiotics.  There was the added complication that her husband and the wife of the man on the other boat, had gone for a walk to the famous inland jungle  waterfall, which was supposedly a 4 hour roundtrip trek.  “They haven’t run off together” both the remaining wife and husband assured us … several times … which had me thinking Shakespeare and the line “… she protesteth too much”  … but who am I to judge.

By now it was around 7:00pm, pitch black, and their respective spouses, (plus their young local guide Stuart) were at least four hours overdue, given they’d left at 9:00am this morning and the 4 hour round trip estimate was probably really 6 hours after adjusting for Ni-Van distance.

Matt (the older) and I drove our dinghy to a few landing spots around the bay and radioed Richard ashore to see if there had been any word of the travelers, (who didn’t take their own radio, after all they were only going to be 4 hours ?!)    Richard informed me that if they weren’t back in 1 hour that he would inform the local leaders and they would start a night search up the track, but very fortunately, to the relief of everyone, a small light could be seen travelling across the water in the direction of the neighbouring yacht.

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when those two individuals stepped aboard their respective yachts … stay tuned to the next exciting installment ?!

Tomorrow we plan to run another half-day clinic and extend it to full-day if numbers demand.  If things go quiet, we’ll load the “circus” aboard Chimere around  lunchtime for a 1:00pm departure to the other side of the island; a sail of around 3 hours.

Good news from the National Oral Health Survey front is that all the required participants were assessed for this village.

In addition to running the clinic, Graeme has requested the two Matts to have a look at the solar power system at the official village clinic building.  A structure with which past MSM crew members are very familiar, having worked on it  in 2009 and then again in 2013; including taps on two rain water tanks, gutters, downpipes and roof paint, plus the construction of stairs and some veranda strengthening.  The building is starting feel like an old friend!!

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Sunday – morning of rest at least

Rob Latimer

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