Wednesday, 21th July. (Loltong, North Pentecost 15.32.67S 168.08.87E)

[ED: Our senior correspondent who started duty at 4am, was found asleep at his keyboard and has been sent to his cabin under ship doctor’s orders. His rum ration has been withdrawn.]

Tuesday, 20th July. MSM Cub Reporter, @ Abawuntora, North Pentecost.

A hospital is usually a place where you find patients; we needed quite a bit of that this morning. You see we had to wait 8 hrs for our transport from Ledungsivi!
Two 4WD utes were due @ 8am. One turned up @ 9am and was immediately loaded with 24 medical & optom’ boxes and our bags, and dispatched with Gibson & Bob for Abawantora, our next destination, over two hours drive north.
The second ute was the aforementioned 4WD-B having it’s brakes repaired, but it didn’t return last night as expected. No other could be found. We hoped the first driver would return because he was yet to be paid. We were mistaken.
We read, wrote, drank tea, and loafed around. The most excitement all morning was the weather, the occasional unexpected thud of falling coconuts, and a late game of pamplemousse bowls.
The weather last night and today had a distinct pattern. After a lull of variable duration the wind would gather speed until the trees were swaying, then a heavy downpour would follow, ending in another temporary lull.
Pamplemousse Bowls is played with different sized fruit found lying around (eg blown down by the wind) and by placing the smallest on a patch of grass then rolling the larger ones downhill to see who can get the closest. Eating or stomping on the opposition’s bowls brings out a red card. By the time our transport arrived Leo was leading Graeme, 2 rubbers to 1, with Don a close third on zero. Watch for it on ABC TV Sports coverage.
The 4WD+B (that had originally been a 4WD-B) turned up at 3pm, and drove straight onto the bowling green. Seeing our (transport) predicament Reynold immediately offered assistance. So we all piled in and were finally on our way, only 7hrs+ later than expected.
Back up to Tanbok and into the clouds we travelled. Sitting on the edge of the tray for 2hrs was a bum-numbing experience. Well, it would have only been 2hrs if not for the flat tyre we had to stop and change. And the constant rattling suggested the universal joint was about to ‘go’ too.
Fortunately it held together, the rain abated, and the wind dried us off. Along the way kids would run out giggling and laughing at us, waving and yelling “Bongee” (good bye in Bislama)! I can imagine ‘Show & Tell’ at school tomorrow: “Now Johnny what have you got to share with the class today?” “Well,” (snigger, snigger) “yesterday I saw a truck full of white-men go past my house when Jimmy & I were out playing!” “Now Johnny what did we learn about telling fibs?” “But it’s true Miss!”
So here we are finally in Abawuntora. This afternoon’s clinic was of course a write-off, so here’s hoping for a better day tomorrow and catching up with the Chimere crew.
Smooth seas, fair breeze, and a lot of patience.

Wednesday, 21th July. MSM Cub Reporter, @ Loltong, North Pentecost 15.32.67S 168.08.87E

Yes Loltong. And in fact the village kids, as cute as ever you could imagine, were indeed Laughing Out Loud most of time, so LOL-tong seems appropriate. These cutest little Ni-Van kids, big eyes, full of energy and cheeky, followed us all day as soon as we came ashore to the time we left.
There were several interesting characters to meet today:

Reginald, the principle of the local Vulunam College, who had taught Gibson (our local optom) as a student, and warmed to the concept of teaching mud brick stove building to his students.  He also is very fit and played in the national soccer team for 11years. I had told him of 2 female patients with smoke-related lung disease. “Yes women work very hard in the (vegetable) gardens and in the home. Men must do more to look after the women!” he proclaimed. Rob and I went quiet for a minute, then got on with our tasks.
Philip, the local nurse and dentist who does an exceptional job with limited resources, like so many of his colleagues.
Willy the Builder, who built the local church that we held the clinic in, and who loves mud bricks now.
Silas, the 93yo man with a flowing white-beard, and his wife Selina who lived in the nearby village. We honoured them with a home visit checkup. Outside their home, on the verandah, was a newly constructed ‘sedan chair’ he could be carried in.
Silas had built the Anglican church in his village 52yrs ago, and when his son was born at the same time they decided that his name should be Solomon in reference to King Solomon who built the temple.
Wise old Silas was blind from a cataract & a previous eye injury. When we explained there was little we could do (even cataract surgery) may not improve his sight, he response was profound and moving: “Thank you tumas for coming to my village & trying to help me. But I old and ready to meet Big Man.” he said pointing skyward.
After checking Silas we packed our gear to return to the main clinic, then realised his wife needed a checkup, then Silas’ brother Leo turned up, then Solomon’s wife Mary returned from the gardens and, yes, we will unpack our gear, and give her a checkup too! What’s the Medicare Rebate in Vanuatu for a home visit you may ask? I like pamplemousse I said. So 4 pamplemousse were delivered by Solomon, and back down to the dinghy we went for the short return trip to the main clinic in Loltung.
Paramont Chief Richard and his wife, whose son, also Richard, is now a doctor in Vila. I was extra careful with their checkups! “Numba wen blood pressure mo no sik suga. E gud.” I said.
The clinic ran busy all day – 65 patients, including 4 antenatal checkups, 2 post-operative checks, 2 women with chronic lung disease, 1 new diabetic, many cataracts & 4 requiring surgery. No ear infections, unlike Tanbok.

GD