Tuesday 13 August 2013

16 11.10S    167 23.42E

Yesterday’s clinic was a bit small owing to the fact that some people hadn’t got the message that we were coming. So we did a bit of asking around yesterday to see if we should stay an extra day to give everyone a chance to come to the clinic. In the end the local nurse assured us that there would be many people so the decision was made to stay put and work in Vinmavis and the village of Lambumbu today. Denis (aka M. Pamplemoose) swapped paces with Dave so Dave could have a day in the village and Martin also stayed on board so I could also go ashore today.

The ute ride to Vinmavis is beautiful. It is a rough track which runs along the coast line. The coast was barely visible because the jungle was so dense and over hung the track. On the inland side of the track was a cliff of limestone covered in vegetation. Now and then the jungle opened to a view of the ocean. It took about half an hour to do the short distance involved. We were told later that legend has it that an earthquake in the 1800s lifted the coast up and the cliffs we could see was the old coast.

The first impression of the village was that it was different to others. Each village has its own identity. As we unloaded the ute I noticed a young man sawing timber with a circular saw. He was a builder and was making a mounting frame for a 40W solar panel for his brother hut. Nearly all the buildings were made from local materials in the traditional manner.

I asked the young men who were watching the builder at work if I could go to ocean and how to get there. Two year 8 boys jumped up and became my guides. They took me to the ocean and I could see a small gap in the reef where a local boat could come in. Other than that the reef extended out from the shore a long way and along the coast for miles. Not a place we could bring our boat.

The boys then took me to the kindergarten where we could see the children playing with balloons. The Kindergarten was an area corralled by a low bamboo fence with play equipment made of local materials.

In the centre was a thatched hut. As we boys arrived the children went into the hut. We were invited inside where we found a delightful gaggle of children, each with a balloon, plus their teachers and an administrator. The first thing I was asked was “where is Monsieur Pamplemoose?” I explained that M.P was on the boat today having a rest. They giggled at the recollection the funny man who visited them yesterday.

The teachers showed me all the learning materials on the walls of the hut. They had posters for learning colours, letters and words plus simple quotes from the Bible. The children were shy but when it came for me to go I sat on the step outside putting my shoes back on and the children all crowded around to see this funny sight.

The boys were joined by a young man and they all acted as my guide and were keen to show me all the local foods. We founded tasty nuts, cocoa pods which when cut open revealed the cocoa nut which is surrounded by a white flesh. You suck the white flesh off the nut as if it was a lolly and it tastes very good. We found coconuts in various stages from cool drinking nuts to nuts that had sprouted and contained a solid white flesh. They showed me the copra drying ovens, the cocoa drying areas, and the coconut oil manufacturing area. We met a group of girls on their way fishing. They were sitting on the track waiting for the tide to come in a bit more before venturing onto the reef with fishing lines.

After a while I thought I had been away from the clinic long enough and walked back with the boys picking a bag of lemons on the way.
By midday the clinic was winding down and the chief organized some ladies to bring some cordial and biscuits. When all was packed up the chief made a heartfelt speech thanking the volunteers for helping the village and saying we would remain in their prayers.

With that formality it was back into the truck and off to another village which was about an hour drive away. The village inland from Lambumbu was again altogether different. This time there were many houses made from prefabricated cement sheet insulated panels and corrugated iron roofs. But these were built some time ago and now many had rusty roofs and damaged walls. The village hall where the clinic was held was badly damaged. But we received a warm welcome and we got straight to work. Because I am normally on the boat, except for short stints ashore to make sure everything was running smoothly, I didn’t have a specific job to do. To rectify this I acted as cashier for the eye team. Later on David, who was doing the steralising, asked me to hold the light for Gary (dentist). This was the beginning of a whole new career. Extraction after extraction I held the light onto the work area. It gave me a new appreciation for the whole process and indeed the limitations constraining health service delivery in these conditions.

We packed a lot into today. All clinic streams were busy. In all 122 patients were seen.
Back on the boat Martin scrubbed the underwater part of the hull and Denis made bread and vacuumed the decks to remove the fine gravel that comes aboard on our feet and then washed the decks. Denis is now  in the galley cooking up a beautiful dinner while everyone is engaged in finishing off the paper work from today.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Two Clinics in One Day


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