Saturday, April 29, 2006

Vunisea (Voo-na-see-a) and Drue (Droo-ay)

Vunisea Secondary School

April 6th, 2006

Up for breakfast at 6am, packed and all three teams off to first village. Called Vunisea, right by the airstrip. We walked up the hill and on the right was the highschool. It is a boarding school, the kids come on Mondays and go back to their villages on Fridays. Continued up the hill to the community hall and got set up. While we were waiting to get started a group of young children and moms came by the hall--they were on their way to the small hospital to get their measles vaccines. We handed out many toys and candy.

It took a bit of time for the first dog to show up. The first surgery was a neuter, which is nice because it is (generally) an easier and faster surgery than a spay. It went very well; we all breathed a sigh of relief. This is more primitive than anything any of us has done...we are used to having all sorts of machines to monitor patients. It is good, because it got us back to our powers of observation.

We ended up doing 13 surgeries in all. Not the 10 per group we were hoping to do, but a good start. One man walked 1/2 hour home to get his 3 dogs and bring them back. We found out at the end of the day that the reason there were not more dogs brought to us it that there was a funeral in a nearby village, so many people were there.

The day went well in spite of the small numbers. There were few anesthetic problems; the protocols seem to work very well. Good to have the first day 'under our belts'.

We were back to the resort by 4pm: enough time for a bit of snorkeling. I saw more wonderful fish--a green eel-ish creature floating in the reeds, a long slender fish striped like a zebra, a large fish that was greenish-yellow with a big black spot near its tail. Many small fish, bright blue, orange, and black. Donna and I also saw a huge lobster hiding in the rocks. The coral waving in the sea was so breath-taking.

I was sitting on the beach after snorkeling. The breeze was blowing the palm trees, the parrots and lorikeets were singing and swooping through the trees. I thought to myself, this is a movie! I still don't quite believe we are here.

We had kava again, with much singing, dancing and laughter. The people here can harmonize so wonderfully. They sit in a circle and play guitars and sing--it is not for us, they just love to do it. When we sit for dinner, they bring out a game called Bindy Windy...sort of a cross between pool and air hockey. You use a large disk to hit small disks and try to get them into holes in the corner of the table.

We are all in bed by 10pm, as we will be up again at 6am for another days surgeries.

April 7th, 2006

Ahhhhh, slept like a baby. Alarm went off at 5:45, and just barely woke up for it. We had breakfast and were in the boat for 7am. Two of the teams, mine and Donna's, were dropped off at a village called Drue, while the third team went to a village a little ways away. Our guides went to talk to the chief on our behalf. Bate, one of our guides, grew up in this village, so knew many of the people.

We were shown to a building where we could do surgery--another 'community hall'. We had mostly been expecting tables set up under the trees, so we were very grateful for the rooms. The first dogs came soon after we were set up, and we went fast and furious from 8am to 10:30--7 dogs and 1 cat. All the dogs were males. I asked why and was told that some believe that males are better hunters, so the females are sometimes killed at birth. Didn't much care for that answer.

We waited for a while to see if any more would show up; when they didn't, we were taken on a tour of the village. We went to the school, where the kids were a bit leery of us at first. They warmed up quickly, though! Soon they were holding our hands and wanting to sit in our laps. The children are all so gorgeous. I took a picture of a group of them, and they swarmed me to see themselves! The were pointing and laughing--I had fingerprints all over my view screen.

Donna and friends

The children then lined up outside one of the schoolrooms and went inside. They moved aside the chairs and desks and swept the floor. They set up enough chairs for all 6 of us to sit in front of the room. This was all without a word from the teacher. We went in and sat down, and they began to sing for us. "We welcome you" they sang. We were all so humbled and in tears. It was the most amazing thing. They sang several songs and then some of them came up and danced with us. They were so great! I don't know that I could adequately describe it. I had chills down my spine.

We had a tour of the school. They have 4 teachers: Grades 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8. They all learn English. There were lessons on the walls of all the same subjects that kids in Canada learn: science, algebra, geometry. We played with them for a little while (we gave them a new soccer ball) and then headed to the beach so they could get back to their lessons. The boat had gone to the airport to drop off some other guests, so we had a swim in the beautiful Pacific and searched for treasures on the beach until they returned.

Back at the resort, we cleaned instruments, prepared supplies for tomorrow, and then spent the rest of the afternoon reading, relaxing and writing in journals. The sun goes down at 6pm here, and then the mosquitoes come out, so we have to get in as much outdoor fun as we can before then.

In bed early again--I'm lying here writing this at 9:45--the work and the heat tire you out quickly! We are up again at 6 tomorrow, so it's off to sleep.

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