Friday, March 20, 2009

We Fit In A Lot

Yesterday we went on a full day tour around the island that was just gorgeous, even if the dirt/stone/rut-filled road got old after a few hours. I posted those photos already, and I don't have it in me to write about it at the moment. If you visit Vanuatu, I recommend the tour. I've never been one for organized touring, but when time is tight, sometimes you just have to go with efficiency, and this was one efficient way to see a lot and learn a lot about this place.

We got home after 5pm, fairly beat by our extreme waterfall adventures (yes, sounds rough, doesn't it?), so we came up with the great idea of going in to the hospital for the night shift. Why not? Let's see what these bodies can do...

Well what they did was a lot of triage of women in early labor. Things got a little exciting when the MW (midwife) on duty shuffled past saying "We have a BBA." Which means a Baby Born...Away? I don't actually know what the A stands for, but it means somebody just came in and the baby has already been born, either at home or in transport. In this case, it was in transport. We all went out there and there was the woman, laying down in the van/bus she rode in on, and her mother was crouched next to her, holding a baby wrapped in the underlayers of the grandmother's skirt (kind of a bloomer-type thing). I unwrapped the baby a bit and a midwife pulled out the instruments we needed to clamp and cut the cord, and then I whisked baby inside while Niki and midwives dealt with getting the mom out of the van and into the hospital. The midwives shot her with syntocin without assessing her bleeding. Syntocin is an arificial form of the hormone oxytocin, which when administered after birth can help minimize bleeding by causing the uterus to contract. In the U.S. the brand name is Pitocin. It is routine care here to administer syntocin to every woman as soon as the baby is born.

Within a few scant minutes, everybody was safely inside. The placenta was soon delivered without incident, and then I was surprised to hear the MW ask the woman if she wanted to stay the night or just turn around and go home! The woman kept apologizing to her baby for giving birth to him en route! It turns out she is a teacher of older kids and had excellent English. It was a treat to have a real conversation with a woman about the birth she just had. I tried to point out the baby was just fine, as was she, and that she did a great job. She also rolled her eyes and kind of chuckled when I told her the sex of the baby. We were talking and suddenly she said "Is it a girl or a boy?!" I said "boy" and she said "Oh!" and rolled her eyes...seems she has several of those already and has only one girl.

Around midnight we wrapped up what we were involved in and got a ride home by the hospital transport vehicle. The two midwives going off duty all but insisted we not walk the very short distance home at that hour, so we humored them. Our walk would take us through a short, densely populated street. There is a kava hut on it, and a shop, and a living compound - kind of an urban version of a village. Even at midnight, though, there were children and women, plenty of them, awake and around. N and I both felt it would have been fine to walk home.

Today we stayed at the room and did some schoolwork - another damned draft of the *^*d(@*#ed senior paper is due this weekend. Then we had a stroll downtown and had a scrumptious lunch at the market with the locals: fried fish, rice. We bought some stuff for our children, mailed postcards (also to said children), got caught in another rainstorm (bided our time in a cafe), then strolled home in time for our evening.

Tonight's entertainment: A Melanesian Feast - the Vanuatu equivalent of a luau. It was really nice, and it was in a real village, which is really in the jungle. We were walked down a path to the clearing where the event was held and at one point I realized just how enclosed by jungle flora we were, and I had a definite sensation of claustrophobia.

As the spokesperson for the event pointed out, Vanuatu (which means "our land") consists of 83 islands, with over 100 dialects, and as many distinct cultures to some extent. What we were experiencing tonight was an example of only one of the cultures.

We ate a great deal of feast food, which leaned heavily toward root crops. There is a lot of starch in the traditional diet here. It was all quite tasty. We also tasted the kava potion and it made our tongue and soft palate/throat numb for a bit. Sadly, no hallucinations ensued. I have posted a few photos.

My days here are full, yet so much simpler. I've been thinking about the hullaballoo that is life at home. School drop-offs, lunches, school pick-ups, endless hours at clinic, after school lessons, homework, shopping, errands, and of course, just to add more chaos to it all, calls to births at random times. I am not ready to drop to the level of simplicity in living I experience here, but there is something to be said for eliminating all of that activity and stuff once in a while. I guess maybe that's what vacations are supposed to be, and were, I vaguely remember, before children. This surpasses any vacation, though. It's more like temporarily leading an entirely different existence.

I hope I can hang on to a bit of this when I return.


  1. Oh my goodness! That little tiny person performing in your pix is the cutest thing I have ever seen.

  2. Wow! Cool :)

    In NZ BBA = born before arrival :)

  3. I remember feeling much of what you're writing about, wanting to be able to bring home some of that simplicity. I remember being thoroughly disgusted with the people on their cell phones when I returned, cursing their apparent inability to connect with the here and now. It's amazing and sad how quickly we get sucked back into it. My best to you in your efforts to preserve some of this in your daily life! The news fast alone would do us all some good...