Mission ends

Post 20

Friday 29 August

Back in the land of Oz



If evidence was required of the team’s arrival back in Australia … here it is.  A happy-snap of the team (looking fit, well and sparky despite their early start) on arrival in Sydney this morning – all except Natalie, who was catching the later flight directly to Brisbane…

Once in Sydney, Andrew was met by his wife Nila for the drive north to Central Coast, Anh, Garry, Leticia and Robyn were heading back to Adelaide and from their onto Port Lincoln, Sue was catch a flight to Melbourne, along with Scott and Helen, with Scott and Helen then catching a further flight home to Launceston.  Talk about a military operation in logistics.


The people of Maewo will remember you for many years to come … partly because that’s the sort of people they are and partly because they have so little access to outside medical, dental and optical care, your arrival and attention will be seen as a real blessing from God.


 photo 61


Above:  “Team Survivors” l-r Andrew, Sue, Anh, Leticia, Garry, Scott, Helen and Robyn (Natalie was also very much a “Team Survivor”, just on a different flight … to Brisbane)


Map 5

Above:  SPOT did stop briefly in Sydney, but here’s proof that at least some of the team returned to Melbourne




Stay tuned for more blog content and photos over the next week as team members send through their recollections and snaps. (Now they have access to telecommunications.  Just imagine – being virtually cut off from modern communications for 14 days – no Facebook, Twitter, newsfeeds, email, web browsing … and then living to tell the tale !!




Robyn’s post-mission POST


Diary notes from the past 10 days … 

(Refer to “Maewo journey begins” post from Saturday 16 August for earlier diary notes)


Leaving Nasawa, have found the local people here not so overwhelmingly friendly as at Asanvari, they keep  to themselves more, though it is a much bigger community.The clinic days have been busy . The rest of our team are just great and we all get on famously.  Scott is the group humourist, comes out with the funniest jokes and stories and keeps us amused.  He and Helen are so knowledgeable and lovely with the patients.  Sue and Ahn, the optometrists, are a great pair, work well together and are quiet but friendly.
The ute trip to Kere Bay (Kerepei) was a beautiful drive perched in the back of our very loaded truck. Stopped halfway to walk up a very pretty valley to visit a small hydroelectric scheme not quite completed yet, very interesting. We were given some bananas, paw paw and a large cucumber by some locals, yum.
Kere Bay:   lovely open place with huge grassed area and massive mango trees.  We have heard the mangoes are ripe but the trees are so high can only scrounge for them and hope to get them before the hermit crabs, bats and chooks!
Finally sorted sleeping quarters, girls at the higher end of settlement adjacent to bountiful veggie garden and under massive mango tree where we discovered the bats flew in from the huge mountain behind us and squealed and fought over mangoes all night.  They joined the rooster and dog chorus, but we still managed to sleep. The local community greeted us formally with speeches and lovely Leis by the special shelter they had been built especially for us as our dining area !
We discovered the men’s house was much more palatial than ours with dry, clean shower and toilet, proper beds and a kitchen, so we made much use of their facilities and dubbed it the Man Cave, with Scotty’s bed pride of place in the lounge area with one leg of it broken and propped up by a small table, and a dodgy mossie net overhead.
Saturday 23rd   –  very busy clinic day, Garry and Nat have become a little competitive – who manages to extract the most teeth.  Nat just in front at the moment. My area working very efficiently though did run out of gas.  Andrew managed to find a new one, bless him!
Sunday 24th  – to church early, faithful called to church with conch shell call !  short service. We then quickly got a few snacks and set off on 12km walk along the track north to visit a series of waterfalls called “Big Water”. Quite a trek through creeks and with lovely coastal views. Finally arrived at the river mouth, a series of shallow falls and pools, so cool and refreshing. Climbed up through jungle to a massive waterfall and waterhole, amazing cool swim and fun in the water. We had arranged for a ute to take us back to Kere Bay  good move, as a bit weary.
Monday 25th –  another busy clinic day but finished early as it got too hot in the afternoon, cool wade in river and sea but wary of swimming due to Stone fish.
Tuesday 26  – my beautiful twin daughters birthday 25yrs today.  Teesh (Leticia) very kindly sent text message home for me. Drove up to a village called Naone for a morning clinic.  Quite a drive, very bumpy trip with all our gear on back of ute. Set up clinic on wide cool verandah of local church, very busy, had quite a crowd of boys around me watching my pressure cooker steam and hiss. LOVELY LUNCH wasn’t it Scott!
Wednesday 27 –  only one dental patient as the local villagers were having a Womens Cultural Festival, all dressed in beautifully woven pandanus skirts and some tops. We watched them, enthralled by their graceful beauty. Cooking demonstration interesting and then the men marched into village all dressed up  in traditional garb, wonderful to see this very traditional side of their lives.
Final tooth extraction tally  – Garry 167, Nat 166.  Had moving speech at tea time and lovely woven bags presented to us.  All packed and ready for early departure in the morning to top of island to airstrip.
Thursday 28th   –  slight delay with no driver and a ute that refused to get going. Finally on our way all perched on top of our luggage, would not cut it in Australia! Lovely drive along coast then up steep track to a plateau where the grass airstrip greeted us.  Off loaded gear, so much of it ! then lay around in sun till we heard the plane.  It whipped up the little runway, left one engine running whilst passengers got off and we then clambered in. A very short runway, then up we rose, feeling quite tearful looking down on our island that we so enjoyed working in its pretty villages and providing some help and relief to the most gentle, serene, happy, grateful people ever!
Between flights we spent a relaxing afternoon on the island of Santo, then another plane trip to Pt Vila where we gathered for our last meal together, a sleep in a motel in clean sheets, hot showers, then a  very early rise to catch plane to Sydney then all departed to various states and homes.




Home Base Reporting



Journey home begins

Post 19

Thursday 28 August

In transit – Maewo to Pt Vila, via Santo


In (text) news just to hand …

We packed up early and all 11 of us plus bags and one extra person squeezed into a ute and travelled 1.hr 15min to Maewo airstrip.

We have now checked in and r waiting around for the plane to arrive. We expect to get to Santo at 11:30am


Note:  The team has now arrived safely in Luganville (Santo)   Here is evidence from their pocket-sized, SPOT transmitter

Map 4


And while in Luganville the team choose to grab a bite to eat between flights at … “Bev’s place” … otherwise known as Village de Santo and their restaurant “1606” – which is a reference to the early explorer Pedro de Queiros who sailed through the region in that year in search of the great south land (much like Cpt Cook did around 170 years later) and named the island Australia del Espiritu Santo  (Bit of a mouthful, so the place is generally known now days as just “Santo”)

Find out more here … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Fernandes_de_Queir%C3%B3s


Photo 69



And information about Village de Santo can be found here … http://www.villagedesanto.com/   … which was built after Pedro de Queiros had gone …


image 1



August Team Maewo

The “After” shot… (l-r) Andrew, Scott, Robyn, Helen, Leticia, Sue, Anh, Natalie & Garry



From Luganville (Santo) the team will then fly to Port Vila where they will stay the night (at the Coconut Palms) before flying back to Australia tomorrow morning.

Images of Luganville





Above:  The SPOT transmitter shows the team has now returned to Pt Vila – to a well-earned night at the Coconut Palms Resort

Photo 68

Above:  A sucker for a nice boat shot … (Pt Vila)

Home Base Reporting








Last clinic today

Post 18

Wednesday 27 August

Last full day on Maewo



In (text) news just to hand …

This morning will be our last clinic for this trip.

It’s a sad moment to think that the intense and absorbing life we have been living is coming to an end.

We don’t expect a big clinic. Just a few people who couldn’t fit in on Monday.

The weather has been blustery with occasional heavy down pours. But always warm.

Today is the second day of the women’s cultural feastival.

We missed yesterday because we did a clinic at Naone.

However they r going to repeat some of the performances just for us, particularly the famous women’s water dance.

We’ll be flying back to Port Vila tomorrow and then home to Australia on Friday”


Here are some links to Women’s Water Music…






In further (text) news …

“The clinic is finished and all the gear is packed up.

The cultural festival  continued today with the highlight being the woman’s water dance.

The first dance was in the ocean with woman in two lines and one leading the singing and dance.

The next series of dances were staged in a rock pool. Each dance had a theatrical story line.

The women clapped the water creating different sounds and rhythms.

After the water dance the group did a land dance which was followed by the men’s dance.

Towards the end the women rejoined the dance and still later people from the audience were pulled into the dance followed by an uproar of laughter from the audience”





[Telecommunications still poor from the village, sorry no photos yet]







Pushing north to Naone

Post 17

Tuesday 26 August


Travelling north for the day to run a clinic in the village of Naone


With a promise of more news to come, we can report that the team headed north, via 4wd, to the village of Naone where a clinic was conducted for the benefit of all in the region.

By all accounts it was a successful day, with the tired puppies returning to their cabins in Kerepei and a welcome dinner – then an early night.

I’ll include some links below to information and images of Naone …






Below:  Some great local posters promoting good health and care for pikininis (children)

IMG_0690 IMG_0691 IMG_0692  IMG_0694  IMG_0696 IMG_0697 IMG_0698 IMG_0699

(Click above photos to enlarge)





Another big day in Kerepei

Post 16

Monday 25 August



(Text) News just to hand …


“Today has been frantically busy. And very hot.

We started at 8 and there was not much activity but by 9 we had queues everywhere.

Nat and Laticia screen the children (for dental issues) and in the process played games and sang songs. The children loved it. About 8 children need to visit the dentist afterwards.

The optoms (Sue and Anh) joined the scene under the big mango tree and did a brisk trade in children’s sun glasses. There r some very cool kids in the village.

Tomorrow is the women’s’ cultural festival. We will be away doing our out reach project tomorrow so we hope to finish early enough to get back to see some of the activities. One of the highlights will be the woman’s water dance.

A baby was born here this morning. The mother came into the maternity unit at 5:30am and she gave birth at 6:30am to a little boy of 3.7kg.

It is interest to learn that there is no alternative to breast milk here. Not long ago a new mother couldn’t produce milk and there were no other nursing mothers at the time to help and the baby died.

The peace corp rep here, Emily, has been a real help. She speaks Bislama well and understands the local ways”



Through The Looking Glass

And through the power of the inter-web, here’s some information I’ve found on Emily (no, I’m not stalking the team’s newest best friend Emily, this is serious background research that I’m sure will be of interest to our readers)




Above:  Emily … the “before” shot


Above:  Emily … the “after” shot


Extract from Emily’s blog …

This blog consists of my personal opinions and beliefs and does not reflect any position of the Peace Corps or the United States government.

Phase Two Training (14 June 2014)

The past two months I have been living at my site: Kerepei, Maewo. My goals thus far have been to make a community profile and integrate into the community, using these strategies to figure out the main health problems in my village. I really love my village! Though I was originally hesitant about going to a bush site, I think that my village ended up being a good fit for me. The community and my counterpart are very supportive of me. I think that it is also just bush enough where I get no internet and the such, but I have a few stores close by to buy food basics and spotty cell phone service.But now the Community Health group is back in the Capital for phase two training. This training is designed to teach us more about how to apply for grants and how to better work with our counterparts at site, in terms of making projects together.The health center that I work in coordination with helps people in several villages. This means that I really have to prioritize the projects that I want to get done, and that has been hard to do. However, I plan on making a workshop that allows the community members to prioritize their own needs. Through this workshop I will be able to empower the people to figure out their own problems, and in the end, come up with the sustainable solutions themselves.



For those who are interested, here’s some further information on the US Peace Corp






Lazy, hazy Sunday

Post 15

Sunday 24 August



With no news to hand …   (Refer below … news did finally come to hand)


… I’ve just got no choice but to make it up … no … but it’s safe to assume that after a busy clinic yesterday the team played by the “local rules” and took much of today off – joining with the village in Sunday worship and soaking up the serenity of the lush tropical environment.

Sadly the chickens and roosters are no respecters of the day-of-rest and likely crowed as much last night and this morning as any other day of the week.

But one photo did get through; what is a very poor internet connection …

… it’s a photo of the local shower facilities.  All you could possibly need … ample water, a certain amount of privacy, with the added benefit of not have to trouble yourself with silly taps … or getting burnt on the hot water for that matter.


photo 34

Above: The local shower …  ample water, plus a certain amount of privacy, with the added benefit of not have to trouble yourself with silly taps … or getting burnt on the hot water.


With little news to talk about it’s only natural that conversation turns to the weather.  And here it is for the island of Maewo …


Wind from the East, a relatively cool 25 degrees and the chance of a wee bit of precipitation – but not much.





“What an amazing “day of rest” we have had.

After the early church service we set off to see the waterfall called BIGWOTA.

It was a long hot walk and we all separated out into different walking speeds with travel time varying from 3 to 4.5hours.

The waterfall is a magnificent site. Our first glimpse was from he ocean where a man with his child in a dugout canoe paddled in from the sea right up the first waterfall.

The road crosses the river just behind the waterfall and after heavy rain is impassable.

From here several more falls are visible. But to see the best falls some local girls acted as guide and took us up into the hills. We passed ingenious water gardens fed by water channels from the river into terrace gardens holding water. When we got to the top we could look down on a series of aqua pools and falls. Looking up we could see the big impressive falls.

We changed into swimmers (togs or bathers for those from other states in Australia) and swam across the deep pool to reach the falls.

Gary and the 2 Ni-Van (local) girls even jumped into the pool from the top of the falls.

We managed to organise a truck to bring us back and found we had 5 customers who needed to be seen by the clinic today.

We r now waiting. for tea basking in the lovely feeling left from swimming in the waterfall pool.”




Above:  Two images of the waterfalls visited by the team but found on the website



For those who are interested here are some more images of Maewo waterfalls.  (There are a few to choose from



Home Base Reporting




Big Day in Kerepei

Post 14


In (text) news just to hand …


“We r having a busy clinic today with a variety of cases to deal with for our team  some people have walk for 5hrs to get here over a mountain range.

We have nice accommodation but Internet reception is poor.

From the clinic I am looking across to the police station. It is empty cos there r no police here. There used to be but we were told that when two men up north claimed to be able to kill people with black magic the police ran away.

We have just run out of gas. Time to go and see what can be done”


A short time later

“We have a new gas bottle now and we r now back in business. Cost of gas bottle and hire of truck was 10,000Vt.  (approx $AUS120) !”


Coastal villages on Maewo were severely damaged by storm surges pushed toward the shoreline by the force of winds from cyclone Lusi.
Baldwin Aru from Maewo said the village nakamal or Traditional community hall at Kerepei village was badly damaged by the wave surges last week.
He said the nakamal was more than 50 meters away from the shoreline but storm surges reached the village and damaged the nakamal.
The village of Talise several kilomters away also experienced the same situation with huge waves caused by cyclone Lusi reached the village and damaged some homes, an independent report on Maewo stated.
There has been no report of casualties.



And here’s a link to a blog describing a Cultural Festival in the village of Kerepei in 2009



Home Base reporting