July 7 – 8, 2013
It was a Sunday, and the mayor was going to pick us up after Jesus. Just how many people get to say that in their lifetime!
It’s true! After church, the mayor himself was coming to pick us up from the southeast anchorage, and take us to the village for a viewing of his black pearls.
We all prepared for our day trip and dinghied ashore to wait for our ride to town. Even though we still had 24 of us, the numbers had dwindled when it started to rain. We waited in an abandoned and disintegrating building, so we could stay as dry as possible. For about 2 hours, we huddled in that building while the rain poured.
Eventually, the mayor showed up with the flatbed truck, and regardless of rain, we all piled in. Now instead of just being bumped along in the back of a truck and getting whipped by palm fronds, we were wet and being bumped along in the back of a truck while being whipped by wet palm fronds! Fortunately, by that time, it was only a light rain, so it wasn’t all that bad.
Since it was already noon, and we had quite a few hungry people in the truck, the mayor phoned ahead to his house to make sure lunch could be served when we got there. Sure enough, when we arrived there was a table prepared with baguette sandwiches, hard boiled kavaka eggs, juice, and coffee.
Kavaka eggs, you ask? They are the eggs from a local type of tern, and yes, they eat them in Kauehi. Most of our group was inquisitive and sampled the eggs. (I know of two people who didn’t eat the eggs; a vegetarian and one picky kid) The kavaka eggs were tasty with a fish flavor. While I’d had enough after eating two eggs, I imagined they would be quite good if they were used in a seafood quiche.
Since Nathalie (s/v Sueño) speaks French, she learned the story and told the mayor’s family that I was a medical person. Therefore, I was summoned over to have a look at the man’s legs. My heart leapt to my throat as they removed the bandages and I got my first peek at his injuries. His legs were covered in second and third degree burns from his knees down to his toes. The blisters present were enormous (6-8 inches in diameter) and fluid filled to the point of nearly bursting. The third degree areas of skin was charred, blackened, and “melted” to his body.
This man needed a hospital, and not just any hospital. He needed a burn center. They had spoken daily with a doctor on the phone in order to get medical advice, but now 3 days later, they were still waiting for the doctor to arrive from another island. In the meantime, they were able to give him antibiotics and pain medicine. The bandages consisted of large leaves from a local tree placed over the entire burn area with gauze and old Ace bandage wrapped around his legs to hold the leaves in place.
As far I as knew they were doing the best that they could for him. I could only strongly stress that he drink lots of water to keep his body hydrated and flushed, and that he should also keep his legs elevated. Just after I finished speaking with him, he crawled out of bed, and with crutches, hobbled over to a chair to watch TV . . . with his legs down. We immediately got another chair and a pillow for him to prop his legs up. My fingers were crossed that the doctor would arrive sooner rather than later.
On a side note, we used this man’s unfortunate situation to educate the children. I especially made sure that Colin got a good look at what can happen if gasoline and fire come close to each other.
This coconut farm also had at least 2 dozen dogs and puppies running around. At one point, I needed to use a toilet, and had to share the room with 5 dogs. Since shoes aren’t permitted in the house, I was barefoot and had to tip toe around piles of poop to get to the toilet. While I was still in the middle of peeing, the locked door suddenly became unlocked, and a woman with a broom walked in. She totally ignored the fact that I was right there, and proceeded to sweep away the dog poop. By that time, I figured if she didn’t mind, then I didn’t mind. The worst part was when I returned to the porch and saw one of the puppies poop out a tape worm into the yard. We were all suddenly very aware of the unsanitary conditions and hoped none of us had contracted any worms.
After everyone had eaten, the table was cleared of food and dirty dishes. Then, a white table cloth was spread out, and THE suitcase appeared. The mayor unlocked the suitcase, removed the black pearls, and laid them out on the table according to quality and size. Everyone, including the kids, immediately jumped in to have a look and to pick out their favorites.
Eventually, it was time to pile back into the flatbed truck for our return trip to the southeast anchorage. The day had become another memory to last a lifetime.