2-17 To Start at the Beginning

Who’s the biggest klutz on Pentecost?

The answer to that used to be Sarah who managed to fall down on a knife and had to get medevaced into Vila for six stitches within the first month of getting to site. I think today I took the cake.

I was opening a coconut with my bush knife. I was making banana bread. I thought it would be improved with some coconut milk. I was about three-quarters done with skinning the coconut. The skin was wet, which makes it less brittle and harder to pierce with a bush knife. My bush knife bounced. The second bounce landed on my wrist.

I haven’t had sensation in the back of my thumb since then. That was about eight hours ago.

After I did it, I called the Peace Corps doc. She told me to clean it up and that she’d call me back in half an hour. I told her I thought it would be alright. She called me back to tell me to be at the airport at 4 for a chartered medevac to Vila. I told her I didn’t want to go. She said too bad. Conveniently for one of the volunteers on North Pentecost, we picked him up on the way. He is supposed to be flying out of Vila for a trip to New Zealand for a month but his flight was cancelled.

I am going to interject here, that I don’t want to go to Vila. Though Vila is a lovely, if over stimulating place, it is not my place. It is not my island, my house with my partner and sleeping in my bed. Not to mention I’m going in again in 2 weeks for my training. I tried to convince the doc that 2 weeks would be plenty of time. She didn’t buy it. I spent the next hour packing my bag and cursing at myself.

Jason called a truck to ask for a ride to the airport. The driver said sure, he’d pick me up shortly because he was going to Ranmawart which is about 20 minutes north of the airport. Jason and I walked down the hill to wait at the main road for the truck. After about 45 minutes, we called him again. He’d gone past the village and wouldn’t be back for a bit because he had to find diesel for his truck. I’m not quite sure what happened there. I think he forgot me.

Luckily, my uncle who owns a truck happened to drive by. I asked if he’d give me a ride to the airport. He agreed so, at 3:00 we left for a 4:00 flight. The airport is about 45 minutes away.

We made it. My uncle even had time to stop for cigarettes and to ask about diesel for his truck. Then we sat at the airport for 45 minutes.

The plane landed, much to my chagrin. I think the truck I rode in on the way down to the airport was bigger. It certainly had more leg room. We spent a bit of time discussing weights and weight issues. The guy from up north is not small and he’d brought his bags for hiking. I pulled out a couple of books and asked my uncle to take them back for me. I dumped out my water bottle. We figured we’d be alright. We got in the air.

About 15 minutes into what should have been an hour flight, the pilot says, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” The guy from the North says, “Bad news.”

“We won’t make it to Vila.”

Can I point out at this juncture that I didn’t want to go in the first place? Now, I’m not even going to get to Vila. My hand doesn’t hurt but I’m a little crabby about the turn my day has taken. And the part where I have to go to Vila for an unknown period of time. Now, I wasn’t even going to make it to Vila. I think it was a good thing I held my tongue. I was working on a nice string of profanity.

The problem was purely legal. There is a law in Vanuatu saying something about small planes landing at the airport after civil twilight and how that is not ok. We were going to miss civil twilight by ten minutes. If we’d left slightly earlier, if we had slightly less weight, if, if, if…but none of those ifs were true. The pilot tried calling ahead and giving the subtle hints about needing permission to land after twilight. It didn’t do any good.

We diverted to South Epi. We are staying at a lovely guest house. It has hot and cold running water and hydropower electricity. We were fed an amazing meal of curry and chocolate icecream. I’ve spent the evening BSing with interesting people. Really, this is a really nice guest house. I would happily recommend it as a place to come for a chance to see the area in comfort.

I don’t want to be here. I want to be in my own house, working on surveys and Aid Post Committee meetings. I don’t want to be on Epi, I don’t want to be heading to Vila. Hopefully, I’ll make it through to Vila in the morning.

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