3-31 Being left behind for a messy medevac
Gaea has several nice long posts up about her medevac but we’ve gotten some questions about how it was for me back on the island. This blog is being written a bit further out from the events than may be ideal for capturing my experience fully but it’s not a thing to be forgotten that easily.
In brief, it sucked. I can’t imagine it being pleasant any time ones partner is whisked away to have surgery in another country. Unfortunately, this whole thing went above and beyond in its commitment to being less than pleasant. The pick-up from the island itself was rushed and awkward. I had a class to get to in Melsisi (which, if you’ll recall, is 45 minutes away) as we were trying to get her down to the airport so I was unable to go even that far. After she was off the island, the real annoying bits came in. The reason that the medevac got as rushed and messy as it did was primarily the incoming cyclone which would have frozen travel. Fortunately, Gaea managed to get out of country before it reached us. Unfortunately, when it did reach us very shortly thereafter it played havoc with the already flaky communication systems.
There are two cell companies in country, Digicel and TVL. Digicel is the carrier of choice for Peace Corps because we have a deal with them allowing us to call each other for free. However, there has been only one place in Vansemakul where we can get Digicel when it feels like cooperating, otherwise it’s a 15 minute walk uphill on a good day. On a good day, the path is a dirt road, on a bad day (like when there is a cyclone) it’s a muddy river. We’re lucky to get Digicel coverage anywhere in Melsisi and it rarely appears in the same place twice. Thus, Gaea and I have a TVL phone so that we can actually be reached. While the cyclone was in the country, the TVL coverage disappeared completely from Vansemakul. This meant that living in the village primarily, I had to walk uphill any time I wanted to try to find out what was going on with my partner. Over in Melsisi I did still have reliable TVL coverage. Of course, no matter how I got service, calling was expensive with her in another country. Despite the difficulties, I believe we did manage to communicate most days (we are both known for being a little stubborn about making some things happen). Not that I managed to get a lot of information even then. It really seemed like I could not manage to get good timing to call. The doctor would just happen to come in for one of his few minutes shortly into the call or a nurse would stop in to check on her. It was frustrating to say the least.
From there communication was stabilized but still not easy as I either had to walk fifteen minutes uphill from the village at a time when she was available or we had to pay for calling. The worry about what was happening was gone but the very rocky start made me feel uneasy the whole time she was gone.
The community did try to look after me in her absence. I was brought food fairly often though I did make something of a point in cooking for myself so I didn’t always get as much food as I might have otherwise. I feel that continuing to show that yes, men can cook for themselves and take care of things like the laundry is a good example. I did also have plenty of company at the Nakamals any night I felt like going up. This ended up being a good number of them. I believe that at one point I was asked about the cause of earthquakes when four shells in and a little buzzed. Not the ideal state to try to explain plate tectonics but I think I got the point across.
All in all, not an overly pleasant experience. It was, however, one that reminded me how strong the community here is. Anyone I saw expressed concern and I was looked after, as always.