This is an expanded version of my Mitiaro trip
Sunday, March 19, 2006 – My Adventure to the Outer Islands
Kia Orana! I HAVE RETURNED!!! My week’s adventure to Mitiaro was “one of a kind”!
STATEMENT: You know you have gone to a remote location when:
- Flying there you see a SHORT dirt runway!
- Your pilot places a sunscreen over the windshield (while flying) so the sun doesn’t get in his eyes!
- He spends the 45 minute flight reading the sports section of the newspaper!
….and so began my journey…. My hostess was a wonderful woman called Nani Hodson who opens her home to visitors. She has 3 children, 13 grandchildren and 3 great-grand children all of whom live in The Cooks or New Zealand. I accompanied my new Red Cross friend Charlie Numanga and the President of the Cook Islands Red Cross Board, Na Jessie. He is also the government’s full-time Chief of The Fire Service for the Cook Islands. We arrived late afternoon on Monday , settled into our “home away from home” and following island tradition sat down to my first mystery dining experience!!
A formal meeting of the Mitiaro Branch of the Red Cross followed where new officers were elected including a non-active president who was gently voted out of office (he was not present). Suddenly there appeared frosty cold Australian Foster beer – I presumed the meeting had been concluded!
For three full days we taught CPR – First Aid and Disaster Awareness courses to approximately 50 people – island population 198! On the first morning we had an “Opening Ceremony” with all the “Mamas & Papas” (respected elders), church leaders in the village, The Queen’s Representative and The Ariki (Queen) Mii. She is absolutely a lovely, delightful woman who is one of the three tribal leaders on the island – the other two being King’s. There were many speeches/greetings/prayers and singing.
“Auntie” Mii joined us for dinner the following evening and I had a wonderful conversation with her learning much about the history, traditions and future hopes of the people of Mitiaro. As the population continues to decline – 198 down from 325 in 2001 and limited economic opportunities, there remain serious issues of sustainability and viability. To date there is no infrastructure to support any level of tourism except for the occasional visitor and transportation is limited to a Monday & a Friday Air Rarotonga flight.
All of the class was taught in the Maori language except obviously my parts. However, all were quite versed in the Queen’s English. Since the language only has 13 letters, it was interesting to determine that it took more words to explain its English translation. Late morning was punctuated by “Morning Tea” which was more than your “run of the mill” tea and cookies. I am beginning to understand why Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease is such a concern.
The newly built “hospital” is staffed by two nurses and the “Health Inspector”. It is a beautiful little building with a couple beds of which they are very proud. However, with capabilities limited essentially to basic first aid and initial stabilization, cases are usually flown South 45 minutes to Rarotonga for definitive care.
On the afternoon we were leaving, this became a reality. We were pressed into “rescue mode” as one of the soccer players injured her ankle. Upon tending to her and getting her “transported” (in the back of the only pickup truck on the island) to “hospital”, the decision was made to airlift her on the afternoon flight back to Rarotonga for care. She most likely had a fractured ankle and tibia. Unfortunately, they don’t have any kind of Rx pain medications on island so this “casualty” was not a happy camper.
On our departure, we loaded her through the rear cargo door of the plane and placed the stretcher across the last row of seats. I was praying for her not to become nauseated!!. The flight remained uneventful. Thank You Lord!!
Here are some of my new experiences/observations during my week in no particular order.
- eating eel, barracuda, breadfruit (tastes like sheetrock), taro leaves, paw-paw
- Not having AC or a fan with windows & doors open – no screens. Bugs come in and bugs go out! Sometimes BIG bugs!
- being served Spaghetti-O’s on toast for breakfast
- finally not inquiring about what was on the plate
- teaching Red Cross CPR/First Aid in Maori
- being called Papa Jimmy
- Hot water – what’s that?
- Tap water that is salty and often has “floaties”
- Being in a minority of ONE!
- Being sincerely appreciated for one’s work
- Taking for granted all that we have and that others do not., especially access to basic healthcare
- Mitiaro makes Cranberry Isle seem like a roaring metropolis
- Amazed at how these islanders survive yet worried about their future
- Meeting the most friendly, happy and welcoming people
- Being given my first “ei’s “ (lei’s in Hawaii)
- Enjoying laughter and companionship with new friends
- Knowing that you are part of a valuable team making a real difference in peoples’ lives
- Being proud to represent Global Volunteers and The Coos Islands Red Cross Society.
Arriving back on Rarotonga Friday afternoon, Marty and Marianne were there to greet me amid the flurry of taking care of our patient and the Rarotonga Emergency Brigade. After a welcome HOT shower and a great meal at the Pacific Resort I settled into fitful sleep of dreams and nightmares!!
Saturday started off with a big CQ on the ham radio anticipating a contact from my friend Bud Drummond, W3FF, in CA (designer of my Buddipole Antenna) and Marty’s husband Dick, AA7AD, back home in Oregon. BINGO!! The band was open and we had a wonderful 30 minute contact. I was trying to explain to Dick why his wife was in my bedroom! I stayed on a while longer making contacts and then ventured into town for a few hours of shopping and e-mailing. I got back on the air in the afternoon and rode the band into the sunset making over 250 contacts! PHEW – First time on the other side of a “pile up”. Another delish meal and off to bed with NO dreams this time.
We spent a leisurely Sunday – “Resort hopping” checking out the three big resorts on the island having lunch at the Crown Beach Resort – our 1st place pick. I played a little more radio until the band died out earlier. We “ate in” after our big lunch and off to bed to prepare for our workday Monday.
This last week Jim will spend again at the Red Cross office as they are losing one of the staff who is going to New Zealand for a month of training. Niki already has some projects line up for me to work on while Marianne continues her tutoring at Takitumu..