Saturday, October 10, 2009


[Elias] A small magical adventure tonight. I went into the hospital, thinking I'd bridge the evening and night shift, but there wasn't a lot going on. There was one antepartum patient I was already acquainted with, and another woman who was in very early labor but had a fever. The midwives were in the tea room sortof watching a French music show, but mostly not. Everywhere in the hospital, and indeed the whole neighborhood, you could hear music, yelling, more music, and counting. I asked someone where it was coming from, and they said the museum grounds. We'd seen revival-type stuff going up on the stage there, so it made sense, but the museum grounds (Chief's Nakamal, or the chief's kava bar) were more than a few blocks away, and for the music to get to the hospital with such clarity... that's a hell of a sound system.

The preemie I caught is soldiering away in his incubator. His mom hand-expresses milk, and he feeds both at the breast and through a nasogastric tube. Since I worked a few evenings in a row, and his dad comes by after work, I got in the habit of sitting with his dad and talking about his condition (as much as I knew), or about his work and study plans, or about where I'm from in the US, or sometimes politics (he supported Hillary Clinton and was surprised I was an Obama supporter, for whatever that's worth now). Tonight I talked briefly with his mom, and then later saw his dad in the nursery and went into chat. The baby has graduated from oxygen, so he no longer has his lucite oxygen hat-box (which I lined with gauze so he wouldn't hurt his arms or shoulders) or any supplemental oxygen in the incubator at all! The phototherapy, which had been off, is back on again, but he looks a little more hearty since he's wearing a diaper cloth which supports his upper leg a bit.

Tonight his dad, K, told me that he'd talked to his dad, and told him that the baby would be named Elias. Sometimes I'm afraid to ask too often about the baby's name lest the parents exasperatedly name the baby after me just to get me off their back, so I haven't been asking much, but I do like to call the babies by names other than "little dude." I'm very honored and look forward to a series of photos documenting his graduation through the nursery process. Hopefully I'll see him get to the extension ward at least before I leave! (Only the incubator babies stay in the nursery proper. The other nursery babies, being held until they gain enough weight, stay in "cots" with their mothers in the extension ward across the breezeway. Non-nursery babies stay in cots next to their mothers in the postpartum area.)

We were hearing the loud music in the nursery, and I mentioned that I wanted to go check it out. He seemed wistful and said he did too. I suggested we go check it out real quick. Right now? Sure, why not? He lit up and I grinned. I grabbed my jacket and told the midwives we were going. The New Zealand midwives (two here on their vacation) wanted to come with, but when they saw it was raining, they turned back. We headed towards the museum grounds, but the sound got more faint. Every so often, K would ask someone walking, or someone driving a bus, where the music was coming from. He eventually paid for a bus for us and told him to take us to the museum grounds.

When we got there, there was a large, sedate revival happening. A man was preaching in front of a full choir. Fifty or so people stood out in the rain directly in front of the stage, with clumps of people under umbrellas scattered around the edge of the grounds.

Problematically, we could still hear the music. And it wasn't there.

We headed towards the music again, and K stopped to ask someone again where the music was coming from. He pointed dead ahead. We thanked the man and headed forward, but it looked like the road banked around to the right, and the music was definitely straight ahead. Does the road continue? I asked. Yes, he said. We turned right, then turned left sharply. You have your torch? he asked. I turned on my headlamp and we headed straight into the bush.

Let me take a moment to explain that I am wearing sky blue scrub pants loaded with gloves (both sterile and non), a turquoise green scrub shirt, a rain jacket acquired from the bargain rack at Old Navy, and Nothinz-brand closed cell polyethylene foam clogs, known generically as Crocs. This particular pair of clogs was acquired extremely recently before my departure, and was acquired online, through, and thus was purchased without the benefit of, say, a size check. Despite being the same listed size as the pair I have comfortably worn for 3 years prior as a well-insulated house shoe, these shoes are extremely large, and leave quite a bit of room for, say, sliding.

And we headed straight down. Through the forest. Through the bush.

With the help of a hanging onto a fence with one hand while I shined the light with my other (not bothering to affix the light to my head), we both made it to the bottom, him with slightly more aplomb than myself. We stumbled out of the forest, around a tin shack, and found a fire burning brightly. YO! a man cried from behind the fire. Yo, pronounced e-o, is the all purpose greeting, the Shalom of Vanuatu. Yo! we said! And then we were there! A large clearing with a small stage, a small band, and dozens of people merrily dancing in a large circle. This was not, however, the hora-type circle you might be imagining, if you are familiar with the hora. Instead, it was more like a windmill, with short rows of people 3-4 abreast pushing forward around an invisible axis. The music was catchy, sung in Bislama, and primarily regarding Jesus.

You want to dance? K asked. Of course! We joined the mass and danced around in the circle. It was mostly teens and kids with a few adults, all having a great, raucous time. Between songs, the preacher would count 1-2-3 and they would respond JESUS! This is exactly we had been hearing all night at the hospital, only we'd only been able to hear the 1-2-3 through the speakers.

In searching for a Jewish community in Vanuatu with whom to celebrate the season's holidays (but not finding any), I came upon a newspaper article written by a guy who visited in 2001, wherein he mentioned describing himself in Bislama as a man of Israel, which I reasoned would be "man blong Israel." I hoped that nobody would ask me to testify to my faith in 1-2-3-Jesus, practicing what I would say instead, but quite enjoyed myself dancing anyway, even as my clogs filled up with dirt and my cuffs with mud. K mentioned his friend was one of the singers onstage. It's a small world here -- he's not even from this town.

We only caught the last 3 songs, and then he started saying good night, naming the nearby villages and neighborhoods in turn, thanking the components of the trinity (my Bislama is therefor expanded towards the theological realm), the chiefs, and encouraging people to come back for church service tomorrow.

We headed back towards the hospital (which turned out to only be a few long blocks away). K said he'd been wanting to go see the music and was truthfully getting a little bored of sitting in the nursery looking at the baby. I'm glad to have given him a break. It can be pretty onerous to have a baby in the nursery and not have much to do other than stare at him and worry. I might encourage him to bring his books and read to the baby, even his technical books, just to share with him. It was a nice outing for me too, and very cool to enjoy a neighborhood event with an insider.

Gud night!

No comments: