• Floating Foundation

Thursday 16th June

We bring the Floating Foundation training certificates to Hunga. Emily also has medicine for a child with a skin infection brought to see her at the ceremony before we last left. Emily sent a photo to her mother, a doctor, and has a treatment recommendation. Vaha is getting ready for another funeral as we arrive and sends Latu, his grand-daughter, for the sick child and the closest medic. We see Ana, who lives next door, open her black umbrella against the sun and head towards us like Mary Poppins, with her kit on her arm.

When Latu gets back, she smiles at me. Her sister Malia has just finished braiding Sarah’s hair. Latu touches my hair. “Seemonay” she says. It’s salt encrusted and tangled but somehow Maila pulls a brush through without much pain and deftly transforms my hair from a wild bush into two french plaits. It reminds me of school, their sure little fingers threading and securing. It’s lulling.

I go with Craig to see Sione and ask about the yellow dog. Sione is leaving for New Zealand tomorrow. He offers to talk to the owners if the dog has owners but we are leaving now. On the way I see a dog fight. Eight dogs attacking one white dog. I know it doesn’t pay to get hung up on an animal. It’s a hard life for many, human or animal. Sione’s chunky and happy dog is one of the lucky ones. So am I. The yellow dog is so clearly a loving and happy character despite his malnutrition and injuries. He deserves to be lucky too.

We return to Vaha’s house to collect the crew. Emily has finished treating the child. There are more children with the condition than we knew about, which makes Emily update the diagnosis to impetigo. She has an idea in gestation, around online diagnosis. Setting up a communication system where isolated villages can access doctors over the internet, and get some level of diagnosis from chat and photos. Hunga has a spot on the hill above the lagoon where coverage is good where villages could send and receive emails. It could be a break-through. A fine example of innovation; this trip is a rich vein that could spark any of us.

In the afternoon we go snorkelling just off the blue lagoon. I see for the first time the creatures that have been living below the boat. There are all manner of fish. Busy, sociable, munching coral, hiding in it, peering out. Craig is working through a playlist of beauty and leisure activities in Carla and Sarah’s last days and it’s stunning.

Many things that threw me at first are feeling more natural. Living in swimming togs, ready at any point to be in the sea, staying wet without worrying about getting cold, hoisting my wet body out of the water and up the boat ladder, which surprised me the first time I did it; the heaviness. My face is bare, my hair bristling like something mice would take shelter in. I haven’t been alone in a room or had a soy flat white for two weeks. Even more oddly I find myself singing from time to time. Just like Emily.

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