So this morning I woke to a very cheerful nearly three-year-old standing in the porthole window of our cabin looking out across the deep blue vastness of the South Pacific.
“It’s morning mommy, and this is your BIRTHDAY!” Shrieked my chubby cheeked little tiger.
“Yes it is sweetheart.” I grinned and then covered my face with a pillow and attempted to get back to sleep.
This time last year, I was being led on an amazing adventure – with quite seriously every wish I’d ever mentioned to my husband and bestie A.M. being delivered to me in rapid succession. I woke up to coffee and cuddles in bed, and opened a custom made replica of the dress that Baby wore at the last dance in one of my all time favourite chick flicks Dirty Dancing. I was taken for brunch, then a photo shoot accompanied by one of my oldest and dearest friends P. Then a limo ride through Auckland accompanied by a handful of the most amazing and fantastic women in my life.
Then a surprise Birthday party at the Northern Club (arguably the most exclusive and swanky venue in the country!) where over 100 of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, came to share this wonderful night with us.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone that made the most magical night of my life possible. I know it took you months of planning, and I also know that my birthdate is the day that A.M. experienced the biggest loss in her life – a poignant and painful anniversary indeed.
So thanks. I really did have the time of my life.
It must be said, that I am the luckiest little Hobbit on the planet to have the friends I do. I know that, and I am sorry if I don’t say it or show it as often or as well as I ought to.
And words escape me to express how much I appreciate being married to my best friend, sincerest confidant, head cheerleader, and the inarguable Love of my life. Okay, words don’t escape me, I could go on at length, but I will attempt to keep it short. He has stuck by me through many a freak out/batshit crazy episode and believed in me when I have lost all faith in myself. He’s done some painfully stupid and hurtful things – as have I – and evidence strongly asserts that we’ve learned a lot from every down turn and major battle in our nearly 11 year long relationship, and we’ll likely make it through the rest of this lifetime together. And this is the greatest gift I can imagine, and I get to enjoy this gift every single day of my life.
After the single most amazing night I could imagine last year, this year I opted for the sneaky escape plan as I so often do.
I researched trips to the South Island at length, as the idea was to sneak down with Grumpy for a luxurious and romantic weekend. Prices for luxurious and romantic weekends away in New Zealand are exorbitant. So I started to look further afield at the islands of the South Pacific.
After much Googling and travel review scouring, we worked out that it would cost relatively the same amount to go away someplace flash for four days together, or get on a boat and sail to Vanuatu with the entire family and my business partner and dear friend (the Ginja Ninja) and satisfy my do-gooder addiction by delivering medical supplies to the Maternity Ward in Port Vila, just as we did three years ago when we had a baby-moon after third child was born.
So we snapped up three of the last four available cabins on the cruise, and we contacted Midwives for Vanuatu.
A brief discussion on the phone with L got the ball rolling. L had already heard of us, and was very receptive to working together to kick Midwives for Vanuatu into high gear. An amazing and self-sustaining charity, these two women have kept working tirelessly in the islands to promote maternity, sexual and general health. They are dedicated to operating transparently and not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting on with things. We hope this is going to be a long and fruitful relationship between myself, our Communication (PR) firm, and the amazing Charity headed by two utterly brilliant and vibrant midwives who have already done wonderful things, including refurbishing the maternity ward back in 2009.
A call went out on Facebook to collect linens, cloth nappies and general supplies to bring with us. A call heeded by dozens of kind individuals around Auckland.
Doctors Without Borders also came to the party and donated some basic and much needed medical supplies.
L and C came round the night before our embarkation, and packed up 6 suitcases filled with the Love and generosity of strangers and friends.
One of these suitcases was filled with stainless steel surgical supplies to be delivered to the chief surgeon at the hospital. A prior failed attempt to deliver these instruments had left the team feeling somewhat demoralized. As anticipated, the suitcase was confiscated by security, and I was sent down to the belly of the ship to explain who we were and that the sole purpose of our trip being to deliver these medical supplies to Port Vila. I also had to assure them that we were not drug smugglers or ne’er do-wells.
Staff on the cruise line (which I will not mention until I have spoken to their communication department for clearance) could not have been friendlier or more supportive. They gave me the appropriate documentation and I promptly filled it out and delivered it to reception.
I even went so far as to corner the very attractive South African Chief Medical Officer on the ship to explain our situation and have him pop in and look over the supplies to verify that it was all kosher.
He was absolutely lovely, and also very supportive. I am hoping I’ll be able to report back more on this kind and gentle young man who has a very interesting and varied back story; including several years being a flying doctor in the outback of Australia. Definitely one of the human beings that I feel blessed to cross paths with on our adventures.
So after a couple of amazing stops at Champagne Bay and then Pentecost Island – the moment of truth was upon us.
April 25th 2013 and we were making our way into dock at Port Vila.
With three children, three adults, 6 large suitcases and a big green bag of linens in tow, we made our way to the reception desk on the cruise ship to await our fate, still holding onto the possibility that we might be denied customs clearance to deliver the goods.
The rain was bucketing down in sheets as the gangway touched terra firma. We were not looking forward to a long and tedious wait in the customs office, soaked to the bone with three bored and restless children nipping at our ankles.
Luckily… that was not what was in store.
We were lent two large umbrellas and escorted all the way from the reception desk to the customs office. Greeted with smiles and simple questions such as: “Is this your first time in Vanuatu?” and “Are you going up to see Janet at the hospital?” And a marked absence of the usual supercilious and officious intimidation that can occur at some border stations (the journey by car into the States from Canada comes to mind) was all we had to contend with. Ginja Ninja insists I also mention the fact there was a plethora of high fives. And the high fives helped him to fulfill his Ninja goodness.
The border official then called his brother in law to come down and pick us up directly from outside the customs office and take us to the Hospital and then to Seaside Shanty Town.
Our driver – William hefted the heavy bags into the van and headed up to the hospital.
Joy, relief and trepidation bounced around the rickety van as we headed into Vila and up the hill to the hospital. The stars aligned, the fates were kind and we had nearly finished our mission to deliver the medical supplies on behalf of our new clients.
And that is where I will leave this Blog for today – I’ll finish the story off tomorrow as you’re probably tired of my meandering by now.
Tune in tomorrow.