Even though you’re out there on an island in the South Pacific, you’re not on vacation.  We’ve been given free access to a house and everything we need to make ourselves at home.  If you want a spotless house, pick up a sponge and start cleaning.  If you want to spruce up the consult room, have right at it.  That goes for every aspect of your stay there.  However, having said that, some things are so much easier said than done.

When I first walked in the door, my first thought was “I’m picking up a broom and I’m gonna make this place sparkle!”  I may or may not have even said that using jazz hands, I’m not sure (I get so excited about a cleaning project, just ask the hubby).  I even woke up one morning and announced it to Christina, our veteran volunteer who was entering her 6th month in the house.  She wished me well in my endeavor but her eyes said something else.  They were bemused.  I couldn’t quite figure out what that meant.  Oh, but I was about to.

I began the morning with the usual feed and clean dance.  I was not assigned to surgery or community outreach that day which means I was a floater.  Floaters are  in charge of managing client consultations and making sure the patients have everything they need.  That leaves you with pockets of free time where you can tackle a project you have a special interest in. And on that day, my project was the kitchen.

I picked up a sponge and washed the dishes.  Easy peasy.  Then I whipped out the broom.  But wait, a car just pulled up.  I put the broom away and tended to the client.  I come back to the sight of a new dishes in the sink- a few of the volunteers in surgery had 5 minutes to catch a quick snack before they had to run back out and straight into a new surgery.  No biggie, I’ve had to leave dishes in the sink before and someone washed them for me.  Time to pay the favor back.  Again, I tried sweeping and this time I got a bit further, but now another car pulls up and they’ve got an emergency.  I go out to help.  The vet sends me for supplies and I traipse back and forth from the supply closet to surgery (which takes you through the kitchen).  Others run out to lend a hand (through the kitchen).  The emergency keeps us occupied for quite a bit and now it’s time for afternoon feed and clean.  The broom is long forgotten and I’m neck deep in the late afternoon rush.  More people come through the kitchen for a quick snack or glass of water and dash back out to help with the patients.  Now it’s dinnertime and all 9 of us are exhausted and hungry.  Nine people make dinner.  Nine people wash their dishes. It’s now the end of a long day and my body desperately wants lay face down on the bed and not move for three or four days.

Operation Kitchen Sparkle was a bust.  And the bemused look in Christine’s eye suddenly made sense.  She had launched her own cleaning projects in the past.  Sometimes they get accomplished, sometimes they don’t.  And even if they did, the house is a constant hive of activity where the patients are the priority, not the dishes.

About one week later a new volunteer walked into the dining room and declared “Why haven’t we done anything about those chickens?  We’re smart girls, they can’t be that hard to catch.”  She got that same bemused look, only this time from me.