Weeks 12-18: Weekend jaunts, fundraisers & celebrations…I am working. I promise.

Hello there.

So, I was aiming to make a post once a week when I moved here, then it went to fortnightly and now it has been six weeks so I thought I would make an overdue update on Timor Leste happenings.

Starting afew weeks ago in at the end of May, after returning from the Gilis many of the Melai (foreigners) here went along to Ba Futuru’s Prohibition era gala. Ba Futuru are a rather prominent NGO here and put on quite a few different events around Dili. It was a fun event, they raised money for their NGO programs, the ‘fine dining’ experience was ummm…interesting and we all got to have a little bit of glamour here in Timor.

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I feel that my memory of the past month or so will fail me so instead I will just give a a few sentences of things we have been up to with some enjoyable pictures. The last few weeks have gone by in a blur, with many changes within my NGO, new volunteers and aid workers coming into Timor and many adventures we have embarked on. The frustrations and challenges also keep coming but we take them with a smile, a shrug and a ‘this is Timor’ expression.

Dili is a small place and it is very interesting how the dynamics so often change, people leave a new wave of  people come in. Recently we have had a US Navy ship here which was quite funny to see their crisp white uniforms and shiny black shoes in Dili playing their band at the only ‘mall’ here, all the locals were so excited. There also seem to be a lot of youth groups here at the moment doing youth emersion stints or volunteering which is another interesting change, it must be school holidays and it is quite weird to see so many foreigners milling about.

The following week at the beginning of June I organised for around 30 expats to head an hour out West to Black Rock, a gorgeous little resort where you can get out of the hustle and bustle of Dili and enjoy some relaxation and beautiful sunsets. We all headed off around lunchtime, swam, ate and were merry. We had a lovely walk along the black sand beach and everyone got to know each other better. It was a nice trip out of Dili as I had been back for 3 weeks or so from Bali and was starting to feel like I needed another break!

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Waking up in the morning in our huge tent where 4 of us were sleeping, with a fan, a solar lights and hot showers right next door to the beautiful sound of the waves softly lapping at the shore was a little bit of heaven. (The others who were in the 2 man tents had quite a different version of their mornings – where they all awoke at the crack of dawn because their tents were too hot and too close to the waves) but Kath, Sarah, Lucy and I had a lovely sleep and we will most definitely be going back (and staying in the big tents!)

We all had a lovely lazy morning, ate some breakfast, went for a swim ( see above) and slowly all returned to the melting pot that is Dili.

June 14-17

The following weekend many of us had all signed up to a weekend roadtrip to Baucau, Ossu, Viqueque and Mundo Perdido (which means The Lost World and somewhat looks like a scene out of Jurassic Park). We left in the early afternoon Friday to head out East of Dili (and Timor) to Baucau, Timor Leste’s second biggest city and then further onto Ossue and the district of Viqueque. Fay, Elizabeth and I were in Lucas’s car and there were about 5 other cars all full and heading out to the districts where our friend Cesar was hosting an authentic timorese dinner for his (and Fay’s) birthday with his family. The weekend was a blur of greenery, beautiful blue skies, Japanese WW2 caves, kids running around with machetes, waterfalls and fond memories. We stopped in Baucau for the night at a guesthouse (which was pretty damn depressing in stature but what it lacked there it made up for in charm). We left the big group the next morning as they went to go and climb Mundo Perdido and we had decided to carry on heading south to go further. We booked to stay at an ecolodge in Ossue (Hoi Lanu) so many names for everything! It was lovely and relaxing, but when we got there we were all so tired from the long drive (that Lucas had kindly driven the whole way!) we all accidentally fell asleep and had an afternoon nap.

(Pictures of this roadtrip on FB if it interest you to see East Timorese landscapes…)

When we awoke we took a drive out to the main town of Viqueque in the district of Viqueque and managed to finally find some hot food 🙂 we proceeded to have an origami lesson from Elizabeth and headed on back to the Ecolodge to get a semi early night for our morning trek to the caves nearby. Pictures of the cave below where Falintil used to live when Indonesia occupied Timor Leste and the Resistance guerrilla fighters had to live in the caves and mountains. It was muddy and wet and we slipped around everywhere, when in the caves it was amazing to see and hear the stories (that we could understand – my Tetum is still very vague) that our Timorese guide was telling us. It was lovely to see more of the districts and understand more of the history and meet the locals, very refreshing to be out of Dili and in the ‘real’ Timor some have said.

Lucas drove like the wind on Sunday to get us back into Dili for around 4pm on Sunday. We were all thoroughly exhausted from an awesome weekend filled with wonderful scenery and even better company. But these weekend was not over yet. We have to make our own fun here in Dili and my neighbours had managed to lay their hands on a projector and another had managed to get their hands on the final episode of Game of Thrones season 3 which we had all been waiting patiently to watch. Everybody baked a Game of Thrones dish, dressed up as Game of Thronees characters and got merrily into the theme of things. We got a table and ate outside in our compound and finished the night off by watching the final episode (which was a massive let down) but fun nonetheless.

Other things that have changed my life here in Dili is purchasing a new car, he has transformed things for me, giving me more independence and allowing me to really enjoy my time here more. I can’t tell you how much easier things are that I can now go and buy pulsa phone credit when I need to or go and buy more electricity when it runs out (yes we have to buy electricity like phone credit here). Here is a picture 🙂

This came at a good time because my good friend Elizabeth had just sold her car which many of us relied upon to get around, so I have now taken over this role. Oh the joys of figuring out how to get from A to B are endless.

Other highlights of this last week include:

Canada day

The US Embassy 4th of July party (which was very hard to get an invite to might I add – very strict they were!)

Our American friends’ 4th July boat party

and Xmas in July at Lucas’s complete with a slip and slide, roast chicken with stuffing and secret santa.

It is late so my storytelling incentives are depleting rapidly, so hopefully the pictures can show you all.

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Today I completed day 1 of my Openwater dive certificate (which I am finally doing after so many Discover Scuba Dives). I organized for 7 of us girls to do our PADI and we didn’t realize quite how long that many people would take. But awesome day nonetheless and it stayed lovely and sunny for us. Day 2 and 3 next weekend so I shall pass on more stories soon.

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I have also come across manyfrustrations over the past few weeks but instead of telling you the stories I may just list sentences here: dongle internet sticks fights trying to explain faulty merchandise, idiot drivers that have a death wish, fire ants attacking our feet, iPhones, SIM cards, allergies, cross cultural miscommunications and unhelpful car alarms.

PS. An assignment/work update: we have shown the feature film “A Guerra da Beatriz” around in the districts to the locals with the travelling cinema “CINEMA LOROSAE”. Each year this company comes over and shows relevant films in the districts to those who cannot normally afford to go to the movies or have the opportunity to see films. People come from far and wide to watch the movies. So far we have screened the film in Kraras (the village where the film is based which is nicknamed “The village of the widows” due to a large massacre that took place there during the Indonesian occupation, Kasai, Maubisse and this week it will be shown in Balibo and Maliana. The turnout has been great and reviews well received if not a little sad because so many people here have been affected by the events that take place in the film. We have a schedule to now show the film around the rest of the districts to educate people and accompany the film with a study guide so schoolchildren and future generations can learn about their turbulent history.  Watch out for “A Guerra da Beatriz” premier soon.

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Weeks 8-11: Beautiful Gilis Islands, Bali and back in Dili

Hello there.

I’m a bit overdue posting but we’re on our boat about to leave gili trawangen and thought this would be a good thing to take my mind off leaving…:(

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GILI T

As you can see its beautiful.

I will backtrack to 3 weeks ago and see if I can remember what I have been doing.

Week 8 & Week 9:

As the weeks roll by its hard to keep up with how busy we all are and how fast it seems to be going. There generally seems to be something to do every night even if you do really have to search for it. I and some other volunteers have found a gym class that is pretty hilarious so we have started frequenting this. We eat out way too much and have many three course dinners round each others houses (generally those that live in tip top accommodation with an oven!) generally the embassy and government peeps. We cooked a three course dinner at our friend ed’s house where I cooked the main and others bought the starters and dessert. You really get to practise all the things you’ve been meaning to do when you get into island life (such as cooking). I think it might be something to do with the inaccessibility of getting around here in Timor and/or the crazy, busy lifestyle of city dwelling.

Friday nights we spent at the beach bar and then onto either nuu lounge (which means coconut) or tower, these are relatively new bars as random places tend to pop up and close down in the blink of an eye here. We are having bets to see who closes down when.

Driving in Dili:

Saturday 11th May was supposed to be a day of rest. But it was not…I dropped my housemate at the airport as she was off to Hong Kong. She left me her monster of a car (it’s a huge embassy car) and I took myself and 2 others to the second hand markets to shop then onto Hotel The Ramelau, our little oasis to relax by a swimming pool and hide away from the craziness of the Dili streets. We had a lovely lunch and a swim and then I was off back to the airport to pick up portuguese embassy friend number 2, Vanessa. She was returning from a trip to Budapest, Singapore and Portugal and she shares the car with my housemate. It felt so nice to have had he car for three hours but essentially I was the middle man. While driving to the airport I hit my first pothole and instead of navigating around it slowly and carefully and I went smack, bang over it scaring the bejesus out of my passenger Elizabeth. Good times. I may buy Elizabeth’s car when departs for her homeland, which while sad will make my life around Dili a lot easier. Having to plan every intricate detail of how to get to and from places, with no good public transport, is a little soul destroying! But one of the challenges of this experience 🙂

Day trippers:

Dili has become a little more dusty and bit hotter so we have to remember to have extra down time that we wouldn’t normally have back in Australia. The weekend of 11-12th May was evident of this. Afew of the american girls I have befriended, who are doing fellowship program’s here: Elizabeth, Ann, her sister Caitlin and I went on a day trip east on Dili to see a few sights; k41, bob’s rock and dolar beach (named so creatively from when all the UN were here and the local kids used to charge thm $1 to use the beach).

We had no idea where we were going and of course there are no signs in this country. A friend of ours had told us the beach was approximately 42kms away so we set the clock and started counting. We came across a few other cars someway down the track and decided we were in he right place. As we got there we of course bumped into people we knew because you can’t swing a cat in Dili without bumping into someone you know. We discovered a whole new world out here, as soon as you get in the water you hit gorgeously beautiful reef, I could snorkel for hours. It has made me even more excited about finally (after having done 6 dives on my previous travels and never having the time or money to do it) doing in PADI openwater certificate in June. We of course forgot to bring food with being the youthful, happy go lucky ladies that we are and shared a piece of bread between 4 😀

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We moved onto dolar beach where we lay for what seemed like hours relaxing to the sound of the waves and relaxing music loving being the only people around for miles (apart from honking mikrolets rushing by way too fast in their way too and from the districts).

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Heading back about 5 we went to our favourite little restaurant, Little Pattaya, to fest on Thai and Lebanese food on the water. I had managed to it off study all weekend so far so after being dropped home maniacally finished an essay assignment in 2 hours to be ready to head to games night at our US embassy friends lovely house. They are moving to Lebanon in a few months for their next posting so it was good hang out at theirs. With Dili being like it is we have to make our own fun which we do. Mexican was cooked, wine was drunk and games played. There was a mix of Americans, Portuguese, Australians and English and was great to see us all playing nicely together…

Week 10:

This week was a busy week with work. But Peter, kath and I were extremely excited about our little holiday we had lined up for yet another long weekend in Dili. We booked to go to the Gilis. I first heard about the Gilis in December last year when travelling around South East Asia I met a guy named Andy in Kuala Lumpur who was on his way there and couldn’t stop raving about them. I wanted to go there with him there and then.

We booked to go for 6 days and stay on Gili Trawangen. We left work at 11 on Friday (after our 2nd blackout at work there was not much I could do anyway) and made our dodger taxi ride to the airport. Half of Dili seemed to be going to Bali for the long weekend so we said our usual hellos. The other half were going to Jaco island which is in East Timor but that will be a story for a few months time!

We got to Bali (and I had only just recently been there in December) and made our way to our hotel. This time around we were staying in the nicer part I Seminyak in a gorgeous hotel and spa..called Villa Bunga.

We had decided to have a massage every day while in Indonesia and went off to have our daily massage (which unfortunately was pretty terrible) but we great our hopes up for the next day). We ate pancakes (which tasted interesting) next to our hotel and hurriedly went to change as we’re late to meet some friends for drinks at Kudeta (a very swanky beachside bar and restaurant in Seminyak beach). Getting there a little late we revelled in the beautiful view, lovely architecture and attentive service that we had so missed.

Dinner was superb and the friends we had met (who were three guys we knew from Dili and have been Bali 23 times in their 2.5 years if living in East Timor) took us around and showed us a night out in Bali. We went to countless bars in Seminyak and then to their villa, where they were renting a luxurious villa for the week where we had a swim and music.

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Then out again to some more bars…these ones seemed to be a bit seedier…closer to the Kuta side of things…and it had gotten to 3am and we did need to be up at 6am for our boat pickup to the Gilis so we made the journey home.

Saturday 18th May-Tuesday 21st May

Arriving at the Gilis we were not prepared for the relaxing beauty of he place and we fell in love with it instantly.

We spent our days eating ridiculous amounts of food, chilling at the beach, cycling around the island, scuba diving where we saw massive fish and countless turtles and kath scuba dived for the first time and I got her hooked, snorkelling and doing a day trip around all three island, gili T, gili Meno and gili Air- where stopped for a lovely beachside lunch and to relax on the beach.

The vibe in gili t is lovely and not as crazy touristic as the Thailand islands. I think if I ever decide to come and work on an island for a while this will be the place. The people are lovely, accommodation beautiful, food gluttonously good and the sunset beach cocktails superb not to forget the scuba diving insanely amazing. Instead of writing more I will leave you with pictures of my trip over here on this little oasis.
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Now it’s back to the daily grind and looking forward to the next adventure.

Tried to upload a few more photos but the internet dongle I have is painstakingly slow…will upload more photos when I get to a wifi connection.

Til next time 🙂

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Week 6 & Week 7: Mt Ramelau excursions and burning cars!

Good evening…

I have had to reserve some time to write this as I missed last week as things have been so hectic. I thought I should write about the last two weeks sooner rather than later otherwise I will start to forget what I’ve done.

Last Saturday 20th April was our first major trip out to the districts. The previous night I had helped a friend of mine housesit in the gorgeous DCP (Defence Cooperation Program) apartments which was like a little slice of heaven. We cooked dinner, lay on the leather sofas with the air con blaring and swam in the pool. Sleeping in a double bed again was also something I enjoyed immensely as I have missed my bed.

I awoke and Liz dropped me around lunchtime at Ocean View Hotel where we had arranged for the Ramelau crew to start our road trip. We had lunch on the beach overlooking the water and awaited the rest of the team. This included myself, Kath, Sarah and Peter (from our volunteer group), Jemma and Aussie doing an internship in Dili,a US Navy lieutenant called John and his Fiancee Jennifer, two US AID workers, Ryder and Bret, a partner of an NGO worker by the name of Aaron who was also the Timor Gas guy on a local radio advertisement that plays repeated on the local radio station which gave us much amusement the whole way to the mountain. Our convoy consisted of two rented and cars and Ryders rav4. The car had not been too far out to the districts yet so it was a fun gamble to see if it would make it, and of course this is the car I was in. The trip to Ramelau takes about 5-6 hours depending on what the roads are like (and trust me they are pretty bad) I have never seen potholes like it and I wish I had taken a photo of them!

The trip there (and back) consisted of playing the game ‘HEY COW’ and ‘Will the Timorese we pass stop and stare at us with open mouths or waves back to our frantic waving…it was a mixed bag but enjoyable all the same. We stopped afew times for toilet breaks and scenery shots passing through Alieu and Maubisse south to Hatubilico. We had of course not figured out accommodation because that would have been too organised so we were praying that there was not another big group had decided to try their luck at Ramelau this weekend. We got to Hatubilico around 9pm and found somewhere called the Pousada…something something…I was tired and it was late…was a nice if not very basic place!

We laid out all the snacks we had (as we had of course not called ahead to ask them to cook us something) and had a dinner consisting of melted goods, sweet bread, nuts, beans and whatever else we could find in our goody bags. We bid each other good evening and went to bed about 11pm. Not before we had all communally brushed our teeth together out the front of the Pousada (I have never brushed my teeth in front of so many people) and found out that Jemma had actually recorded a Timor Gas advert as well and knocked Aaron off as reigning king of the advertisement. This was extremely amusing and we found e had two celebrities in our midst as this advert is extremely overplayed here in Dili.

We got to sleep about 11.30pm and awoke again at 2.30am…(I know 😦 )

We were reading and waiting by 3am to drive up to the base of the mountain. Halfway up we decided to stash our car as Ryders car was not as big as the hired two…which was a good thing we did. While walking the front hire cars bonnet started smoking and we saw it abruptly stop. Everybody hurriedly got out the car and ran to the front where the driver opened the bonnet and found that the engine had indeed CAUGHT FIRE. Now I haven’t actually seen a car catch fire before and we were all racking out brains back to high school where you learn about the different types of fires and how to distinguish them. The girls backed away almost immediately, while the guys were not too far behind. The Timorese drivers calmly get some water out the back of the car and douse the engine and manage to extinguish the fire. While standing there dumbfounded I managed to get a picture just as they put the fire out….

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After the initial shock wore off we realized we should probably not drive back in this car as there was probably an oil leak and that’s why it had caught fire. So we got our drivers to ring back to their office in Dili and get a new car sent through so it would get to Ramelau when we got back down from the mountain (we hoped). So while we put this plan in action we also started climbing.

Now I have climbed afew different mountains before and I never get used to the altitude! As we started ascending I could feel myself starting to get dizzy and a little disoriented (mostly stumbling around like I was drunk) I certainly wasn’t prepared for it but soldiered on. We were cold one minute and hot the next..the weather and temperature jumped around so much it was ridiculous! Looking up  in the night sky as we steadily climbed up there were so many clear stars in the sky we were speechless and we had to keep stopping to look up. About two hours into the climb we got to a random church three quarters of the way up (and by this time it has gotten quite cold). All the layers we had hidden in our bag emerged out and somebody pulled out a can of tuna and other random energizers. While the stop helped rest us the cold then also hit us at the same time. The weather in Dili and in East Timor in general is so hot and humid we couldn’t imagine it being so cold when people tried to warn us. Luckily John had a spare pair of nearly everything and lent people things. He lent me some gloves which was a lifesaver!

We got to the top at 6am right on time for sunset. And it was beautiful. While climbing we did not realise we had climbed through clouds and we were now above the clouds watching the sun rise on the horizon. One of the most beautiful sunrises I have yet seen. 😀

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We stayed up there for as long as we could but it was pretty darn cold! Bret had had the bright idea of bringing a hip flask up and that whisky swig really helped us I can tell you.

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Around 6.45 we started making our way down the mountain and while walking up the mountain was hard walking down was even harder trying not to slip and fall (to your death). We had a guide on the way up but he seemed to disappear on the way down! (And I can’t believe he climbed the mountain in thongs! Thongs!)

We got down in pretty good time just as it started to rain, with bruised bums (we had all fallen over at least twice). We all crammed into one car and made our way back to our hotel where we washed off (with bucket showers of course) and started the long journey almost straight away back to Dili leaving around 9am (and it felt like we had already had a whole day!)

We stopped in Maubisse for a little looksee and leg stretch and then again in Alieu where we rang ahead to order a lot of food! We had two way radios so it was indeed incredibly fun speaking to each other via radio (one of my favourite pastimes). As we got to Alieu and ate the copious amounts of food (I’m pretty sure the meat dishes were dog, a delicacy that is eaten a lot here and which I steer clear of) we were extremely excited to go and visit the police stations pet…a crocodile.

 

As we were walking across the road with our leftover ‘chicken’ to give to the croc we bumped into a group of last intake volunteers and invited them to come and see the crocodile! So 15 wide eyed and mushy tailed Melai walk into the police station to go and aggravate the croc that was there and kept as a pet. We were told in the past Indonesian occupation sometimes prisoners were fed to the crocodiles, I’m not sure if I believe this or not but after a while of weighing up what I already know happened in East Timor I’m guessing it did. We didn’t think our pieces of chicken were going to cut it. And we were right ,it didn’t.

After we chucked the chicken over the croc just sat there unblinking and staring blankly ahead looking evil. So we got our snaps and went on our merry way.

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They road back was even worse than the way there so many bumps and potholes later were were nearly home. What astounds me is how narrow the roads are and how they just drop off into the depths of nowhere. Ridiculously wide trucks come through these roads and it’s not always so fun when there is one of these trucks coming in the other direction and you have to figure out how to get through. Timorese are well known for not being very good drivers so we had a few hairy moments, but luckily Ryder (one of the US AID guys) was a very good driver so we made it!

We got back around 3pm where I instantly went and had a massage and finished the day with a tango dance practise for a flash mob that is taking place next week…I was exhausted and after practise we had dinner where I sat staring blankly ahead, running off three hours sleep. My friends decided I needed bed and kindly gave me a lift home.

Monday 22nd April

This week was spent practicing salsa for a performance we have next week and working a lot. Wednesday I worked at our weekly fundraising screening where we screened ‘Answered by Fire’ and gives an interesting insight into what life was like here in East Timor in the lead up to the independence vote and it was hectic and violent with lots of intimidation and violence. A scary place.

Thursday morning, while incredibly tired, I awoke at 04.45 and went along to the ANZAC day memorial service held down at the beach where the Ambassadors from AUS and NZ as well as the President of TL gave speeches and we all got to sing (or mumble) the National anthems of not one but four countries. We then went and had breakfast and ambled off to work, (I know can you believe it we didn’t get the public holiday- haha).

Friday 26th April

I was very happy for Friday to come along after such a busy week and not have any trips planned away this weekend. Friday was spent celebrating two of our volunteers birthdays, Kellie and Peter where we went to one of the nicest restaurants in Dili called DIYA and indulged in good red wine, steak, Indian thali and Chocolate Fondant for dessert. We went out for drinks after at Castaway where the usual crowd were kicking the night off. Everyone then went off to their usual destination of Tower, the local club, but I had been chatting to some people I knew who knew about an opening night party going on down at the beach at the Caz Bar so we decided to check it out. Timorese places are notoriously known for having pretty bad marketing skills in opening new places. When we got down there the tunes were pumping and the people were dancing it just needed more people! So we messaged everyone we knew and told them all to come down and they did. The place filled up and we danced the night away. We then had a midnight swim under the stars which was awesome and finished the night off sitting around the bonfire drying off where somebody drove their car around and played some old school tunes after the DJ had finished. The night was nearly over until a friend, Adam, managed to step on an ember of fire so we spent the remainder of the evening/morning icing his foot to ensure it didn’t blister. Despite this he remained in good spirits and it was an awesome evening!

Saturday 27th April

Despite being extremely tired I awoke relatively early having not had enough sleep. I went and met Kath and Sarah at Hotel Ramelau, now our usual haunt to go swimming and workout in the gym. We had a lovely long workout session which is also our therapy session and jumped straight into the pool where it then started to pour down with rain which was gorgeous and refreshing. We then went off to have dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant, Harry’s, some of the best Indian I’ve ever had and finished the night at the movies to see GI Joe 2 (one of the worst films I’ve ever seen). Unfortunately, while it is an awesome cinema for Timor and it has just been opened up here they seem to screen all the worst movies..and never manage to get new, good movies. Oh well I’ll still hope for better movies!

Sunday 28th April

I awoke this morning rather late and jumped in the car with my housemate Maggie to go to the driving range (yes there is a random driving range here in Dili) to have an Indonesian buffet brunch. While sitting there reading and soaking up the sun was lovely, the buffet was indeed not and I have now, after giving the cuisine a few red hot go’s, decided Indonesian food is not fore me! We then went and did some shopping in Timor Plaza. This Plaza is a hilarious place. Every Saturday they have something going on there. Last week was transvestite modeling competition (which is very forward for Timor) and this week it was a street dance competition. The whole mall was packed out with young and hip Timorese people watching the show and basically holding the plaza under arrest! I finished the day having dinner and games night at the US Navy Seabees naval base where we got to have a guided tour of their camp, have pictures taken in their massive trucks and see their boxes that they live in otherwise known as CLU’s, little container units that they sleep in.

Internets too slow today to upload rest of photos but they will be up soon.

Great week, I wonder what next weeks adventures will hold.

Night!

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Week 5 in Timor Leste

I’m trying to think back to last weekend so I can update on all that has happened in the last week and I had to get my friends to help fill me in!

Friday 5th April

Last weekend I went to Little Pattaya for dinner with some of the other volunteers and some US Navy engineers (CBs) a cute little restaurant that is on the driving up to the Jesus Statue and the Areia Branca beach, right on the edgy of Dili. You have to watch out for it as it is hard to find, blink and you’ll miss it! It’s a Lebanese/Thai restaurant and the food was magnificent. One of the best restaurants in Dili and East Timor I have been told.

After we went to Dili Beach Hotel as my colleague at work was leaving to move to Indonesia and marry his fiancee, I beat a German guy friend at pool which he was not happy about, and we then moved onto Castaways. This is a little beach shack that overlooks Dili Beach and it is the most popular expat bar in Dili and Friday night it is the place to be…with an interesting live band to boot.

From there I bumped into many new and old faces and it was nice to get to know everyone. We went on to Tower a place that also has a live band…and a really bad DJ that plays in between sets where all the Timorese get on the dance floor to ‘battle’ each other. An extremely fun and interesting thing to watch. There is such a mix of people at this bar, Portugese, Americans, Brazilians, French, Timorese, Australians, English..you name it they are here… J

Saturday 6th April

I and Peter (a fellow volunteer) spent a lazy day wandering around Dili and went to the Resistance Museum which was an interesting read. Essential admin completed and the rest of the day was spent relaxing and having a massage. We met up at..yep you guessed it, Castaways to have dinner. Was nice to eat some Western food after so long and we had mains and dessert…

We then  went to NU Lounge to see a friend that was DJing (again badly!) and spent some time salsa-ing and dancing. I met two new girls who have become good friends..Elizabeth and Faye (both American but Faye grew up in England..Kent…right next to my hometown) so we’ve all spent a bit of time together over the last week.

Sunday 7th April

Today we got picked up in our big green bus and 11 of us were driven to Backside Beach behind the Christa Rei statue. We got dropped at the feet of the steps and walked halfway up the mountain and then back down again (in thongs) to the beach on the other side. There is a picture of it in snapshots but I will put more up soon. Absolutely stunning. Met up with my housemate there and all her Portugese contingent and chilled out for the afternoon.

That evening we went to the US Embassy compound to a friend of a friends for dinner. They had a gorgeous house, we ordered Harry’s Indian (the best Indian in Timor) and drank wine, talked about everything and played Taboo, Jenga and Guitar Hero (yep my first time playing it!) I think I have a new hobby.

The week has been filled with long hours of work and evening activities mainly eating, working out and trying new places. Every Wednesday and Thursday evenings I also have to work on the screenings my NGO puts on so it’s a great way to get to know the community. Every Thursday we screen a documentary or politically interesting film in Tetun so locals can come along, and this Thursday we screened ‘Tiru ho Raan’ (Bloodshot) about the Santa Cruz massacre. The foreign vice minister came to see it so it was interesting to meet him.

Friday 12th April 

The weeks are seeming to go by in a blur so fast here! Friday work was over at 5pm and I and a friend went to the Defence Cooperation Program compound for Happy Hour and it was nice to meet some fellow Aussie Defence people. We knew the same people from Canberra so that was an affirmation of what a small place Dili and the world is. My team of 11 volunteers I arrive in-country with decided to all have a catch up because Amy and Lucia were both back in Dili (as they are posted in other regions) so we all went to the Big Brother house (where 3 couples of the 11 of us that arrived together live). They had cooked up a vegetarian storm and it was nice to catch up, chat about our new jobs and discuss our experiences so far. I then had a friend pick me up and guess what we went onto Castaways and then to Tower (I feel like this is becoming a theme). Everyone in Dili is very social and while there are other places to go (and don’t worry I will try them) these places seem to be the most frequented. Good bands and some very sweating but fun dancing ensued. J

Saturday 13th April

The morning did not start so well when I awoke and my room plugs had seemed to have shorted (it may have had something to do with how many things I may have had plugged in). There is only one plug in my room so I may have daisy chained all two power boards together- sorry Dad you are probably cringing. But don’t worry the US Navy Engineers we have befriended are coming round this evening and will take  a look (fingers crossed). I have taken my mattress into the lounge room where the Air Con is and am sleeping there until it’s sorted as I can’t even plug in my fan and it’s way too hot.

My much-neglected study had to be addressed so I did some study, then my housemate, Kath (one of the volunteers) and myself went to the markets and the supermarket to pick up supplies for our housewarming. We then went to Hotel Ramelau, one of the nicest hotels in Timor Leste, where you can pay to use the swimming pool. I, Sarah and Kath snuck into the gym and did a great crossfit session and then jumped into the pool. It was heaven, a little bit of paradise surrounded by palm trees and rolling green hills. We decided to make this our weekly ritual if we were not going away at the weekends and it felt great to workout after the crazy week!

We set up our new place and I enlisted friends to come over and cook up a dip and bean extravaganza, tossed in some candles, bought some ping pong balls and paddles and voila we had a party on our hands. It was a success and it was good to get people from different NGOs, departments, countries and embassy’s meeting and hanging out. Our friend was DJing (badly) at NU Lounge (again) so we all went along around 11 and then onto Tower.

Sunday 14th April

This morning was my first real sleep in after afew late nights this felt amazing. Kath had stayed over to help me clean up from the party so she left around 12 and Elizabeth and Fay came and picked me up to head out of the Dili West out to the district of Liquica to visit Maubara fort and Tibar (a gorgeous little area on the coast that has a restaurant and resort, placed precariously up on a hill, run by a lady from Mozambique who plays the best music and makes DELICIOUS Passionfruit Caparinha. If anyone comes to visit me I will be taking you there. The road is fraught with potholes and bumps and Elizabeths little Jr Pajero did amazingly well. I think I will be buying her car in May when she leaves, yay for a car to get around (which you need here) but sad that she is leaving so soon. We made it to the Fort (which was basically a tiny hut with two canons on either side) and we had a little look around in the hut shops where the ladies of the area do beautiful basket weavings of everything from pillow covers to purses to baskets to fans. We picked up a few little things to support their lovely work and my buy of the was a massive body pillow.

Yes I know. I don’t know how I will be taking that anywhere on a plane. There is a photo to come. But it was so comfy and squishy and we decided it would be a great back of car pillow for all the jumpy, pot holed road trips. I wish I could have captured a lot of the road trip today, pigs and hogs running across the road, we played ‘hey cow’ the whole way and stopped off to buy ripe and juicy bananas (Hudi). Home now and my US Nacy engineer friend is going to come and hopefully fix my electricity issues. Fingers crossed and more from me later, I need an early night J

 

Oh and photos to come of course…they can tell my stories a lot better!

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Week 4 and Atauro Island

I have now had time to sit down and learn how wordpress works which is a great sigh of relief to all those following my blog.

Into Week 4 and after two weeks of in-country orientation, the amazing race, finding new accommodation and a housemate, going to Atauro Island, studying online part time, Tetun language classes and starting work and of course meeting a whole city of new people (where you can’t turn down any invitation in the beginning few weeks) has made it extremely hard to consistently blog. But now I have settled into a bit of a routine I should be able to blog weekly.

After I moved into my new place I and my housemate Maggie went and bought all essentials needed for the house. Couldn’t find everything we needed but I’m sure it will come in dribs and drabs. I and four other AYADs went to Atauro Island which is a 3 hour ferry ride (and 1 and a half hour water taxi ride) from Dili. We have a fellow volunteer over on the Island, Amy, and her and her husband came and met us and we had fish and coconut banana rice on the beach. We then got a mikroleta to our accommodation and jumped straight into the water. We snorkelled, relaxed, read and dozed all afternoon which is just what was needed. The little kids hanging about on the beach, while extremely cute, kept yelling ‘malai, malai’ (meaning foreigner, which is what every non Timorese is called here) and can be somewhat distracting.

In the evening we wandered along in the pitch black with torches to meet Amy at her restaurant and house. She is volunteering with the Boneca women (they make the famous Boneca dolls) I shall take a photo of the one I bought and post it up. We had Italian for dinner and a bottle of red we had carefully brought over in a bucket on the ferry (along with supply requests for Amy!)

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The next day we decided to go to a different beach to snorkel and ordered a packed lunch from the same restaurant, which included the softest, fluffiest bread and was delicious. We snorkelled and swam and then decided to visit a village that Amy had heard about but not yet been to. So the 7 of us set off at a snails pace thinking it was only around the corner from the rocks we were trawling over (in thongs might I add). Two and a half hours later with broken thongs and red snoz’s we decided that it was not just around the corner and the locals who had been powering past us before had now disappeared. Fisherman flying past us in their boats were pointing at the direction we were going and shaking their heads. After consultation with the team it seemed we could go no further, but tired and sunburnt we didn’t particularly want to backtrack for another 3 hours….then along came a fisherman.

In shifts of two people he ferried us around to the other edge of the rocks where we got off and awaited the next two shipments of our bedraggled friends. One of our friends Gemma decided to swim around, chucked her back at us and jumped in…she met us there. Once arriving at this tiny village on the edge of the island we found we were late for our dinner plans so we had to leave. While waiting for our fishing boat to be ready 15 boys all ran down to greet us (some of them had authentic sling shots) to sit and stare at us for about 20 minutes…staring at the hot, red and sunburnt Malai. We jumped back on the fishing boat and got a ride down to Barry’s Ecohuts..where we had a beautiful sunset swim and buffect style dinner. Afterwards an East Timorese band came down from the mountains and sang us some songs. Perfect end to an awesome day…

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Monday 1st April

The next morning at 6am I and Peter got up to a beautiful sunset and we went and got the water taxi back to Dili where I went straight to work. The others got the day off due to it being Easter Monday but some NGOs decide not to have all the holidays here so I went straight to work and as I walked in to the office my boss says to me ‘why didn’t you go home first?’ haha oh well.

Friday 5th April

This week I have been busy getting into the Dili social scene going out to try new restaurants. get involved with the salsa, kizumba and zouk classes and planning trips to the districts. I usually work every wednesday and thursday evenings too helping to host the weekly screenings that my NGO puts on of films and documentaries to raise funds for the feature that Dili Film Works is completing.

Work has been really fun and my counterpart Bety and I get on really well.

Going for dinner tonight at a place called Little Pattaya that serves Lebanese and Thai…yep a popular thing here to combine two cuisines at one restaurant…there’s one called Wasabi which is a Japanese and Lebanese place…will try that one this weekend too.

Nick our Editor leaves Dili Film Works today to move to Jakarta to marry his fiancee so heading off to Dili Beach to have a drink and give him his Tais presents 😀

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Settling into my new house

Bondia!

Have found a lovely house in a very friendly compound and have moved in with a Portuguese embassy worker. Se is lovely and can help interpret which is a definite plus!

The last week or so has been chockablock with meetings people both expats and Timorese, learning Tetun and Portuguese and trying to orientate myself around Dili. Coordinating how we are getting around is a tough task and getting some sort of transport will make things easier!

Last Friday to finish off our two week orientation we borrowed a BBQ from our new our and cooked up a scrumptious storm of meat patties, sausages, burgers, Tempe, tofu and chocolate. We had our very own Easter ‘secret Santa’.

Yesterday was spent at the clinic due to half my face blowing up like a swollen watermelon….but it seems mot have subsided and the left side looks like the right :D
The afternoon was spent feng shui’ing my house and buying supplies. Trying to understand the protocol for electricity buying was a tad complex but I think I have mastered it. There are no addresses so its fun trying to explain to people where I live or how to get anywhere but it’s great practise for being resourceful…

Photos of new house to come. I am living on a compound with other volunteers so there are a good 11-12 of us so never a lack of information or help when needed.

Today we (i and some other volunteers) spent a lazy morning eating at the beach and am now heading to Arte Moris the only art gallery in Dili to see what it has to offer.

Atelogu!

Xxx

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The Amazing Race

Saturday 16th March.

Last night we were taken down to the beachfront to meet our other fellow volunteers who have been here in the last two intakes. Everyone lovely and had great stories to tell and tips to give. Very much information overload.

We were up early this morning to take part in the amazing race. This was devised by the other volunteers as a fun way to orient ourselves around the city and learn how to get around and what is where.

We were up and ready to go at 8 and split into 4 groups..we were then handed an envelope with a list of our bonus questions and our first clue, along with $30.

We ran around the city finding the marketplace, the hospital, the resistencia museum and many other landmarks to finish up at the Jesus statue at christa rai…I took some gorgeous photos and will post them soon.
I have never sweated so much in the heat!!!
We had a whole page of bonus points to collect on the at which included holding a chicken, buying a crazy outfit, sitting in a UN car, taking a mikrolet, chewing on a beetlenut wrapped in a leaf and much more.

Everything had to be documented via camera for evidence which I will also share.

We came third…but our highlight was finding the crazy anti UN man that carries around signs and rants on about his made up story all day every day…no other group happened upon him ;p

We finished the fabulous morning with a talk up to the top of the mountain to look at the view. It’s my favourite view of Dili so far. We had pizza on the beach after and compared sunburn (i think I won)

Headed to a party tonight that one of the volunteers is hosting…the theme is go as someone famous and dead.

Post soon.

Loz x

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Travel scribing

Wednesday 13th March

Bondia. Hau nia naran Lauren.

After arriving in Dili on Monday with the other 10 volunteers we were picked up by our in country management team and taken to our hotel (which I think used to be a UN compound). We have done so much the last few days I am not sure where to start. We have been to meet our host organisations that we will be volunteering with. They are all lovely and tonight we went to a weekly documentary/drama screening that my NGO puts on to get all the expats out and share stories.

We have eaten a lot of food, and been driven around by our amazing coordinator Zeca to many different palaces. Before we can settle in to sightsee and have some fun we have been thrown in the deep end with tetun lessons four hours each day and seeing many accommodation options. Some are lovely and some are not so lovely 🙂 lots of bright , interesting colours and architecture :p

Met some great people where already and everyone is so lovely and friendly. There are so many more prod to meet but we still haven’t quite found our way around or found our bearings so this the first thing to do…

Souls probably get back to studying now but more to come soon.

Atelogu (see you later)

Lollipop (aka gigglemonster)

Wednesday 6th March

So…thought I would start up a travel blog its been 6 years in the making 😀

5 days to go…

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