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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.