asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
We didn't set out with any plan do anything like a boat tour, and when we saw a brochure in a visitors' center somewhere, featuring a puffin wearing a captain's hat and a promise of seeing puffins, we thought it would be fun, but still it wasn't something we were actually planning on doing.

conversation, legends, and bird information under the cut )

My attempts at photographing puffins, razorsbills, bald eagles, black guillmonts ("white wing patches, and sexy red legs" was how Ian taught us to recognize them), and cormorants hanging their wings to drain and dry were hopeless, so I'll post a couple of the Van Schaiks' own photos:



... and share my sketch of some seals instead. The scribbled note says "Mark said, when I said that they have dog faces, that his dad said the males have dog faces and the females have horse faces."

1 I can't find any corroboration for this legend elsewhere, and I may have mangled it--but anyway, it makes a good story. (The closest thing I find is the remarks of John MacGregor, published in 1828, remarking about fishermen on the other side of Cape Breton, that they
are Acadian French, who live by pursuing cod, herring, and seal fisheries, together with wrecking; at which last occupation, in consequence of the frequent shipwrecks about the entrance of the Gulf during the spring and fall, for several years, they are as expert as the Bermudians, or the people of the Bahamas.
asakiyume: (man on wire)
Two posts in one day? Why not!

Wakanomori took me to Holyoke's secret stream, which runs beneath Interstate 91. There's a park there, but these boys preferred the actual stream (so did a chipmunk and an oriole I saw).

Holyoke's secret stream

kids playing in the secret stream

At one end of the present-day park is a closed roadway that leads up into an overgrown, abandoned park. If you climb up and up, you reach this tower that looks like it took its design cues from rude graffiti:

phallic tower

You can climb up a literally falling-apart concrete spiral staircase on the inside of the, uh, shaft, and up top there is a glorious view of the surrounding countryside. Which I didn't take a picture of! I was too busy recovering from the hair-raising ascent. Fortunately, Wakanomori took a picture. He also obliged me by taking pictures of the words of wisdom inscribed there, and of some of the community-created artwork at the base of the tower.

View of Mt. Tom in nearby Easthampton

Mt Tom (Wakanomori's photo)


wisdom (wakanomori's photo)


artwork (wakanomori's shot)
asakiyume: (shaft of light)
Things hanging from a line: it could be grape vines encumbering utility lines...

grape vines on the utility wires

... or, this morning, it could be laundry. I like my new line-lifting pole (a fallen tree bough), it's like a mast.


Yesterday, our neighbor across the street was celebrating her daughter's college graduation. THIS GIANT RED BIG-RIG CAB was bringing all the boys to the yard. Literally.

Big red truck calls the boys to the yard

Out back that same evening, ferns were green flames in the deep shade. I love ferns; they were my wings in childhood.

Fern-green flame
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Doing some research, I came across this moving song, "Timor Oan Mos Bele," ("We Timorese Can Do It"), sung in Tetun, Portuguese, and English. It's addressed to everyone in Timor-Leste and urges them not to lose faith in the possibility of a good future for the country.

hatudu ba ema katak Timor oan mos bele,
labele lakon esperansa tuba rai metin
no lao ba oin nafatin

We have to show people that we Timorese can do it
We can't lose hope; we must stand firm
And continue to walk forward

The little signs say things like "Fight Corruption," "Education Starts in the Household," "Stop Using Violence," and "Create Peace and Love."

There are lots of tensions in Timor-Leste; violence and corruption1 are problems, and I bet it's easy to get discouraged. But lots of people are doing such great work--I'm not talking about million-dollar initiatives; I'm thinking just of the ordinary people I met, who are running computer classes or transportation services, or investing in a washing machine and then offering laundry services, etc. And those are just the people I was aware of from my brief stay. But meanwhile there's a law in the works that may restrict journalistic freedom, and there've been some pretty dramatic police actions . . . so, I appreciate the spirit of this song, and I hope people hang on to this spirit.

Timor Oan Mos Bele Halo--Viva Timor!

(And I do love learning language through listening to songs. Phrases I learned today include fiar-an, "believe in yourself," and ida-idak, "everybody.")

1Like this worrying story about petty police corruption that came down the line this morning from the East Timor Action Network :-(

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
One of my earliest memories of Internet goodness is of searching for a recipe for wild mushrooms--this would have been sometime between 1998 and 2005--and finding one offered by a guy who identified his location as Turkish Kurdistan. We had a brief back and forth, and I thought, Now this place is personal to me. I know someone there. I know he used to pick wild thyme with his grandmother.

Fast forward to last summer. One of my best memories from Timor-Leste was of being served deep-fried plantain chips, homemade, and of sharing the leftovers with friends. I wanted to make those myself, to feel close (because eating food brings us close) to Timor-Leste. And the best recipe I found? Was a Nigerian one.

So easy to follow, so clear, so pleasant! (And the recipe was a success)

Not only did this bring me close to Timor-Leste, it made me feel close to Nigeria. I had one previous experience with Nigerian food: akara--wonderful, croquette-like deep-fried items, made with ground black-eyed peas, with onions and hot peppers to flavor it. I bought some at a local market, loved it, wanted to know how to make it, and had found recipes online, but was stymied by one key detail--getting the skins off the black-eyed peas.

Oh My God, the time that took. I'd soak the black-eyed peas, and as they expanded, the skins would begin to come loose. Then I'd rub them together in the soaking water to get more loose, and then I'd strain off the skins (which would float), while trying to keep the peas themselves from pouring out. It was such a slow process! I mean, kind of relaxing, too, if you have nothing else to do, but. . .

Well, Flo, the woman behind All Nigerian Recipes, has the answer for that, too:

two videos about getting the skins off beans )

So by this time I'm really loving this Youtube channel, loving the recipes, loving the fact that Flo responds to comments--and loving her personal videos, too. Like this one:

Pretty cool, right? Not only does Flo put up fabulous cooking videos, she also has an *intense* day job!

And because the Internet lets us make friends with people all over the world--just write hello, just hit send--I thought . . . maybe she would let me interview her.

Then I checked and saw that she has close to 30,000 subscribers. Her top video has more than half a million views, and her top ten videos all have over 100,000 views. I'm not the only one who loves her. So then I felt more hesitant about getting in touch. . . . But I overcame that and wrote to her, and she said yes!

So come back on Monday, everyone, when Flo will answer my questions about cooking, YouTube, and self-publishing a cookbook.

Meantime, enjoy her channel and maybe have a Nigerian meal tonight.

Video List Here!

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Every morning, a bus leaves the market in Dili, Timor-Leste's capital, and six hours later it arrives in Ainaro. Ainaro is only 70 miles away, but the road is rough and mountainous.

Then every night, a bus leaves Ainaro to go to Dili. It leaves at 9:30 or so at night, and it gets in around 4:30 in the morning. This was the bus I rode to get back to Dili, the day before my journey home. One of the local assistants of the program I volunteered with gallantly offered to accompany me on the bus journey, so I wouldn't have to sit in Dili market by myself for four-and-a-half hours until the hostel where I was staying in Dili opened.

We waited on the porch of the house where I'd been staying. Everything was quiet out, and dark, and then here comes the bus, its cheerful music blaring. The bus picks up people all through Ainaro. It's cold in the mountains at night, and people wait for the bus wrapped in fleece blankets. Then, when they get on the bus, they're all ready to go to sleep.

We sat in the first seat after you enter the bus. People ended up sitting on the step up into the bus; they leaned against our legs to sleep. In the aisle, two people stretched out full length, wrapped in their blankets. Under the seat across the aisle were some hens and chicks, as well as one rooster, who crowed periodically to let us all know who was king of the bus.

cigarettes and stars )

daily bread )

Also walking the streets in the early-morning hours were small boys hawking hard-boiled eggs. I remember seeing a little girl in Ainaro, out in front of her house, peeling cassava root with a machete as long as--and thicker than--her arm. Kids work hard here.

Later that morning we walked along the seashore and saw some sights (click on the photos to see them bigger)


a wooden outrigger boat
outrigger boat

boats in Dili harbour

the palace of the government
Palace of the Government

a mural for the Tour de Timor
tour de Timor mural

a dramatic, but unexplained, monument monument to the victims of the Santa Cruz massacre ... makes me wish I wasn't smiling like an idiot...
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
I've lived in the United States, England, and Japan--all countries that are well-off. I've never lived in, or even visited, a so-called developing country before. There are lots of different narratives about developing countries; what stories get told depend on the purposes of the teller--unsurprisingly. The hard facts of life in Timor-Leste didn't escape me--not just (just!) the trauma of recent conflict, but also the high infant mortality and food insecurity. But there was so much that I saw that was cheerful, vigorous, optimistic.

Twice a day there was a rush hour in Ainaro--foot-traffic rush hour, as kids streamed in to school. They were smiling, chatting with friends, looking sharp in their uniforms. Many of the teachers are unpaid local volunteers--now, you could see this as a problem (unqualified teachers), and yes, it would be good to have teachers who've been trained as teachers, but on the other hand, what dedication and sense of service that represents! And it seems to me quite likely that some of those volunteers are very good teachers.

Most people in Timor-Leste are subsistence farmers, but in Ainaro I also saw a carpenter's shop...

They're making a cabinet (frame on the left). The day before, they were making a bed frame.

carpenter's shop

... and next door to where I was staying was an auto repair shop, and up the street was a van out of which Timor Telecom operated--the women there are fluent in English and got me set up with enough pulsa that I could phone home.

And some women earn money weaving tais, traditional textiles whose patterns vary depending on the region. This woman told me she could weave my name into the one she was making (but I was leaving too soon).

a tais weaver

There was also the bakery, a couple of restaurants, and several copy and photo shops (these were popular with kids)--and these are just the things I happened to notice.

Here are some shops selling clothes

shops in Ainaro, Timor-Leste

Everything's just very labor-intensive, though. People were cutting the lawn across from the classroom with hand sickles, for instance.

As for play, I saw girls doing what we called Chinese jump rope when I was a kid, and everywhere little kids, boys and girls both, rolling tires with sticks:

playing with a tire and stick playing with a tire and stick

There are stone-lined water-runoff ditches along the roads, and I saw children playing in these too. One boy had a big palm stem that he was driving like a truck, making truck noises, along the edge of the gutter.

There's a football (soccer) pitch in the center of town, and in the late afternoon, I saw older boys and men playing on it. There's also a pool hall, and every evening someone's having a party--all the students talked about them. Several of the guys played the guitar, and several of the girls sing, and everyone seems to like dancing, including the newly ordained priest. Cockfighting is also popular--it goes on at the Saturday market (I saw the crowds gathered round, but didn't actually get up close to see the fight.)

Overall, people seem hopeful; they have plans, they're doing things. That's my narrative, anyway :-)

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
As in much of the world, water access is an issue in Timor-Leste. The town I was in, Ainaro, has a piped water supply, but it’s often not working. About half the time I was there, there was no running water. At the house where I stayed, the volunteers keep four large trash bins filled with water, so that when the water is off, they don’t need to go out to fetch it. Most people fetch it, though.

This water’s not for drinking without boiling or otherwise purifying. 1.5-liter bottles of drinking water sell for 50 cents. I’m not sure, though, whether the local people really rely on the bottled water and on sterilizing the town water, or whether they drink it straight.

During one of the lessons, students were making sentences using the conditional “could.” One student’s sentence was, “I couldn’t do the laundry because there was no water.”

Sometimes, though, people go down to the river to do the washing.

washing clothes


At the house where I stayed, we cooked using propane that is shipped up from Dili—on the bus I rode. Most people, however, gather firewood from the forest and cook with that. There was a contingent from the national army stationed next door to where our classroom was; they cooked over an open fire in the building behind us.

some photos under here )

Rice is the staple, often eaten with water spinach or mustard greens. Ainaro also has two bakers who travel all through the town pushing wooden wheelbarrows filled with personal-sized (roll-sized) loaves of bread. Each one costs five cents. One of my acquaintances said his mother would give him a loaf like that in the morning, plus five cents to take to school to pay for the school lunch.

The buildings in the background are where one of the town's bakers bakes her bread
by the bakery

how to eat avocados in Timor-Leste )


Who was it who told me about snacking on raw packages of ramen noodles? Maybe it was Little Springtime’s boyfriend. Anyway, the kids in Ainaro like to do that. One boy gave me some to try. Kopiko--Indonesian coffee-flavored candies--and mint candies are also popular.


I saw coffee growing all over—it’s a great crop because you can grow it on steep hillsides. Here’s some coffee drying.

coffee drying

And this is the shop it was drying in front of.

the shop where the coffee was drying

(The sign is saying that you can buy minutes for your phone there.)

These are the students outside the shop who let me take their picture. Kids only go to school for half a day in Timor-Leste, either in the morning or the afternoon. I think this is because there are many many children and not many school buildings or teachers.


A bus ride

Aug. 19th, 2013 12:02 am
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
The day after I arrived in Timor-Leste, I made the six-hour journey up to the mountain town of Ainaro. I rode on some vehicle which was not quite an anguna (term borrowed from Indonesian: an anguna is a pick-up truck with seats in the back, so people can ride in it) and not quite a bus--it was open-air, like an anguna, but with seats facing forward, like a bus, rather than parallel to the side of the vehicle, like an anguna. There were sacks of rice on the floor, for delivery along the way, and other goods loaded on the roof. We started out from the market in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, with people filling all the seats and sitting on the floor (on top of the rice) and hanging on the back, and we picked up more people as we went.

Some of the young people who hung on the back

rest stop on the way to Ainaro

There was music playing--here's a taste of it:

(If the embedding doesn't work for you, you can find the 14-second video here on Flickr)

Here's the sound system:

Early on, we passed the Santa Cruz cemetery, where, in 1991, the Indonesian army killed some 250 people who were demonstrating for independence (more on that here, courtesy of Wikipedia).
Santa Cruz cemetery from the bus

Victor, the man I was sitting next to on the bus, asked me if I knew the story of the cemetery. We communicated with my very rudimentary Tetun and his equally limited English. I think with grave face more than with words I was able to convey that I did.


Victor from the bus

We bounced along, and eventually had a rest stop. This enterprising twelve-year-old (age is one of the questions people in Timor-Leste like to ask and share, at least with foreigners), engaged me in conversation in English and introduced me to her mother.

rest stop on the way to Ainaro

I shared round my big 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water (purchased in Dili for fifty cents). Meanwhile, some of the younger boys were eating what looked like puffed pork rinds, dyed green, probably purchased at the little shop where we'd stopped.

Along the way I saw lots of little roadside stands with 1.5-liter water bottles like mine recycled, filled with... tea? Something pale and golden, and sometimes also something dark dark brown. No, not tea. Can you guess? I realized what it was when I saw someone with a cloth-lined funnel, pouring some into his motor bike. Yes: gasoline (petrol), and also diesel. No gas stations along the road, but lots of these little roadside stands.

More tomorrow or the next day... I have tabs open on so many of your entries, and by now you've probably all posted new ones. With time I'll get back in the groove! And in time there'll be more (I hope, I intend) than just-the-facts-ma'am reportage. Maybe I'll alternate? Some posts that are reflective and some that are pictures? Or take things as they come... Anyway, do feel free to ask questions!

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
So, you're growing up in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, and you're taking ballet lessons, and you're pretty dang good at it, good enough to think about being a professional dancer, but you find yourself thinking, "You know . . . it's a bit narrow. And I am not sure I can live up to my bladey surname as a ballerina." You've always loved Indonesia--you learned your first words of Indonesian at four--so you study the language in college, where you also come to hear about the plight of East Timor, at that time occupied by Indonesia. Genocidally occupied: an estimated quarter of the population of East Timor were killed in the early years of the occupation.

May I present to you Kirsty Sword Gusmão

So in her twenties, Kirsty ups and goes to Jakarta as a foreign aid worker . . . annnnd then somehow manages to become an, um, "clandestine activist" is what Wikipedia calls it, code name Ruby Blade, working for the Timorese resistance.

Kirsty's daring exploits )

And now there's a movie about her: Alias Ruby Blade.

Alias Ruby Blade: a Story of Love and Revolution from Alexander Meillier on Vimeo.

She recently was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she's taking it all in stride, and I feel pretty sure she's going to wrestle it into submission. Chin up, Kirsty!

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 5.29.00 PM-Mar 6, 2013

2002 Interview: "Dangerous Liaison"
2005 Interview: Enough Rope"

1Xanana, who's 20 years older than Kirsty, did have a wife from his youth. This fact pained me. Throwaway wives: not good. However, two ameliorating factors. First, it seems as if the two had grown distant even before Kirsty entered the scene. The wife had fled to Australia and Xanana was in prison. And second, he's continued to be involved with his kids by his first wife. But who knows. That's their personal story, and there may be some badness and sadness in it, but who among us is without sin?

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