asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
If you're going to meet an actual hero, a freedom fighter and former political prisoner who helped birth a new nation--that's YOU, Mr. Xanana Gusmão--you would do well not to be 45 minutes late. Alas, Google maps misled me about how long it would take me to drive from my house to the Pell Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mr. Gusmão and a panel of distinguished experts were going to be talking about the future of Timor-Leste. And then I made a wrong turn at the very end and got lost. By the time I was driving down Bellevue Avenue, past RIDONCULOUS mansions, I was more than a half-hour late. But damn it! I did not drive all that way just to ... go home again.

Finally I found the place. A guy waiting in a bus kitted out like a trolley told me yes, this was it.

The talk was happening in a room with gilded Baroque-style accents.


between entering and **the kiss** )

I hung back in the hallway, hoping to somehow say something, anything, to Xanana. I knew I wouldn't really ask him if he could shapeshift, or if he'd like to collaborate with me in writing a story based on this experience, and I didn't want to just gush that I was a fan, but I wanted to say **something**.

And I got my chance. He walked by and saw my expectant face and stopped and smiled at me. And I started blurting out that one small thing he'd done that made me admire him was get out and direct traffic one day in Dili, when there was a traffic jam. I think I said more presidents should do things like that. But before I got two words out, he had lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, all the while looking at me with an expression of friendly affection.

I can see why people would die for him--or better yet, live and struggle for him. He was EVERY BIT as charismatic as I thought he would be, and then some.

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)

This description came from someone's article in Australian Road Rider about a motorbike trip around East Timor:

I’ve never seen a road being handmade before. There were young men and boys placing river pebbles and stones in a neat arrangement, others tended fires on which 44-gallon drums of tar rested. A few men had ladles on long poles which they dipped into the drums of molten tar then carried to the stone sections and poured.

Source: "East Timor: Land of Children"

Here's a photo of roadbuilding in Timor-Leste from 2010, courtesy of Wikipedia:

asakiyume: (glowing grass)
On this day in Pen Pal, nothing particular happened, but in the note that Kaya wrote her mother on July 4, she mentioned the research station in W--, where she used to work. At the research station, they test and develop new strains of cash and subsistence crops, as well as work on plants for soil replenishment, etc.

In Timor-Leste, Seeds of Life does this work. Here are two crops that were developed in Baucau, Timor-Leste, and that are among 11 being tested with local farmers:

"Deep purple" sweet potato; photo by Alexia Skok

Red rice; photo by Alexia Skok

“[These] varieties are locally sourced and already popular among farming families for their taste and colour,” says Research Coordinator Luis Almeida.

Photos and quote from Kate Bevitt, "Music to the Tastebuds: Deep Purple Sweet Potato and Other Varieties Coming Soon" June 26, 2014.

Near me, similar work goes on at Cold Spring Orchard, which is a test orchard for the University of Massachusetts. Sometimes when you go there in the fall, you can taste-test new varieties of peaches or apples--sometimes they don't even have names yet, just numbers.

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)
A Woman of Independence
Kirsty Sword Gusmão, with Rowena Lennox
Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia, 2003

One curse of a life of intense action is that you may not have much time for reflection, not much time to take stock. You’re too busy doing. This certainly seems to be the case for Kirsty Sword Gusmão, who plunged into activism on behalf of occupied East Timor in the 1990s and didn’t emerge for air until—well, ever. There has always been, and continues to be, just too much to do.

A Woman of Independence captures this perfectly—the rush from one thing to the next, the clamor of small matters demanding attention while momentous matters loom in the background:

My whole day had been taken up with the petty problems of the rapazes [boys]. It was a tiny job really, this passing on of information between various parties, but it felt big and time-consuming enough to prevent me from articulating and recording my own thoughts and responses to the events unfolding around me.

Those events being, in this case, her impending visit (in 1995), on behalf of the imprisoned independence leader Xanana, to guerrilla commanders out in the field. And very soon she’s on her way to attempt that meeting, stopping to give a letter from Xanana to the wife of one of the guerrilla commanders:

[Olinda] wore the years of physical hardship and the pain of separation from her husband on her face. Nevertheless, as I handed her the envelope from Xanana, I noticed that her eyes gleamed with satisfaction, a tear threatening to escape down her bony cheeks. She had spent many years in the bush herself, having given birth to her son, Benvindo, in a guerrilla encampment in 1986. The food shortages and absence of medical attention led her and [her husband] Aluc to decide to place the infant in the care of Aluc’s father in Los Palos town. But the child was kidnapped en route by an Indonesian lieutenant-colonel who no doubt wished to use Aluc’s boy as a bargaining chip in the effort to force the Falintil to surrender. Olinda had not seen the boy since.

devotion to the cause )

Kirsty on education )

Overall, though, what’s best about A Woman of Independence are the hundreds of dramatic encounters and interactions that Kirsty describes—a revolution seen from the inside, recounted in vivid detail.

It's been more than ten years since the book was published, and Kirsty has continued her work. She’s been active advocating education in mother tongues (coincidentally, today is International Mother Language Day), as well as maternal and child health and welfare through a foundation she established for that purpose, the Alola Foundation. She’s spoken out against Australia for the bad faith it has shown—as evidenced by spying—in negotiations with Timor-Leste over oil reserves in the waters between the two countries, and when a vice-minister of education made a flippant remark regarding allegations that the principal of a Dili high school was preying on his female students, she turned the discussion back toward "the impact of sexual harassment and coercion on girls and their education."

Oh and one other thing? When she does find a free moment, she apparently isn’t averse to reading science fiction:

The following day I read a novel … hoping that the concepts in the book would help give some form to the thoughts and emotions clamouring for attention and expression in my tired brain. The novel was an eclectic blend of sci-fi and cyber-punk—pure, way-out escapism. The phone didn’t ring all day and I’d finished the book by early afternoon.

Any guesses what it might have been? (She doesn’t say.) The year was 1995.

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
A bit back I posted about spirits that live in geodes in Timor-Leste. Here's a real-life example people interacting with the spirits. It sounds like something from an old folktale--only it's from 1994. I came across it in the memoir A Woman of Independence, by Kirsty Sword Gusmão. She, you may recall, is the wife of Xanana Gusmão, the current prime minister of Timor-Leste. In 1994 Xanana was in prison in Indonesia, and Kirsty was his English teacher and liaison. They were communicating only by letters, and Xanana sent Kirsty this letter, regarding a photo she had been given to send to him, of a boy in an orphanage, a boy Kirsty had been told was Xanana's son.

My dear, thanks for the photo of my son of war )

This story entrances me, the story itself, most of all, but also the way Xanana shared it with Kirsty. It's a delicate thing, explaining about beliefs. The world is a complicated place, and how people live in it is different in more than just material ways. Some people experience a world that's thick with spirits, others a world with very few, others a world with none at all.

More on the book when I finish it--I'm nearly done.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I know the people at the post office; I'm there a lot. Back when Little Springtime first was in Japan (she's back there again--let's have no earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disasters this time, please, Seafather and Lady) I found out that one of the women who works there has a daughter who lives in Japan. That woman--Tasi--is Samoan.

The other day when I was there, I had Timor-Leste on the mind, and seeing Tasi reminded me that in Tetun, tasi means sea--so I told her so. She smiled, and said, "and in my language it means 'noble.' Aliitasi, 'noble one.'"

So Tasi is just a nickname. Aliitasi is the complete name. It sounded so beautiful when she said it--here, I found it online: Aliitasi.

"'Noble one.' So every time someone says your name, they're respecting you," I said.

"Suuure they are," she said, skeptically.

But I think, yes. Even though they don't know it, even if they're acting disrespectful. Noble One. Even here and now, names have power.

asakiyume: (dewdrop)
In the past in Timor-Leste, and perhaps still now (I didn't have the ability or opportunity to talk to anyone about these sorts of things, during my visit there), it was said that geodes are often homes to nature spirits. Such geodes are called foho matan--stone eyes.

If a person finds a geode in the wilderness, they can expect a nature spirit to visit them in a dream and offer them a special relationship--benefits and blessings in return for service. If the arrangement suits the person, then they take the stone to the place it asks the to take it and build an altar there. The spirit, in turn, becomes the person's guardian.

Sometimes, though, the spirit in the geode won't be interested in establishing a relationship. One village told the ethnographer:

If I take home a stone that is [sacred], when I dream that night, the spirt comes to me and says, "My name is Miguel [or whatever name it claims to have]. I am a [sacred] stone. You must put me back!" In the morning when I awake, I return the stone to its original place."
--David Hicks, Tetum Ghosts & Kin: Fertility and Gender in East Timor (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2004 [originally published 1976]), 40.

Whenever I've seen geodes in the past, I've always thought of the crystal caves that imprisoned Merlin--the geodes seemed like miniature versions of those caves. Now, if I see a geode, I'll wonder if it's the home of a nature spirit.

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
I get emails from the East Timor Action Network, and today a really wonderful story came down the line, a story that, at present, doesn't have an online home. The author gave me permission to share it here: it's a story of women embracing nontraditional jobs in Timor-Leste. Having experienced firsthand how intermittent the water supply can be in Ainaro, I was moved and impressed that Diolinda wants to be in a position to help secure the water supply in her community.

The course she's taking is terribly important. Until now it hasn't been possible to get construction qualifications in Timor-Leste--the nation had to hire foreigners to do that work. Now, not only are Diolinda and her colleagues getting a great qualification and a chance to earn a good living, they're helping make the nation self-sufficient and strong.

Women Can Too
by Sarah Francis

Diolinda 2
photo by Sarah Francis

Meet Diolinda Ximenes, a 26-year-old who is leading the way for women to branch into non-traditional jobs in Timor-Leste.

“I’ve been studying Certificate 2 in Plumbing at Tibar Training Centre for two months ... I decided to study plumbing because I wanted to learn new skills ... I am married and have a five-year-old son. My husband stays at home in Manatuto and looks after our child.”

Diolinda is one of 457 students studying construction certificates in Timor-Leste. As part of the Mid-Level Skills Training Project, three training providers, namely Tibar Training Centre, Don Bosco-Comoro and DIT-Baucau, are being developed so that they have the capacity to offer construction courses in levels 3 and 4.

“I’m really enjoying this course,” says Diolinda. “I’m learning new things and developing skills in plumbing ... The teachers here at Tibar Training Centre are good. They share their knowledge with us and have good teaching methods. When we do practical exercises they demonstrate the tasks step-by-step so that we can learn from them.”

Until 2012 it wasn’t possible to gain formal nationally accredited construction qualifications in Timor-Leste. As such most of the construction jobs in Timor-Leste that require skilled workers are given to foreigners. This project aims to equip Timorese youth with skills that will lead to paid work, reduce Timor Leste’s high youth unemployment rate, and put local people in local jobs.

Read more... )

Text in Tetun )

Sarah Francis first came to Timor-Leste six years ago, and was so inspired by the people she met and their stories that she moved back in 2012. She has since worked in communications roles to promote programs that effectively engage Timorese young people, including the Mid-Level Skills Training Project and Action for Change Foundation
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)

Among the many good things Mandela did, he advocated for the release of Timorese freedom-fighter Xanana Gusmão from prison:

Mandela not only called for the release of Xanana Gusmao, but also insisted on meeting with the latter – and got his way […] Soeharto at first refused Mandela’s request to meet Xanana with the question ‘Why do you want to meet him? He is only a common criminal.’ When Mandela responded by saying ‘that is exactly what they said about me for 25 years,’ Soeharto promptly and magnanimously responded by arranging for Xanana to be brought from prison to the State Guest House for an intimate dinner with Mandela.
--Jamsheed Marker, East Timor: A Memoir of the Negotiations for Independence, quoted in Aboeprijadi Santoso, “Mandela, Indonesia and the liberation of Timor Leste,” Jakarta Post, 22 July 2013

asakiyume: (Kaya)
I’ve always thought that education was one of the only things worth going into debt to obtain—and boy did I go into debt obtaining mine—but that was about the extent of my suffering for education. But for some people? We’ve all heard stories of hardship and sacrifice, but sometimes new ones can strike with fresh force.

This morning, I was blown away by a description an Australian educator shared of the dedication of Timorese teachers, seeking out instruction in English and Portuguese (bolding mine):

In 2001 I taught English to classes of 40-odd teacher-education students in Kaikoli, "the burned campus" ... Students came to classes often with nothing more to eat than a packet of dry Super-Mi [ramen noodles] and even sometimes shaking with fever. Alongside me, other teachers taught Portuguese to classes of future teachers in classes of often twice that number. We worked in noisy, dirty, mosquito-infested rooms with no glass in the windows, no desks and no books. Yet student attendance was high and their enthusiasm for learning both languages was immense.1

But even in this country, there are stories. The tall one told me on Friday about a young woman he’d struck up a conversation with on the bus from Northampton to Springfield. Those two cities aren’t very distant, in terms of miles, but because of the route the bus takes, the journey takes about two hours. The young woman, like the tall one, rides that bus daily. He works in Springfield; she’s going to school at Springfield Technical Community College. But her journey is even longer than his, as she first takes a bus from Greenfield to Northampton . . . and even before that, she is driven by her parents from one of the hilltowns in to Greenfield to catch the bus. All in all, she spends three hours each way on her commute.

That’s how precious education is--so precious that you’d attend classes feverish and half starved, or spend six hours a day traveling for the privilege.

1Quoted from Kerry Taylor-Leech, with permission.

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 :-)

Jakarta 2

Aug. 22nd, 2013 06:58 pm
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
This will be probably the most sobering of my entries on Timor-Leste.

First, a tiny bit of history )

The fighting was intense in Ainaro--Wikipedia notes that 95 percent of the buildings were burned by the departing Indonesian forces. One of the young men whom I talked to remembers his house being burned and fleeing to the mountains when he was ten years old. Another lost a father, an uncle, and seven half-brothers in the conflict. Many of the buildings remain in ruins:

ruins of war

A short walk from where I was staying is a place where the land falls away in sheer cliffs on both sides of the road. This place is known as Jakarta 2. It's where the Indonesian forces conducted executions--pushing people off the cliff. There's a concrete crucifix there now:

Crucifix at Jakarta 2

another memorial

memorial at Jakarta 2

The guy who took me here told me that when cars drive by here, they will slow down, out of respect, and people on motorbikes or foot will often stop for a moment to say a prayer.

We looked over the edge. I didn't take a picture. Too many ghosts.

All of which makes the children at the school across the street from where I was staying, singing Timor-Leste's national anthem while raising the flag of their eleven-year-old country, extra moving. (Voices you can hear are the voices of my two hosts.)

(If the embedding doesn't work for you, go here.)

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Mt. Kablaki is not the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste; I think it's the third-tallest. But it's a sacred mountain, like Mt. Ramelau, the tallest--and it's visible (and hike-able) from Ainaro.

Mt. Kablaki


One of the students asked me when American independence day was, and I told her it was July 4th and asked when Timor-Leste's independence day was. May 20th, she told me. Then I told them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It's a myth, but it encapsulates values we'd like to think our first president had. Then I asked them to tell me a story about Xanana Gusmão, their national hero and current prime minister. One of the students told me how, during the resistance, local people hid him on Mt Kablaki.

I've also read that he got a protective amulet there--the sort that lets you move unseen past your enemies.

I've also heard that he could transform himself into a dog. There are many many dogs running around loose in Ainaro, so that would be a good disguise. I asked one girl if she had any dogs, and she said yes, four or five. I asked what she fed them, and she said rice, or rice gruel.

Later, when I was rinsing rice for dinner (and in Timor-Leste there's much more reason to do this than there is in America, because in Timor-Leste the rice contains lots of bits of chaff and hull), I went to pour off the water in the yard, and one of the local dogs came trotting over eagerly. Aha. Rice gruel, I thought.

neighborhood dogs

dogs at Olympio's

But back to mountains. All the mountains roundabout Ainaro are beautiful.

dramatic skies

Here's dawn over the pre-secondary school, across the street from where I was staying.

dawn from the Teachers' House

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)
Dear all, I am back from Timor-Leste! I have adventures and photos to share, but it may be 24-48 hours before I'm back in the groove (ha! I typed grove... the LJ grove!)

A big personal thank-you goes out to [ profile] khiemtran, though, who met me with his family in Sydney on my long journey home, and showed me some pretty wondrous sights--but more about that later.

And [ profile] yamamanama, I could almost never get online while in Timor-Leste, but one of the times I did get on, I visited your page! I hope you registered a user from TL.

Okay everyone. More soon.
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
I had to return a completed job by post this morning. While I was filling out a form, the door opened and there was an amazing sound of CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP emanating from a cardboard box, marked "live chicks" and with sides punctuated with air holes and with hay sticking out from those holes.

"The beats are the heart of the party," the person carrying this box was saying into his bluetooth. He set the box down on the counter and left.

CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! said those live chicks.

"Ed's called twice already, wondering where his chicks are," said J.

"Well, you can tell him they've arrived," said T.

I asked about chick delivery, and T told me that they have go overnight. Those chicks came from Iowa.

. . . Did you know that East Timor has no government-run, nationwide postal system?

They have internet and wifi. The East Timor Action Network just today reported that Timor Telecom is offering computers to schools and universities in Timor-Leste (East Timor), "to contribute to the digital inclusion of students and create a new approach to teaching." But if I want to get a computer to someone in Timor-Leste--say someone in the town of Ainaro--I either have to bring it myself or give it to someone who's going over, who then has to hand deliver it or entrust it to someone to deliver. If I make friends with anyone in Ainaro while I'm over there, I can send them emails or phone them, but I can't send them a letter, not directly to their home.

My contact tells me that within the town of Ainaro there's mail delivery that's carried out by the district administration, and maybe the same thing happens in other districts, and in the capital of Dili. But if you're in Dili and you want to get something to Ainaro, you have to arrange something with a bus driver or someone else who will play courier.

This is one way (one of many ways) in which Timor-Leste is different from the fictional nation of W-- in my Pen Pal novel. W-- has a postal service.


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

April 2019

1415161718 1920


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 20th, 2019 08:18 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios