asakiyume: (man on wire)
It was a wonderful, wonderful trip--in just ten days I made some friends that it had me practically in tears to leave. It was so wonderful that this morning (we got in at 10 pm last night and weren't back at our house until 2 am), I put on my jeans from the trip because they still have the smell of Hotel Casa de la Vega, where we stayed, and I want to stay wrapped up in that. We brought home a big brick of panela (condensated cane juice), and I'll see about making agua panela this morning, like Señora Lucy did for us one morning.

I'll slowly be catching up with people's entries--very slowly.
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I'm under the gun with work right now, but I have an adventure to look forward to: Wakanomori and I enjoyed the landscapes of La Niña and Lady: La Vendedora de Rosas so much that were traveling to Colombia on May 23, returning very late on June 2. Oh boy! Time to test out two-years-and-a-bit of Duolingo Spanish! But hey, when I very-first traveled to Japan, that's about how much Japanese I had, and I had considerably less Tetun when I went to East Timor. Anyway, I have an ice breaker, a question to ply people with: "Cuentame una historia de este lugar."

"Yeah," said a friend of mine, "but will you understand the response?" Good question. Maybe in bits and pieces? Fragments? Especially if they speak.... wait for it.... DES... PA.... CITO!

Sorry, sorry. The truth is, I really love that song. Me and several billon other people--currently 5.1 BILLION VIEWS on Youtube. Woo!

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee are Puerto Rican. Have a different song that I also love, by a Colombian singer, Kiño, assisted by Jennifer Arenas and Elmece. It's "Sueños cumplidos," and it was the music that played at happy moments in Lady: La Vendedora de Rosas**

ETA--All of which to say, I will likely not be reading or posting much, if at all, during the days of the trip.

In unrelated news, but noteworthy for anyone who reads this on LJ: my paid account will expire while we're gone. I'm letting it lapse: I pay for the account over at DW, and I've decided not to pay both places. This means if you're reading at LJ, you will start to be assaulted by all manner of ads. There'll always be a link at the bottom of the entry to the original post on Dreamwidth, so you're welcome to come read here if you prefer an ad-free experience.

**Incidentally, I'm reading the story of her life (v...e...r...y slowly, which great help from a dictionary app), upon which the telenovela was based, and dang, but a lot of the things featured in the telenovela actually did happen.
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: (shaft of light)
Well, removing the one shopping cart must have registered as a gauntlet thrown down, because a new one appeared, and this time in the rosa multiflora, which will KILL YOU if you try to go through it--which meant, no lifting from underneath.

But today, I had three of the four forest creatures to help me, and they are grown into their power! We got that cart out in no time.

pondering the shopping cart

hands and hooks


up over the rail


I'm a little worried about the cart tossers upping the ante... what if they dump two shopping carts? But sufficient unto the day...


Aug. 3rd, 2015 08:22 pm
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)

I wanted to tell you about some people I saw here and there.

There were two little girls I saw in a Dunkin Donuts. They were very, very little--both of them, if they stood next to me, wouldn't have come up to my hip. They both had long black hair that went down their back. They were sisters: one was wearing a three-tiered ruffle skirt with a stars-and-stripes pattern, and the other was wearing an Elsa T-shirt. They loved everything in the Dunkin Donuts--the ATM, the gift cards, the counter where you pick up your order. They dashed to each of these places and called to one another and showed each other everything. Their mom bought them coolatas as big as their arms, and bought herself a smoothie.

Man with a guitar
I've written about him before, I think, but he was there again, waiting for the bus on the highway, sitting on the guard rail, playing the guitar. I had the car windows wide open, and because I've seen him before, I felt like I knew him, and because I felt like I knew him and because he was playing the guitar, I waved at him. He waved back.

Man with flowers
I was walking in the neighboring town, and an SUV pulled up next to me, and a grizzled man called to me from the window. "Would you like some flowers?" he asked. He had a cellophane-wrapped bouquet. "Are you giving them away?" I asked cautiously. "Yeah!" he said. The car was full of people: another guy, a couple of women, several children. "Okay, sure! Thank you very much! I'll remember this day because of you!" I said. And I did, and do.

Girl with the tattoo.
She works at the nearby supermarket. I may have tried to write about her before: she has a tattoo of an arrow on her arm, and fancy writing, and always I've tried to remember it, but always I've gotten it wrong. But today I have it right. It says: "Focus and keep aiming."

Okay: that can be my task. To focus and keep aiming, or vice versa, even.

[Note: In 2018, when I was transferring images from LJ to here, I didn't keep each and every image--I left two off of this entry. So comments may refer to images that are no longer in the entry.]

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I feel very proprietary about the boardwalk near our house because I helped it get built (in a roundabout way--I didn't actually help build it). So, when someone leaves a crumpled-up can of soda or a Dunkin Donuts coolatta cup on it, I pick those things up, and I try to keep the marsh it goes through clear of rubbish, too. I love the marsh even more than the boardwalk.

When I saw some mischief makers had managed to push a shopping cart over the boardwalk rails and into the long grass in the marsh, I was frustrated. It would be very hard to fetch the shopping cart back out: everything's overgrown right now, including the sharp-thorned rosa multiflora and the poison ivy.

This was the situation:

The sides of the boardwalk are chain-link, so it's extra hard to get the cart up (and it must have been hard to push it over into the marsh, too)--you can't just reach it onto the boardwalk; you have to get it up over the guardrails, which are about my chest height.

I thought that if we had metal hooks and ropes, maybe we could get it up. So I bought some at the hardware store, and the healing angel and I cut the cord and threaded it through the holes in the hooks.

Then we tried fishing for the cart, and we caught it! And we were able to turn it rightside up. But it was VERY heavy. Heavier than I was bargaining on. So I checked, and seeing that there wasn't any poison ivy or other pernicious plant in that part of the marsh, I went out to the road, climbed over the guard rail, and went under the boardwalk into the marsh. I was thinking maybe we'd have more luck just pushing it out from underneath the boardwalk, straight onto the road, rather than trying to lift it over the boardwalk's rails.

Here's us fishing for it. The healing angel is actually rail thin, not beefy the way I've drawn him, whereas I'm more middle-age rounded than the aspirational me I've drawn.

Fortunately it's been pretty dry this summer, and where I was walking was muddy but not actually flowing. I was wearing flip-flops. Once underneath, I trying pushing the cart in the direction I'd come, but it wouldn't move. Hell, carts can be hard to push on smooth supermarket floors if their wheels get jammed, and there was plenty of long grass and mud to jam its wheels there.

So we were back to our original plan. We realized we could inch the cart up bit by bit if I lifted and he pulled, and in between pulls he tied the ropes to the chain-link. We got it up pretty high, and at just the right moment a family came walking by, and the father was able to grab the handle, and between him and the healing angel, they got it back onto the board walk.

Here's us before the family came along

Then I pushed it back to the supermarket while the healing angel rolled up our cords into the neat bundles in the photo.

I felt so deliriously pleased with myself! I saw a problem, thought up a solution, got the bits and pieces needed for the solution, and tried it, and it worked. I don't know if that's ever happened before--not with some mechanical, technical thing, anyway. I know it's a stretch to count this as mechanical or technical, but I do. And the healing angel seemed pretty pleased too. And we did it together! And we enlisted help from passersby. It was good, very good.

And now the marsh is no longer hampered by a shopping cart. It's all just long grass and song sparrows again. Yay!

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Do you know about plarn, yarn made from plastic bags? You can knit or crochet it and make beautiful, durable items--like this bag that [ profile] darkpaisley made for me, years ago, from Stop & Shop bags.

Discarded plastic bags are more than just an ugly nuisance in the West African nation of the Gambia. There, plastic shopping bags kill livestock that eat them and provide a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitos. A woman named Isatou Ceesay found an ingenious solution. She learned how to make plarn, and, with her friends, started crocheting small change purses from the discarded plastic bags, which she and her friends sold. The trash problem--and attendant health risks--disappeared, and Isatou and her friends had a new source of income. The project was so successful that Isatou started teaching women in other villages, and in 2012 she won the International Alliance for Women's World of Difference award.

Isatou Ceesay Photos by Smelter Mountain on Flickr (used with permission)

Miranda Paul, a writer who has lived and taught in the Gambia, wrote about Isatou in One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (illustrated by the fabulous Elizabeth Zunon).

An LJ friend put me in touch with Miranda, and I asked her some questions about One Plastic Bag, writing, and her time in the Gambia. Her answers are thought-provoking and inspiring.

You lived and taught in the Gambia a few times over the course of several years. How has your time there changed the way you live in the United States?

All of our experiences shape the way we live in some way, especially significant ones such as my time(s) in the Gambia. Of course, I'm even more conscious about using resources and generating trash now, but that's not the only way my travels have changed me. I've learned the importance of having many relationships and connections, which is hard to admit for those of us who are introverted or like being alone. In Gambia, your network of people is often your greatest asset, your biggest resource. I make it a point not to "hole up" here in the U.S. and to try to keep in touch with people (offline).

As a follow-up, how has writing One Plastic Bag changed your outlook (on recycling, women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship—anything!)

Watching the success of Isatou's project in Njau has led me to firmly believe that the most productive development, empowerment, etc. happens because the leaders are insiders. I've seen many foreigners try to come in and start charities or projects, and they tend to fail or fizzle in time. But Peggy Sedlak, the Peace Corps Volunteer in the book, who helped Isatou and the women get their co-op running, deserves kudos for setting it up in a way in which the women took ownership and leadership of the project. Listening and being flexible was important to all of them, and the Women Initiative Gambia program has become one of the most successful (and longest-lasting) Peace Corps inspired projects in the Gambia.

Read more: interacting with schoolchildren, being involved with We Need Diverse Books )

Thank you, Miranda, for spending some time here with me! And thanks for all that you do with children and building community--it's wonderful.

asakiyume: (man on wire)

The article I wrote on the problems with money bail is live now.

Guilty until proven innocent: the problem with money bail.

asakiyume: (snow bunting)
I was a vagrant yesterday, and in my wanderings, I came to the media lab where Little Springtime works, and where the hedgehog from last entry was printed. Verily I say unto you, we live in the future.

Here is a ukelele, made with a 3D printer

3D printed ukelele

And here is a lampshade:

3D printed lampshade

Here are the banks of printers. Their brand is "makerbot replicator." Alas, if I say "Earl Grey, hot!" they are not yet able to produce an aromatic drink.

Makerbot 3D printers

For a drink, you have to go here:

Blue Wall

Very futuristic, right? The scene reminds me of a big airport, like Dallas Fort Worth, or Sydney.

If you are craving something organic at this point... here are friends with a pulse, and wings

geese UMass

asakiyume: (Kaya)
That's what Desmond Coutinho, fiancé of hunger striker Irom Sharmila, wrote in a letter I received a day after seeing news stories about his being assaulted and imprisoned in Manipur, where he'd gone to be near Sharmila and advocate for her.

I'm worried about him. He's a complicated person, and the situation with Sharmila is complicated.

very brief background on Irom Sharmila )

Reality, though, proved different. Desmond turned out to be very volatile, given to abusive criticism of people he opposed. It was easy to see how and why people dismissed him as a crank--but that's not an accurate assessment of him either.

He's been writing to Sharmila since 2011, and she's been writing back; he's visited her; they've talked. They have a real friendship--this is clear not only from what he says, but from what she says. It's not just him claiming to be her fiancé; she declares it too. Is she being duped or taken advantage of? To suggest that is to say that she's not capable of good judgment, herself; that somehow other people know better than she does--but she's the one who's had the correspondence. Her feelings are based on her experience.

And there's more to Desmond than his anger; he's also thoughtful, introspective, funny. He and Sharmila talk about books, philosophy, religion, politics. Furthermore, she knows about his moods; they've talked about those, too.

Many of the people surrounding Sharmila see Desmond as a threat to her protest, or as someone who's just seeking glory for himself. As for the former, they don't need to worry: Sharmila is 100 percent committed to her cause. But she'd like to be free to love, like other people love, and she is frustrated by people trying to prevent or deny her affection for Desmond. As for the latter, all I can say is that in every communication I've had with Desmond, he's been focused on her, and her welfare, and her cause, and, yes, their future together--and not at all on himself.

If Sharmila should give up fasting--not at all likely, but if--that wouldn't need to be the end of the campaign against AFSPA. Even though she's a powerful symbol of the cause, the cause is still bigger than she is. And contrariwise, if she were to die for the cause, that wouldn't necessarily help it. It would, however, be the loss of a unique soul, and a tragedy.

Sharmila deserves better treatment, both from the government and from some of her supporters. The government has kept her isolated and limited her contact with people. There's no reason for that; that's just a form of abuse. And those of her supporters who oppose her friendship with Desmond should ease off. If the fight against apartheid in South Africa could survive Nelson Mandela's divorces and remarriages, then surely the fight against AFSPA can survive Irom Sharmila's commitment to Desmond Coutinho.

I hope once Desmond has finished his 15 days in jail, he's able to visit with Sharmila some more. I hope both the local activists and the local government will leave him alone. I hope the fight against AFSPA can continue, and that Sharmila's life can open up in positive ways.

asakiyume: (cloud snow)

I walked along this path and didn't stumble.

asakiyume: actually nyiragongo (ruby lake)
I've been paying attention to the leisurely flow of Kilauea's lava toward the village of Pahoa, and over the weekend, they had a story on NPR about the possibility of diverting the lava. They had on John Lockwood, Volcanologist and Lava Diverter, to talk about it.

But, as the report noted, not everyone thinks the lava should be diverted. One woman said,

You cannot change the direction. It's Mother Nature. It's like me telling you, "Move the moon because it's too bright."

The photo of twin rivers of brilliant lava that accompanied the NPR story was actually from an eruption of Mt. Etna (whose diversion Lockwood consulted on), so I searched for a picture of the current flow, and found this one on the blog of Cassie Holmes, whose sister lives in Pahoa:

[picture no longer available as of 2018]

She's been documenting the slow advance of the lava, and offers her own reflections on living with an active volcano:

Puna will always be my home and no matter what happens with the lava I will continue to go back, even if it means hiking over freshly cooled lava to get there (September 17)


“Why would anyone want to live on an active volcano?” That is the question I’m hearing a lot right now, but first let me ask you this – Why would anyone want to live where there are earthquakes, tornados, fires, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis? Anywhere we choose to live there is some kind of natural disaster that could happen, it’s just mother nature. (October 29)


And I think, Yes.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Jaspreet Kindra shared so many stories, both wonderful and harrowing, while she was over, some of which, with permission, I'll share, but one thing I'll just quickly observe:

two out of two journalists whom I've made friends with via the Internet (Jaspreet being one, Glenn Cheney being the other) have had their lives threatened in the course of their work, and two out of two of them have stood up to the powerful to protect the weak.

It's an honor to know these guys.

Thanks for all you do, journalists!

. . .

In lighter news, Jaspreet showed me how to make some **really excellent chai.** I had sort of learned how by peering over the shoulder of someone who knew how when I was in college, but Jaspreet showed me step by step. First bring the water to a boil with the spices, so their flavor is fully released, then add the milk and bring to a boil again, slowly, so the milk blends and thickens, and **then** add the tea. And then the sweetener, if you're having it (which I always do, because that was my first experience of chai, but Jaspreet doesn't).

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Sesame oil, peanut oil, olive oil--they have really distinctive tastes. Sesame oil really tastes like sesame, and peanut oil has a peanut taste, and olive oil doesn't taste like pickled olives, or brined olives, but it tastes the rich and fragrant way it smells.

Palm oil has a really distinctive taste too. When I tasted Flo's Nigerian fried beans, cooked in plenty of palm oil, it was the first time in a long time that I tasted something so completely *new* and *different*.

Nigerian fried beans from All Nigerian Recipes

Palm oil has, to me, a green taste ( which is funny since it's bright red), green and deeply warm. It tastes the way leaves baking under the midday sun smell--and mix that smell with the smell of hot, warm earth--that dusty warm smell. That's how it tastes to me. And it has a lingering feel in the mouth, the way peanut butter does--but not quite that sticky.

Do I like it? At first it nonplussed me a little because the flavor was so unlike other oil flavors I've experienced, but I enjoyed it. And today, going back for leftovers, I felt less tentative, more enthusiastic. Tastes: BROADENED.

Here is an oil palm plantation (photo from Azran Jaffar's article on a prizewinning smallholder's plantation)

Apparently there are two types of oil to be had from the oil palm. Red palm oil, the kind I used, comes from the fruit. A golden oil comes from the kernel.
Photo source here

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: created by the ninja girl (Default)

April 2019

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