Travels in Timor-Leste travel blog

Week 4 in Dili

1 – 7 August

I am on a program which is a collaboration between DFAT and the Timor Leste Ministry of Education, training Timorese teachers as mentors. Our group of International Mentors will be going into the districts with the National Mentors and Accompaniers who are all Timorese. The MoE has developed a new curriculum and our task is to train mentors and accompaniers, who live in the remote districts, to observe classes and provide feedback to teachers. Our job is made harder because we don’t speak the language and not many of the Timorese we are working with have English. My Tetun gets me where I want to go in a taxi. Not very helpful in a classroom though.

The key word here which is almost a mantra from foreigners (malae), is ‘patience’. Things happen very slowly here in Timor Leste. Snail pace. There are some concepts that are completely incomprehensible to the Timorese and explaining them is too hard. If something is set in their minds, it takes a lot to change it. This is not just this project, just about everyone I speak to says the same thing. Slowly, slowly.

The nuns have been great and the company at the Madres (the convent) has been good too as there is a constant stream of people coming and going. There is a group of young Japanese in their 20s here who are all in the health industry in some way. They are here for two years with a Japanese volunteer organisation. They are very friendly and practise their English and Tetun with us. Their Tetun is so much better than ours already. There is a nutritionist, Samiko who is an amazing cook, a prosthetic expert, a physio, a doctor and a filmmaker and they will be living in some very remote places in TL when they move out next week. We will really miss Samiko, as she has cooked up some incredible feasts on the two burner stove which is all the Madres has. I have only managed to cook an omelette in the whole time I have been here.

My little room at the Madres is very small. There is a single bed, a tiny desk and a miniature wardrobe. The bathroom has a toilet, a sink and a large bucket with a scoop. There is a shower but I don’t often use it as there is no hot water. It seems very primitive and the whole bathroom gets wet even with the bucket wash. I boil a kettle for hot water and fill up the big bucket as I find it very unsatisfactory having a cold shower. There is air con and wifi!

I am moving into a room in a large apartment soon. It will be such luxury after the Madres. I will have my own bathroom with a proper shower and hot water! It has two storeys, three bedrooms with air con, a kitchen and dining room, a balcony, a TV area and two bathrooms. The rooms are very spacious and each has a giant bed. I can’t wait to be able to spread out! I have been around to meet the other tenant, Jo, and we had a bottle of wine on the balcony that overlooks the mountains behind Dili. I fitted right in. The rent includes cleaning, electricity, filtered water and washing and ironing of clothes. Luxury! It is much cheaper than the Madres but no wifi. I think I will manage.

The apartment is above the landlord’s house. Mana Mary does all the cleaning and washing and speaks English. It is in a compound with spikes on the wall with a big gate and the husband is the local policeman, so I will be very safe. The compound is at the end of an alley way which is a bit creepy but I don’t plan to come home in the dark very often and there is enough room for taxis to go down.

Our group has just spent two days in a leadership training course. Training the directors and adjuntos from the districts. The first day started with speeches, of course. There were people from the Ministry, DFAT and other VIPs who absolutely needed to speak. The guy from the MoE spoke the longest – 20 minutes! Half way through his speech his mobile rang. He looked at it but didn’t answer, but when it rang again, he answered it. Mid speech! Had his conversation and then resumed his speech to the room. Phones ring all the time and everyone just answers the calls.

The training went on and on and there was no one to translate so we spent two days very lost in translation. At the end of the two days, there were lots of speeches to thank people. These went on and on as everyone seems to want to speak. Even the guy who sets up the equipment gave a speech. The only bonus is that we get a day off next week.

I am able to go for more walks now that I am finding out where things are and how safe it is. I walked all the way to the restaurant on the beach and met people for brunch which lasted three hours before we felt we should finally move.

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