Travels in Timor-Leste travel blog

Week 6 and 7 in Dili

15 – 28 August

Another trip into the district of Manatutu. It is a huge area and takes hours driving over incredibly rough roads to get anywhere. On our first day we drove for three hours and when we got to the school there were no classes. This happens a lot. The Grades 3 and 4 teachers from all the schools in this cluster were having professional development for the new curriculum. The other teachers in the school were there but no students. There is no way to communicate with the teachers in the school as there is no phone coverage or internet. Not sure how they communicate anything to the parents. If the kids say there is no school, they don’t come. We spent an hour in the professional development, handed out some forms to the teachers and left. School finishes at 12 so there was no point in trying to get to another school. We took the Director back with us too as he usually walks four hours to get to the school and another four hours at the end of the day.

Next day we drove back to the school, picking up the Director on the way, to see if any kids had turned up. No such luck, no kids no classes. We headed off to the next school on the off chance that there might be some classes happening. This one was an hour further into the mountains, over even worse roads. We were in luck. There were 11 kids in Grade 2, enough for the teacher to give a lesson. Only two kids in Grade 1 so no point in observing that lesson. School was finishing so we left, picking up the Director on our way past his school.

I have finished both days at 1pm. Not a lot to do in the town. Actually nothing. Just dusty, dry streets, the odd shop that sells a few things and not many people around. A good chance to practise my terrible Tetun. There are a lot of trucks that drive through the town, leaving dust in their wake. No one has cars and there are only some motorbikes. To get around, people catch tuk tuks (not sure what they are called in Tetun). There is no grass anywhere and people just sweep the leaves and the dust.

I join a walking group when I can on a Saturday morning. Last week, we walked up a very steep hill just outside Dili. I am now glad I packed my walking boots. A walking pole would have been a good idea too. Most of the paths were not much more than goat tracks. The view from the top was spectacular. The hills around Dili are so steep that it doesn’t take long to get to the top and look at view. On our way we passed an area which looked as if people had wrapped up their rubbish in plastic bags and hung them in trees. These were the placenta trees. Mothers wrap the placenta in a bag and hang it in the trees. It didn’t look very sacred or special though. After our walk we headed to the Nun’s bakery. A great cake shop with a café attached. A lovely way to end a three hour walk.

The travelling is not good for my back and I have been going for a massage each week. There are two Balinese men there who do a wonderful job. It is run by an Australian couple and Gaelene is also a hairdresser. (I have also had a haircut already!) I am now such a valued customer that I went in there with no money on me yesterday and Fatima said that I could pay later. I am heading there this afternoon to pay the money and have a facial. Can’t waste a visit.

This week, there was leadership training in Manatutu. The directors and leaders from all the schools in the district came into the main town of Manatutu. This was a huge undertaking for them. They shared lifts in cars and trucks as many of them don’t have cars themselves, the roads are too tough on motorbikes and it takes hours to get anywhere. One director rode his horse for five hours then got a lift for the last two hours. (I will not be going to the school that requires riding a horse!) The open trucks are a sort of public transport and people pay $2 to ride in the back standing up.

I presented one part of the training and decided to practise my Tetun. I only had one paragraph and I had checked that it was all accurate. I had a translator for the rest of my presentation but he translated the Tetun part too. I was a bit offended and have now lost all confidence in my Tetun efforts.

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