Travels in Timor-Leste travel blog

October 2016

3 Oct – 22 Oct

I am completely out of sync with my journal entries. I have not been well and my virus gave me Bell’s Palsy. I was off work for three weeks and felt like a feeble old lady. I also took time off to go to Darwin, went to the physio and spent a lot of time just relaxing. Cindy and Brit came up from the Gold Coast and we had fun shopping, eating, walking and visiting markets. I really did relax and we spent a lot of time by the pool. The Bell’s is not permanent and my face is finally getting back to normal. A bit lopsided but things are looking up. I can drink without dribbling and can eat solid food.

Last weekend, I went with some friends to a district called Maubisse. This area is south west of Dili and in mountains that are green, full of trees, coffee plantations, grass, flowers, farms and red soil. So different from my district of Manatutu – the land of rocks, dirt and dust. The road has just been cleared and made so the trip took half as long as it did a few weeks ago. The Chinese are very busy building roads here. Very fast too. Maubisse is a very pretty village and we visited a Pasada, which was an old Portuguese mansion on the highest hill with the best 360 degree views. It is being renovated and will soon be a great place to stay. There are many guest houses in the village and look very inviting.

We had been invited to a flower show. Vicky’s two Timorese friends have a project in Maubisse – a school for local children, 5 acres of flowers, fruit trees and food and a restaurant. All very wonderful, sustainable and community centred. Their plan is to educate the community and show everyone what can be done. There were roses and so many other flowers that would you would see growing in Melbourne! The temperature in Maubisse was pleasant – no humidity and there was a cool breeze. Not like Dili which is getter hotter and steamier by the day.

The event started with speeches of course. We were seated behind the US ambassador, three dignitaries from the community, the owners, Bella and Iram, and a Timorese man who was very friendly and introduced himself to us. He was very interested in the Australians and we discovered that he has a home in Greensborough and his family lives there. His mother lives in Bundoora. We were neighbours! When the speeches started he went up first – this indicated that he was a very important man. Turned out he is the Minister for Tourism!!! We had selfies taken later.

There was a local band that played all day. They were fantastic – very Portuguese. The local children sang and danced, both traditional and modern. Then we had a huge spread for lunch which had been prepared by the locals, led by Iram who is a wonderful cook. There were strawberries for dessert.

On our way home we stopped at another inspiring project in Aileu. The Montanha project. This is an art collective run by a Brazilian group. They work with the community and teach art and craft, cooking, hygiene and health to adults and children. One room was complete with dental equipment, a wonderful dentist’s chair and all the tools. Dentists come in regularly to check the children’s teeth. The group sells their art work in Australia and in Dili. The women crochet some incredible rugs and toys, the children create papier mache dolls, plates and fridge magnets. It is a very professional organisation. Of course we bought a lot of their stuff. There is a proper retail shop and a wonderful restaurant and café. The artist who was on duty showed us around while our carrot cake was being cooked.

I went back to work on Monday and agreed to a trip to Manatutu on Tuesday. We only went out for the day to visit schools that are on reasonable roads. I spent a lot of time driving and not much time in schools. There were local exams for Year 9s and the secondary school used the Grade 1 and 2 teachers to invigilate. No one covers the lower classes so the kids don’t have to come to school. Not sure why the Grade 3 and 4s weren’t in class or why the Year 9 teachers could not take the primary classes. I don’t get a response when I ask questions they don’t really want to answer, or can’t answer.

We drove to the next school. A small school with only primary classes only 45 minutes away from the secondary school. Word had got out that grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the main school did not have to attend so there was not one student in this little school at all! We tried another school. A two teacher school and the coordinator was absent. The female teacher who is a volunteer was there with all the students. Not sure why but there were only eight in her class and very few in the class next door without a teacher at all. We observed the class and then went back to Dili. I can’t say we had any effect on anything that day. We can’t do anything about the chronic absenteeism that occurs on a daily basis. The national exams for Grade 5 are scheduled for next week. This is why I have chosen this week to go to Bali.

I am in Bali for two weeks from Sunday. I won’t be giving an update for these two weeks. I can tell you all know that I will be spending time shopping, eating out, having massages, relaxing by the pool, walking and generally indulging myself.

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