News: Letters from Timor-Leste

Donna Furler

Donna Furler is volunteering as a Dental Associate for Bairo Pite Clinic, which serves Dili and surrounding regions, Timor-Leste.

1 November 2008
My second week has been much better, definitely no injuries. Actually for a few days there I was feeling a bit awful, but much better now. I’m settling in more and more each day. My accommodation is good, to begin with there were no mosquito screens on the windows, but one of the students put them up for me. The food is nice, however I’m just starting to feel like some dishes are quite oily. It’s ok though.

This morning I decided not to go into the clinic as it is a holiday here and not many people were working at all. I got a message at about eleven o’clock from Dr Dan and he wanted me to go in and extract a tooth. So I did. When I got there we didn’t have a key to the dental room, as Betty usually has it and she had gone to Baucau for the weekend. Dr Dan drove to her house and got the key somehow! The poor young guy was in a lot of pain, I managed to get the tooth out. My arm muscles are going to be so strong by the time I leave here!

This afternoon I went for a walk into the main area of Dili and along the beach. It is so hot, I’m wearing a hat and t/shirt but just feel so hot and got a bit burnt. Tomorrow Sister Merry, the students and I are going to the Christ statue. I am developing some good relationships where I am living, so I am enjoying it there at the moment.

Last night I went out for dinner with Leanne (doctor from Canada), Di (student) and some other people. I think I spent three days allowance in one night! I really enjoyed myself and it was good for me to get out, but know that I can’t do this all the time.

Looking forward to seeing Marg and David tonight. It is a shame that Ellie can’t come, she told me she was busy with work. I might call her now. Where I am staying they only have two rooms available, but there is one room that has just been built with a bunk bed, it is possible that Ellie could stay in there. I’ll find out.

11 November 2008
I had such a great weekend. David picked me up on Friday and we drove to Atabae. I stayed with Marg and David until this morning. It was so nice to get out of Dili and into the rural areas, so much more peaceful and relaxing. We went to the beach on Saturday and had a swim and lunch. I spent time with their health team.

On Sunday we visited Limanara, a small village in the mountains up from Atabae, I did some dental screens and it was very interesting. I saw about fifteen patients and out of the fifteen, only three had decay. Their diet is obviously pretty good, not much sugar etc. Lots of tooth wear, also probably due to their diet and lots of staining and some unusual lesions from chewing betel nut. Very different to what I see in Dili, where there is a lot of decay.

I am trying to organise to go back to Atabae this Friday with the mobile clinic from Bairo Pite. We are lacking local anaesthetic at the moment, we ordered 400 carpules this month and were given 100! So hopefully I will find out today or tomorrow whether or not I can take some with me, as I will need to confirm with Margaret tomorrow.

Donna Furler

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Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have. - Emile Chartier