Anne Chapman: It’s the dry season

It’s the Dry season.
What does that mean? Well the trees are slowly being decimated. The cows and goats have nothing to eat at ground level so men climb and lop everyday . The foliage is food. Fortunately for me they don’t like magnolias so everyday when I walk past these beautiful, huge trees I still get to enjoy the heady perfume.

What else? Well there are heaps of ants in search of moisture. Little bitty ones, some so tiny I can hardly see them, and some bigger ones, like normal size in Melbourne. They are the worst thing about the dry season. They are so keen to get a drop of moisture that they get into the water and float on the top. I think they’re dead but they are a nuisance. We drink anty water, wash and shower with anty water, and when squatting (they’re in the toilet water as well), well….. TMI? Fortunately there are very few mozzies, and no cockroaches and a constant balmy sea breeze. I love knowing what the weather will be like every day. Its always the same. I love having summer every day.

My Bed
I still haven’t got a bed. I would like a bed especially for the rainy season when the nights are much hotter and the air is very still. I measured my locally made kapok mattress and ordered the bed in May. Unfortunately the carpenter hasn’t got any wood. If I provide the wood he can do it. John said he cut down his tree to give to the carpenter when he wanted a door made. Subsistence living. Maybe if I get a car I can bring some from Dili but in the meantime I’m glad my camp stretcher is very comfortable.

Kuda Hare (Rice planting)
I learned how to cut rice about 4 months ago and recently I had a go at planting rice. It is a really lovely thing to do, gingerly walking along the narrow tracks made by the bay walls of each padi, then sloshing about in the mud and plopping a couple of seedlings in the mud. You just have to put the seedling in, there is no real hole digging or covering up, the seedling seems to find its own way down and its so simple. It took a few minutes for me to get the right quantity of seedlings to plant in one go and the right distance between each plant as some seedlings are bigger and stronger than others so you need fewer but have a greater distance between each bundle. Anyway, it was very pleasant being with all the women chatting away, yelling at each other to bring more seedlings, being outside with the sun and the water. It is so beautiful. Many of the paddies were green as green as they were full of the seedlings. The lushness of this contrasted with the mountains behind, the sea on the other side of the road and the bright colours of all the people bending down. Picture perfect. All this is less than a km from my home sweet home. Another 4 months and it will be cutting time again.

After planting for a few hours I was invited to eat at the farmer’s place along with about 50 other workers. We sat on palm woven mats and ate in 2 shifts because of lack of plates and spoons. The good thing about helping on a farm is that you get to eat meat. It is expected that you get a good feed as your payment. See the Sacred House ceremony journal entry for the gastronomic delights of dining Timor-Leste style.

Home Life

Anne Chapman, centre back, with Palms Australia's other East Timor volunteers
I still haven’t got a car or access to the Community Centre to run my computer course. Patience. The demands on the village generator are such that it drops out every night, sometimes for hours, and about once a week there is none at all. We are relatively lucky to have electricity at all. One km up the road there is none. Dili has 24 hr power. Its time to get a solar panel or 2 and a couple of car batteries.
Apart from not being able to charge phone, camera, computer and run the printer, the other consequence of lack of power is that there is not enough strength to run sanyo (seems all pumps are made by Sanyo, so the word for pump is sanyo). I used to be able to get water from the garden tap but now I can’t. At Alfredo’s place (I live in half of one of his three houses on the one block of land, about half a hectare) we are lucky to have water. Others have to walk to a well (just like in Jack and Jill who went up the hill) in a neighbouring property and hoist up the buckets to wash, shower, fill the squat toilet receptacle to flush, water the veggies, drink, everything. We are also lucky that Alfredo has a manual pump so now every couple of days I go and do my bit of yanking the lever up and down to fill half a 44 gallon drum. Mindo who works on the property like the proverbial navvy, fills 2 x44 gal drums everyday and more. Hard yakka. And then we have to carry it. I only have to carry it about 20 metres.

Now I am on my way to Maliana to visit friends, there are about 6 volunteers up there (and virtually none in Atabae). So I am off to socialise. Then, I’ll adventure off to Atauro Island for a few days . Lucky me. here I come!

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You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. - Kahlil Gibran