Lukas and Kristina: Lukas and Kristina ‘s CommUNITY News no. 1

Lukas and Kristina at Dili airport
Hallo from Dili! It’s now about three weeks since we arrived on an early Saturday morning flight from Darwin at 7am (2 hours behind Sydney). Approaching Dili, we saw East Timor from the plane and it looked amazing – mountainous scenery with lush tropical forests surrounded by deep blue sea! We haven’t been out of Dili yet but we can’t wait to go out to explore the mountains and rural communities.

At the airport members of the Ahisaun foundation, with whom we are working here, greeted us: Mario – Director of Ahisaun, Angelino, Alexu and Abilio. They brought us to our new home where we drank our welcoming cup of tea on the front veranda and wondered what our life would be like in Timor. It was certainly a pleasant start and immediately apparent how useful Kristina’s Indonesian would be.

Our next stop after home was to visit the young people with a disability at their Ahisaun residence in Dili. They welcomed us with big smiles, some wonderful music and song and presented us each with a tais (woven cloth). Initially some of them were a bit shy but we’ve been getting to know them better and have had opportunities to share a smile and have a few laughs together. It struck us how independent, mobile and self assured many of them are – going about their daily activities, going to school, university, practicing their music and guitar and even playing ping pong with each other. Some of them are real comedians too and have made us laugh every time we’ve met them. There’s still much for us to learn but as we improve our Tetun language skills we look forward to getting to know each of them better.

Lukas and Kristina at their house blessing
Mario has built us a small house next door to his family’s home, which works great – as we’re really close by and can have a chat or ask for help while at the same time having our own space and privacy. Mario and his family don’t seem to have much but have been very generous in providing us our basic needs. For instance, his wife, Ervina, was cooking for us in our first week to help us settle in. Our house was blessed about a week ago which was nice – we had no idea though that a number of people from the local community had been invited- lucky we cleaned up inside beforehand.

In terms of our impressions, one of the first things that we noticed when we arrived here was the high number of UN staff. They travel around in their brand-spanking-new Toyota Landcruiser Prado. They are here from many countries, including Portugal, Australia, Philippines, US, Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore. Not many people understand what they are doing and what they are for here. There are also a number of expats from different countries living here and making a business.

Kristina at the local market
As most things are imported, they can be really quite expensive here. A bar of chocolate will set you back about US$6. So please, if you come to visit at some point please remember to bring a chocolate bar. Meals where the malae(foreigners) hang out are also pricey but we’ve found some great Indonesian Warungs and local fruit and veggie markets where we can get some good value food. So far our tummies have been happy and, touch wood, we hope it stays that way.

There have been a few challenges too. A big one is the weather and environment. Dili is so hot, hot, hot and humid! Mosquitoes are the other annoyance. We are trying to make sure to do preventative stuff so we don’t get bitten and more importantly don’t get sick from it. We keep our exercise up by running around with an electric tennis racquet in hand and zapping them or catching them in our hands. I wonder if you could catch one with a chop stick? If you’ve ever tried and succeeded let us know! Our latest efforts have included installing fool proof mosquito screens so there’s one less crack for them.

Lukas enjoys a Portuguese Tart and air conditioning
We have found a few places to spoil ourselves with air-conditioning and we sometimes escape to these lucrative locations for a refresher. When we get the occasional afternoon rain, it’s really nice as it cools down and a breeze usually accompanies. Another treat that we occasionally indulge in to keep cool is downing cold crisp beer. Whether you like beer or not you’re sure to appreciate one in Dili!

In our workplace we are gradually becoming more familiar with the work of the Ahisaun foundation, its members and the organisation’s plans and priorities. We’ve been observing and having chats with different members of the governing committee – taking note and trying to get an insight into how things are done around here. We were invited to assist them with the formulation of some final project reports and development of proposals so we have taken some small steps in assisting them and working in partnership with members of their committee to develop these. Meeting with relevant organisations and establishing relationships with new people has been a big part of our work thus far.

In the forthcoming weeks we’re looking to take part in some of the Easter celebrations and then to head up into the Mountains to visit a village by the name of Haitubilico. Ahisaun is considering establishing an agricultural project there in the near future to help secure the food needs of its members and increase its sustainable income. The rainy season has made it difficult to travel on the roads but we hope to go up and visit there after Easter.

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There is both a moral and social responsibility attaching to these experiences of foreign cultures,
and if nothing awakens in our own soul, making claims and demands upon us,
calling us to change the way we live, then we have been merely parasites and invaders. - David Tacey