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.
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.
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.
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.