A Travellerspoint blog



Life here is settling down into some semblance of routine although after spending almost two hours yesterday trying to log on I have decided to do my computer work of a morning while there are few people around logging onto the network. Being here in Dili is quite exciting and I really enjoy my walk down to the College of a day. The elections start here on 15 Mar 12 and I have been trying to source a newspaper to read up on what has been happening so that is my challenge for today. Sao Miguel College will be closed over this period to allow those that stay to travel back to their villages and the school will be used as a voting base. I will be going to Dii Rotary this Thursday night so it will be interesting to listen to people's opinions on things.

I have met some fantastic people and it is nice to have a friend here called Jacko who is making sure I'm OK. I also met some lovely people yesterday whilst having coffee who live near the beach. One is from Texas and the other from Malaysia and they are going to call me if they have anything coming up that I may be interested in joining in.

Well it is a glorious day here today with the sun shining so I beter get out there and enjoy it.

Posted by prayer49 15:53 Archived in East Timor


Communications at its best


Well in traditional non-communication style I was suddenly logged out of my site and after almost two hours at the computer and then doing a search for my work on the site it came up with that my site no longer exists so I can't see what if any entry has come through. Anyway I saved most of my work and will copy and paste and hope it works. Each hour here is a learning experience.

As I walk down to the College where I am assisting teaching I can't help reflect how much Dili is like living in Renca, Santiago Chile back in 1982 when I was there for nine months. I remember then that pedestrian crossings were only there to decorate the streets and it was a game of dodgems to cross the street amidst motorbikes and cars. There are no lanes marked on the streets and very much a free for all as to who is bigger or faster. People hang out of the micros at what is 10c (everything here is American currency) to jump on if you can. Yes there are all families and shopping attached to one motorbike without anyone wearing helmets. I saw such a funny site yesterday with three guys sitting in the boot of a car holding their fishing lines as the car passed and wish I had my camera out in time and couldn't help but think of my nephiew Kristian who so loves his fishing doing the same thing.

Well no seatbelts here, no booze buses but just a lot of very friendly people who just love to smile at me. They are all just so great it has made the trip worthwhile already. My friend Sandi from the Timorese Dpt at the Millitary School of Languages in Victoria always used to say that and I always believed her but to actually experience it is very special. Thanks Sandi.

My accommodation is only about a 20 minute walk from my College. It is only 10c by micro as I said or $1US by taxi. It isn't worth me jumping on a micro with all the others hanging off and I'm afraid I would hurt one of them in the process as they are such a slender race they probably thought the michalin woman had just joined them. I actually enjoy the walk there and back looking at everyones smiling faces and children playing in the streets. I hate the heat and arrive looking like I have spent an hour in the gym but that is OK.

Sao Miguel College is a private Catholic School with some 3,500 students. Hard to believe that such a small colledge can put through so many students and it is even harder to believe that in some cases there are 80 students to a class and you will see by the photos how crammed they are. There is no air-conditioning, no proper sized desks, no lighting, only a chalk board for use by the teachers and thanks to Darwin and Dili Rotary the school now is looking at better sanitary conditions. The school has been built largely around rotary projects.

There are some 48 teachers employed by the founder of the College, Crisna and their wages range from $100 to $200 per month depending on their daily commitment. Teachers are required to be at the College at 0630h, students at 0730h for prayers and full time teachers finish at 1730h. Subjects at the school include religion, IT, accounting, banking, administration, civic education, correspondce, Portugese, Indonesian, TETUM, Maths, Physics, Biology, History, Economics, Georgraphy, Sport, Art, music economics, and management.

There are two headmasters one of which is of the Senior High School and the other the Headmaster of the Junior High School. There is also a Primary School. Fees range from $5 per month for Primary school, $6 for Junior High School and $8 for Seniior High School. The school started with 50 students back in 2000 and has gradually been raised through Rotary assistance and fees paid. There are also 50 girls who board due to long distance travel and they are constantly accommpanied by Rosa who lives on the premises as her mother figure. The girls all sleep in one dorm with the majority sleeping in bunk beds and the others on a mattress on the floor. They need four more bunk beds at a cost of about $110 so I think this is a good project that Gerringong Sunrise Rotary can sponsor.

The girls have all meals on the premises in a small basic dining area and their lunch diet every day is just rice. Not rice accommpanied with anything else - just rice.

Saturday was my first big day in assisting to teach. I realised how hard it is to teach such a big group of people with so much noise coming from outside the room. I had to shout to be heard and I am only glad that I had all that Army training in talking up loud and even that wasn't loud enough. My Gerringong Sunrise Rotary Colleagues know I have a pretty good voice but I felt like a mouse in such a noisy environment. I have incuded some photos of the rooms to show you how packed the rooms are.

Like Chile the college is divided into two lots of teaching sessions with the first lot of students being taught from 0730h to 1200h and the next lot coming in at 1300h to start the classes until 1700h and classes are taught six days a week, hence me going in on Saturday. It makes great use of the facility and I believed years ago that this should occur with Australian schools given the short time that all the buildings are occupied.

Sunday was a day of getting to know the area. One of the girls from the college was going to spend the day with me but when she didn't turn up at 1000h I had a feeling to call as typical with the latin american culture they really like to keep you guessing with what is happening. I decided to hop in a taxi and head to the main part of Dili near the water to have a look around and a walk. My intentions of where I wanted to go were misunderstood but that was OK. All I can say is thankgod that I speak Portuguese to get me out of things. I finally found somewhere to buy a card to recharge my phone although they wouldn't accept my american dollars as they said they were too old. Beats me when someone doesn't accept american currency so I had to produce a new note. They don't accept American dollars here that are dated between 2003 and 2009 which I can only assume that there were counterfeit dollars at that time so that is another job for my mother to go and change the dollars for me that I had asked her to bring over. I finally got my recharge card and could still not access the phone. Apparently you have to enter 100 in front of the code first. Never having had to buy pre-purchase cards I had no idea.

The living situation here is great and I have met a great guy called Jacko who is one of the helicopter pilots with TOLL. Jacko knows the ropes around here and is into walking. We were supposed to go for a long walk this afternoon but rain has set it so no walk. I went along last night to a really fantastic spot down by the water front for sundowners and it was really great to be a part of the group. What is especially nice is to be amongst people who all so really enjoy their jobs as pilots. Jacko is ex-navy and airforce so being of military background people usually hit it off if not just by the appreciation of fermeted grapes or barley. Photos of this are also included.

Today was a special day for me. When I was at the College I started talking to Antonio who is one of the three english teachers on staff. He was saying how short they are of text books and the ones that he had were battered and torn. Not ever being a person to procrastinate we found ourselves 15 minutes later at the Timor Plaza buying his much needed text books. My aunty and uncle gave me $150 prior to my departure to use it where I thought it would be necessary so Uncle Bill and Aunty Coral you are well known now in the College. I was given $40 from some wonderful guests I had stay in my accommodation in Jamberoo so the two combined paid for all the books which was absolutely fantastic. My friend David and Janelle also gave me a $100 but I am saving that for another time.

Tomorrow I have a full teaching class from 0730h to 0900h and I still have to prepare. The classes here a very long ranging from 1.30 to 2 hours in length. I have no doubt tomorrow night I will end up with laranguitis.


Tomorrow is another day and lots to do. Keep smiling all and take care.

Ba Ho Maromak

Posted by prayer49 00:12 Archived in East Timor


The Rocky Road to Dili

The trip to the airport was not easy and almost saw me taking a detour but I ended up on the plane to Darwin.

I learnt two things that may be of interest to travellers in regards to baggage. I rang Qantas to confirm information in regards to pre-paying for excess baggage and I was told that I could pre-pay $20 for 32 kilos of luggage but that I would have to contact Air North for any other excesses due to them being another carrier. I won't dwell on this but I spent an hour on the Qantas site working out how to pre-purchase for the excess luggage so in the end I rang Qantas who were on their usual extended wait times. I then rang Flightcentre who didn't know either. Flightcentre were actually very good and rang me back an hour later to let me know that in fact if you are getting a connecting fllight with another carrier you cannot purchase excess baggage on- line. Having arrived at Sydney airport I had the extra weight dispersed into different bags - ah but the 23 kilos actually had to be in one bag otherwise there were other charges included with the charge being $60 for a second bag. As I only paid $75 for the guitar in the first place it got the short shift as it wasn't worth paying $60 to bring it to Dili.

The taxi at my hotel in Darwin was on time at 0450 this morning and it took about an hour to go through the baggage and immigration process. When checking into Qantas they wanted to charge me for an extra 26 kilos and thanks to the secretary of Gerringong Sunrise Rotary (Sue) ensuring that she sent me a copy of the paperwork to say that Air North would allow10kilos gratis I had evidence of the fact. So they only charged me an extra $80 for excess luggage. (Air North initially only requested a letter on Rotary letterhead outlining the request but it ended up into forms on forms); beauracracy at iits best.

It is only a 65 minute trip from Darwin to Dili. Daryl Mills (our Rotary contact in Dili) was there to meet me as organised and drove me to my accommodation. Daryl is a real jet with what he does in organising all the projects to assist with East Timor. No doubt he has earned his gold carpet to heaven, let alone the red carpet. There was small hickup with my room when we arrived at the Lodge in that it was occupied, however I ended up coming out smiling as I ended up with a bigger room than previously now having my own kitchnette and substantial bathroom.

Daryl drove me to the College after unloading my many bags where I would be assisting the Sao Miguel College (or Saint Michael College) which is only about a seven minute drive from my accommodation. It was very fortuitous that a group from Darwin Rotary were also visiting so we had a chance to meet and discuss certain points of interest in regards to Rotary. Darwin Rotary have funded the building of much need toilets on the premises and were also checking out other support they are providing such as walking bridges up in the moutains etc. I feel the networking today was extremely valuable.

The staff at the College are all wonderful and the Timorese people are such a warming and welcoming people that it hasn't taken me long to settle in and I look forward to seeing how the next seven weeks unravel.

Stay tuned for the next iteration.

Posted by prayer49 23:45 Archived in East Timor


The Mamas and Papas are inspirational!

I've been listening to the Mamas and Papas and can't help relate so much to the song: "Make your own kind of music". You should listen to it if you need inspiration. All of us at one stage or other (or continually) have to just get out there and make our music as to the beat in our hearts. Sometimes doing your thing is the hardest thing to do but so rewarding when for five years I have wanted to travel to East Timor either as an Army Officer or to do volunteer work and suddenly it is happening and it is just like watching a flower blossoming.

I"m off to East Timor thanks to the support of Gerringong Sunrise Rotary and RAWCS as I am doing volunteer work as a Rotarian teaching English west of Dili. While my project is self funded (and can be seen at Project 40 2011-2012 at www.rawcs.com.au) I am being covered for insurance purposes by Rotary. If any of you are so inclined to assist Rotary either hands on or with donations you know that any assistance is direct and 85% of donations doesn't go into just administrative purposes. It is worth taking a look at the website.

This is also the first time I have set up a blog site so no doubt that also will be interesting for me. I have been known to step on the odd toe in the past with my directness so please don't anyone take anything personally for what I may write. If so you can tackle me when I return home and if you are 6'2 and eyes of blue I will enjoy the tackle even more.

Posted by prayer49 01:06 Archived in Australia

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