Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First, something good – we received a shipment of donations from Australia!  Woohoo!  This is mainly a bunch of 7 sewing machines but also includes around 150 school uniform shirts from South Grafton Public School.  Thanks heaps to the school and also the Grafton Community Church who made it happen.  This actually inspired the whole thing.  We’ll tell you about the shirts later.  The sewing machines are a range of second hand jobs from around the Clarence valley in northern NSW (and a special one from Tweed Heads).  We found that the old singer sewing machines in Australia are far superior to the cheap copies we buy here in Timor which need consistent maintenance.  The shipment also included lots of old patterns to follow for the Timorese (your opshop fillers are gold here).  Also some school materials, books, a length of fibreglass, circular saw, battery drill charger and batteries (electrical spikes here killed the last one) and a tap for the kitchen sink (the one off our old farmhouse kitchen).  So we are very happy to receive your old garage shelf fillers over here.  I suppose its a shame its such a drama to shift it.  A big thanks to Cynthia’s folks who organised packing and to Rotary Australia for organising the shipping.
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Machines and skirts; Cynth with the two sewers and cloth library books; patterns
IMGP0724Here’s where we got the shipment.  It came with loads of gear packed by Rotary into two 40 foot containers.  Darryl Mills in the thick of it with the blue hat has been a long time Rotary worker.  He’s head and shoulder’s above the small Timorese and sweating like a pig in the sizzling tropics.  You can either get fried in the sun or steam cooked in the metal containers.  There would be at least 20 NGO’s waiting for goods in a very haphazard arrangement.  Darryl is a very patient man.

Second, the bad – aaah thats too boring, lets skip straight to the ugly.
The ugly – its about Triloka where I was repairing the buildings for the agriculture organisation, Seeds of Life.  Lets just say that things got too ‘unstable’ and it was time I made an exit.  I was happy to keep plugging away at it but the powers to be made a decision to move me out.  I feel like a bit of a failure that I didn’t pull it off.  But I suppose I can live to fight another day which is a relief.  The good thing is, it leaves me with more time to work with the Timorese on the mission base.  This helps them to build their skills and we’re going to get our first arrivals on the 8th, July.  So it seems that God has it all under control.  It was funny how over the last couple of weeks I was taking some big tools off the building site like a shiny new wheelbarrow and my mattress.  These came home on the roof racks in two shifts mainly as cover-ups for my bamboo smuggling racket I’ve got going on (but that's  another story).
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Me making a sweet get away with two body guards (awe…com’ on , I gotta make it sound a little dramatic)  On top is the wheel barrow tied on top of flattened bamboo wrapped in a tarp.  The idea is that the guys at the check point will be so interested in the wheel barrow they wont see the good stuff underneath.  It doubles as a good excuse to take the wheel barrow off the site without arousing too much suspicion.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cave man

Cynthia has pretty much recovered from the measles. The damage to the eyes seemed to lead on to a severe eye infection. After some coaxing (I, Samuel am a very non-hospital goer) we went off to the doctor whichIMGP0780 was a good thing because one of my many little injuries was going septic on me and my hand was starting to swell. So now we’re both on antibiotics. But we shouldn’t be getting sick for a couple of months now because the very cool Portuguese doctor we see (SDA) will be out of the country till August.
Serenity and Israel showed the kids that group knot game.
Aside from caring for Cynth, keeping the house and doing the whole sick thing (I’ll spare you all the details just in case you think all we do is be sick, which actually seems to be what most of the people do here a lot of the time, I think its a ‘developing country’ thing) ...where was I... yes, aside from sickness I’ve basically been running two main jobs – the ag station renovation at Triloka and the mission base building in Dili. The cool thing about the work at Triloka is that I have made a new friend in the head builder. He’s a very sweet bloke the same age as I with 7 kids. When he was young he found a patch of boulders at the base of the limestone cliff in the city of Baucau. The city is built along this cliff which spews out the beautiful mineral water. Anyway, he made himself a flat patch by busting up some boulders and filling holes between bigger boulders with the rubble. And since he has lived there for 15 years he’s basically claimed it for himself – terra nullis rule, I suppose. You can claim a patch of land if no one else has. I’ve been staying with him on IMGP0671 several occasions which is really sweet as they cook meals and I get to read stories to the kids and check out his caves. He’s asked if I’d give him $200 so he can get water put on so the little girls don’t have to carry water up the steep rocky slope. I talked to him about saving $20 a month for 10 months instead (I’m a cruel mean-hearted so and so aren’t I). His wife really cottoned onto this novel idea of saving up for a goal. It would be really healthy for them if they could do it this way although I do feel for them. I gave him a handful of tomato seeds which, if he grew them and sold the tomatoes, could pay for the water. I noticed that their ‘kitchen’ had no light. The picture shows the family with the kitchen behind them tucked in between two great limestone boulders.  One of the little daughters was holding a little bottle filled with kero and a wick out the top as a light for mum as she stirred the vegies over the fire. She was perched on an old empty car battery which tipped and she fell ... almost into the fire with the kero lamp, not a good look. Mum had been cooking this way for years. I walked (climbed?) down to the local shop and put together some electrical gear - $7.25 and 2 hours later she had a light in her kitchen, revolutionary! We are so rich in the west its embarrassing. I get a few bites from sleeping in their house. It was one of these bites that went septic on my hand. I will keep thinking about the water. Its not the money that’s the issue, its how to help them in an appropriate and meaningful way that will help them to grow into the future by guiding their priorities and choices.
IMGP0700This pic shows a cool Timorese house in Triloka.  The bottom half of the wall is limestone rock stuck together with red clay soil.  Above this is rusty 44 gallon drums beaten flat.  The roof is a thatch grass – the light brown section to the right has more recently been replaced.  For the ridge cap, they have lashed out and put on some roofing iron sheets held down with a couple of lengths of bamboo.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The World Health Organisation says that 700,000 children die anually of measles.  Many suffer eye complications and become blind due to poor nutrition and the compounding affects of diarrhoea often associated with measles.  Vitamin A drops can be given to help repair the eyes if given in time as well as a dose of tetracycline.  I thought measles was just one of those uncomfortable sicknesses you didn’t want to get.  You got spots and took a few days off school.  Apparently though its a big killer and its why in Australia they try to immunise babies and children from the disease.  Cynthia didn’t get immunised.  NSW Health issued a warning in March about the risk of measles especially from those who’ve recently returned from an overseas trip.  It seems as though this disease is ripping through south-east Asia at least.  For us, in Beto Tasi, it means many children and young people brought down with a terrible suffering sickness – high fever in the hot tropics, vomiting, diarrhoea, intense coughing, increased heart rate for extended periods and very sore eyes.  Basically, its something you just don’t want to get.  We thought we were safe as we watched people dropping down around us.  But 10 days ago it hit Cynthia.  She doesn’t have the biggest sort of body so she doesn’t have a lot of reserves.  IMGP0633In our family, she seems to get by with not too much sickness but this time she was hit hard.  She also has a hole in one of the valves in her heart.  For these reasons sometimes I feel bad about bringing her into a world like this.  We took a couple of the sick to a clinic in town but there was not much to be done.  Some of them made an arduous journey way up into the mountains to seek medicine from what you might call a witch doctor.  For Cynthia, it was a case of taking panadol and laying in a dark room with the fan on (while the electricity works).  Unfortunately the electricity was bad enough during this time that the villagers resurrected the old hand pump to get water.  The usual way of getting water here is from a bore with an electric pump.  We have an inverter and some car batteries for back up power for times like this to drive a fan. But of course, it was during this time that I was lending our inverter to a local micro-finance organisation to test as a battery backup to drive a computer to manage small loans for the poor.  Ooops.  Needless to say we are desperately looking forward to moving down to the new house.  We plan to install solar panels and batteries and an inverter (which I wont lend, I promise).  It also catches sea breezes, which you might think is a luxury, we see it more along the lines of an asset especially valuable in times of sickness.  Cynthia is recovering but her main complaint is very sore eyes.  The room must be almost completely blacked out and she is going a little crazy in the mind with nothing to do as she can’t use her eyes for reading or using the computer and she certainly cant go out of the house.  She’s a bit scared but I think she’s going to be ok.  I have issues with positive thinking which I am also trying to deal with. 
On a lighter note, I took the kids to a party with the theme of wheels.  All the kids had bikes to ride and last night we were oiling chains and pumping tyres in preparation for the big day.  Serenity made a cape in the sewing room from scraps as a present for the birthday boy.  Israel loved the challenge of riding around a big concrete circle with about thirty other little kids all teetering on the edge of having a mass pile up.  Dad on the sidelines was pretty worried but they did him proud and came away unscathed.