Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Corn Harvest

  IMGP0015  This week I went on a round trip of the eastern end of East Timor.  The first stop was Los Palos to inspect a corn crop. IMGP0032 This crop was the result of that movie we showed last year with the Darwin men.  We swung a deal with a member of the local house church.  The Darwin guys put in money for a silo and its transport.  Thats the thing that looks like a tank in the picture with their old “silo” next to it which is a beat up, rusty 44 gallon drum.  Seeds of Life donated some of their top growing corn seed and the farmer grew the corn.  Seeds of Life also gave 2 tarps for drying the corn and I put in two tarps and a hand made, hand cranked “take the kernel off the cob” machine.  They planted out 1.4 Ha of corn and have done very well.  They began harvesting soon after I left.  Its great to see this project moving.  We hope to fill the 2000L silo which should take around 1.6 tonne of grain.  About 50kg of the best seed will be kept to put in another crop.  We plan to seal up the silo and wait till October/November for the grain price to go up from 60c/kg (now) to $1/kg.  They will repay us the cost of the silo plus interest so we can buy another silo for someone else and continue the project.  Eventually the Darwin guys could get their money back and have supplied many large silos to poor farmers in this country – what a very nice investment!


Pastor Samuel eventually got his 7000L tank on the very round tank stand base which worked perfectly.  Its all hooked up to the guttering.  Now they have heaps of water for their family, their church and the veggie patch.  Thankyou very much to the Palmerston Baptist Church, NT for donating the funds for this.  

IMGP0009     Down on the south coast we gave out more tarps from Seeds of Life and inspected more corn.  One job was assisting the young Losconi group in buildIMGP0017ing a large shelter to dry their corn in.  Specifically, I was showing them how to install black builder’s plastic under the slab to stop dampness rising up.  I breathe a sigh of when I get back as the roads a pretty wild.  There are countless landslides and we passed three trucks that recently rolled off the edge resulting in a number of deaths.  The government sprinkles around a number of excavators through the mountains just to wait for the next landslide and push a way through.

The presidential election went very well and proved to be a peaceful event.  Jose Ramos Horta has been knocked out of the game, leaving two candidates – Taur Matan Ruak (former Defence Chief?) and Lu Olo (representing Fretilin) – to go onto to a second vote.  The poster encourages people to vote with the words “Respect, Law, Peace, Unity”.  We passed packed out buses and trucks taking voters home from their epic journey to vote.
I got a job!  Big surprise for us.  The position is Climate Change Advisor (stop laughing) for Seeds of Life within the Ministry of Agriculture.  We hope that we can continue to serve the people of East Timor in this new role.  It will involve scientific research in the field of climate and advising the Timorese on how to improve their crop yields and look after their land in a changing climate.  This will help us to pay off a few expected and unexpected debts and perhaps live a little (although Samuel thinks our life is quite well appointed, the rest of the family beg to differ). 
As we live by the sea, we experience the reality of occasionally losing a life to the great blue.  But this time it was not to be.  A young man who was caught out in the high seas in his rather too small dugout was thankfully found.  His little boat was towed in to a crowd of over 100 very worried locals.
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We also had the priviledge of hosting a baptism with the Potter’s House church.  (sure to send a query up a spine or two back home).  A great bunch of people who are keen to follow Jesus.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Closer to home

Hi, its Cynthia here.  Samuel is away again, but just for a few days, and I thought it may be a good time to catch you up on the Bacon family.  Samuel hasn't blogged much lately and his last one was about the election.  I’m guessing/hoping that some one may actually want to know how Israel and Serenity are going!  Not to mention a few other small details.
Soo… we had 2 weeks here  without Samuel earlier this month - which was a first for us.  Thankfully Buddy was around to guard us from any danger (although only in the day, as each night he would wriggle out the fence and go and run wild, fighting with the competition and chasing the girls around – boys!) So really he wasn't much use cause he would arrive back home around DSCF3411breakfast time and sleep the rest of the day….hmmm.     Maybe Israel was our protector after all.
Our health has been pretty good, thank God!  Serenity and I have each had a 3 day flu which is nothing compared to the dengue running riot over here.  Lots of foreigners have been sick with dengue and we heard that something like 60 Timorese kids have died from it so far this season.  Pretty sad.
While Samuel was away we met a visitor who had just arrived in Timor.  His name is Bevan and he is a wheat farmer from SA.  Last Sunday we invited him along to the home church we hosted and he will be arriving tomorrow to stay with us for a while.  Speaking of home church, Paul came.  He works for MAF and has come for a week to replace John who is  with his family in Australia.  Earlier in the morning we had heard him fly out (a perk of living next to the airport) and we had rightly assumed he was doing a medi vac.  He explained later how he had picked up a teenage girl had been very badly burnt in a house fire.  Very sad.  I guess its good that she is alive though.  Her family are with her in the hospital.  She came from Suai, which is where Sinta comes from (Sinta works at Bellekria).  So in the evening I shared the news with her and later this week we may try and visit the family and assist in some way.
When we first arrived back in Jan, an expat here asked me to find or recommend a suitable young woman to train up as a housekeeper.  I asked Sinta, who seems to know about people.  She recommended 2 girls.  One lives locally and has finished school and was keen to work hard.  So we arranged for her to start a month ago and it has been going really well for them.   The other girl lives in Suai and and is a kind of orphan with another sad story – her father (Sintas relative) brought her back to Timor from Indonesia when she was a tiny baby.  She never knew her birth mother.  Then when she was still little her father was killed in 1998.  So she was “adopted” by her dads sister.  But recently this aunt also died.  So she now lives with her aunts husband.  And he is likely to find another wife which may fare badly for this girl as generally step mums are nasty to step kids here.  Just like the stories I suppose.  Anyway so we have arranged for an expat here to pay this girls school fees, and Sinta is keen to bring her down to Dili  live with her.  Its just a matter of finding the means for Sinta to go there or send a message somehow.
Also a  couple of expats have been bringing their unwanted items to us to distribute, and I'm starting to wonder if we should actually open an opshop of sorts somewhere, like this one in Thailand.  Its an interesting idea.  But instead I sent a lot of it off with Samuel to Los Palos for Pastor Samuel & Uli to distribute there.
What else….
Homeschooling has generally been chugging along well this year,  although I've had a particularly trying few days and feel ready to throw in the sack and let them run wild. But I hear that's just a normal part of teaching, and I’m sure I’ll recover and keep onDSCF3379 going. Besides, I have to do something with them to stop them bickering all day :)
DSCF3381I hosted the Tuesday afternoon “homeschool” group, and after some brain games i got them to try and build a tower.  Yes Serenity had her hair in tiny plaits for a few weeks.  I do it as a treat about once a year.
Serenity is obsessed with Buddy and Taffy and rarely speaks about anything else… Is that normal?  I guess its better than some other obsessions.  Taffy is looking a little plump – more than halfway through her 2 month pregnancy. (well its 20 days to go apparently…) Both Serenity and Israel (ok and me) are very excited and cant wait till she gives birth to some cute little kittens.  They have made box kitten houses and play gyms and are currently making a birthing bed.  It keeps them occupied.   We had a sweet sunset a while agoDSCF3353 and then Serenity took a photo showing two planets.  DSCF3368Israel enjoyed the rope swing.DSCF3361
Now that our house is more of a home I’ve noticed that they spend less time playing with the neighbours which is a bit of a shame I suppose.  The benefit is that they come home in tears less often. They still go and play a few afternoons each week and occasionally they bring a group of them down to our front verandah and play hopscotch or draw with chalk on the concrete floor.  We haven't been swimming so much this year.  Its too cold for me.  But it has also been pretty overcast and windy, and the current “current” often seems to bring the brown water from the river.  Most of the year the current flows it away from our beach, but this time of year it switches.  Haven't seen any crocodiles or dolphins lately.
Well thats about everything I can think to write about at the moment. DSCF3400
Oh and heres a giant caterpillar! If only it made a  giant butterfly.
I am sure Samuel will have some more stories to tell later in the week when he gets back.
Thats all folks

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Presidential Campaign

If you’re outside East Timor – a presidential campaign probably means the daily press coverage on who in America will be voted in to try to be voted in to try to be the President of the United States.  Here, in East Timor, we have our own presidential campaign going on to see who will be the next president of East Timor.  And just in case you missed the news (or just in case the news thought it wasn’t important enough to mention) I’ll let you know that the vote for the President will happen on this Saturday, 17th of March.  Should the news have let you know?  Perhaps if you were in Australia it could be worth being informed about but I’m sure some latest drama about which celebrity kissed which celebrity is more important.  We had our final campaign day yesterday which meant mainly seeing Fretilin, one of the big old parties, filling up trucks with young people chanting and clanging away as they drove up and down the streets.  They spray paint their bodies in Fretilin colours and lash large Fretilin flags to small scooters and tear up and down the main drag.  Very noisy and slightly intimidating.  It was nice to see a good Timorese military presence casually strolling up the road picking up garbage to tidy the place up – nice initiative.  The Aussie troops have been steadily coming into the country to be ready for any “action”.  We had grand plans of stocking up for trouble – buying a bag of rice, filling the gerry can and discussing an escape plan.  Our general plan is to load ourselves into our boat and head for Atauro (the island).  And thats about where our preparation ends (the gerry can is still empty).  This is the first election the country has had since the crisis days after 2006.  Back then, their was a lot of bloodshed and IDP camps.  I care far more about a peaceful process than who might get in.  The general response I get from the Timorese is that the candidates are generally just interested in themselves and looking after their own family, friends and connections.  There is not a lot of hope for significant and uncorrupted progress in the country.
Some of the main candidates are (from my extremely uneducated or possibly falsely educated view):image
Jose Ramos Horta – the current president, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and well recognised leader being the man on the diplomatic front fighting for East Timorese independence.  He was shot in 2008 and nearly killed by Alfredo Reinaldo’s men who were leading a small rebellion (Alfredo was shot dead by Timorese security when he came to the President’s house).  He lives on and has created a marketing campaign for Dili as the “City of Peace” over the last few years.  He likes driving small fancy cars like Mokes.
Lu Olo (Fretilin) – Fretilin is the original political arm of the Falintil which was the army fighting for independence.  I guess they see themselves as deserving the leadership position since it was because of them that the country is free (in their view).  They stick up for the rights of the veterans who should be rewarded for their bravery.  Lu Olo won the first round of elections in 2007.  They are big, aggressive and loud and I think this works against them to some extent amongst the people.  They like to remember where they have come from but many people want to look forward to what the future holds.
Taur Matan Ruak (“Two Sharp Eyes”)– the former defence force chief, he seems to have the support of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.  I remain largely uninformed on this powerful figure.
The Original Leader – When the Portuguese left East Timor in 1975, the Timorese actually declared independence and elected a president.  A few months later the Indonesians invaded (with a nod from Australia and America) under the guise of a pre-emptive strike against a possible communist uprising – tut, tut.  Anyway, an old leader from this era is running again – that is, until he died a few days ago. 
The Minister of Justice – now this ones a lady.  She is a trained lawyer and apparently she was Alfredo Reinaldo’s mistress and the lady who was facing some sort of court action in Australia in connection with the afforementioned shooting.  (Could this really be true?)  The Ministry of Justice remains my most least liked place to visit amongst all the ministries when I have to deal with bureaucracy.
There are, I believe, another 9 candidates but I dont know about them.  I think this will be between Horta and Lu-olo.  But, being not so into politics, its a stab in the dark.  All the Timorese must go to there registered homeland.  There is no long distance voting.  So Friday is set aside to travel back home to get ready to vote.  You just put a “1” beside your choice.  A candidate must get more than 50% of votes to win.  Needless to say, this is highly unlikely for any candidate so the top two will be chosen for a rematch in a few weeks time.  Tedious business but I’m sure dragging out the event will help to simmer down emotions.