Monday, May 28, 2012

Independence Day

IMGP1884The 20th of May was the 10 year anniversary of independence for East Timor, or as they say here, “the restoration of independence.”  That’s because way back in 1975 when the Portuguese pulled out, the Timorese declared themselves as a country and even appointed a president.  Unfortunately, it only lasted a few months before the Indonesians invaded.  So 2012 is ten years on from 2002 when East Timor received official recognition from the world that they were an independent country.  East Timor was actually governed by a United Nations transitional administration from 1999 (independence vote) until 2002.  The 19th of May is actually the big day which leads up to midnight.  This is how our day went…
IMGP01045.00am I get up to prepare for our boat to go to Atauro with Rahel (a Swiss girl in WEC) who is taking a group of Timorese to the island.  It was a first time for them to do an activity like this and it was actually Rahel’s final adventure before leaving the country.  (Thanks Rahel for all you did here in TL!)

9.30am I leave to pick up Mateus to try to get to Liquidoe in the mountains behind Dili.  To do this we had to weave our way through a myriad of tiny back streets dodging police blockades put in place to clear the roads for all the dignitaries arriving from overseas for the big night.  Timorese love a party and they love blocking roads to make their party look more prestigious.  By some miracle we made it through and up the mountain and after a couple of hours driving through the usual hair raising landslides we came to Liquidoe.  (Ok, this time I was genuinely a little concerned about one particular landslide.)

11.30am Inspect the building works that Mateus is doing on his school extension program. IMGP0107 Its progressing, albeit slow and basic.  He’s all heart and making a good effort.  The bush poles which constitute his school building are now clothed in Indonesian corrugated iron and the roof is completed.  The next step is doors and mesh for windows and a simple concrete floor.  Then a simple kitchen and toilet and hopefully the place will be ready for the first students.

12pm Lunch with Pastor Delphin to discuss a building project by Castle Hill Church.  They’d contacted me to see if I could shed some light on the situation about if the pastor was happy for them to prepare to build a school building for a preschool program he is involved in.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go so positive but I gave it my best shot.  (Castle Hill – report is coming your way soon) On the upside, Pastor Delphin was building something using mud bricks made by locals.  This inspired Mateus and he is very interested in using mud bricks for his building.
OPPORTUNITY FOR ADVENTURE:  Mud brick building in East Timor
Do you have some building skills with mud bricks or know anyone who has?  We could really do with someone coming over for a few weeks to show Timorese a few skills in mud brick building.  The mud bricks could be prepared before you come and we can assist in accommodating you.  Only for the adventurous in heart (serious request!)
1.30 pm Then I helped Mateus and his staff of “Serving Our World” to hand out school packs for his students who seemed to pour out of the mountains in a continual stream.  Each pack included: a school bag (mostly pink but the boys didn’t seem worried), a box of coloured pencils, a lead pencil and an exercise book.  The kids were pretty happy.  There’s a bit of very noticeable malnutrition and stunted growth among the students which reflects the tough, dry mountain environment in which they are trying to survive.
After this, we zoomed back down the mountain to pick our way back through road blocks and finally make it home.
5.30pm We then received the tired adventurers back from Atauro and pushed the boat back up the beach.
9.30pm After dinner we launched the boat again with a small crew from Seeds of Life to cruise around to Tasi Tolu (the beach where they held the Independence Day celebrations)  We picked our way through East Timor’s small naval fleet of half a dozen boats hoping that we didn’t look like invaders and skilfully missed the reef (almost) to land on the beach.  Here we found a stack of dignitaries including the President of Indonesia and Australia’s governor general among many others. 

VIPs galore gather at midnight.                       The people enjoy live music.
The Timorese president serves five years.  Hence, after 10 years, right on midnight, they raise the Timorese flag and appoint the new president – Taur Matan Ruak. 
Flag raising ceremony               Tau Matan Ruak hugs Horta         
I think its an historic moment for East Timor with a sense that they are really moving forward and at least beginning to see a brighter future emerge out of their difficult past.  It was marked with a great display of fireworks – probably the longest lasting that I’ve ever seen.
     IMGP1907 Martin, Rob, John and I
1.00am We headed back home on the boat (avoiding all the traffic jams which was the point of going in a boat), pushed it up on shore and flopped into bed.  Thank you, Lord!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Corn Mill


I have been working with Lino and Atina in Los Palos to build up a small agriculture business.  This is mainly centred around the growing, storing and selling of corn.  On the side, Lino asked about getting a corn mill.  Its a grinding machine that breaks up the corn into crumbs (not flour) for the villagers to make a soupy, porridge type meal.  He says that people will pay about $1 to have 10kg of corn milled.  The mill itself costs $680.  I didn’t do much on the business analysis side except to ask how many people would come each day to get corn milled and I think we had it worked out.  Lino was pretty keen to get the machine and somehow I just went with it – probably because he was brave enough to try my idea of buying a silo for the corn.  Thanks to the boys in Darwin for some of the start up funds for the mill.  Its a Chinese machine with a crank handle to get it going.  The motor (blue part) is a diesel and the guy in the shop couldn’t get it going for the first hour because the pump mechanism was stuck.  He drained the oil and pulled off a side plate to make some adjustments so when the video shows the motor going we were all actually pretty relieved.  IMGP0015The motor drives a flat belt which drives the mill (yellow part).
As I couldn’t take it to Los Palos, Lino arranged to come into Dili to put it onto the back of a bus.  For Atina, it was only the third time in her life to come down into the “big smoke” of Dili.  The second time for her was at the start of this year when they came to our place for a church conference.  Although she got very sick on the bus (vomitted a few times) she really wanted to make the 8 hour journey to see Dili.  She is a few months pregnant now so this may be her last chance for a year or two.  The machine is not exceedingly heavy but there was a fork lift IMGP0054nearby so we made use of it.  They tied it up well and Lino says he got it home ok.  We also bought a set of scales – very archaic (think ancient Egypt), a shovel and a scythe for their business.  He brought us a sack of corn from the first crop for our chickens. 

Seeds of Life have researched a new white corn for the Ministry of Agriculture to release to the people.  It is about to be launched so I decided to buy some early and hope to get it to Lino to plant soon.  It will be harvested in 4 months and be ready to sell as seed for the next wet season (begins November) so we hope to get a good price for it as it will be the first season that most farmers get to plant it.  This is all part of the game of trying to guess the future market.  We’ll see how it goes.  
Some other pics…
WEC wanted to film their dance class on the beach, so they asked if they could run an extension lead from Sonrei to power the music and some spotlights.  Cynthia and the kids enjoyed watching the free concert, so did a number of young guys on their way home along the beachfront.
Cynthia Hosted the most recent homeschooling afternoon.  She had a new family come along making 10 kids all up.  Here they are creating a marble race track using found materials! What fun!
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Some sea activity…  A large army “boat” zoomed along the coast…37-IMGP0004

 17-DSCF3822And on Wed Anen, one of our neighbours ran to ask me if “they” could borrow our boat to go and fetch another neighbour, Gomez.  He had gone fishing way out at the horizon in a larger dugout with his small motor.  Apparently the motor broke down, so he had been attempting to paddle back but it was getting dark and they were worried about him.  He made it back fine.

Another load of boxes arrived through Rotary (From our home town -the Lower Clarence area of northern NSW.  The girls had fun opening all the fabric boxes and going through each and every piece to appoint its future use.  The boxes also contained a huge number of fabric inserts lovingly made by some sweet women in Oz.  Most went straight into packaging ready to be distributed.
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HIAM Health invited us to attend an important ceremony.  Ramos Horta agreed to become their patron.  It was great to see Laura and Nathalia who were both vollunteering back in 2004 when we first met HIAM Health.
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Samuel attended a Grand opening ceremony of a new Ag centre.  He took the opportunity to grab a few pics of a traditonal dance.
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Samuel also met up with a Gideons group.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Salvation Army in East Timor

Well its official … ish.  I am signing up to join The Salvation Army.  I think its about time I pull my head in and become accountable to something.   I hope that our somewhat humble operation here might serve as an inspiration to the broader Army to get into the action here.  We’ll see.  But here I am and you can expect to see the logo for The Salvation Army become more prominent as essentially the work we do here will be Salvation Army work.  I hope that this does not serve to alienate those faithful churches who have been interested and supportive of our work.  Indeed, this work has an inter-denominational support base and it certainly has a strong inter-denominational outcome in terms of the many churches and non-church groups we support here.
If you are in the Salvation Army we want to extend a special invite for you to come to East Timor.  We have a room for you here!
Since we are on the subject of church groups, here’s a list of who we’ve had something to do with in East Timor:
Catholic, Nazarene, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Assemblies of God, Potter’s House, Presbyterian, IPTL (Protestant) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (hope I haven’t missed anyone out).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Getting it out to the people

IMGP0001 (600 x 450) As I now have a full time job I need to think up a different approach to keeping our other various activities going.  So I book up a few meetings here and there.  Pastor Samuel on the motorbike has come to visit me with Lino from Los Palos.  We met for 2 nights going quite late to discuss churchy things and corny things.  There’s the progress (or lack thereof) on the Nazarene Conference Centre in Dili, Bibles, and future plans for the Church in Los Palos.  We hope to start a youth accommodation centre out there soon – we’ll probably just wait on a go ahead from the Nazarene director in Indonesia. We sketched up a rough plan for a 7.2m x 6m building to house 12 youth and a study corner.  I also discussed with him one of the latest fad words in aid work which is “sustainability”.  That is, if we build this thing and the youth come, who’s going to pay to feed them?  We discussed the possibility of work in gardens and corn fields.  It was great having Lino there.  He said he’d be happy to set up a corn field and have them work in it to earn the funds for their accommodation.  For the youth, they’d have a safe place to live while attending secondary highschool and can be a part of Pastor Samuel’s youth training program.  We also talked about the Leader’s Bible Course getting written up and I showed him a first draft of a character study session. 
Lino was there to talk corn.  I want to ramp this up and explore ways we can build up to 20 tonne storage in villages that grow lots of corn.  We kept throwing around ideas and budgeting and I’m still not sure which way we should be going.  He asked for a corn mill which costs around $700 and will allow him to mill corn for the community.  People pay $1 to get 10kg of corn milled. Apparently its a thriving business opportunity.  Heck, I haven’t tried anything new for a while so we might as well get into the corn milling business.  I also hope to send another silo out there for him and later in the year some barbed wire to fence off another hectare.  I offered a silo to another farmer but he feels he can not pay it off in two years with his family of 10 children.  It might sound mean but from experience, I think I should stick to my guns on this one.  I’d rather go in on a two year repayment plan and show grace later if he cant pay rather than go on a very loose plan of “pay it off when you can”.  What I really want to know is if the farmer believes in the idea of a silo so much that he’s will to enter in on a contract to repay it.  Any farmer out their will take  a silo for free and you cant be sure they’re going to use it for what its made for – to give them greater food security.
Pastor Samuel will go back to Los Palos with his box of 60 Bibles.  Other churches out there are asking for them.  We’ve also supplied 6 guitars to go as part of their home church network.