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!

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