Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to Normal … ish

Whatever normal is – I think that is what we are going back to.  Things re calming down a lot.  We still take care and I’m reluctant to be travelling on the main road into Dili but things are certainly looking a lot better.  Thank God and a big thanks to all the security forces both local and international.  It has been encouraging to have a small disturbance come under control.  I think it gives hope to the nation that when things go wrong they don’t necessarily have to go really nasty.

We’ll have a lot of visitors over the next few weeks.  Nick is looking into starting a helicopter service with MAF and the Ministry of Health.  A linguistics lady is coming to see how she can learn Tetun and help here.  Cynthia’s rellies are coming which will be a big encouragement to us all.  And my good buddy, Rohan, is coming to help the Japanese start a biogas project. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An update

We went home early from work yesterday around concerns of increased trouble in the streets.  We only heard one burst of gun fire last night which was encouraging.  Unfortunately, a youth was killed in Hera by police yesterday in circumstances that could be questionable.  His body has been brought to Dili in a demonstration hoping for some sort of justice.  Fretilin is blaming the disturbance on some senior government officials comments about CNRT existing before Fretilin back in the 70’s – this does not justify the damage of vehicles and burning of houses.  We hope the police will act in a restrained way and that people will calm down.  We’ll continue to lay low.  Normal activities, like buying groceries are low on the agenda.  For those who plan to come to East Timor in the next week or two – keep in touch.

here’s an average link from Sydney Morning Herald:

on a seperate subject:  A gardener was digging the flower bed outside the Government Palace and found some human bones.  72 bodies later, and he’s still digging.  They dont yet know where the bodies came from – Indo occupation? WWII? – but they hope to bring in forensics from Australia to work it out.

Hmmm…need to end with something happy.  We stopped by this beautiful lake a few weeks ago.  Stunningly peaceful with some beautiful bird life. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Trouble in East Timor

Yesterday, CNRT, the party with the most votes decided that they wouldn’t form an alliance with Fretilin (traditionally the opposition).  Quite a number of Fretilin supporters were out on the streets last night.  There has been some gun fighting and killing.  We heard sporadic gun fire through to around 11.30 last night in our end of town.  Cars have been attacked by youths throwing rocks.  Baucau and Hera seem to have been worse. Although it is concerning it is by no means total chaos.  Children are still going to school and people are going to work.  Please pray that there would be peace here.  Pray also for the protection of individual people who might be travelling around.

We also pray for those countries, for example in the Middle East, where things are far worse at the moment.  Don’t forget those who face these issues around the world every day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Parliamentary Election

IMGP0344Last Saturday, 7th of July, Timor Leste held its Parliamentary election.  It was an important moment in East Timor’s history.  Many people were looking at this event as an indicator of the level of peace in the country.
 IMGP0337 I took an opportunity to travel around with Rob and Steve who were official election observers.  It was a sweet little overnight motorbike adventure for us on 160cc Honda megapro motorbikes. 

The track was often rough and very dusty with a number of small creek crossings. 
Steve – very happy being at the end of the pack, covered in dust

We inspected a number of voting centres and it was very encouraging to see the peaceful and happy vibe through the mountains. 
The Timorese officials who ran the election did a very professional job.  There are 65 seats available in the parliament and they are shared out according to the vote.  At this stage, CNRT (Xanana) holds the most votes, IMGP0372then Fretilin, PD (Democratic Party) and Frente (a split from Fretilin).  The question now is who will form an alliance with who to win the majority and run government.  There’s a rumour that CNRT may form an alliance with Fretilin which would be amazing (for Aussies, like Liberals and Labours together).  The process was very transparent.  You vote by stabbing the box next to your choice with a nail so you dont need to know how to read or write.  Your finger is dipped in special ink so you cant vote somewhere else.  The votes are counted at the polling booth where all the locals can see before its sent off to the city (so the folks in the city cant cheat).  Very impressive!  Now we await the final verdict on the Parliament and we hope for a calm response from the people.
IMGP0349   IMGP0400
Just to throw a little excitement into the story – a large explosive device was detonated near our place on Sunday.  It sounded much larger than a grenade.  It is the second in the last couple of weeks.  It makes the locals quite nervous.  I assume its a controlled detonation of a bomb in the river bed nearby – you might as well put a positive spin on it.
A chicken cage (left) and baskets for collecting coffee (right).  Each area has their own particular style for making these items.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Visit to Los Palos

buffolos on beach

Recently we had a chance to go out to Los Palos about 6 hours drive east of Dili.  The plan was to go and visit the Timorese Pastors, Samuel and Uli.  We had a load of things to take in a ute as well as meeting up with a truck half way in Baucau to take silos.  The whole family went so there were a number of stops to donate various unwanted fluids along the way. 

In Baucau, we stopped in at East Timor Roofing where they wanted to donate 6 small silos.  They had also made us a 2000L silo for our corn farming microfinance project with silos in truckLino.  All up it totalled 3.5 tonnes of storage capacity for the farmers.  These are high quality, airtight zincalume silos that allow indefinite grain storage.  Without good storage the corn is eaten by weevils and rats and destroyed within a few months of harvest.


     I spent a fair bit of time with Lino inspecting his field and discussing farming.  We’ve purchased some newly released white corn seed that we hope to grow and sell as seed for other farmers.  Seed for replanting can get a price of $2/kg as opposed to the usual 40c/kg for grain to eat but it takes a bit of extra work to get a good standard.  We measured his field size, altitude and location using my phone with GPS (needed in ag research) and also did a pH test.  Unfortunately it sits around pH 5 which is quite acidic.  There’s a number of things we can help Lino with including fixing the pH, improving fencing, applying cow manure, improved planting techniques, companion planting and post harvest processing and marketing.  It all takes time but we hope it will be worth it and if it works out other farmers in his group can learn from the experience. 

Samuel and Lino

His corn milling machine is installed with a special concrete base and roof and he’s writing down each day the income he earns from milling corn – usually around $2-$4 a day.  He wants to repay the loan we provided for this as quick corn mill installedas he can so he doesn’t have to worry about it.  It works very neatly because although he is 7 hours away he can give the repayments to Pastor Samuel who gets regular donor support through us.  Just remember, we live in a world here without efficiently functioning banks so this allows us to run a small regional banking facility which helps alleviate money transfer. (it all works out in my head anyway, and we just need to keep good accounts). 

There was still heaps more to do in Los Palos.  We brought a felt board set donated by the Lismore Salvation Army Corps.  You know the old sunday school deal where the teacher would tell a story and stick up felt pictures for the kids to see.  This was a massive new set with heaps of pictures and an instruction book.  Pastor Samuel and Uli can use it in church, sunday school, kids activities and the 5 house churches they look after. 

in churchSo thankyou to Lismore Salvos and if some church out there has an old (but fairly complete) set they’re not using we know plenty of folks over here who’d goo and ga at the cool pictures.

We also delivered 6 guitars for their churches.  Unfortunately the youth who could play guitars have gone to the big smoke.  So if you have a flair for strumming and would like to do a one week guitar session with the Timorese please make yourself known.

Cynthia chose a nice but simple electric sewing machine from donations from the Lower Clarence, NSW.  This was given to a widow in the church who has a big heart for helping people.  She was really struggling with her old singer sewing machine.  I went and took a look at it and she was getting all distressed about how much sewing she had to do for various folks.  Then in walks Cynthia to show her the ‘new’ sewing machine and the poor lady was brought to tears.  I wish you could have been there.  Sometimes, I wish we all weren’t so far apart and the ladies in the local towns in Australia could see just how much their gifts are appreciated over here.  Sorry I didn’t get a photo of it all but I hope to one day.  I reckon we can restore her old one so she can teach someone else but I just didn’t get time this time around.  (I have a dream of sticking an old beautiful singer treadle from Maclean on our boat and delivering it to a village on the island over the sea where they have no electricity.)youth acc land

We also had donations of clothes to deliver to the church here and I gave them some rosella seeds (but that’s another story).  Our last task was to inspect some land out the back of the church for a new building.  Pastor Samuel wants to build a small youth accommodation centre so that young people from further in the mountains can come and stay to go to school.  This will help to keep them off the street and allow Pastor Samuel to mentor them.  We put up $500 to kick off the foundations.

Finally, I just want to say that this is not supposed to be a rave to make ourselves look good.  Rather, I want to let you know what we are up to which is really an extension of many of the people who support us.  So thankyou very much and thanks to God who guides our path.

sunrise on road

God with his paints out again – sunrise on the road to Los Palos