Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Time flies when you’re having fun

Heck, its a week before Christmas and I’ve barely thought about that tinsley event.  I must confess that my little-uns managed a successful winging and whining campaign that led to their noble anti-plastic father buying a plastic christmas tree! (once again, shame on me).  But here we are with a plastic Christmas tree lovingly decorated in purple tinsel and silver baubles flying in the face of every eco, moral and spiritual fibre of my body.
Serenity doing time at an old prison for whinging so much about not having a Christmas tree.
Back to less shameful topics…
I had a visit from an old friend, Marty, who came to drive the whole water filter thing forward.  He roped in his Timorese friend, Gaspar, to be involved in testing and hopefully developing a strategy for getting water filters successfully into people’s houses. 
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Strangely, many Timorese in Dili have enough money and persuasion to buy filtered water for their houses.  They can actually filter their own drinking water using one of these ceramic filters.  Gaspar hopes to go to Luro to see how villagers have been using systems similar to these and what they think about it.  We think that Timorese will consider buying this product.  Gaspar may be able to set up a small business assembling filter systems and selling them.
Cynth has been working very hard helping the girls in the sewing room meet various orders before Chrissy.  One highlight was making a croc for the opening of new facilities at the Xanana Reading Room.  Xanana (TL Prime Minister) read us a crocodile story while a bunch of Timorese kids sat on cushions made by Belle Kria.  We also had the job of stretching a couple of his canvas paintings onto frames. 
Cynth and her confidence in stretching canvas
These were painted during his time in Cipinang prison in Indonesia.  (He was imprisoned for around 10 years?)  I was very nervously firing staples into Xanana’s canvas, but Cynthia was taking it all in her stride.
Back of painting:  ‘Cruel ? and life’ Xanana
Xanana, Cip(inang Prison), August, ‘94
One cool seed delivery was to Atauro.  Tobias got a job to distribute over a tonne of seed to 6 villages along the west coast of the island.  The little boat was a tad overloaded but the seas were calm. 
Loading seed into our boat in Dili.
Tobias gets the good seed to farmers on a rocky coast on the island just as the rains arrive.  (its packed in recycled water bottles).IMGP2995
They have very small cobs of corn and low yields.  In some villages they build a small house to store the corn with tin sheet wrapped around the posts to stop rats getting up and into the corn.  This becomes the family shed and stores grain, seed, fruit, legumes, timber and tools.

Corn cobs still in their husk, stored in the shed.
Seed and Jesus Comics to the island.
Going out with the kids in the late afternoon to catch dinner with a very long home made spear gun.
Timor Leste was once a Portuguese colony.  At Maubara there still remains an old prison that stopped operating in 1939.  Prisoners were sent here for crimes such as not paying taxes.  If you had no money (like most Timorese) you could kindly opt for doing forced labour which, if you disagreed could also land you in a place like this.
The cells were in the foundations, note the lower window, while the prison staff lived on top I suppose.
Soldiers barracks next to the prison.
IMGP3110  In 1925, a political prisoner, Manual Carrascalao was deported here from Portugal and tortured at the age of 24.  He ended up getting out, finding a wife, and became the manager of a successful farm up in the mountains behind this prison.  He did all sorts of cool things at this farm including coffee and vegetables and there is a fascinating round solid granite stone up there which I assume was for a flour mill.  This farm, called Fazenda Algarve, is hidden at the end of a rough road.  I found it in my search for old Portuguese weather stations because we have some old weather data from this site that is more complete than many other sites.  The farm still operates very well, is still owned by the Carrascalao family and is a testament to the skills of this entrepreneurial young man.
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The old granite mill stone lying on the ground at Fazenda Algarve – fair chance Manuel had something to do with this time-less piece of rock.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mary, John the Baptist and Chris

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Ok, I am struggling to find time to write on this blog thing.  I am getting a little exhausted.  I’ve got to find a better way to approach life.  There’s just so many cool things to do in Timor Leste.  One of the highlights was having some great friends visit us from Australia.  We got to climb the highest mountain in Timor – Mt Ramelau.
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Driving up I saw some strange hollow logs on farms.  The lid on this one is made from an old wheel barrow.  What is it?  Its a Timorese version of a grain silo, painstakingly hollowed in a special way for storing corn.  The idea is to stop rats eating the corn. 
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The town of Hatobuilico – base camp at the foot of the mountain.
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On the way up – great views of rugged country although a photo doesn’t do it justice.
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This is what hiking up a mountain with a family really looks like.  “Do we have to go any further?”
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Lunch on top with Mary and Mary’s keeper (centre back) and his little girl (far right).   They live on this desolate mountain top.  He’s not quite your Ghandi with pearls of wisdom but he’s a lot of fun for a chat.  Mary has a metal strap around her so she doesn’t fall over which is a good thing because it gets very windy up there.  Funny how a mountain top makes you feel a little bit closer to God.
Keeping with the mountain top theme, my mate Rob decided to take a group on motor bikes up into the mountains.  The track got very narrow and the mountains got very steep.  Unfortunately, Chris went off the track.  Due to the steepness, he travelled downwards about 10m before making contact with the ground again, or rather with a log which caught him on his downward flight (one of those classic cartoon scenes might help you to picture it, although nothing about it was very funny).  It also happened that the motorbike got caught on the same log which was helpful.  Due to the remoteness, God sent along a horse owned by a man named John the Baptist which was very helpful.
It took a couple of hours on horse back to get to where we could pick him up with a car.  I’ll try to put in a little video in memory of the occasion.

Chris is a great bloke who has done a lot of cool things during his 5 years or so in Timor Leste like improving the rocket stove, making our pizza oven and teaching Serenity how to play the song “Hallelujah” on the guitar.  Thanks Chris, I hope you come good and find your way back to Timor one day.
Chris on horse

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Salvo Friends


We are very thankful for a visit from 3 new friends from The Salvation Army: Commissioner Gillian from England, Major Kelvin from Australia and Captain Alberth from Indonesia.  We were able to go around and visit many people and organisations.  The plan was to get an overview of Timor-Leste and try to identify some needs.  It was a good opportunity to get to see places myself that I wouldn’t normally have reason to see.

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The new church at Sidara is looking awesome – the previous version was burnt down by a disgruntled local.


The new me, attending meetings and sipping cups of coffee – urgh!  A necessary evil I suppose, made sweeter by nice folks including Bucko from Yooralla who tossed around some pearls of wisdom.


The Australian Ambassador was also kind enough to see us after we were stripped of dangerous items like cameras and phones.


Local grocery store.


A morning visit to Christo Rei – God even provided the lamb.DSCN1902

…which we happily consumed for breakfast (just kidding, heh heh)  Here we are with Sr Carlos from the Presbyterian Church.


Hera School is humming along.


The Great Wall in the river going up to Sidara – its the dry season now, very dry.


With sweet Branca and the loo I built behind the clinic 9 years ago with a Salvo donation from Grafton Corps.  They still use it!DSCN2009

The gardens at HIAM Health malnutrition centre where they not only restore kids lives but teach parents how to grow nutritious food.  Timor-Leste currently has the highest rate of stunting in the world.


By some miracle we got to see the Bishop of Dili who gave us a warm welcome.


One of the perks was a flight to see Pastor Samuel at Los Palos.  Thanks to MAF for their assistance with this.

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Lining up the landing strip.


The very deep well dug by hand by Lino’s family in Los Palos – they still haven’t hit water.


Kelvin’s mature looks belie a rascal at heart.  Checking out the 3 wheeler used by the Nazarene Church at Los Palos.


Pastor Samuel hopes to be able to sell the white corn from the youth farm.  Stored in drums donated by MAF.


Checking instruments as I fly home – look mum, no hands!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Training Centre for Liquidoe



We’ve had a great visit from Rob and Chris a carpenter and builder from the  Gold Coast, Australia.  Rob has come a few times to Timor already and blesses us with his practical experience and caring heart.  Another plus is that he speaks Indonesia so they can operate fairly independently.  We just help to coordinate the next job, line up a few materials and they take it from there.  This time they built a training centre for the Serving Our World school at Liquidoe.  The function of this building is to provide a training room with either sewing machines or computers or both in a clean and secure environment.  A recent advance for the school was getting electricity which has made a facility like this possible. There is also a space for a school office, storeroom and cooking in the verandah out the back.  After trying to get mudbricks made up for a year by locals without success we resigned to using a stud frame plywood construction (eating up more Indonesian rainforest – o dear…)  The building went up pretty quick – within a few days. 


Rob and Chris employed around 15 locals who got an opportunity to learn a few new building skills.  I will go a one or two more times to finish electricity and lining the inside where needed.  Then we think it may be enough building for a little while in Liquidoe – its time to concentrate implementing more lessons and using the facility that they have more effectively.  A big thanks to these guys who have the courage to hop on the back of a truck and travel up into the bush with a few supplies and live rough in order to help the locals.

Our family is going great after some recent sickness.  Xakira is now crawling and cute as ever.  Her arms are bandaged with splints 24/7 now to stop her scratching an itch we think is fungal based.  Without this she would scratch until she bleeds.  So, like I said, going great.

Some other cool news:

A Tetun Terik translation of the whole New Testament was launched in West Timor.  Some people in East Timor speak this language and will benefit.

Jesus Comics are finally on there way to Timor after an 18 month campaign to get them.

Water filters have just arrived from America and more are on their way from Oz to provide clean drinking water for Timorese.

The Youth House is moving forward with the roof getting done.

We’re coming into a tight time for the small farm business in Los Palos where the group has a very short window to get registered into a new seed system before being allowed to sell their 1.7t of corn seed. 

More cook stoves are going out to villagers.

We built a pizza oven the other day so next time you come we can have some yummy pizza.