VIPs and Medevacs

For pilots in Timor-Leste who fly two GA8 Airvans, their passengers are often medevac patients. Transporting seriously ill or injured local Timorese people who live in remote places of the country, where air transportation is needed to help them reach the National Hospital in Dili, where their chances of survival is significantly greater, than in rural clinics. For these pilots, this is a “normal” day in the office for them, pregnant women, accident victims and people suffering the effects of a stroke, are their “frequent flyers.”

The MAF aircraft are also available for charters by other groups and are often chartered by aid organisations and the Timorese government to assist them in their work. Transportation by road in Timor-Leste can be a time consuming and often dangerous activity, with mountainous roads being effected by landslips. Travelling by air is quicker and also safer than road travel.

The 20th of June was an unusual day for the MAF Timor-Leste pilots. Due to the ceremonial opening of the new airstrip in Suai, on the southern coast of Timor-Leste, a number of bookings had been made for the MAF aircraft. Jason Job, pilot, had an early start to the day as he flew to Maliana in VH-MQO, a town south west of Dili. His passenger was Bishop Don Norberto do Amaral, the Bishop of the Maliana region and several members of his staff. A little while later, Pilot Jonathan Lowe, was airborne in the second aircraft, VH-MTX heading for Suai. His passengers included Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo, the current Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and several other government officials.

The new airport in Suai has been under construction for several years and includes a new sealed runway, a terminal building, control tower, hangar facilities for five large helicopters and fire fighting facilities.Throughout the redevelopment of the new airport, the officials have ensured that at least part of the runway has been useable at all times for medevac purposes. This meant that the workmen worked on half the airstrip at a time, to allow enough width and length for the MAF aircraft to land and take off when emergency medical evacuation flights were needed. A simple phone call to airport management would ensure that all bulldozers and other machinery were off the landing strip, before the plane arrived. On average, MAF aircraft fly into Suai airport, seven times each month.

The celebration for the official opening of the new airport was very elaborate, with Timor-Leste’s newly elected President, Francisco Guterres, and many other government ministers and local officials in attendance. The airport has been named Xanana Gusmao International Airport, after Xanana Gusmao, former President and Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.

Pilot Jason Job, joined the crowds of people, in celebration, while he waited for his passengers to be ready to return to Maliana. He found himself being escorted to the front of one of the lines of people waiting to access the tables of banquet style food that surrounded the area. Feeling embarrassed to be singled out, his face must have shown his reluctance, but a comment from an unknown voice in the crowd boosted his confidence. “Don’t worry about it,” the unknown voice called out, “you help save lives every year…” The recognition of MAF and their role in helping people reach medical services was encouraging in that moment of feeling on the spot in a crowd of important guests.

Meanwhile, in Dili, Jonathan Lowe was in fact completing a medevac flight. Jonathan had been scheduled to fly another group of people to Suai for the opening ceremony, when a medevac flight was required from nearby Atauro island. He delayed this charter flight, completing the fifteen minute flight to Atauro, where he transported a young man to Dili for greater hospital care at the National Hospital. After this he was able to continue to complete his schedule flights for the day, which included flying the Prime Minister back to Dili, then returning to Suai to collect another group of guests.

This was not an average day of flying in Timor-Leste, but the 20th of June was one that stands out in our memory. Our MAF staff do serve the poor, the ill and isolated by providing a safe and quicker method of transportation to help them reach the National Hospital when they need it. These flights do help to save many lives each year. But MAF’s role in Timor-Leste also often includes transporting government officials, ambassadors and even the leaders of the nations. And sometimes, like on the 20th of June, they do both in one day!

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Countdown

In church last week Sam made a list of things he likes best about Australia. Here’s his list….
Family
Real lego
Treetops (The MAF Guest house in Cairns)
McDonalds
No school

His list of favorite things about Timor…
Oliver (our next door neighbour and his buddy at school)
Ms Esther (his teacher from last year, who also attends the same church as us)
Cute babies
Being able to speak Tetun
School

Sam and I were discussing today how we are now on the downside of the mountain. His school term is more than halfway over and in a little over a month we will be on our way back to the land of Oz. Sam’s countdown is motivated partly by how many weeks he has left to earn money to buy “real Lego” when he is in Australia. My countdown is driven by my to do list that seems to be growing as i keep remembering other things i need to do before heading south.

So i fell into the whirlpool of guilt as i realised this week that i hadn’t written a blog in two months. I have written newsletters and MAF articles and updates and Hera plans and homeschool plans… but no blogs! Sorry!

Life has been busy but we have also felt like we were in limbo land awaiting the decision about whether Jason would get the new job or not. So now the decision has been made and plans can be concreted in, so it is time for the green light when to do lists can be actioned… items can be added and removed, several times each day.

Today was the day for booking in church speaking appointments! I also managed to do some online xmas shopping, don’t you love it when you have an idea and go to the online store to look around, only to find it has 50%! Another job done! I made shopping lists for his class teachers and upcoming birthdays here in Timor, forced Sam to try on winter clothes to see if they still fit, did a few emails with my MAF Timor-Leste Communications Officer hat on and answered a few emails. We have also arranged flights for Sam and i back to Victoria.

Yesterday Jason spent all day sitting in Oecusse, a part of Timor-Leste that is surrounded by Indonesian territory, while his passengers were working there. While he waited he was able to start constructing our photo book to bring home with us. I have to do lists for him to do too… when he’s not flying and doing his real job that is! But some things he is just so much better at than me!

So as of this afternoon, my to do list looks like this….

Plan Hera lessons for September – December (in English then translate to Tetun), collect resources for lessons and assemble into kits for the Timorese staff to follow.

Email families and individuals about catching up while we are home

Decide on thank you presents, order them, and collect them

Finalise the lists for thank you presents and Christmas cards

Order Christmas cards…. this week. Another thing that is 50% off at the moment.

Finish planning homeschool for Sam for Term 4. We will be in Australia for all of the term for Sam so it is time for Mummy to be teacher again.

Figure out what we will do for advent this year. Every year we try to do something for advent in December. This year we will be on the move so my usual traditions don’t really work. Time to rethink.

Pack up parts of our house. Friends will be staying in our house while we are away so they need some room to move.

I have done a stocktake of Sam’s and my clothes, so i know what we have and what we need to buy while back in Australia. Now it’s Jason’s turn. I also have a big bag of clothes that no longer fit to donate somewhere. There is nothing worse than standing in a department store in Australia, in culture shock and totally overwhelmed, trying to remember how many tshirts, bras or pairs of socks you actually own in Dili!

Stocktake the medical supplies.

Book in appointments – dentist, optometrist, doctor, physio etc

What photos do we need to print for displays?

What are we going to say? Time to write presentations! Design the Powerpoints! Print them out.

Where are we sleeping each night? Make plans for accommodation.

– Say goodbyes to friends who won’t be here in Dili when we return in January.

Design and arrange a new prayer card. Oh, yeah, oops… take a new photo for the prayer card first! Oops, get hair cuts first this time! Not like the last one! Better book that in!

And so on it goes…. and just as i am writing this i thought of something else to do add to my to do list! It keeps on growing.

So when missionaries write in their newsletter asking for prayer as they prepare to come back to Australia for furlough… these are the sorts of things they are doing! It’s huge and overwhelming and a crazy busy time, and sometimes i wish i could snap my fingers and have it all done. Because the reality is we love coming home. We love sharing about what we do here in Timor-Leste. We love visiting people who have been praying for us and supporting us. We love being back in the normality of Australia (for Jason and I anyway…. Australia is still a novelty for Sam!) But coming home does require a lot of work.

And just in case you are wondering about the time frame, aren’t we coming to Australia in November? Sam and I are heading to Australia earlier than Jason to have some extra family time during October. Jason will continue on in Dili, then head to Cairns for meetings before joining us in Melbourne at the end of October. November is visiting month! Then we are having a two week holiday / tenth anniversary trip just the three of us, before spending Christmas with our families and then heading back to Timor in early January.

Okay, time to get back to it….. See you soon…..

Generosity

About a year ago, our family was staying at a hotel on an island opposite Dili, for a weekend away with friends. As we waited for lunch one day i started chatting to another lady in the line. We discussed why we were in Timor, what we did and spoke for some time about the centre at Hera and my involvement there. She took my email address and began to talk about ways that she could help us.

Several months later, two boxes of goods arrived in Dili for us to use at Liman Hamutuk in Hera. As we’ve used the items, I have been trying to remember to take photos to show the enjoyment the students have had with the items. Have a look!

Through the web of connections that you make when you live in a place like this, we came in contact with a group called Timor Containers. They bring shipping containers full of goods from Australia to Timor-Leste for the use of charities and other not for profit organisations. Many of these items have been donated from schools in Australia. We were given several boxes of goods that we have been able to use in Hera and in our MAF care packages for patients who fly on our planes. Other goods we have passed on to organisations who are setting up preschools in remote areas of Timor-Leste where the children have no access to early childhood education. Jason and i travelled an hour and half out of Dili, straight up the mountain to a place called FatuMasi to deliver some of these goods to a preschool associated with our church in Dili.

Another donation, came to us a box of wooden trucks and cars, all handmade by a group in Australia. Each item was wrapped to be a Christmas gift for a Timorese child. Somewhere in Australia, people are making these precious toys and our students at Hera are loving them.

Because of the generosity of strangers and some of our friends here in Dili, we have set up a toy library with our students at Liman Hamutuk. This was a new idea for the families and initially many families resisted the idea of borrowing a toy, for fear it would get lost, damaged or broken. Other expats warned us that the items may not be returned, but we were willing to try. We explained, with lots of charades and acting, while some translated in Tetun, how the borrowing system worked, how you needed to care for the items, but emphasised that we understood that sometimes something would break or get lost. They just needed to tell us about it. Please don’t stop coming because of a toy. Friends with children have given us items as they left the country. Other organisations in Dili have passed on items that are not being used anymore. Six months in the students are loving having toys to borrow and play with at home. Yes the toys are getting beaten up and dirty, but that means they are being used! And with more donations, we can replace the items that are damaged or unusable.

Some of these donors we know, so we can pass on our thanks easily. Others, like the donors who put together the boxes which are shipped to Timor by Timor Containers or Rotary Australia, we may never know who they are. But we are so thankful for your generosity and the way your gifts are helping our friends in Timor-Leste learn and grow.

Thank you!

Why do I do it?

Recently I was asked why i volunteer in a disability centre, when i could be working full time… Here’s why I do what i do!

Sitting with a young Timorese woman as she “read” her first book recently. Looking at the words and pictures to decipher what each word meant. Following the repetitive pattern with each page, her excitement grew as she realised she could recognise words and know what they said by looking at the photographs. She was beaming by the end of the book.

Another young woman, who created these Tetun books for a school project. She spent hours combining photos and text to create easy reading books for our students at Liman Hamutuk. Her books are the students favorites, especially the one which has photos of them inside.

A young girl, who when we began volunteering at Hera, was reluctant to sit at the desk and complete any sort of task. As her confidence in us grew, she became more and more focused on completing a task. She used her sign language to communicate with us and then one day, verbally whispered a reply to a question i asked her. This was the first time i had ever speak. Her confidence continues to grow and she has now attends the local school several days each week. Something she did not want to do previously.

A mother of two sons, one of whom has cerebral palsy, has learnt to write her own name and the names of her sons, through the lessons we have taught.

The toy library we started late last year was a new idea to all of the Liman Hamutuk families. But we wanted a way to use the donations we were being given, while encouraging more literacy, numeracy and pretend play to happen at home during the week. Many expats not connected to the centre expressed concern about whether such an idea would even work, but we tried anyway! Six months into our experiment, we’ve had a few jigsaw puzzle pieces disappear, but the students who come regularly eagerly return their toy bag and borrow something new each week without significant loss or damage.

A young boy with cerebral palsy unable to speak, frowning at me in disappointment because i don’t know what the sign is for a particular item in the book he is pointing to. He is so eager to learn.

A little boy, probably about two or three years of age, so malnourished that he cannot hold up his head properly, smiles at me in recognition. Because after several weeks of coming to the centre for special enriched porridge, he has the energy to interact with and remember me.

Students who finished their work early, go to the bookshelves and start reading books. They know that we have book time before lunch and after their work is done. The routines we have been working so hard to develop are making a difference. Enjoying books is a start in the road to literacy!

Because it’s fun to know that in Timor-Leste cows don’t say Mooooo they say Ahhhhhh!

Agape Bible Baptist Church

This year we have started attending a new church, Agape Bible Baptist Church. Sam’s teacher last year, introduced us to her parents one evening when we bumped into them eating out at a restaurant. Her parents, missionaries from the Philippines pastor this church and run a school for deaf people that they also established. Church services are conducted in a combination of English, Tetun, Bahasa, Taglog and sign language. We love singing well known hymns in both English and Tetun. The church attendees are local Timorese, the students from the deaf school and their families, other expat Filipino believers, us and our next door neighbours, another Australian family.

On Mother’s Day each of the mothers had to go up the front and one by one introduce ourselves, and how many children we had, in tetun. I found this a little daunting as I was early on in the line and hadn’t had too much time to think through how to say it best in tetun, but I muddled my way through and I think it made sense.

Last Saturday, the church had a combined school and church fellowship day of sports and fun. We also found out later that it was also the Pastors 36th Wedding Anniversary. It was a public holiday in Timor-Leste, a day that celebrates the Restoration of their Independence, and the nation also inducted their 6th President that day, so it was a great day of celebrating across the nation. We arrived a little late not really knowing what to expect, but everyone was divided up into teams to participate in sports games like giant exercise ball volleyball, Poison ball, tug-of-war and basketball. We watched games and enjoyed the fun of competing together. It is always challenging at church, and in this situation to know who are the hearing people, and who are not. So you find yourself speaking to someone who cannot hear you, or signing to someone you could have spoken to.

Everyone has Timor-Leste flag fake tattoos on to celebrate the day. Luckily they come off easily!

Sam joined in some of the games for the littler kids, after being a bit shy about being the only non Asian kid there.

Jason’s strength was needed in the tug-of-war and so he and Sam got adopted into the blue team to participate. He even has the blisters to prove it!

Before lunch, Jason was asked to bless the food and was handed the megaphone so the hearing people could hear him. But as he bowed his head and closed his eyes to pray realised everyone else had their eyes open, to watch the signing of his words. Lunch was a yummy combination of marinated chicken, noodles and rice. There were even some freshly made spring rolls some of the Filipino women had made.

At church on Sunday, we were surprised at how many more faces we recognised, after the sports day the day before. Every time I get to know a new group of people, I am always surprised at how long it takes to become familiar with people, and get to know them well. I had wanted to finger spell my name to someone the previous day, but I know my sign alphabet up to the letter L, as that is as far as we have gotten in studying a letter each week at the disability centre where I volunteer. Thankfully someone was able to show me how to make a letter M and so I was able to introduce myself to several of the young women who attend the deaf school. Sam was very excited to learn how to sign his name as well. Meanwhile elsewhere at church, Jason was getting someone to show him how to finger-spell his name and to say “nice to meet you”. So we all learnt that lesson yesterday!

From teaching at Hera, I can sign a lot of the animals, colours, numbers and some other words we use in song lyrics, like God is so good, Jesus loves me and the Wheels on the bus. But I need to keep learning more. Watching the translators sign during church helps a lot, especially the welcoming song which they sing every week. We know many of those signs now.

Something else, both Jason and I commented on yesterday was how much of the Tetun parts of the service we seemed to be understanding. Suddenly I realised instead of just understanding words, I found myself being able to understand whole phrases and sentences. The speed at which they speak, I’m sure is part of my challenge at understanding what is being said, but it was exciting to notice a development in my comprehension of what is being said around me.

I think part of what I love about this church and the school for the deaf, is the love that is evident for the deaf students and their families. Like elsewhere in the world, including in Australia, people with disabilities aren’t always treated well here. Just this week, we became aware of the distressing situation in which one of our students at Hera is having to live. The details are heart wrenching and left me so sad and heart broken for this young woman, who just a year ago had a joy and carefree manner about her. Now she is so very different. So I love being part of a church body, who actively cares for these deaf students and their families, giving them a Christian education but also by helping them to find jobs, save their money and to be independant men and women.

Grateful

Gratefulness

Sometimes you just have to stop and be thankful…. for the big and small…. after our week away to rest, recover and get new visas…

Grateful for a week away

Grateful for a week to swim, rest, eat out, high speed internet

Grateful that the hotel staff fixed the toilet seat that pinched every time you sat on it the day before we got tummy troubles

Grateful for the beauty that comes with greenery, leaves and tropical plants

Grateful that when we send out a request for prayer, people pray for us and with us.

Grateful for friends who understand this life we’re living and encourage us

Grateful for time with my family

Grateful for super good air conditioning, a comfortable bed and bargain prices

Grateful for friends who invite you over for dinner after a day of traveling

Grateful for believing friends for Sam who share Colin CDs and you hear them sitting in his room singing Sunday School songs as they build Lego

Grateful for our financial support statement that just arrived as i was typing this. Money given by people to support us and to partner with God’s work here

Grateful for people who taught me, mentored me, befriended me, were taught by me, colleagues, friends, people we have never even met and others who financially support us.

Grateful for Sam’s school and his teachers. For a school library, sports teachers and music teachers who he loves, and a canteen for special treats on tough days.

Grateful that we can get our house rewired this week.

Grateful that even though the power went off again while we were away last week, the mess and food to be thrown out is minimal this time. Grateful that i left my medication that needs refrigeration with a friend and not in our fridge on this trip.

Grateful for a landlord and colleagues who kept an eye on our house while we were away.

Kazamentu 3

After a restful afternoon, Sam was set up watching Mr Bean with Emily, our super babysitter, and eating Burger King for dinner. While the invitation said the evening began at 6pm we were doubtful that things would begin at that time, we thought we clued in well enough to Timorese culture to know that much. But just what would be the best time to arrive, well, we just weren’t sure. I was a little anxious that we would somehow get it wrong, but with nothing to guide us, we just guessed. We left home about half past six, to pick up our Timorese MAF colleague, Aldo, his wife Julia and three month old son Achilles from their home. They didn’t want to ride late at night on the motorbike, so we offered to be their taxi. On our way, we received a phone call from our MAF colleague to say the groom had called him to say we needed to be at the reception venue by 7.15 and seated by 7.30 for things to start. Again the groom was looking out for us and making sure we knew what to do. Feeling good that we had judged the timing correctly, we collected our friends and arrived at the venue at about 7.

 

There were many people already there, so we went inside, signed the visitor’s book, were given a glass memento and gave the people there our envelope with money, in lieu of a gift. An usher then showed us into a large ballroom and indicated that we should sit in the front row of a bank of about80 seats. The centre of the room had a carpeted walkway, a large table with a huge wedding cake, surrounded by champagne bottles, with more walkway, leading to a stage ornately decorated  and with some chairs spaced along the area. In one area was a band, food tables were around the room, some with main course type foods, other with desserts. And there we sat.We people watched (the dresses, high heel shoes and hairstyles were quite amazing), we played with baby Achilles, i struggled with my Tetun knowledge trying to chat with Julia, we made faces at Achilles making him smile and waited. The two other couples of MAF staff arrived and we sat and waited some more. Took photos. Looked at photos on our phones and cameras. People watched. Chatted. Jason and Aldo passed the time by trying to guess when the dinner would start.  People continued to arrive in groups. Until most of the seats were filled, at an estimate we guessed there was about 700 people in attendance.

 

 

It was about 8.30 when the bride and groom arrived. Just like in weddings in Australia, the important family members and guests were introduced as they entered. I couldn’t understand most of what the MC was saying, but he had the audience in fits of laughter often. The official part of the evening began with speeches, cutting the wedding cake, surrounded by special guests popping champagne bottles and the bridal waltz. Everywhere the couple went they were followed by people videoing and photographing the special moments on phones, cameras and notebooks. One little girl of about 7 or 8 stood with her IPAD like device videoing the whole bridal waltz from about a metre away, her little face totally captivated by what she was seeing and perhaps dreaming of the day she would get to do the same thing.

After grace, at a little after 9pm, it was time for dinner. As the foreigners in the front row we were told to go first, an honour i felt reluctant to take up, but i was really hungry, so the need for food forced me to obey. A buffet table bursting with pork, chicken, meatballs, fish, vegetables and various unknown items sat before us. The pork, pulled off the whole pig with head still intact and looking at you, was beautifully cooked. I wanted more! We ate and chatted with the people in the row behind us who wanted to know who were and why we were at the wedding, in Dili and where we we were from. A trip to the bathroom was an adventure, weaving through groups of people, through the kitchen where food was being prepared to the outdoor bathrooms. I couldn’t help but notice ladies sitting on the ground surrounded by dirty plates, scraping scraps into buckets and beginning the process of washing perhaps over 700 plates. I hoped they didn’t have to do it by hand, but at the same time knowing that jobs are difficult to find in Dili. It seemed in stark contrast to the glamour and party atmosphere inside the ballroom.

Then it was time for the dancing. We had been told that it was rude to leave before the first dance and we found this to be true. The floor became packed with dancing couples. I stole baby Achilles and sent Aldo and Julia out onto the floor. I remember life with a newborn, so Jason and i entertained baby Achilles, with many odd looks from passersby, while his parents enjoyed a dance. We noticed people lining up at the stage and realised to say goodbye you needed to go to the stage and greet and thank each person there. It took some coordination to climb over the flower arrangements in high heels, but we greeted each person, thanking them for allowing us to celebrate with them and experience our first ever Timorese wedding.

Kazamentu 2

So the day had arrived! Today Julito and Nindi were getting married, and we were their invited guests. We took time to make ourselves look as dressy as we could. Filled the small handbag instead of my usual big one, with tissues, a fan and a few other odds and ends and off we went. We dropped Sam off at his birthday party and headed off to the Cathedral near the port. A beautiful stone building we have driven past many times but never visited. As we arrived, we found the groom and his family posing for photographs under the trees while guests mingled in the church yard. Beautiful singing came from the choir inside the church, as there was already a wedding in progress, before the one we were invited to. It was a relief to realise your standard of dress fit with everyone else. We did stand out as the only foreignors or malae in attendance, and we were honoured that the groom came to have photos taken with us, and also to let us know when we should go into the church. Not sure exactly where to sit, do sides of the church matter in Timor-Leste? We weren’t sure, so we picked an aisle and created the row of foreigners.

 

 

An order of service was given to us, which made the service a little easier to follow. But in downsizing my handbag i had left my Tetun dictionary at home, which was frustrating. It was interesting to see the women family members of the bride and groom wearing the same colours and fabrics, but different styles of dresses. Both parents escorted their child down the aisle, followed by girls containing baskets of food and statues.

 

Words cannot describe just how beautiful the choir was. Seated not far from us in an alcove off the main church, the sound of their singing was magnificent and gave goosebumps. As the service progressed it was interesting to hear little bits of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Sister Acts “I will follow him” sneaking into the music in between the more traditional hymns and Ave Maria.

We followed the lead of those around us, reading, praying, kneeling and standing. Lots of careful observation is an important skill in cross cultural life, but certainly during a different style of church service. Jason tried following the lead by laughing with everyone else during parts of the sermon that were apparently funny, even though he had no idea what was being said.

It was hot in the church, and again due to my handbag downsizing,I didn’t have my usual water bottle. Thankfully my friend Deborah had two, which helped to ease the dizziness from the heat and lingering sickness. The poor priests at the front of the church seemed to be feeling the heat too, wearing traditional church robes and performing their second wedding service for the day, they looked ready to drop at some moments. And making much use of their handkerchiefs.

 

The service ended and a list of photos to be taken began to be progressed through starting with family and other official guests. We followed the lead of others and made our way from the church. Noticing the time, it was almost time to collect Sam from his birthday party, so home we went. Yes we were the severely overdressed parents at the birthday party pick up. At home we revelled in the air conditioning and had a long nap, rebuilding our strength for the evening part of the wedding.

Kazamentu – Part 1

More than a year has passed of our life here in Timor Leste. We have learnt to do many things in settling into our new home. We can communicate what we want or need, most of the time. We know where to go to buy what we need, most of the time. We are getting used to heat and bugs. We’ve experienced most of the public holidays and know what to expect, sort of. As we spend time with newly arrived friends and we realise anew just how much we have learnt, experienced and become aware of in the past year.

And then it happens…. an unforeseen moment, that throws you back to the beginning of all cultural learning and makes you feel like an expatriate baby all over again…. you are invited to a wedding! What an honour and a privilege to be invited to help celebrate this important day, but as i sat with my Swiss friend and fellow invitee to the wedding, we began to wonder….

What do we wear?
The invitation says no kids to the dinner, can we take Sam to the church? Do we wear the same outfit to the church and evening celebration?
The invitation says no presents, rather an envelope with money, how much do we include?
The invitation says 10 am and 6pm for starting times of the various ceremonies. Do we really go at those times? Or if we go then will we be the only ones there for an hour or so?
Do the guys need ties? Are jeans okay or should we buy them trousers?
My good dress is black, can i wear black to a we
dding in a country where black is saved mainly for mourning?
I need shoes. I can’t wear sandals or thongs. Where do i buy shoes?
How do we rsvp?
My dress doesn’t have sleeves, is that okay to wear in a Catholic Church here?
How long will it go for?
Do we go home in between ceremonies or are we there all day?
Where is the church mentioned on the invitation?
Where is that reception centre?

So the following week was spent in consultation with our friends more experienced in Timorese culture and weddings than we are. We asked these same questions again and again, receiving slightly different answers, but some clear enough guidelines to follow, so that hopefully we won’t cause too much embarrassment to ourselves or our generous hosts. And with everyone we asked, there was always the disclaimer, “Don’t worry, if you do something wrong, people will understand because you are “malae” or a foreigner!”

The next step after all our questions and answers was to make sure we had everything needed for the event itself… time to go shopping! I mentioned before that in adapting to life in Dili we have learnt where to go to buy what we need… most of the time. But shopping for wedding clothes, shoes and accessories was new territory for us, we needed more advice, this time about where to go shopping. More questions were asked of our wise friends and numerous shopping trips were undertaken between the three MAF families. Lucky for us Jason and I are the same height as our Timorese friends, so i didn’t think it would be too difficult to purchase trousers for Jason in the local market.

On a Saturday afternoon, my newly arrived friend from Australia attacked the market for plants for her garden and clothes for Jason, with four children tagging along. The adventure of hunting for treasure in tarpaulin covered stalls is fun for awhile, you do feel a little like Ali Baba in his caves of loot, until the sweat starts building and before you realise it your look and feel like someone has thrown a bucket of water over you. You are wet through, skirt, underwear, shirt and hair are dripping. Eeeeghhhh! Such a gross feeling! But the treasure is found after a little hunting, two shirts and two pairs of trousers for $16. The risk of these clothes not fitting was high, as most had no size labels attached, or used a system of sizing unfamiliar to me. But thankfully my friend had her trusty tape measure in her bag, allowing us a little more accuracy in our selections. Proud of my purchases we returned home, 100% success with the shirts, both fit Jason well. Trousers, not so good as only one pair fit, oh well, I guess that is what he is wearing now!

p1110294smallYesterday, my Swiss friend Deb and i tackled the shops again, this time looking for shoes. A new area of town i had never visited before was our destination to hunt down wedding style shoes, so i wouldn’t be attending this event in my thongs (flip flops), sandals or running shoes. I had driven down these streets many times, but had never explored the contents of the stores. Little did i realise that inside these stores is a treasure trove of clothing, shoes, bags, sunglasses, and more. Ladies shoes with heels as tall as Mount Everest are common here. Bling, diamontes, skulls and cross bones and dinosaur like studs were all found frequently on the shoes we looked at and even tried on. While i will likely never find clothes to fit me here, my tiny feet (Thanks Ma!) meant show shopping was a simple task. The challenge was to find something my uncoordinated self could balance and walk in, rather than what would fit.

p1110299smallIn the course of our two hours of shopping, we encountered many friendly Timorese shop staff all eager to help us, especially after we got out the dictionary and learnt how to explain that we needed shoes for our first Timorese wedding. We posed for a photo with the shop staff in one location, as the photo was a bargaining tool to lower the price of the shoes i wanted to buy. We discovered that the bargain bin in some shops contained shoes and bags that were disintegrating they had been there for so long. We found padded underwear for ladies with small behinds, something that looked like bulletproof vests and very cute three piece suits for little boys. (No excuse to buy one this time as Sam has been invited to a friend’s birthday party tomorrow and so will skip the wedding this time.) Mission accomplished. Wedding shoes purchased. Dressy handbag purchased, wasn’t sure my normal back pack bag would suit the occasion, new shops discovered and so many fun, laughter filled conversations with the staff we met.

p1110298smallToday has been a day of ironing and hemming Jason’s pants, in between the power outages, baby sitter booked, so let the celebrations begin….

Naps, movies and lots of germs

It’s Saturday afternoon. Jason is snoozing. Sam is eating lollies and watching Planet Earth on DVD and I thought it was time i wrote a blog. It’s been awhile!

Our past week has been one of naps, movies and doing as little as possible. Days of using Netflix to entertain us with new movies or tv shows. Sam and i mostly enjoyed Marmaduke and Alvin and the chipmunks. Jason and i watched Roman Holiday. We all enjoyed some episodes of Plane Resurrection. Minimal cooking, just enough to ward off starvation and use up food items before they go bad. Cuddles with Sam during the day and night. A bed for each of us to sprawl out and enjoy. NO washing! Dishes when the pile gets big enough, but Jason and i have managed to share that joy between us. Household jobs have lapsed. Novels have been read at strange times of the day and night. Sam returned to school on Thursday and Friday, with a lunch order special treat for him on Friday.

Does it sound like an idyllic week to you? I guess that’s the power of words and perception isn’t it! We’ve enjoyed our quiet week, as one by one each member of our family got hit by a terrible sickness, contaminating us with fevers, aches and pains, headaches, sneezes, coughs and generally feeling revolting!

It began with Sam on Sunday evening, hit Kim on Monday and Jason on Tuesday! I was very thankful in the midst of feeling rotten though. Thankful our visitor is coming next week, not this week! Thankful all three pilots are back in Timor now, which makes Jason a little more relaxed about missing work due to illness. Thankful for the bus that picks Sam up from home and takes him to school. Thankful for three bedrooms, so we could all cough, sneeze, shiver and sweat during the night, without disturbing others. Thankful for cooler weather this week, which has made shivering under two blankets with fevers a little more tolerable. Thankful we had restocked the cold and flu tablets, nasal spray, vicks vaporub, children’s panadol when we were last in Australia. Thankful for spaghetti bolognaise sauce in the freezer. Thankful for chicken noodle soup and leftovers to eat. Thankful that i don’t have to wash clothes by hand all of the time, like i did on Saturday.

A few other things made our week of sickness a little worse. We have a blocked pipe leading away from the house which means using the washing machine, showering and doing the dishes need to spaced out to avoid flooding the bathroom AGAIN. The washing machine needs to be avoided, to avoid flooding the bathroom AGAIN. The plumber we called on Day 1, came to look at the pipes at the end of Day 2 and called at the end of Day 3 to say he didn’t think he could fix it. So i was thankful our illness was a coldy fevery bug and not a gastro one, with limited washing capabilities.

So today i handwashed clothes in the bathroom, sitting on the closed toilet lid, scrubbing clothes in one big basin and rinsing them under the shower head. We could spin them dry in the machine, without flooding the bathroom, so in this manner we have some clean clothes now. Jason’s uniform is clean for when he goes back to work. Jason has now tried several other techniques to solve the drainage issue, so we’ll see if that has been successful, or whether we need to try finding a more successful plumber.

About lunchtime, while i couldn’t make a decision about what to eat for lunch, we discovered the power was off on the big freezer AGAIN. This has happened once before, and thankfully both times we have discovered it fairly quickly… Today wasn’t quite quick enough though as the mince, tandoori chicken and beef schntizels on the top of the freezer were defrosted. So tandoori chicken went in pocket pita bread for lunch, schnitzels became the featured item for dinner tonight, and chicken mince will now feature on tomorrow’s menu…. not sure as what yet!

We are looking into getting the wiring in our house replaced as we’ve had some quirky happenings lately with powerpoints stopping from working and giving us small zaps through appliances. Thankfully Jason has grounded all the relevant powerpoints which has improved things significantly. So thankful for a handyman hubby!

A household of people with fevers is a funny thing. Last night after cooking in the kitchen and doing the dishes i was hot and bothered. I put the AC on and closed up the dining area to enjoy the AC there too. While we ate dinner i was enjoying the coolness and the cold water tasted oh so good! On the other side of the table, the men of the family, we were looking uncomfortably cold, asking “Do we really need the air conditioner on? I’m freezing!” Even with yourself the fever challenge is annoying one, feeling chilled and cold, i decided to make a cup of tea. Ironically, by the time i had boiled the kettle, made my tea and sat back down on the couch, i was feeling hot and hot tea wasn’t really what i wanted.

It’s now Monday and i better post this blog before it becomes too out of date! The landlord was able to tell us about where the pipes go, so we may have solved that problem! Sam is happily at school today with five objects that are special to him. Oh the balance of objects that are meaningful and ones you really want him taking to school…. Yikes! We’ll see what makes it home again. Jason got up and ready for work, then went back to bed for a nap, so we’ll see if he makes it to work today. The only one pressuring him to work is himself! And i am going to see if i can plan a lesson on the air and wind for Hera on Wednesday. Thanks for reading…. if you are one who prays, we would value your prayers for our health (Sam especially) and for sorting out the quirky traits of our house. Oh and the defrosted mince from the unplugged freezer made great sausage rolls for tea last night!