I hate mosquitoes

I hate mosquitoes

There i said it! Shall i say it again? I hate mosquitoes! I hate that they LOVE ME! Why me? I hate that they make me itch and swell up with big welts. I hate that they carry all types of icky diseases, some that are unpronounceable and others like Dengue fever are just scarey to think about… I even leave the cobwebs around in the hope that the spiders will eat them, with no success…
I just hate them.

This past week Jason and I have been really hating mosquitoes as they have been upsetting our sleep. We are in dry season now, the time of the year that we can sleep without the air conditioning on pretty comfortably, except for the mosquitoes.

I don’t know how they keep appearing. Have the been in the house all day and just descend on our bedroom in the evening? Are there holes in the screens? Do they sneak under doors? Can they get in the ceiling and through the man holes – i can sometimes see the light of the sky through cracks in our roof… It is a mystery to us, but they keep appearing.

One night this week, i woke up itching and discovered i had about ten bites up and down my arms and shoulders. Poor Jason kindly went and found the Stingose for me as each bite swelled up into large lumps! That mosquito had a good feed.

Another night we were both awake in the 2am hour after a mozzie tormented us, flying around our ears while we slept. After several swoops and swats by us, we were awake and annoyed! Armed with the lamps and the mozzie zapper tennis racquet we tried to find it with no success. Turn on the lamps, turn them off, try the tennis racquet little light, no success! Turn on the bathroom light to attract them into there – the white walls mean you can see them more easily. No luck. For nearly an hour we tried with no success to find him. And just as Murphy’s law dictates, as soon as you give up and turn off the light, because you are losing precious sleep with this hunt, you hear the buzzing by your ear …. and it starts all over again!

So now we are starting a new evening tradition in our marriage, where before we go to bed we do a big mozzie search, armed with the zapper racquet of course. When we finished we go to bed and lie there for a bit, zapper in hand searching out any remaining mozzies before sleep… last night we used the air con just to avoid the middle of the night mozzie fun! We needed a good night sleep after a few other interrupted nights… Maybe we should just start sleeping with mozzie repellant on to solve the problems 🙂

Advertisements

“Timor Typical”

 

It is safe to say when you live in many corners of the world like Timor, that you begin to automatically expect the unexpected… that was the certainly the case for us today as we headed to church!

It was a rushed preparation for church today, with Sam knocking on our bedroom door at 8.25 asking if we were awake yet! We had slept in, while he had got himself dressed, made his bed and had entertained himself until he decided we needed waking up. With church starting at 9am, Sam’s timing was great as we showered, dressed and ate breakfast on super speed.

As we headed to church, we were reminded that it was Palm Sunday, as the roads were lined with Timorese people returning from Mass, carrying palm branches. The reminder of the special occasion continued as we attempted to turn left down the major road that runs through the city of Dili. A policemen was standing on the corner directing traffic, as the two lane major road had become a single lane in each way on one side the road, while the other half of the road had become a parking lot of motorbikes and cars for people attending church. You realise just how large the percentage of the population attend a Catholic Church, when the City’s major road is half blocked because of people’s attendance at Mass. So Route A for how to get to church didn’t work! Next plan? This is where having a good sense of direction AND a good knowledge of the back streets of Dili can be useful.

Our church was also having a special celebration today, as the missionary who had led our Pastor to faith was visiting from America. So church was being held in a local hotel, with a special lunch afterwards. So after being detoured away from where we needed to go for church, we planned a Route B in our minds, to go around the block and approach the hotel from the south. Easy! Until we began travelling down that road, only to discover cars in front of us turning around. Hmmm. A little further down the road we saw a trap and chairs set up, an indication of a funeral ceremony in progress. Roads are often blocked for these ceremonies and so detouring for a funeral is common when driving in Dili.

Route C, keep going east until we found another road that heads back to the major arterial road through Dili. The road where the policeman had originally been directing traffic, and approach the Hotel from the North this time, avoiding all the traffic from the Catholic Church, as hopefully we were too far east for it to be a problem! Route C worked and we arrived at church safe and sound, although considerably later than we expected! On a normal Sunday morning it would take 5 minutes from our home to this Hotel. But with all the challenges it took about 20 minutes today.

As we drove we decided that this was “Timor Typical” to always be prepared for the unexpected, especially when running late for church! Church was a great time of worship, with a beautiful Trumpet solo of “Because He lives” and teaching. After church it was time for lunch. The pastor explained the location for lunch in Tetun, and at such speed that I was a bit confused with what I was hearing. I thought I had heard that we were having lunch at a petrol station. So I approached the Pastor’s wife after the service to clarify the directions of where to go. In a very “Timor typical” fashion we were told to head to the big roundabout on Banana Road (Yes that is actually the name of the road) and continue on towards the new bridge, and the fuel station on the left is where we would eat. Okay then!

So we headed to the car, offering to take some people from church with us, the pastor’s wife suggested we take three young teenage girls with us. That was easy and we headed to our car, but then I realised I was struggling to communicate again. Another “Timor typical” moment! The three young ladies we had in our car were all deaf and attend the deaf school our church runs. How do you make small talk and be polite when you have limited sign language? We are all learning bits of sign from being a part of this church, but I wanted to say more than hello, thank you or Jesus! Some of the signs i can easily remember. I could sign for them the “wheels on the bus” or “Jesus loves me” like I do at Hera, but that wasn’t really the welcoming conversation I needed. So in a moment of brilliance I got out a pen and paper! “My name is Kim” I was able to write in Tetun. They each wrote their names for me and we smiled at each other. I then told them Sam’s name and Jason’s name, and I was able to do the sign for aeroplane to go with Jason’s name…. as Jason arrived to the car for us to go!

Yes lunch was in a restaurant at the side of a fuel station. As I realised that we eat in fuel stations often in Australia on Highways and such, but somehow the location of this restaurant seemed unusual to me. A yummy combination of asian food and noodles was presented for us to eat and we shared a time of fellowship together. While most people headed back to the hotel for another service, we headed home for naps. After a busy week for our family, Jason traveling to Cairns and back, and then in meetings all week and Kim solo parenting and homeschooling, we needed some down time. Our trip home from church was boringly uneventful, with us even managing to find our favorite brand of bottled water, just around the corner from lunch. (We don’t drink tap water here, but instead buy large 20 litre bottles of water, which we put into one of those water coolers that you see on American TV shows. Not all brands of bottle water are the same, so it can be a challenge to find brands that are bug free or chlorine taste free!)

There are lots of way to describe the unpredictability of life here… it adds spontaneity to our lives, it makes us laugh but it also increases our stress levels and often causes frustration… “Timor Typical”… expect the unexpected… you’ll never know what you are gonna get…

God will make a way….

This week i saw the picture above on Facebook. I realised that it was the perfect accompaniment to this blog that has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Sometimes, circumstances line up in a way that is beyond understanding… Coincidences just keep happening… and for me these types of circumstances whisper to me of God’s love, His Sovereignity and His help in my life. I know not everyone reading this will attribute the source of these circumstances as being Divine or Godly, but even if that is the case… sit back and enjoy reading an interesting story…. 🙂

Not long after we arrived in Timor-Leste we began hearing about shipping containers filled with goods from Australia that come here on a regular basis because of Rotary. We received some toys that had been loving hand made from wood to distribute as Christmas gifts to the children in the disability centre in Hera. We also used some of these toys in the care packs we make for children who get medically evacuated on the MAF plane. Then we met a lady who, along with some helpers in central Victoria, began donating items for us to use at Hera and in the care packs. These boxes of goodies arrived to us via the Rotary shipping containers.



 

I grew up in a family with Rotary connections. My Dad was a Rotarian when i was a child and i have fond memories of helping out with different activities that Rotary would do. My Uncle has also been a Rotarian for most of his adult life and i have heard his stories of helping others often. I loved meeting young people from all over the world who came to Melbourne as Rotary exchange students and our family even hosted one too. So Rotary and their generosity to those in need was not new to me. But these containers were…

During our time in Timor, we came in contact with those who distributed the goods from the containers. We took car loads of school supplies and resources to the disability centre in Hera, we used toys and jigsaw puzzles to make a toy library for the students to use. We delivered car loads of resources to preschools in remote areas of Timor, who operate with no government funding and very few resources. Rotary supplied goods were given to us and we kept finding people in need who could use them. On a flight back to Australia, i even found myself next to a man from Rotary who was checking on how the goods were being used, so i had some great stories to tell him. Probably more than he cared to hear if i was to tell the truth…. 🙂

So fast forward a few months and we are in Australia on home leave speaking to financial donors and churches about what we do in Timor-Leste. The idea of trying to connect with the Rotary group in Melbourne would occur to use every now and then, but it was on a long to do list for our time in Australia, and each day was packed with visiting people and speaking engagements. Friends who wanted to help us with supplies for the care packages were eager to buy, donate and organise items, but how do we get the items there was the question everyone kept asking. But other than a vague idea of Rotary being able to help somehow, we didn’t really know the answer… So we were a little surprised after one of our church speaking engagements, when a man approached us. He let us know that his wife is one of the people who sorts out the medical items to go into the Rotary containers to Timor-Leste. He was able to explain to us how the containers worked, how we could use the service and asked us if we would like to see the warehouse where the goods are stored and sorted.

Jason and I were a little gob smacked to tell you the truth! We were able to stop at the warehouse on a trip we were already doing in western Victoria, to tell the truth, it was probably only 20 minutes out of our way to call in. The warehouse of Rotary’s Donations In Kind was impressive. Aisles of donates good awaited transportation to many needy corners of the world, including Timor-Leste. Donations of fabric, disability aids, and school supplies were there, donated by big businesses, organisations and individuals. In another bay, boxes of labelled goods sat ready to be loaded into the next container. As we walked down the aisle headed for Timor it was encouraging to see the names of many NGOs and groups we work alongside on the labels of boxes. Knowing how much use these items would be in the national hospital, charity run medical centres and schools.

 

We headed onto our next location, thinking about how these donated goods could be useful for the work that we do in Timor-Leste. The following Sunday, the inundation began…. I’m not sure how the conversation began, but a very artistic lady at the church we were speaking at asked us if we would like some knitted teddy bears and blankets for the care packs, she had a big supply at home that she had made if wanted to collect them from her. We called by her home after church and left with two garbage bags full of beautifully knitted teddy bears and blankets which were all unique with crocheted flowers and decoration on them. Even once we were in the car to leave, she ran inside and added baby hats, booties and mittens to the load. This lady was not just a knitter she was an artist. Her creations were unique and beautiful and she wanted us to distribute them to those in need in Timor-Leste for her. We were honoured to be able to help in this way, and amazingly thankful that Rotary could help us to get these items there. In the past, we have always had to say thanks but we can’t accept your donations, because we had no reasonable way to physically transport these types of gifts to Dili. Regular shipping costs are high. Postage is expensive and unreliable. So our only real way to bring things to Timor-Leste is through our own personal luggage as we fly home… and these two bags of items would certainly have filled up a lot of our suitcase space.

Several days later we were to speak at a meeting in a nearby country town, with the ladies who had been sending us boxes of goodies using Rotary in the previous year. We showed photos of their donations being used and thanked them for sending them. As we spoke, a lady approached me asking if we could use school supplies. Of course i replied. The look of relief on her face was amazing. She went on to tell me that several years ago she had gone on a cruise to somewhere in the South Pacific. While there she visited a school and was horrified by the lack of resources they had access to. When she return to Australia she went shopping, bought exercise books, pencils, sharpeners etc to post to the school she had visited. Unfortunately the postage costs to get these resources to the school was going to be several hundred dollars. More than she had spent on the items and more money than she had to spare. So the school supplies got stored in a cupboard. But half way through our meeting she remembered them, told me the story and then dashed out the door to bring them back for us to take with us. We left another location with more … school supplies and some more trauma dolls for us to bring back with us… and my husband pondering how these extra things were going to fit into our already well packed car – three people, a car seat, three suitcases, three carry ons, and now several boxes and bags of precious donations.

Jason and i often commented to each other on the timing of this. We had never had people offer goods in this abundance before. It was interesting that it was only after we knew how to get these items to Timor-Leste that the donations began… we continued our travels and were able to package up these goods for shipment and deliver them to our contact in Rotary before heading back to Dili.

There was however, one part of this process we weren’t sure of. How would we access these good once we were in Dili? We supposed someone would just call us and ask us to come and collect them. We hoped it would be a smooth process, but you can never be too sure of how things will go here… But we hoped it would all be okay. To be honest we sort of forgot about it all once we returned. We moved house, unpacked, settled in, started new roles – Jason as Program Manager, me homeschooling our son and life went on.

Until we went to church on Sunday! In church, as we sang, a timorese lady, tapped us on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, i have been looking after your boxes for you!” I gave her an odd look as i wasn’t sure what she was talking about. In hushed whispers, she explained that she was the person who negotiated for the Rotary containers to be released from customs here. She was also the person who contacted the names on the packages for collection. Apparently while we had been away some boxes had arrived for from the CWA ladies and she had kept them aside for us knowing we were in Australia. She also showed us an email that had the boxes of goods we had recently delivered listed on them, so we were assured they were arriving soon.

We are still waiting for our goods to arrive, but the way the path has opened up for us to use this service has been amazing. If you would like some more information of Rotary’s Donations In Kind then go here to have a look. http://www.rotarydik.org And if you want to see how these goodies end up being used…. stay tuned to our blog for more information….

Coincidences… Ordained circumstances… Either way, we are so grateful for this tool to help us get much needed resources into the hands of those who need it most here in Timor-Leste!

Our new home

Just a few days after we returned to Timor we moved into the house next door. It was a lot of bother packing to move such a short distance, but we felt like it was something we needed to do for our sanity and mental health. Our old house had a constant stream of people through our garden, termites were invading various wooden parts of the house and ants loved to attack the water pump. The waste pipes for the kitchen and bathroom would block often. The problems of the house were starting to take it’s toll on our sanity and so we felt like a move was in order.

The house next door had several aspects that we really wanted. A fully fenced in yard, with no extra local visitors passing through, which has room for Sam to play in and our new dog, Maddy. The house has four bedrooms inside, one with an ensuite, which allows us a permanent guest room and an office / school room for homeschooling Sam. There is also more room to entertain friends and MAF guests for meals.

No house is perfect and there are some interesting quirks of our new home. Our bedroom is painted an interesting shade of “upset stomach” or diarrhea. Several of the room’s air vents have nests of small birds living in them, which is sort of cute and rather distracting for the homeschool room. Our guest room is very pink, not so great for all the male engineers who will come to stay. Storage is always an issue in Timorese houses, as no cupboards are ever built in, so we have been slowly finding places to store our stuff, while hunting through boxes to find items that we need. The rainy season is providing to be an adventure, as leaks are appearing in various places in the ceiling. Yesterday i needed to move the TV as drips were sliding into the back of it. Thankfully it still works fine.

Sam is enjoying the role of “zubunya” or gate guard! Funny how i still think of that role by it’s Amharic or Ethiopian term, and not by the Timorese name. He eagerly jumps out to open and close the gate each time we come and go.

We are loving the curtains in our new house and the darkness they bring for sleeping. Sam woke us up one night crying hysterically because he couldn’t find the door to his room. I forgot to turn on the night light and it is really dark without it. After two years of sleeping with no coverings on the window we are noticing a difference.

So, we are enjoying our new home sweet home… quirks and oddities included!

First week of homeschool

Well we survived it! With only minimal moments of high blood pressure and hair pulling out… I think homeschooling adventure is going to be character revealing for both Sam and i. You learn a lot about another person working closely with them each day in this sort of way. I am amazed at the amount of time my son can spend fiddling with his pen, staring at the wall or swinging on his chair. It’s an interesting experiment in psychology to see what motivates him and what makes him to retreat into the world of “i don’t want to” land. Sometimes i think it is harder to teach one mischeivious seven year old than a whole class of teenagers. You have no peer pressure to help sway him to your way of doing things… But oh the joys are so rewarding. Snuggling on the couch reading a story or doing comprehension questions together. Asking him questions about his ideas of 100 years ago, which put people living in the stone age with animal skins and writing on stone tablets. Learning together is fun!

So we practised our handwriting, started using our new online English program, measured things around the house, watched videos about the history of clocks and what technology is and more.The simple of joy of seeing Sam’s face light up when he estimated the length of something accurately is great!

I love the flexibility of homeschooling. On one day Sam was still asleep at 8.30, a rarity for him, but seeing as we’ve been fighting cold/flu bugs this week i wasn’t waking him up, just change the plans a bit. Jason is on call this weekend, no problem, change our school days around so we can have a day off when Daddy does. Mummy gets sick on day three… just what you need in your first week of homeschooling isn’t it? A raging fever, runny nose and a headache that prevents any type of rational thought, so thankful for planning that allows you to teach even when you feel so disgusting.

One of the concerns i had about homeschooling Sam was his need to be around other people. Sam is an extrovert. He loves people and as an only child, who now homeschools, his contacts outside the family are reduced. I am so glad we got a dog! Several days this week he was outside on the swing and playing with Maddy in his down time. I love that he has some company, other than me during the day. This thought has lead me to considering starting a get together of other homeschooling families in Dili. A Facebook question, has led me to one other family i didn’t know of, which brings our possible group to four families including us. But this is something i need to think about a little more… We were excited though to hear about a soccer class on Friday evenings for interested kids. We were able to go on Friday evening, 6.30pm until 7.30 pm, not really our ideal time for sporting activity, but at least it is cooler then. A class run by the PE teacher from the Portuguese school runs a soccer training session for kids under 9! Drills and games kept the kids busy for an hour and Sam loved it. We left with him begging to go again next week and telling us about three new friends he made. There were also several kids there who he already knew from his school and from church connections which was good too.

So plans are made… already to do it all over again next week… i think. Hopefully this time without the sickness and with a little more wisdom from the week just gone… Love your prayers for both of us as we face this adventure together each day…

Jason’s First Week as PM (or CD)

This week ( two weeks ago now…. we are a bit slow at posting this…) was Jason’s first week alone as Programme Manager (or Country Director as they’ve change the name of the role just recently) for the MAF Timor-Leste team. It was a busy week for him as we have an engineer here, doing regular maintenance as well as some extra tasks on both planes. A week of engineering, meant that Jason was the pilot for the week, so Timon, our second pilot could assist with the engineering work.

Monday was a day off, after being on call for the weekend. It was a day to settle in more into our new home, do some shopping for groceries and lamps.

On Tuesday, Jason received a call for a medevac flight from Suai. Unfortunately, at the time of the call, both planes were unable to fly as the engineers were changing the props from one aircraft to the other. Jason had to inform the ambulance service that we could do the flight later in the day, but not at the moment. Jason had been so busy learning about the administration of his new role that he had not been flying since he returned to Timor. Two hours after the request for a medevac flight, Jason was able to head to Suai to assist the ill patient there. The patient was a young girl, who needed transportation to hospital, along with her mother . Unfortunately, the patient’s illness was so severe that she passed away during the flight to Dili. This flight made us all realise just how time critical our response to the needs of the patients can be. The need to delay this flight was unavoidable in many ways, but it made us all realise just how many lives we can help to save each year, just by being able to provide a speedy response for those in need.

The week continued on with meetings with various government departments, going through various paperwork steps to authenticate Jason as the new Programme Manager for MAF here. There was some negotiations with customs at the airport to do, as our engineer had brought parts for the aircraft with him that needed tax to be paid. And there was an endless influx of emails to be answered about possible group visits from Australia and the Philippines, the changing over of aircraft, bookings for the plane and more.

On Wednesday, Jason had a Skype call with Finance staff in the UK to help him understand the administrative would of MAF finances and accountancy, so he was home late. Balancing time zones with MAF staff in other countries can be tricky at times.

On Thursday, Jason attended what he thought was going to be a meeting set up by the airport security to promote a healthy working partnership with other operators. “I thought it was going to be with a handful of people, instead there was about 200 people in attendance, it seems it was a Christmas party (we’re told they are usually held in January) for those involved with working at the airport, with roasted pigs, delicious Timor style sweet and sour pork and more. Jason didn’t need dinner that evening, as the banquet at 4pm had filled him right up.

Saturday, was an on call day for Jason. We slept in and were considering making porridge when the phone rang with a medevac request from nearby Atauro island. A mad dash ensued to get Jason, and engineer John out the door as quickly as possible. Toast and eggs needed quick cooking, as we’d run out of cereal. Lunch and morning tea prepared. Get dressed and off they went. After the flight, Jason stayed at the hangar for awhile helping with the engineering work, before returning home mid afternoon. The power was out at home, so Jason returned to a hot and bothered Kim and Sam, so we all ran away to Timor Plaza for some air conditioning and a treat afternoon tea. A drink and some munchies were consumed and were just about to have a look through the shops with our engineering friend, when the phone rang. A medevac was needed from Los Palos, the airstrip in the far east of the country. Jason would be late for the dinner we’d planned with our MAF colleagues and Kim would need to ask our guests to help with the barbeque. A job she had planned for Jason. The medevac flight was needed for an old man with breathing difficulties and a young boy who had broken his leg. Thankfully though, the skies were clear and he was able to complete the medevac before the sun set. He enjoyed his dinner and his cheesecake when he got home. We were glad we’d had a fancy afternoon tea to tide him over for his late dinner.

Sunday, finally a day off for Jason. He was able to make porridge for breakfast this time, after another sleep in. Due to the pressures of the engineering, one day off means a quiet home day to conserve energy for the coming week. Lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant. A little tinkering around the house and lots of relaxing.

 

Storms in Timor-Leste

cropped-img_2606small.jpg
The pictures show our Mission Aviation Fellowship Timor Leste hangar in Dili, before and after a storm hit last week.

The team arrived to find the shelter a little less weather-proof than it had been the previous day! Overnight the roof of the hangar was ripped to pieces by the powerful winds.
Thankfully, as the material was nearing the end of its 10-year life expectancy, the fundraising for a new covering was completed last year. The materials for the new roof are already in programme ready for installation!

Praise God for forward planning and generous supporters that help to meet timely needs!

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!

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!