I’ve wanted my Mum to write a blog post for Unofficial East Timor for ages. Especially because she’s in her fifties and a lot of people over fifty are hesitant about travelling to East Timor. They shouldn’t be. East Timor is a safe place and East Timorese people show so much respect for their elders. Of course, my Mum isn’t quite of ‘elder’ status and she surprised many of my work colleagues, who thought that she had “a very strong body” for her age. They were also shocked at her height because Mum is the same height as them (which means she’s short).
When my daughter Zena was applying for a position in East Timor I agreed that if she went, I’d go and visit her. Well it turned out that she got the job and six months later, I found myself on a small two engine plane from Darwin headed straight to Dili.I was in East Timor for a total of ten days. We spent most of our time in Dili with one weekend in Baucau, a three hour drive East of Dili, where we stayed in the beautiful old Pousada. Like most places you go to, they’re never quite how you imagined them to be. Of course, I knew a lot about East Timor’s horrific past and I’d heard on the news about their recent internal conflicts, but I soon discovered that’s just one side of East Timor.
I’d seen the photos of the beaches and Zena had told me about the wonderful snorkelling she’d done in East Timor, but what I didn’t expect to see were MOUNTAINS. Flying into Dili it just seemed that East Timor was a huge range of mountains. Think glorious, picturesque, magical. It certainly wasn’t what I’d imagined East Timor to look like.
2. The hospitality
While in Baucau we went to visit one of Zena’s work colleagues, Costa and his family. They lived in a humble house down near the beach. They were very poor people, but that didn’t stop them offering us cans of cokes and snacks. Costa was so proud of his family and of his new baby. His wife even gave me a tais (a traditional handicraft) she’d handmade. It is beautiful. It has a permanent position on a table in my home & always reminds me of the generous hospitality extended to us on that day & the smiles & laughter of Costa & his family
Of course East Timor is a developing country but I hadn’t prepared myself for how much rubbish I’d see. It’s obvious that rubbish collection is not a priority in East Timor. There are piles of it everywhere: outside houses, all along the streets and on the beach. It’s particularly bad in Dili.
My trip coincided with Easter so we went to the Good Friday service held at the Catholic Church in Baucau. There were so many people that we had to stand outside in the courtyard with the hundreds of other people who missed out on seats & listen to the loudspeakers. What an event! All the streets of the town were empty as everyone was at the church all dressed in their very best clothes. Nuns & priests in East Timor certainly don’t have to worry about dwindling congregations like they would in Australia that’s for sure!
5. Kids and simple pleasures
There are gorgeous smiling kids running all around the place. Mostly left to their own devices, they find their own entertainment. One afternoon I was sitting on Zena’s porch and the local kids were jumping in and out of a large tank filled with water. They were laughing hysterically for hours. It reminded me of the simple pleasures of life that bring joy to your heart. One day, if I win the lottery, I’d love to build a swimming pool in Dili for all the kids to cool off in. They would just love that.I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to East Timor. It was wonderful to spend time with my daughter again & it was great to share in some of her life in East Timor. Once outside Dili, the roads can get pretty rough but seeing the beauty of the countryside was worth every massive pothole we ploughed through. Sure East Timor is still a poor, developing country but therein lies its beauty. It is populated by a proud, generous people whose laughter seemed always to be but a heartbeat away. I would recommend a holiday there for anybody. I’m looking forward to going again soon if I can.