A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

Nearly packed

Thursday 11th June – 6 months, 26 days

Today was Corpus Christi, apparently – another religious holiday that wasn’t declared as a holiday from work until approximately 4.32pm the day before. I’m not complaining, a holiday is a holiday. Just another one of those delightful Timorese ways of getting things done.

I’ve used it gainfully, packing most of my stuff up. Moving house is much less of a pain in Timor: took me two hours to pack everything except the kitchen items (I’ll do that Saturday), with plenty of time taken up by sort of mooching about the house. Plus, you know, there’s no admin stuff to take care of: no need to change your address for electricity, phone, gas, internet or water bills; no need to advise friends that your address will change unless they’re going to come around for dinner, because I don’t even have a street address, so I have to use the post office box of my organisation.

I maintain: when I get back to Australia, I’m unpacking next to a rubbish skip. I wrote a list from memory at one stage of some of the things I put in the 85 boxes* that I left in my friend’s basement, but after months of living around people who have very little and living with much less stuff myself, I think it will be easier to identify the stuff I want to hold on to, and the stuff I didn’t miss and won’t ever, ever use.

Packing to move always makes me sad, but it is good that I’ll be getting away from the noise.

  • I wrote that and then realised that some people would think this is comical exaggeration. It’s not. I really did leave 85 boxes of stuff in my friend’s basement. Plus a couple in her cupboard. And another couple at my parents’ place. Some of them are small! Honest!

Posted by timortimes 19:25 Comments (0)

Why I love my job

Wednesday 10th June – 6 months, 25 days

I love getting to have discussions about gender equality with Timorese people. I’m doing some work with a friend from UNIFEM to prepare a delegation of government workers, and that’s basically what we’re doing.

My favourite part is the fact that we have men in these groups, and they participate whole-heartedly and honestly in the discussions. They talk openly about gender imbalances and discrimination – like men being heads of households, like eldest sons getting to make decisions, like boys’ education being more important than girls’, like tough restrictions on abortion – and measures to redress some inequalities – like maternity leave. I’m under no illusions that these guys all race home to cook the dinner for their wives, of course. If their wife doesn’t do it, a sister or an an aunt or a mother or a daughter will be there at the fire. But still. They discuss it.

I had just two years working in gender equality in government in Australia before I came here, and I have *never* seen groups of men participating honestly, without defensiveness, in these kind of discussions. I can think of exactly three guys who would, and that’s it. Most blokes would chew their own arms off before they admitted something simple like that women do the lion’s share of domestic work in Australia. It’s because it’s not acceptable to say that these days, of course; and because they take it personally. If you pick up a HREOC study that shows that men have a third more leisure time than women or women earn 84c in the dollar to men, blokes tend to get all blustery and think you’re talking about them, personally. ‘I do the washing up! Sometimes!’ they grump. Whereas it’s still very accepted in Timorese society that women have all these burdens and discrimination. Guess that makes it easier not to take it personally – they don’t feel so guilty.

Anyway. Another reason I love my job is that I care about it. Sure I’m a public servant. Government can be maddeningly slow and full of talkfests. But, often enough for me anyway, you can feel like you’re doing something that affects someone, somewhere.

Posted by timortimes 19:23 Comments (0)

Surprising (to me, anyway)

I have had comments from a couple of different friends lately, friends over here, that they had found my blog and thought it was hilarious. Awww! What a compliment! I never try to be a funny writer, or a good writer even; I just write. It's what I do. I always have. * And I know friends and family back home have thought some stuff on here was funny, but I figured that was because they knew my sense of humour, or (more likely) were laughing at me, not with me (don’t worry, I’m well used to it). It’s gratifying to know that other, newer friends are getting laughs out of this too. :)

  • If I recally correctly, I wrote my first satirical (or maybe sarcastic is more accurate) article when I was ten years old.

Posted by timortimes 19:20 Comments (0)

On reading through some of my entries

I’ve been reading the writings of other friends in Timor and back over some of the stuff I’ve written. I think I’ll be trying to capture more of the little observations I make every day. I am constantly watching for little things that are of interest. The funny little signs I see. Who greets me and how. Dogs in the open rubbish; the razor wire and broken bottles that secure buildings everywhere, that I’ve gotten used to.

I am also concerned that I might be coming across as negative, disliking lots of things I should just put up with. I want to make one thing particularly clear. Wherever I’ve made fun of something ‘Timorese people do’ – like the not liking to walk – *every single time* it’s something that my Timorese friends have already commented on jokingly (often, endlessly – I don’t know how many times I’ve been laughed at for liking to walk for exercise). Timorese people judge me blanketly as ‘malae’ in the same way I blanketly categorise them in my writings, and for the most part we forgive each other for that. I am not saying any of these things out of spite (ok, the neighbours, and maybe the bad food, but I can’t offend food’s feelings and I know Timorese people think I am strange and picky for not liking, say, bananas; I know it’s a privilege to dislike certain foods). In my everyday life, I go out of my way with patience (because I know I am an impatient person) to try and accommodate people I interact with, because I know that it is me that is the outsider and the privileged one. Sometimes I get to breaking point (like the drive back from Same, or with the Neighlords from Hell) and that’s because I’ve been sleep deprived and eating bad food (no choice) and I don’t have, well, I don’t have many outlets here, people to talk to that I can trust, and sometimes after a long day of being the outsider and getting no sleep and eating crappy food, you lose it a bit. I write, and I talk to a few trusted people. It’s still hard, though.

Posted by timortimes 19:19 Comments (0)

Are you serious?

I wrote 8,446 words and 25 entries’ worth of STUFF for you lot on Sunday. While neglecting my house search and thesis prep*. So, no entries today, I need a break!

  • Had to do it in this order, can’t concentrate until I have the blog stuff done, or the things I want to write about disappear from my head, like smoke unto the wind, or something. Plus, spent yesterday afternoon frantically texting about possible houses. So I’ve actually done everything I can until there’s another place to look at.

Posted by timortimes 19:17 Comments (0)

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