A Travellerspoint blog

December 2008

This time last month...

One month, one day - Wednesday 17th December

On the 17th of November, Matt and I narrowly escaped the storm damage in Brisbane (we had NO idea until we got to Timor it was so bad), and came to Dili!

On the 17th of October, I had just had my hair cut shorter, and I was frantically packing / organising social events / panicking about my assignment.

On the 17th of September, Matt and I had just got back from an awesome (and packed) week in Bris Vegas at Bal on the River.

On the 17th of August, Matt and i had just returned from our Australian Volunteers International briefing in Melbourne.

  • **

Spending Christmas in Dili has meant we can be part of the expat choir, which is super fun and not particularly professional! We were meant to go carolling tonight, but a slight torrential downpour necessitated a change of plans, so we sang carols at One More Bar instead.

You'll have to ask Matt about the late evening trip to the karaoke bar - I went home to bed like a good girl so I could WORK in the morning. :D

Posted by timortimes 18:49 Comments (0)

I met the Governor-General today!

Day 30 - Tuesday 16th December

So, this morning I went to a breakfast for volunteers at the Ambassador's residence, held because of the Governor-General's visit to Timor-Leste.

Quentin Bryce is elegance personified. Tall and lovely (tall especially considering the generation she is from - most women her age are on the short side). I'd love to know where she picked up that plummy accent, considering she's from Queensland.

I actually got to meet her because the Ambassador's wife was doing a marvellous job coralling volunteers and introducing us. I chatted briefly to Her Excellency about the high rates of domestic violence in countries all over.

Also there were delicious bacon and egg tart things :) this is a very important detail!!! The search for decent Western food is constant here - I always have a weather eye open.

The breakfast ended with a little speech from the Governor General about the importance of our work and how she was pleased to meet with us all. I'm sure it was sincere, but I couldn't help smiling when I recognised a few stock sentences I have put into speeches for Ministers myself at work. I suppose there are only so many things important people are able to sincerely say about other people's good work, so I don't think it's a blot on the speechwriter's character, or Her Excellency's for that matter.

Overall, it was such an amazing thing to get to meet our first female Governor-General. Even if she is the last one ever, it means such a lot to me. Every big and little first for women anywhere is noteworthy.

Posted by timortimes 18:38 Comments (0)

argh

Maintenance

So I have been faithfully writing entries on a USB key to be transferred to the computer when on the internet... but one of my USB keys died!!! Guess which one? Why yes, it WAS the one with the entries I hadn't uploaded yet!

argh.

Rewriting from memory now.

Posted by timortimes 18:32 Comments (0)

Days like today are what I came to East Timor for

Day 29 - Monday 15th December - Gender and Land Workshop

So, East Timor's Ministry of Justice are revising their Civil Code. A significant part of this is looking at the succession of property between people on marriage, divorce, death, etc. This is quite an undertaking, as they have to:
- translate the original Portuguese Civil Code into Tetum, via Indonesian,
- decide which parts are relevant, and
- check this against current practice and traditions in Timor.

The workshop I attended today was the fourth in a series which aim to get comments from local NGOs and government on how to make the Civil Code, particularly anything to do with succession of land, gender-sensitive.

Any of my friends who work in gender or development will understand how huge this is, and how excited I was to see this happen, let alone to be involved (how awesome is it to be involved in the making of new laws for a new country???? pretty awesome!!!). Usually, when someone wants 'gender-sensitive' comments made on a program / project / law etc, it goes like this:

Step one: Organisation designs program / project / law.

Step two: On the last day open for comments, organisation contacts gender unit / consultant and says 'Can you make this gender-sensitive? Oh and we need it back by 5pm today.'

Step three: Gender person bangs their head on the desk repeatedly.

It is a lot easier to design a project / program / law with women's and men's, girls' and boys' needs in mind, as opposed to trying to fix an inherently unequal item.

Interestingly, there were a lot of men involved in this workshop - as opposed to the usual 1 man to 50 women that you get at gender workshops in Australia. I don't know whether this is because men tend to get the decent jobs here, so there are more men at lower levels of government and NGOs, or what. I suspect it is partly that. Still they were all genuinely involved - it was very nice to work with men who would just stand up and say 'yes this paragraph is unfair, it will disadvantage women in polygamous marriage' - no handwringing, no 'what about the men', just straight up noting that X will disadvantage women and everyone working together to think of a better way to draft the paragraph so men and women get a fairer deal.

It's an odd disconnect in a country where domestic violence is so high and attitudes about women's and men's roles seem very fixed. I would like to look into this more.

But, in conclusion: days like today are what I came to East Timor for. I got to be a small part of something that will make a huge difference - I hope.

Posted by timortimes 18:12 Comments (0)

I now live in a house for the first time since I turned 18!

Day 27-28 (Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th December)

Yes I am brave enough to tell the news now… Matt and I found a place to live last week, and we moved in on Friday night (12th). I like to call it the Barbie Dream House. Apparently it used to be an inoffensive pale colour, but a couple of weeks ago the owners (our neighbours) overheard Brie and Kitu (the couple who we are sharing with) talking about the shabby point job, and then they came home a couple of days later to an unmistakeably pink house. Since it has a green roof… and bright pink and green curtains… you can imagine the effect. The place is redeemed (in my eyes) because (a) it is cute (b) I have no inner house designer, I kind of like eccentric things and pink, and (c) it has gorgeous tiles, of the kind which are seen in many houses here, which I had hoped we would get in a house.

The place has two bedrooms, a loungeroom, kitchen and dining area, two bak mandis (Indonesian style bathroom), and best of all, a lovely verandah and vegie garden and a DOG! Oh and Brie and Kitu are pretty nice too. :) The dog is called Brit, or Britney Spears – apparently the only Western name the neighbour’s kids could handle. She is black with tan accents (paws, eyebrows ha, stripe on forehead) and looks a bit like my old blue heeler, Belle, except for the colour. She has a similarly sooky temperament too.

No airconditioner – but that will soon be remedied – and no backup generator (d’oh!) but it’s lovely… and we can afford it! So hurrah. After four years in college and 5 years in apartments, it’s nice to live in a house again.

In other adventurous news

Matt and I bought bikes this week. (Did you hear that? That was the sound of my parents guffawing all the way from Lismore.) Ohhh dear. I am a bit wobbly but I will get used to it. The problem is, I’ve never ridden in traffic before – like, ever. So I am rather concerned about cars, motorbikes, UN four wheel drives etc. And Timor traffic, well there aren’t really traffic lights, roundabouts, or street directions in any abundance. The traffic just kind of flows like water. And everyone seems to understand where it is going, except wobbly little me. I suppose if I had a bike that was the right size, it would be easier, but I figured I would have to get used to riding anyway, and a bike in the right size was unlikely (as with everything, the range of choice in bikes is small here).

Also, Matt cut my hair today and it looks marvellous. No really. I suppose when we’re back in Australia he might gracefully retire and I might go back to $85 haircuts. But I am happy with it (and still love having short hair).

OK that's enough for now. Off to enjoy living in a house and not out of a suitcase, as have been for the last six weeks. :D

Posted by timortimes 22:32 Comments (3)

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