- Name: Kate
- Location: Aileu, Timor-Leste
I'm an aid worker, trying to do my little bit to leave the world a better place than I found it. This blog sporadically tracks my adventures in various countries, as I try to play my part is the massive venture to Make Poverty History.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
So – during my fleeting visit home last month, my cousin gently nagged me that I could make the weekends up in Aileu pass more quickly by reviving my blog! I thought it was worth a try. The weekends do drag somewhat here…I live by myself, in a town with only a couple of other foreigners and no electricity between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., which limits what you can do. In addition, it rains most afternoons and gets so dark that you can’t even read a book… So I’m going to give this one more renewed effort – the latest in Kate’s “I’m going to be better at blogging” vows (I think they’ve been going for about four years now!)
I’ve actually been in Timor for six months, which totally blows my mind. I have signed up for two years – I’m a quarter of the way through that. I can’t believe it…I still feel like I’m new here. But I’m not any more. I speak a little of the local language – not nearly enough…my staff are great about trying to practice with me, but of course, it’s easier, for work, to talk in English – my senior staff are all fairly competent.
It’s interesting living in a country that is so new, that is still finding its feet and finding its way in the world. I have mixed feelings about it – on the one hand, as I move around, I look at the Timorese moving freely around their own country, and I think of everything this country has gone through to get to this stage, and I feel such joy for them, and such pride for them. On the other hand…it’s amazing how much of a mess has been made in ten years – this was a country born with such hope and such optimism, that encountered so many problems, but had the whole world rooting for its success. And when I look at what it has descended to – the corruption and the mismanagement, and the same old story in every developing country…the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And it makes me want to cry – because everyone suffered to get to this stage, but so many of them aren’t benefiting from it. They still live in squalor and the child malnutrition rates are at the kind of levels that usually prompt telethons in the West…but because these are chronic, nobody notices. Still – in the end, it’s THEIR mess – no matter what happens to Timor now, it’s in the hands of the Timorese and that is something to be celebrated.
Working here is challenging in many ways – the local capacity is very low and I often comment that I feel like a kindergarten teacher, herding my staff around through the most ridiculously low-level decisions. Much of my day is spent dealing with a high level of absurdity, situations that I cannot imagine even entering the head of people back home. I arrive at the office at 8 a.m., but usually it takes half an hour to an hour to be able to sit down at my desk, because I’m sorting out people to head to the field for the day – cars and motorbikes and supplies and cooperation etc. Yet I also laugh more here than I have in any office since I left Australia. Timorese have a GREAT sense of humour, and they laugh a LOT – most of the men laugh like four year old boys (and have the sense of humour of four-year-old boys as well…one of my colleagues talks about the mental maturation process stopping around age 12). But we laugh a lot together – they crack me up, even as they drive me nuts. And they are a wonderful team…they care about each other and are very protective of me. I think, for all of them, it would be their first time working for a woman, but they really look out for me in a way that makes me feel safe and loved. My 2IC, who is really the least intimidating person you can imagine, tried to give a tough guy speech to the security guards at my house…”we will be watching as well and making sure she is safe…and don’t play your music loud because Mana Kate doesn’t like that”!!! Bless his heart…he’s just not very scary but I was very moved by the effort.
As we’re into the home stretch to Christmas (again – didn’t we just do Christmas about six weeks ago? Seriously?) I will try to write more, particularly about specifics of my life here. But for now…I’m back and I have something to say…
I’ll leave you with a photo of my team (minus three staff) taken at our planning retreat in October.