Saturday, August 19, 2006

Touchdown Timor

My arrival was smooth and went off without any delays.  My friend Sarah M who is working at UNICEF and my new boss Cedric met me at the airport.   I was fairly out of it and pretty much astonished to be in Timor again.  There is a clear military presence at the airport although not what I expected.   I think maybe it has been taken down a bit.  There were some Australian soldiers camped there and some military trucks and stuff but not much more.   It was clearly being controlled by them though.  The other noticeable thing at the airport is a refugee camp or IDP (Internal Displaced Peoples) camp.   Every family has got a nice white half cylinder tent.  Which means about 7 to one tent.  It doesn't seem to dirty or crowed but that is only because everyone is off at work during the day.   At night it gets real crowded and fights and such break out. 


After we the left the airport we jumped right into work.  We dropped off Sarah at UNICEF and went straight to a meeting there and then to Triangle's office.   Triangle is a very small NGO here as they only have a couple employees.  There is one main project, which is Water and Sanitation program in three townships, of which I will be the new project manager.   The previous one got sick and is healing in Australia right now.  The project is close to completion in theory and our deadline to finish is the end of October.   My contract is also up October so hopefully the work won't run over but I am pretty sure it will.  Triangle has some other short term things going on and have been trying to add new projects.   They did do a small project with UNICEF in the IDP camps here building a couple wells and latrines. 


So the new acronym here is IDP.  People say it constantly.   It is used to described what would normally be called a refugee.  Apparently since people have not fled to another country but only within Timor they are called IDP not refugees.    There are many camps all over.  There are a couple in Dili at the airport, Don Bosco, and even at the Prime ministers house.   There is a large one about 30 minutes east of Dili near a military base in Metenaro.  Then there a couple more in my old home of Baucau, which I haven't seen yet.   The camps are terrible but people won't leave.  There is two basic reasons.  First is it is still not safe for them to go back to their homes in dili.   The second is I don't think people want to leave because the camps are nicer than there homes.  That is what really makes me sick.   In the camps although it is not nice by any means they do get free water and a place to live.  Humanitarian aid programs are giving them free food as well.   Why would they want to leave.


 I crashed at Cedric's house and we left for laleia my new home the next day.   I think I was only in Dili maybe 12hrs or so and it seemed awful quick but it was probably best.  I now live in a small town of about 1500 on the the road from Dili to Baucau.   It is funny I always though laleia was one of the most beautiful places in Timor and now I am living there.  Although it is in the driest most desolate part of Timor, the northern coastal desert, this town is situated right on a river on a large outcropping of rock.   The town's most standout feature is its giant pink church has definitely been freshly painted.  It is visible from miles away.  


My Tetun has come back no problem.  I had one rough first day but seem right back where I left off.   I am one of two foreigners that live in the town.  The other is a volunteer doctor from Cuba.  My work is to supervise the construction of three water systems.   There are other timorese that I work with that are not quite employees but do receive some type of compensation for the project.  They are responsible to supervise on a more local level and to organize and motivate the communities.   Some of them are also responsible to do some of the work.  The job is perfect.  Exactly what I thought it was going to be doing and what I want.   I get to supervise water and sanitation projects from on site.  All the people have been extremely nice and have taken well to me even though I have only been there a couple days.   The biggest thing I think is I can speak Tetun.  The previous guy can't speak it and only communicated in English which they speak a bit of.   Because I can now not only speak to the other supervisors but can speak directly with the people I think people may start to get more behind the project as it seems there a lull in enthusiasm.   Probably not much happened lately with the other guy getting sick and all. 


This week I was able to jump right in to work and things are starting to go smoothly.  My schedule will be something like I will live there 5 days a week and then come to dili every weekend.  The project has one car, one motor bike, and one bicycle.   Since I am the manager I sort of get my pick although I definitely think about the project first.  When i come to dili I do have a car though.   I got to say it is kind of weird to drive on the other side of the road as well as shift with your left had but I have done ok so far.  Since this is the developing world there are not many rules of the road so i have tried to take it easy so far as I don't want to get into trouble.   There are some military road blocks along the road and a lot of military traffic.  I just get out of the way but because I am a foreigner I won't have any problems


So far i have able to see Sarah M, Sarah W, Erin K, Ann, and Dave all x-Pcers.  I will see Jesse W, austin, and ron later too I think we are going to play some bball.   Anyway I will update again soon.  I hope everyone is well.  Take care.   Lv jesse

Jesse Shapiro
flipflop...not a shoe...a lifestyle.

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