Monday, July 30, 2007

Best purchase I ever made

This weekend decided again for another physical adventure. 7 of us including one Timorese whom had never ridden a bike more than a mile were off to Maibissi for the night. The plan was to ride the 65km through the mountains back to Dili on Sunday. Being extremely intelligent about things I decide to drink a whole bottle of wine the night we stayed in maibissi during a intense game of Taboo, men vs women, which was dominated by men*.

*This was following the logical and moral score keeping of rob (picture 2), on the boys team, in which we removed the points posted Sarah, on the girls team, who is the game owner and therefore has home field advantage. In some cases it was even relevant to count her scores as negatives. I must state the boys had additional difficulties as all members were from different continents whereas the girl’s team was all Americans.

The next day we climbed aboard our amazing cheap Indonesian made Wal-Mart quality performance machines and set out on the road. Although the 65km is mostly a decent, which was the main motivation for the trip, there were some tough hills. The longest about 15km and quite steep. On one particular decent as I approached the group on the side of the road who were taking a break I thought of pulling a skid to scare them. I will later say I was trying a trick, but really who knows cause I have forgotten to be honest. I thought it was no biggie as I have done it close to 1 billion times as a kid on the dirt roads in Canoncito. Of course what I forgot was I had just tightened my brakes for the long decent and had switched right with left because I was having trouble with the back. So what happens when you slam on your front break at 20 km/hr.? I would love to say a flawless endow 360 or a seesaw flip but instead I went over the handle bars head first into the ground.

10 Timorese who were standing right there and would normally laugh at any painful occurrence were dead silent. I think they thought I died. Even I lay there a moment to make sure I had all my pieces. Yes I did. In fact, I ended up with only minor scratches and cuts. The one time use helmet I thought was a necessary purchase only the morning before was cracked and had probably saved me.

We climbed back on a finished the remainder of the ride and pulled into Dili about 2:30 a half hour before the cutoff for free sticky date putting from Castaways, a local treat promised to us by Rob if we arrived before 3. Took us just under 7 hrs. It was a sweet victory.

Mantebian at last!

So two weekends ago a group of us managed to finally get out of town with the objective of climbing Matebian mountain, the second tallest in Timor, which is quite difficult or at least more so than the tallest, Ramelou. We took a night in Baucau where I got to visit with my host family again before heading to the base on Saturday morning. From there 8 of us headed for the top. We were unsure where we would actually make it in order to camp but wanted to get as close to the top as possible. Exhausted, in the dark and wet from rain we made it to a spot with some traditional sacred houses that had been abandoned about 2 hrs under the summit. This was our lodging.

By then we had also managed to drag along a posy of about 8 children which kept requesting to be our guides. The 7 foreigners and 1 Timorese in our party had food, clothing, tents, water, shoes, and jackets whereas the children had nothing. I was sure they would die during the night of the cold or maybe hunger but that was not the case. In fact, if the cold and uncomfortable conditions didn’t keep us awake it was definitely the children’s singing which lasted until about 5 am at which point someone actually flipped out and yelled at them. The sun broke that morning revealing a absolutely amazing view into Baucau district below (first pic). Arriving the night before in the rain, darkness, and clouds did not prepare us for what we say that morning. Matebian is quite steep and can only imagine it is similar to what mountaineers see when they ice climb steep mountains.

Unfortunately the night was not kind to us all and most had trouble getting up unless to throw up or take a long trip to the bushes. After trying to motivate the crew it was to be only two of us who would go on for the summit. Even I was feeling a bit queasy having to use those same bushes myself twice already by 7am. We left camp with one more motivated member and had a total of seven including the guide and three children with only t-shirts and no shoes. After one more trip to the bushes we made the summit in only hr and a half. Fog covered the accent but suddenly opened up a 180 view when we hit the top (second pic). The decent was hard on the legs and felt like stacks of jello by the time we hit the cars. We travelled all the way back to Dili for a Kalan bo’ot arrival of 9pm. All I got to say is the hurt of the next two days was severe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rice harvest

During the first presidential election this year my Baucau host family had been in a motorcycle accident just after voting.  It wasn’t good especially with the five of them on the one bike.  Only my host mom and the 1.5yr old who she was holding fell of the back of the bike and were hurt.  The baby bumped it’s head and my host mom cut her face quite bad.  It is amazing to me for one that five people can fit on a bike and secondly that given the risk with three children under 5 they drive that dam fast and with no helmets.  Anyway it is normal here.  I think Timorese are either really good drivers (NOT) or just extremely lucky, if not people would be dying daily.


On Saturday I spent the day in the Natar (rice patty) with my host dad watching as they divided up the rice harvest.  It was fun to see their traditional method for how it is done.  There was a bit of chanting which we had trouble translating into Tetun from their local language but I got the idea.  They kept asking God for thanks and making sure that the soil and water is healthy for the next year’s harvest.  We then killed a goat and ate it with rice right in the natar.  They took palm leaves and quickly wove bowls and spoons for all of us.  At sun down we climbed back in the car and headed home where I was of course forced to eat again, not that I am complaining.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The election is over, but are the problems in Timor?  For now the answer is no.   It seems we have stumbled upon a weak part of the constitution and it is now under debate.  Fretilin won the election although only has around 30% of the vote.  All the other winning parties decided to immediately form a coalition contacting the remaining 70%.  Now they are debating over whether Fretilin can just form a minority government or that the coalition which does not contain the election winner can form the government.  The debate is over two words in the constitution alliance and coalition.  Fretilin says they are not the same and the rest say they are.  Of course the debate is on the Portuguese words in which the constitution is written and which many Timorese poorly understand and don’t know well enough to speak.   Getty up. 





Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bibi maten

Last week I had a meeting in an IDP Camp with the site coordinator.  When I arrived there was a crowd surrounding a person lying on the ground.  The site coordinator was already there and was quite worried as he was having trouble getting questions answered.  There was a woman was unconscious on the ground.  She was breathing and had a pulse but was totally out.  A man held her and claimed to be her husband.  He said this has happened multiple times before and it was due to black magic.  Previous times he has brought her to a spiritual healer which helps her regain consciousness.  We sort of debated for a minute what to do.  They said they had already called the ambulance and there was no answer.  I agreed to do what the husband wanted which was give them a ride to the spiritual healer.  I did and upon arrival realized the healer was a some type of martial arts master.  Anyway there were many police around so we just dropped them off and went back to work.  I still don’t know what the right thing to do was.  Morally I did what I thought was right, follow the wishes of the husband.  Although according to INGOs and such I probably should of only called the ambulance. 


Then late in the afternoon I got pick up some 1400 plastic jerry cans and deliver then to the airport to catch a helicopter ride to Suai, a southern part of Timor which has recently had a large flood.  All the bridges have been knocked out so helicopter is the only way in.  Some Oxfam staff got to go along on the ride to do an assessment.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to go but maybe next time.


This weekend was the parliamentary election which went off well.  There were very few problems reported even less than the previous two elections this year.  I heard of some people voting multiple times, some police restricting media access, and patients in clinics not being able to vote although prisoners were allowed.   We should get the initial results of the election early this week with official results at the end of the week which hopefully won’t result in any violence outbreaks.  So far it Fretilin in the lead followed by CNRT as expected.



Jesse Shapiro


IDP Technical Support & Service Advisor to

Direccao Nacional Aguas e Sanemento (DNAS) Timor Leste 

Oxfam Australia


(+670) 732-6275