Published: November 12th 2008August 30th 2008
So here I am in Kupang, West Timor, Indonesia (arrived July 28th) - living in an en suite - no bedroom just an en suite. Can’t complain ‘cause I don’t speak the language.
Actually it’s not so bad - it is one large tiled hospital room usually assigned as doctor’s quarters. In the room is the sink and ‘Mandi’ (sluice and toilet) and we have curtained off one end where our beautifully carved teak bed sits in contrast to the rest of our furniture. Not the subtle, muted tones of Laura Ashley here - we are more into lurid lime green nylon curtains, bright vivid red vinyl sofa tastefully offset with yellow plastic cushions. Still no worries about spilling the red wine on the sofa eh???
I arrived in Bali after a great flight (two) with Qatar airlines - to be recommended, Colin - looking lovely, brown and relaxed, loomed large above the waiting Balinese to greet me off the plane, he whisked me off to our home stay with its own Orchid gardens for a lovely meal and sleep. I had one day of in country training/induction before leaving lush Bali for dusty, dry barren Timor.
It is very
third/fourth/fifth world here but you soon grow very fond of these people who live in this land with nothing to trade, nothing the rest of the world wants - not even tourism and yet they get along happily with life which is slow, uncomplicated and living for the now. They smile endlessly, I’m developing RSI of the face muscles from so much grinning although it has to be a strange lip over teeth grin as their statues of devils/demons/bad guys all have protruding misshapen teeth - I am half expecting to find appeasement offerings outside the door in the mornings.
It makes me laugh but irritates Colin how the local women stop and point at how tall he is, most Europeans would be tall to them but Colin is quite exceptionally tall. So him with his height and me with my teeth and both being magically white we are always followed by a posse of giggling, squawking kids when we go to the market or such places.
Whilst it is scruffy, derelict and rubbish strewn it is not depressing or threatening completely the opposite in fact. I walk the streets (as they say) in the dark (at 6 pm) without
Shower and wet room
Well they got ahead of us here wit the wet room concept. This is the mandi filed every day form a bore holes 9hve to watch for worms in teh water though) we use the ladel to slosh water over us.
any worries and the risk of pickpockets, hustlers, muggings etc is not there. Also in spite of stories in the press about world food crisis the markets here overflow with fresh veggies, fruit, rice, eggs (scrawny) chickens and other things I don’t recognise and don’t feel inclined to sample. I guess as they are not really traders in Timor and always self-sufficient they are not vulnerable to fluctuations in world markets. They live here cocooned from the global happenings - which have its good and bad side effects. A big problem is water management. with months of rain followed by months of drought. They are not natural engineers and in the villages they have still not really figured out how to capture water in the rains and distribute it during the dry season. There are volunteers here advising on building reservoirs, water treatment plants etc. as well as working with village leaders on the maintenance of water supplies. It’s a huge challenge of educating the villagers. People we meet tell us it can be very frustrating when a water pipe is laid from a small reservoir to a village and the delighted farmers will punch holes in it so they
can enjoy a constant water supply nearer their animals, fields, play pools for kids - until of course it runs out. Put in taps and these soon break and they seem unable or unwilling to repair or replace them. Volunteering in the village sis quite frustrating
My work in Kupang, the capital city of West Timor, with the hospital staff is much easier. I started work the day after I arrived by having a meeting with the senior nursing officer about the IT training they want. It is pretty well standard Windows, Microsoft Office, Internet stuff. I have got a great translator working with me, he is a young lecturer in IT from a local private Catholic University and he is very good and very keen so looks like I can do my usually trick of just pointing and looking important whilst he does all the work.
Colin has done a great job in rescuing from around the hospital 12 unused PCs and has got them working and installed in a room above the Records Office - grandly named the ICT Training Room. It is air conditioned, all paid for by the German Overseas Development Agency - seems like there
House goat inside
he fetching lurid red plastic sofa that nicely offset teh Ronnie Coleman pose
was some sort of political tie up between Indonesia and Germany a few years ago that resulted in aid coming from Germany into this region. It is this aid money that payed for our fares and our living costs (3GBP per day each) whilst we are here.
The opinion in aid development now is that giving money for short-term project (unless it is emergency aid) is not cost effective and prone to be wasted. They feel it better to put infrastructures in place so that aid money given subsequently is used effectively, the results monitored and benefits understood. Seems like the days of volunteers digging wells in Africa are over.
We are working here until end of November when a guy from Holland takes over as IT manager for the next two years. We then hope to explore some other island of Indonesia before returning home for Christmas. There are some fabulous Island to see beside Bali - I’m keen to see in the wild the Komodo Dragons and Orang-utans but at the moment it’s head down and working flat out to prepare my first course for the hospital staff, it will be 5 weeks long so quite a task.
Ibu Rosie cooking
Note the nice array of mossie bites and the mysterious tropical fat arm disease.
There are more photos below