A comfortable one-hour flight from Darwin, in the Northern Territory, will have you in Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, one of the newest nations on earth, and leaving behind many of the comforts of home. Tourism is a fledgling industry here but it is a country where one is so warmly welcomed and the people give much of themselves to visitors.
A small, basic building serves as the international airport and is a far cry from the slick commercial ones we are used to. The local yellow cabs look like duct tape is used to keep them together. They are a reminder we are in a third-world country. The shattered windscreen and scraping mudguards accompanied by plumes of exhaust fumes do little to instil confidence that these vehicles can make the trip into the centre of Dili. Car ownership and even motor bikes or scooters, are beyond the reach of most East Timorese. Other than taxis, there is the local Mikrolet, a mini-bus used by most to travel around town or to the more remote parts of the country. Colourful and noisy, they remind one of public transport in India. For other people, walking long distances is common.
The taxi ride from the airport is an experience. Our laden suitcases tax the suspension of our hire car. We are carrying extra luggage because we have special supplies for the village of Venilale, with which we have a partnership with back in Australia. The boot of the car where our suitcases are stowed, is also home to a rather large black box which amplifies the rather loud, grating music for our driver’s entertainment. Obviously, proud of his sound system, for me in the back seat my poor ear drums were under assault. We politely requested that it be turned off!
We spent our first three nights in Dili at the Hotel Esplanda, with comfortable western-style accommodation. The up-stairs restaurant overlooks the sea which provides a cooling breeze and respite from the humidity. The southern Australian winter months is a recommended time to visit East Timor.
When in Dili there are some essential places to visit to get a feel for the country, its people, history and Timorese culture. If you are keen to buy some authentic souvenirs from Timor Leste, then the Tais Market, is a must. Here you can choose from several different stalls hand-crafted items utilising this traditional woven fabric which is often used as part of their national dress. It is a great opportunity to see local women operating the hand-looms up close. There may be some bargaining but it tends to fairly low-key and not as aggressive as you find in other Asian countries.
One aspect of travel in East Timor, is using American dollars as the local currency, which seems strange at first, given how far away America is. Also be prepared to carry plenty of cash because credit card facilities are not common at many of the markets or retail shops run by local Timorese. Most items are not particularly expensive compared to back home. Grab a hand of bananas from a street vendor for $1US for a quick cheap snack!
Other places of interest with powerful stories to share are the Santa Cruz Cemetery, and Chega, the truth and reconciliation museum. I wrote about Chega in an earlier post The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time… if you would like to read more about why recording people’s stories is paramount to the healing process.
Preceding the violent events of 1999 when East Timor’s fight to become an independent nation was international news was the Santa Cruz Massacre on November 12, 1991. On that morning the Indonesian security forces violently suppressed a peaceful procession of some 3,000 Timorese people to Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery. This led to the deaths of 271 East Timorese, 382 wounded and 250 reported missing afterwards according to local accounts (Braithwaite, Charlesworth and Soares 2012). To better understand the events leading up to the Indonesians opening fire on those present, I would recommend the reference link below to the ANU (Australian National University) publication.
This was my first trip to East Timor and in all my travels I had never encountered a graveyard like this one. Bearing in mind the horrific event of 1991, the place has a surreal feel with its ramshackle collection of monuments and tombs to honour the dead. Unlike our orderly English-style cemeteries, with footpaths and signs, Santa Cruz, requires scrabbling over graves to get anywhere. I found myself constantly apologising to those below for stepping on their final resting places. Shrines celebrating the dominant Catholic religion of many East Timorese and a legacy of 400-years of Portuguese colonisation, are plentiful and varied in their design. Mini-church buildings and praying hands are among the more unusual decorations. On my way out of the cemetery, I found a dead cat lying on top of a grave, looking as if it had been placed there intentionally. As, I said, it was a surreal feeling.
Another popular tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners, is the sunset walk (or run for others!) to the Cristo Rei statue via a 590-steps stairway passing stations of the cross. The 27 metre high structure stands with the arms of Jesus stretched out to welcome us. Ironically, it was a present from one of the most Muslim populated countries in the world to the predominately Christian country in 1996. Indonesian President Suharto used it to mark the 20th anniversary of Indonesia annexing East Timor as a token gesture to please the Catholic majority (atlasobscurra website). This failed to stop East Timor’s fight for independence which escalated in 1999.
Another place worth checking out while in Dili, is Arte Moris a centre for fine arts established in 2003 and described by Lonely Planet Guide as “quirky”. It provides an outlet for the youth of Timor Leste to express themselves through various artistic mediums of contemporary and traditional forms. The place has a real reggae feel and features dark and humorous pieces. The building with its broken ceilings and run-down surrounds are due to lack of money for such things and believed to send a political message by the artists about the lack funding for the arts (Yin Hooi 2017). In a country still dealing with the trauma of the past, here is somewhere to create with the future in mind. If you are interested in buying any of the works, a phone call is made to the individual artist to negotiate a price.
Dili, is a fascinating city with much to offer but for its people there is much work to do to improve the lives of everyday Timorese and build a stronger, positive future for all. The nation’s capital makes a great start to any travels beyond Dili. But be prepared for the roads leading out…
Braithwaite, John, Charlesworth, Hilary and Soares, Adérito (2012), Chapter 6, Santa Cruz Massacre, 1991, Networked Governance of Freedom and Tyranny: Peace in Timor-Leste, by ANU E Press, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p174961/pdf/ch061.pdf
Ying Hooi, Khoo (2017), How arts heal and galvanise the youth of Timor Leste, Myanmar Times, 14th June, 2017.
A month into spring, we move our clocks forward by one hour for the beginning of daylight saving as we head towards summer and somewhere on the other side of the world, clocks fall back by an hour as winter advances. Coming out of a colder than usual Victorian winter, the sun-lit days with increased warmth are welcomed with open arms. The ski season was able to extend its season to include the most recent school holidays but the sight of snow-capped mountains is quickly disappearing! Good winter rains has filled our dams and tanks and left the surrounding country side looking reminiscent of the green hills in Lancashire, England, the birthplace of my husband.
As we shed our winter layers and start to tackle the tasks of cutting grass and weeding garden beds, we are aware of the changing seasons. Daffodils and jonquils created a jolly display and now we are seeing white and pink blossoms throughout our property. Spring also brings new purpose to our bird population as they busily flit about building nests and leaving their calling cards on the walls of our house! A certain magpie has taken to dive bombing me on my get-fit walks which always makes me nervous. We are amazed by the tiny wrens picking up material for their nests twice their size and the pretty ground-level plover eggs. As the heat increases we are aware that snakes including brown and tiger varieties, are awakening from their hibernation. At this stage, only seen two down by our dam.
We enjoy watching the antics of our neighbours’ new-born calves as they view us with great curiosity. Our two elderly cows despite their old bones enjoy the fresh green blades of grass on our lawn. The frosty days seem to be behind us. Now time to issue all those much overdue lunch and dinner invitations to celebrate these precious spring days with friends new and old. I watch the sun come up over the nearby hill and watch it go down on the opposite hill in the evening. Every day is different and brings a wonderful sense of calm and peace to know that nature is healing my body and soul.
Winter arrives with the icy fingers of frost and heavy fog in abundance. Jack Frost is laying claim on our wide open spaces with great delight, as temperatures dive down to minus zero Celsius. The appearance of snow on the nearby mountain peaks, has brought the best ski season in five years attracting visitors and tourist dollars to the region.
I began this post at the start of winter and here it is with only one day officially before the start of spring. Life and other distractions have kept me away from finishing this blog about my tree-change during the cold months. My blogging was focused on Creativity and Innovation, my latest university unit towards my agonizingly slow process of getting my first degree.
It has been an exceptionally cold winter. The wood heater is working overtime and the woolly jumpers and fur-lined boots busted out of the wardrobe. My two furry friends, Friskie and Rambo, have increased the snuggle factor as the temperature gauge drops overnight.
My respite from the cold was a two week trip to East Timor (Timor Leste) in July with a local friends group of 16 which included eight secondary college students, teachers and community members such as myself. This was a life-changing trip and has increased my passion for this emerging nation and its beautiful people to do more to support them. I will post separately about my travels to Timor Leste and share my observations and experiences. The morning I flew out to 30 degrees plus temperatures, it was minus 5 at home! Very cold by Australian standards.
Our frozen landscape!
With the cold weather, also came a wet winter. Many of us thought that last year’s big wet after almost 10 years of dry weather was a one-off and not to be complacent that the same would happen again. Obviously, we were optimistic when we bought our 22,000 litre water tank to catch the run off on our shed in April – it is now full. Both our dams have filled as well which is a bonus. Bolly (my hubby) continues to clear up around the place and is making some significant inroads. Where he has cleared the banking between the dams, is now a clearway for visiting kangaroos. We do see some big holes which belong to our burrowing wombats but not near the house thankfully. Rabbits were also on the increase but their numbers seem to have tapered off. My city cat, Rambo, caught his first rabbit the other day and his second one the next day. We are not sure if it was the same rabbit or not! Not bad for a 11-year-old cat who sleeps most of the day.
Sadly, we had to have one of our old cows put down recently. The extra cold mornings and the deterioration in her health, meant that it was the most humane thing to do. The other two despite their slow movements are happy munching grass and treating us with the contempt they think we deserve.
Although the chilly days bring their challenges to keeping well rugged-up and warm, the landscape is always changing and giving us new vistas each day. But seeing the early daffodils nodding in the breeze gives one hope of warmer days ahead.
Change. We all have to accept change at some point in our lives. Whether it is positive or negative change we are experiencing, the disruption brings upheaval or discomfort to some of us. The term disruptive technology seems to be in common use today but what is disruptive innovation?
This is a new term for me. But it has been around since the 1990s when Professor Clayton Christensen came up with the description of the “process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”.
It helps to explain why large successful companies such as Kodak and Nortel disappeared from the business landscape. They failed to see the challenges coming from others who could create a demand for their products even if they were still in the early days of development. I remember the arrival of word processors in the news room; clunky, slow and much larger than the traditional typewriter. But they were here to stay.
In the mid-1980s many old journos were still clinging to their faithful Remingtons. When I entered journalism, I was a dab hand at typing and took on the challenge of a new technology which allowed us to fix our mistakes without retyping a new piece of paper each time or endure hard copy that was brandishing lots of sub-editors red ink!
Computers were part of our working life as journalists and had not taken over our personal lives at this stage. One could enjoy a quiet ale at the local drinking hole without the constant interruption of phone calls, text messages and emails. That pub is now a just a fond memory of another time.
This disruptive innovation got me thinking as far back as the time when the printing press was invented. Imagine how the working classes were kept ignorant by denying them access to books and other reading matter. The Bible is a classic example. If one wanted to know the teachings of Jesus, it was preached from the pulpit from a hand-illustrated and written manuscript. Imagine the joy when people could actually hold a copy of the Bible in their own hands and not have to rely on the clergy of the day to communicate the gospel.
Today the media is undergoing the biggest shakeup in its history. For more than 100 years, newspapers were part of our daily routine. The rise of the citizen journalist, now possible through the wonders of social media and blogs such as these, have challenged the status quo. Journalists are busy adapting to this disruptive innovation and trying to add something meaningful to an overcrowded information deluge.
Disruptive disruption looks like it is here to stay so watch this space!
Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.
For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves, wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.
When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.
The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension. But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again. But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.
The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.
There is the old saying , “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’m sure the same applies to all the Jills out there and anyone who believes fun and play is only for children should have another think. In this fast-paced world of social engagement and think tanks only a few key strokes or finger taps away, maybe it’s time to review our approach to more productive work spaces by adding a bit of fun in the mix.
Push back the office chair and turn off the computer, for some down time and a good ol’ fashion belly laugh. Type laughter workshops into your search engine and there is a surprisingly a large number to choose from. The main focus seems to be to help workers de-stress and in the process create a more productive workplace. It also encourages more positive brainstorming and ideas generation. For some of us letting our inner child loose is outside our comfort zone.
In my experience some of the activities organised in certain workplaces reflects the age group of the team leader in some cases. Call centre employment involves being tied to a phone in one place for a shift and can be repetitious. To break the monotony activities would range from hula dancing competitions, trying to catch money in a wind machine or just going to “Maccas” for team meetings. As much as I appreciated the break from the usual drill, I’m not sure it increased my productivity or brainstorming capacity.
Other industries are busy with everyday business and little thought is given to creating some play element into a working day. That is not to say, employees’ well being is not highly regarded by businesses and other organisations; many organise some form of social or physical activities for staff and volunteers.
What we are talking about here, is introducing some playfulness into the work environment that engages individuals and triggers creativity in a fun and useful way. Let’s face it many of us are like big kids when we get to play with something new or innovative. There must be a reason why tools such as computers, smart phones and televisions designed to help us do our work or educate us, become playthings as well!
But the importance of play in our childhood and the role it plays in our adult lives should not be under estimated. Lack of fun and games as a youngster robs one of the ability to dream of big things in the future. Some Brits bringing joy into the life of children in a refugee camp are featured in a BBC Three video, Amazing Humans: Making children smile again through the simple act of creative play using music, art, dance and more.
Play researcher and psychiatrist, Dr Stuart Brown, with the National Institute of Play in the US, is a strong advocate of the benefits of play in childhood and how that makes us much happier and smarter adults. He believes if we maintain this sense of playfulness into our adult years, it will keep us smarter at any age. Reflecting on this topic makes me realise that we all need a sense of joy in our personal and working lives, but we need to learn how as a child.
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato