Sunday, May 5, 2013

Timor Fun

Hi folks.  We, that being Stephanie and I, realized we have been sending out mostly intense medical/project oriented blogs.  This is a big part of our time here to be sure but there have been countless magical moments that don’t fit into that category.  This blog (and perhaps a few more soon to come) will try to fill that gap.  We hope you enjoy:)

Relaxing with friends at Bairo Pite Clinic.


Hanging out in Dili.  Umbrella not for rain.

There are lots of children around in Timor and they delight in informing us of our status as foreigners.  Or maybe it’s just their way of saying hi.  Shouts of “malae” (roughly translated as foreigner) accompany us virtually wherever we go.  Even children small enough to be barely walking seem to have figured out this charming game and squeak out, “malae-malae-malae-malae” with machine-gun rapidity as we pass.

1-2-3 Jump!  Stephanie gets some sick vertical!

We often visit the local park where I like to do pull-ups on the monkey bars and the kids like to attempt them or count for me.  We also chase the kids all over the play structure (their favorite game).  Sometimes things get rough and we have to lay down the law.  “Stop hitting each other in the head or we will go home” usually does the trick. 

Swinging around after a big rain!


...and down, jumping "rope" with a rope made entirely of
rubber bands!

The local neighborhood girls have taken to Stephanie like white on rice and whenever we show up they flock to her.  She has taught them a few basic yoga moves which was a huge hit and quite a sight to see - kids wobbling into kids, smiles all over:)  When sometimes I go alone to the park the first words I hear are usually, “Stephanie, iha nebee?” – “Where is Stephanie?”  Her “fan club” has grown to such proportions that now when we go for neighborhood walks we invariably hear shouts of “Stephanie” (pronounced Stefan-yah) from all directions.  It’s great:)


Stephanie running up a dry riverbed near our home.

Prior to traveling to Timor I read the book “Born to Run” which Stephanie also read soon after our arrival.  We were both inspired.  I consider it one of the most inspiring and life-changing books I have ever read.  It combines an adventure tale with very plausible argument that humans were designed to run – and to do so bare-foot or in very minimal footwear.  At the time of reading I had been suffering a nagging knee pain whenever I ran more than 30 minutes or so.  Switching to minimal footwear has been a slow road but in Timor, after months of building up previously neglected muscles in my feet and lower legs, I have been able to run for over 2 hours straight, up and down mountains, with no pain.  None.  It’s amazing!  To say I am a convert is a massive understatement:)

Stephanie and I go running several times per week currently.  Usually we choose early morning (6-7am range) to beat the heat.  It’s early but we’ve seen more amazing sunrises here than I think I’ve seen in all my life prior!

Running with a group of local kids on the same riverbed -
kids here just love to run!
At present we are training for the Dili ½ and full marathon, which is scheduled for June 22nd – the day we fly out!  We had been planning on doing the event for months and when we found out they had scheduled the race later than ever and on our departure date we were heart-broken.  Examining event and flight times though we realized we could still fit it in, barely.  The plan is to pass the finish line and keep going, have our place already cleaned and stuff packed and go straight for the airport!  Hopefully our legs don’t cramp too bad being stuck on the plane:)

Look at that smile:)

On a morning run looking at the sunrise over the mountains
east of Dili.
Sunrise from a run along the coast - it never gets old I tell you!

Beach Escapes

A conch shell I found and later gave to the local co-op that
ran the huts we stayed in.  The water's clarity was unreal
around Jaco Island.

Twice now we have had the opportunity to escape the scorching, humid confines of Dili for idyllic ocean-side escapes.  Our first adventure took place a couple months back but we never managed to post anything about it.  We traveled to Jaco Island, located on the easternmost tip of Timor.  The beaches are pristine and the snorkeling (or scuba diving if you do it) is phenomenal.  The area is part of what is known as the coral triangle, a zone known to contain arguably the worlds most diverse coral reef system in the world.

Boats on the beach at Atauro island. 

Our second trip was more recent and out to an island called Atauro 3 hours north of Dili by boat.  We hiked, snorkeled, swam, ate, read and recharged our batteries as much as possible before heading back to Dili.

Stephanie by a mangrove tree wearing a traditional sarong skirt.  Such a nice smile:)

A cave we were guided to near Jaco Island (but on the mainland).
This and other similar caves were reportedly used as hideouts
for Timorese resistance fighters during the Indonesian occupation.

Stephanie in the hut we stayed at while
visiting Jaco Island.

Sunrise from a sea cave near Jaco Island.


One of the roles Stephanie has taken on at the clinic is assisting in the pediatric malnutrition ward by helping to engage the children in play.  Malnutrition causes children to become listless and apathetic and encouraging play is an important part of their treatment plan.  

Stephanie and Lidia at the park

The main staff member of the ward is a young woman named Lidia.  Essentially a volunteer herself, she is paid a minimal wage (to cover transportation costs), but despite this her dedication and care is superb.  Lidia and Stephanie hit it off from the beginning and when Lidia informed us she is studying English with the hope of earning a scholarship to study abroad and hopefully become a doctor one day Stephanie began to work with her to improve her English.  Their friendship has blossomed and Lidia recently invited us to visit her family at their home and share a meal! 

At Lidia's home with her parents and a feast of traditional
Timorese foods!

Stephanie and Rosalia in the courtyard outside
our apartment.
Our land-lady is a Timorese woman named Rosalia.  However, the word land-lady does not do the relationship justice as she has essentially become a second mother to us both.  From bringing us little treats (fried tempe, bean soup, bananas), to sweeping our little porch, to greeting us with excitement and smile, to offering to teach Stephanie how to cook regional food she has been a true blessing in our lives here.

Super Shopper!

Yesterday, Saturday here in Timor, was our shopping adventure day.  We had a long list of items both for an upcoming overnight community health trip (bedding, pads, mosquito nets etc.) and a future community health worker training (more on both of those in a future project related blog).  We managed to find all our items after roughly 5 hours of searching but then realized, “how the heck are we going to get all this home on our bikes?”  The answer, in part, can be seen below:)

I am not sure whether it was the mosquito nets
strapped to my back or the fact that we generally
stick out like sore thumbs but it felt to me like
there were an awful lot of people staring at us as
we rode home from the store. 

Lorenzo’s Birthday

Lorenzo, for those who may not remember, is the Timorese young man who has been invaluable in helping move our project forward.  We attended a triple birthday (including his) last weekend.  Through Lorenzo we have come to know most of the members of his house and it was exciting to be a part of their special day.  After singing happy birthday in portuguese (birthdays have little meaning in traditional Timorese culture and there is no song for them) we all feasted on fish, rice, local greens, banana juice and pumpkin flan - yum! 

Party time!