Sunday, December 19, 2010

blogging from the hip

You haven't heard from me for awhile because I've been (believe it or not) really busy. This describes some parts of life here, and the last week has been super extra crazy. There will be an entry for that soon.

Monday, December 13, 2010

High rate of compression

For my next feat, in a single haiku I will summarise the United States of America, Singapore, Timor Leste, and many other countries around the world. Here we go:


I realise this is a real brain twister, so I will elaborate each word into its own haiku:


Unfair or partial:
Of treatments, situations
In society


About matters of
Wealth, income, and resulting
Structure or order


I refer here to
The distinct separation
Of social classes

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

still kicking redux

I'm still kicking too, by the way, after almost a month of drinking solar-disinfected water. I haven't bought a plastic bottle in a month.

I also refuse styrofoam, which is waaay too commonly used around these parts. You should refuse styrofoam too (watch just 1:20 of this, starting at 1:00).

Okay. PSA over, on to the story.


Whilst this happened a few weeks ago and has since filtered down in my memory, at the time it was one of my most visceral experiences. There are no pictures (you'll soon see why), not that I particularly wanted to take any.

It all started when I got home one night, and a strange man who was talking with the security guard came up to me and asked me for ten dollars. Because of the time of night, and how sketchy his story was, I awkwardly extracted myself and went to bed. The security guard told me the next day never to trust that man: he's "not okay" in the head.


A few days later, I was sitting in the park watching some kids play, jumping and swinging from low branches on a tree. They performed some real feats of strength and flexibility. A small child came over to hang out, and sat on a low wall in front of me.

It took me a few minutes to notice, and when I did I was horrified: his left foot was badly infected. He'd suffered some kind of injury to the ball, but the infection had spread to the whole foot: it was painful for him when I touched the top of his foot near the ankle. When his foot swelled too big for him to put a sandal on it, he limped without one. The soft skin had been punctured, and the wound was leaking and dirty.


After almost freaking out, I managed talk to Aldo (the boy) through some of his friends who could understand my terrible Indonesian. No, he didn't want to go to the hospital. Yes, his parents knew about the foot. I told him he HAD to go to the hospital TODAY and offered to take him. He refused, and got up to go home.

I wanted to pick Aldo up and carry him to the hospital, but I made the better decision: to go to his home and talk to his parents.

Now, who else would has father be than the sketchy man who asked me for money? This is the part that made me saddest. They were a huge family of five kids, four plus parents (twenty three, nine, six and less than one) lived in a tiny wood-and-thatch house (out of place in a really nice part of town). The father and mother chewed betel nut and smoked cigarettes constantly, and there was a huge pile of glass bottles in the yard.

They told me that his foot had been injured a week ago, but he had refused to go to the hospital. The only reason I heard from any of them was that the boy was scared. I told them their son would have to go to the hospital TODAY and offered to take him. They agreed, and their son burst into screams and crying. I'm sure you could hear him from town, and nobody could do anything to console him, and he almost passed out from bawling so hard.

His father could neither intimidate or convince him to stop and to go to the hospital, and the mother at one point started laughing at him. They eventually put him, limp, onto a motorcycle and took him. I followed.

I really don't blame the kid for not wanting to go to the hospital. Growing up in a home where the parents clearly lack concern for their children's health and education, I'm sure he had a horrible idea of needles and saws and lack of anaesthesia. Well. He was right about one thing.


I was glad I didn't take Aldo to the hospital alone. At least this time, they didn't use anaesthetic. I watched a doctor cut a hole to drain and disinfect the foot, and had to help his father hold his feet still while the doctor worked.

It must have been intensely painful from the screams. Pus and blood flowed freely. I watched the doctor flush the wound with antiseptic (using a syringe to push iodine under the skin) and then put some antiseptic-soaked fabric under the skin of the abscess. Scalpel, syringe, gauze, forceps, bandage.

Fortunately, after you've watched a goat slaughtered, you're ready for anything, and I managed to see the whole thing through.

We left with his foot in a huge bandage, and some antibiotics. When they rode off home, I was convinced the boy hated me. He certainly didn't look happy. His parents were strangely grateful for two people who'd watch their son's foot swell to twice its size and not done anything about it for days. I was simply in shock that all this happened before lunch on Saturday.


When I checked back on Monday night to make sure Aldo had been taking his meds and had gone for a checkup, I found only his mother there, who told me that her husband was too drunk from the night before to take him to the hospital today; they would go tomorrow.

I was stunned by how matter-of-factly she said it. Could she have taken him? The father came back later, and seemed not to think it a big deal that he had missed the checkup.

They went the next day, according to the mother.

I saw Aldo at the port after a week away from Oecusse, and he looked good. I don't think he hates me (he waves at me when he sees me now, and it doesn't look like he's waving his middle finger) . Except for some scarring, his foot looks normal, and it no longer pains him.


I'm not sure how to feel or think about this whole ordeal. On one hand, I'm pretty sure it saved Aldo a foot, and I hope it taught him, if not his parents, the importance of getting injuries and illnesses addressed early. On the other hand, it's put me in a much closer and more awkward situation with a couple of people I want nothing to do with.

I can't believe they have such a huge family and both parents squander money on smokes, betel nut and booze, are equally terrible at raising (and taking care of) their children.

I feel very slimy interacting with the boy's father. (I won't elaborate) He's pretty good at sneaking into situations that make it difficult for me to say no, as well as at using guilt and sympathy. He makes his son do the respectful handshake with me, which makes me angry. His son should be cursing his father, not thanking me.

I don't want thanks or anything from them at all. I really didn't want to be a part of this whole fiasco in the first place. It crossed my mind to look the other way, but Aldo might have lost his foot.

As much as I want to be far far away from them, I worry about the kids.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Solvatten scramble

Something I forgot to link in the previous post. I constantly forget attachments to emails and sometimes when I write sentences I accidentally the operative verb too.

I imported some things into Timor. It was a wild ride. I'm going back this weekend to do it again, but I'm older and wiser this time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

General dispatch

my favourite picture so far this trip: a mason / carpenter in Oecusse town


Solvatten scramble

I imported some things into Timor. It was a wild ride. I'm going back this weekend to do it again, but I'm older and wiser this time.


Indonesian is one of the most fun languages I've ever learned. It's a really cheery language, at least I feel it lends itself easily to pleasant conversation.

It's structured unlike any other language I've learned, with a whole host of pre- and suff- ixes and particles that modify words and expressions that I still don't understand: bits like per-, me-, di-, ken-, -kan, -nya, -an (okay, I know that one), and yang (I know that one too, but not that well) that keep popping up everywhere.

Indonesian is truly a joy to speak. Jokes are funnier, and cuteness is more precious. Different languages lend themselves to different things: Korean is great for complaining, French is great for complaining (and poetry, I hear), and Indonesian is simply a bundle of fun.

I just love the singsong lilt and how sheerly cute its direct translation to English is.

I like imagining that when I say "saya" and "anda" (the formal expressions for "I" and "you") I have a proper Queen's English accent and when I say "aku" and "kamu" (the informal ones) I say "aaah" and "yeww" like a proper southern gentleman.

Swahili is likely as fun (usi vute mto wangu*) but I didn't have the time to learn and enjoy it like I have with Indonesian. I also think that speaking Indonesian helps me with my chronic mumbling because of how sharp and defined the syllables are.


Atauro adventure

I'm really not the kind of person to make the effort to run away to an island to snorkel and relax and for a change of scenery, but when the opportunity presented itself to tag along with a group of fifteen that I hardly knew to Atauro island last weekend, I decided I would do it.

all the cool kids in the back of a truck. At 4am. Honestly, you didn't expect pictures of happy snorkeling land did you? That would be so typical

It was a great time-- I'm very glad I went and was sad when it was over. We swam in the sea (the water was unbelievably hot), climbed coconut trees and played beach soccer and lots of Loaded Questions-and-Taboo-like games. We got to know and like each other and had a bunch of fun.

another favourite picture: napping next to some Timorese women on the upper "locals only" deck (sneaked up before the captain got there and before I knew it was locals only) of a fishing boat going back to Dili


One of the families on the street I live on was building a new fishing boat the other day. It takes about three days to make one. First, they cut down a whole tree, and pare the trunk down to the longest and widest straight single piece they can.

After this, they carve out the inside by wetting it and attacking it with machetes and thick straight iron pry-bars. They also cut and shape the outside to make it more streamlined. Eventually, they will put outriggers on it to make it stable in the water. Here are some similar boats.

picture is actually from Atauro. The bags sitting in the water are net-bags filled with seaweed

To cut down a big tree, you need a big chainsaw.

2012 edit: although, I hear that sometimes, a small axe will do fine (: