Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hairless in Dili

Monday 1 August 2005

Although we are still to receive a reply from the Australian Embassy, we have had it confirmed by a reliable source that a young woman from Australia was raped by a taxi driver. Apparently, they got into an altercation about payment for the fare, and he used his power as a male to rape her. I have talked to my organisation about it, as they document all known rape cases in Timor. It is only the second rape of a woman from a country other than Timor that they have been informed about in their eight-year history. Many many more Timorese women are raped every year. Regardless, it is very sad for the woman concerned.

As a response to the World Bank’s report on Timor-Leste, and Radio Australia’s (RA) interview with a spokesperson from the organisation in Timor, RA interviewed Tim Anderson on behalf of AID/Watch, about its views on the report. It’s well worth listening to.

We continue to experience restless sleep thanks to the plethora of noise that emanates from our neighbourhood. On the weekend the family across the road from us had an amplifier installed which has increased the number of decibels their music is played at. They usually begin around 7am and then stop and start throughout the day. Our fantasy of a peaceful beach house is fast evaporating as the reality of the noise pollution sets in. Our very young taxi driver this morning was playing his music so loud that I had to stick my fingers in my ears for most of the 15-minute journey. It constantly amazes me how much the Timorese appear to enjoy indulging/destroying their hearing. There is very little respite from it. I really wonder if they ever desire, as I do, peace and tranquillity.

We are thinking about buying a tent from the “malae” supermarket come furniture store, and catching a bus out of town on the weekends, pitching our tent some place quiet and enjoying some peace. There are no official camping grounds in Timor, but if you ask a landowner if you can pitch a tent on his land, he is sure to be accommodating. I’m very tempted.

I clipped all my hair off yesterday with the clippers Daniel uses to trim his beard. I now have perhaps a number three haircut. The last time I had hair this short was seven years ago just before I left for Berkeley. It feels so much better to be rid of it! As 70% of the heat in your body escapes from your head, I feel my body can cool down better. Moreover, washing my hair has become a breeze. It only takes a few seconds and I save on precious water, not to mention shampoo and conditioner. Daniel has taken to calling me his “little monk” or Sinead (O’Connor).

We actually ran out of water on the weekend. Our “family” turned on the water pump to obtain more water but from where it comes from I am not sure. However, upon turning on the tap, the water was dark brown and left sediment in the sink. It took quite some time for the water to run clear. The water in the toilet also often runs out and we have to fill a bucket with water from the tap in the garden in order to flush it. Having such poor quality water and so little of it makes me even more conscious of our profligate waste of this precious resource, particularly in Australia where we use drinking water to flush the toilet.

Our power supply also regularly cuts out but the generator was fixed on the weekend so that we can switch over to it when it does so. We mainly uses electricity to run the cooling fans and in the evenings, to switch on the air conditioner in our bedroom for about an hour. Without electricity our body temperature increases and results in an inability to do very much.

Yesterday afternoon we had a friend of a friend from Melbourne visit us at our house. We took her for a walk along the beach down to the Tasitolu Peace Park to see it at sunset. It was quite cool and as an enormous red sun set behind the mountains, the colours reflected were beautiful. There were a small number of different birds on one of the lakes including a group of pelicans and terns. On our return journey we walked through Tasitolu village, and again, we felt like royalty on procession for our subjects. The first group of houses we passed near the lake was inhabited by very poor people who we deduced were such by the materials of their houses and their clothes: most were wearing sarongs not western clothes. We returned home along the beach and were slightly harassed by a group of young boy children. I made my African beans dish for dinner and luckily without the recipe on hand managed to remember most of it; it turned out okay. Our friend stayed the night and left for Australia this afternoon.

This morning when leaving for work, I did not want to frighten the little children in my neighbourhood so I wore my hat en route to the main road. The children continue to be captivated by our presence. Their little smiling faces make our start to the day very rewarding. My colleagues were all a little shocked about my new appearance. Some of them laughed. Most asked what happened to my hair. Some said positive things. I can’t imagine if they did not like it that they would say so.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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