Thursday, November 24, 2005

The journey to work

This morning while walking from my house to the main road I noticed how pretty the surrounding mountains were now that there has been a number of heavy downpours: brown has turned to green. I also came across another delightful sight: a sow and her little piglets napping under a bush. They were so cute! In fact, living here I often think I’m an extra in a never ending Babe film, albeit one without the happy ending.

On the “mikrolet” to work was the most gorgeous little girl of no more than one year’s age with the most amazing big brown eyes and very long eyelashes. She was totally mesmerised by me and we exchanged many smiles. However, she was wearing the ubiquitous acrylic hat which I had to restrain myself from removing from her head and throwing out the window! The rest of her body was dressed in appropriate clothing for a typical hot and humid day but most of the heat her little body was generating was trapped inside the ridiculous hat.

I have recently discovered more information as to why this health (and sometimes life) threatening practice occurs: to keep the dew off the baby’s head. Now I completely understand the need for this in the mountains of Timor where temperatures plummet overnight, but in Dili where night time temperatures hover around 20oC all year round, I have yet to see one drop of dew. I therefore began to wonder if this practice is so prevalent in parts of the country where it is completely unnecessary and in fact endangers the health of the child, because most people who live for example in Dili, have migrated from other parts of the country and they bring these cultural practices with them, not realising the geographic specificity of the practice. It will probably take generations of living (not to mention education) in Dili for these practices to stop.

Upon arrival to work I discovered our office manager had returned from a week’s sick leave as she had caught the measles from her children. She is still covered in spots and I hope that she is no longer contagious. I have never seen anyone with the measles; in fact, the only similar disease I have seen is the chickenpox which my sister had as a child. I managed to escape any such illnesses as a child and so was heavily vaccinated with MMR and chickenpox before I came to Timor. Thank goodness I did given my colleague’s condition although I know that being vaccinated is not a 100% assurance that I won’t contract it.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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