Sunday, February 19, 2006

Book and DVD update

We’ve been savouring episodes of the fantastic BBC spy drama series Spooks watching one a week. For now they are repeats as I originally saw half of the second series in 2003 and in preparation for watching the remainder of that series and the third one, I am refreshing my memory.

We watched the final four episodes in the first of the new series of Doctor Who, which were simply fabulous. I can’t wait for series two!

We continue to watch the classic BBC comedy Black Adder and this evening completed watching series one (there are four in total). It provides us with many moments of light relief.

Other DVDs we’ve watched recently include In Her Shoes a wonderfully bittersweet drama starring Australian Toni Collette, Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine. It tells the story of the relationship between two very different sisters, which had parallels with my own very difficult relationship with my sister. I highly commend this film. Prime with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep was likewise enjoyable to watch particularly as the story was about the relationship between an older woman and a younger man, which again had parallels with my own relationship with Daniel.

Daniel’s mum sent him a very Australian DVD for his birthday late last year, which due to the long delays with the mail, we have just recently watched. It is a mokumentary called We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year where the one comic actor plays all the characters both male and female. Contestants for the award are Ricky Wong an Asian-Australian PhD physics student from Melbourne; Ja’mie the private school brat from Sydney who sponsors a record 95 children in Sudan; foul mouthed twins Daniel and Nathan from country South Australia; Pat the one leg shorter than the other rolling woman from Perth; and the most loathsome character of them all Phil from Brisbane who has the ego of a psychopath. It is very funny and so Australian that the humour would be lost on anyone who doesn’t have a self-deprecating sense of humour and an appreciation for satire.

In Bali I purchased VCDs of the BBC series The Human Body narrated by Sir Robert Winston circa 1998 with the intention of donating them to my NGO as it is very difficult to get any quality health education in Timor. I was never able to see the series when it first aired on Australian television as I was living in the USA at the time. However, I have subsequently seen another series that Sir Robert did on the development of babies and infants, which was fascinating. The strange thing about watching the Indonesian version of The Human Body (with Bahasa subtitles) is that the government sensors have blocked out all, and I mean all, naked bodies including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the only birthing scene! The whole series is about the human body for christ sakes, it’s not bloody pornography! It consistently shocks me how some (traditional and/or religious) societies continue to remain so hung up about nudity even when it is in the interests of science education! What sort of health education to Indonesian children receive I wonder? (I know what Timorese children receive, zilch.)

I finally completed reading My God! It’s a Woman but my God! was it difficult! It was the most boring book I think I have ever read (at least in recent living memory). I certainly do not commend this book to you unless you are a flying and aeroplane enthusiast.

I’m now reading proceedings from the conference we attended shortly before departing Australia for Timor: Cooperating with Timor-Leste in Development Bulletin No. 68, October 2005, published by the Development Studies Network, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. It’s really fascinating to read so many papers on such diverse topics especially now that we’ve lived here for eight months; the issues feel so immediate! Topics covered include:
  • modern and traditional justice: neither system is delivering justice; moreover, the government of Timor is not willing to pursue justice for the brutal 24-year occupation by Indonesia;
  • agriculture: land degradation, deforestation, poor crop yields, subsistence livelihoods, hungry seasons;
  • oil and gas exploration and coffee production: Timor’s three main resources where its wealth is concentrated;
  • health: high maternal and child mortality rates, respiratory illnesses including TB, malnutrition and the stunted development of children, diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever;
  • women: although the new constitution states equality between the genders in reality it doesn’t exist because the traditional cultures of Timor are incredibly patriarchal; the male animist gods only pass on their wisdom/laws to males and thus women are denied any power; domestic and sexual violence rates are unacceptably high; due to the high birth rate (see family planning), women are denied their full humanity as effectively they are reduced to nothing more than their wombs;
  • family planning: there is none! although the government now has a policy; however, most couples do not discuss how many children they want, when and how and this combined with less than 10% of couples utilising contraception, means women just keep reproducing until menopause, hence the highest birth rate in the world at 8 children per woman; child spacing is practically non-existent which threatens the health and lives of women and their children (see health);
  • education: woeful due to lack of trained teachers, resources and infrastructure combined with the complicated language policy; and
  • communications: libraries, telephones, computers are all affected by poor infrastructure including a lack of electricity outside of the main towns.

I really feel as though I am getting a comprehensive academic education on current day Timor (although a paper on traditional cultural beliefs and practices would have been good). This information is very difficult to obtain otherwise as although there are tens of published books about the country, they are written mostly by white men, and mostly about the events surrounding 1999 and the politics of the 24-year occupation by Indonesia. However, I have also spent the past seven months reading a range of documents, mostly concerning women, domestic and sexual violence, the legal systems (both traditional and modern), prostitution, HIV/AIDs and poverty all of which are produced by local and international NGOs and UN agencies, many of which are difficult to find outside of Timor. This education complements my practical lived experience, and therefore, I am enjoying the read even if the myriad of problems are so overwhelming.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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