Today we drove from Dili to Weberek. It was such a beautiful drive, well for the first 5 hours. I have been to many countries and seen beautiful countryside and it was like every beautiful country I have ever seen all in one drive, one minute it was like northern New South Wales, the next minute it was like England, New Zealand, Cairns. Then we started to go through little villages in the mountains, It was clear that these villages didn’t see many cars, so as soon as you approach you gain the attention of pretty much everyone around, The kids look up in curiosity but when they see you are foreigners, ohh the excitement, Malae, Malae, Malae, and sometimes showing off their english “hello Malae”. After eleven years poor Lucinda is sick to death of this because in Australia a foreigner living in the country eleven years having learned the language should not get cries of “foreigner foreigner”. But it absolutely delighted my children, they felt like rock stars. And it is not meant with any tone of disrespect.
Then the journey went on and on and the roads got worse and worse and worse, then the rain came and left, then the road got worse, and the journey continued, then the bridge to the village collapsed and we had to take a detour and it got darker and darker. then we finally saw a sign that said Weberek, and we drove some more. Finally we got to Lucindas house which is a delightfully well apointed but humble home in Weberek, with no power but great solar power and a generator for backup. The original house was given by the chief of the village for the work of WYWAM, this included providing healthcare and infrastructure support for the population. The house has since been extended and maintained by other funding. When the Indonesians set up the village they didn’t provide any useful infrastructure, just a Government Church and school, which is now run by the Catholic Church. After WYWAM left Lucinda was keen to stay on and as a midwife she has useful skills. For her I t had been rewarding work since she could see that the mortality rates and general healthcare where drastically improving with the implementation of very basic teaching on hygine and western birthing methods as well as basic medical support. The work is now funded under a friendship agreement between the Mayor of Parkes and the Chief of Weberek. These good people have replaced roofs, installed solar panels, built tanks and come every year to perform endless other jobs for the village. Funding comes largely from Peak Hill and Northern Illawarra Uniting Churches. Fundraising also comes from a variety of other sources including some fundraising in the city of Parkes, Rotary and a variety of other churches and individuals. There is now a Government funded Clinic in the village with a doctor but it requires a good deal of support.
After a long journey we were glad to stretch our legs, and as we unloaded the car the heat hit us. We had been in Dili for three days but with an air conditioned hotel to buffer us from the conditions, There was no buffer here. The hair was like soup and we wondered if we might drown in it. Lucinda made us a nice dinner and we had a glass of wine (it was New Years Eve after all) had a cold bucket shower and went to bed praying for sleep.
I don’t think I have ever ignored the new year quite like today. Basking in our novel and unfamiliar surroundings and without TV or much internet it was 10 am until we thought to wish each other happy new year. Since our car is air conditioned I did have some illusions of going for a drive, but there was work to do. Richard had a list of repair jobs that Lucinda had kindly prepared for him. He wondered if the entire trip was a clever plot to enslave him. While he finished off his jobs, Lucinda, Alina, Ms14 and I went for a walk in the village. Weberek is a lovely village it was created under Indonesian rule in order to spread the population throughout East Timor. Having spent a few days in Dili, I for one would much rather be poor here than in Dili. Its clean spacious and people seem to live a simple happy life. There is no reason future leaders of this country can’t come from a place like this, except for a few issues. Like the Education and the Healthcare issues, but you will be hearing about them if you continue to follow us on facebook. We went to visit Marcus and his family. If you follow our blog you will see that a generous donation allowed Marcus to build a new house. His current home is flooding constantly, and with his lungs weakened from TB, the house is a health hazard. His new house is currently under construction behind his humble little home. Marcus and his wife welcomed us and we sat and discussed some issues he was having in the village. Although I was very worried the old broken plastic chair sitting on the uneven dirt floor was going to completely give way under my ample western bottom, I felt actually privileged to be sitting there in these peoples home and hearing some of their struggles. Everyone has struggles and he is facing his with dignity and grace, and I admired him sitting there crosslegged on a old bamboo covered bed. There are many with far more, who do far less with it.
I feel very blessed to be here and have this experience. It was a slow day today. Have I mentioned its hot here? Well today it was extra hot. We had an early morning walk we had a look at the junior school and the kindy. On the walk we met a little girl who had had an bee sting on her eye and her eye was so swolen that it was unable to open. Lucinda told her to follow us back home where she administered anti-histamines, ibuprofen and panadol, and sent her home with some for the afternoon. I was so tired I had a little nap. I woke to the sound of a baby crying and got up to find Lucinda attending to a sick baby. The child clearly had an infection and needed to see the doctor on Monday but really needed antibiotics. Lucinda didn’t have the right type and I could tell she was reluctant to send her away. There are no laws about prescribing antibiotics here and if people have the money they can just go and buy them at the pharmacy, but there is no pharmacy here. I told Lucinda we were traveling with Keflex (broad spectrum antibiotics) . Lucinda used the capsules to divide the powder into the right prescription for the baby’s weight and put each dose in small snap lock bags and gave it to the mother with banana and honey to mash it in. She knew the family were able to follow the instructions given. It seemed against every protocol for an Australian, but here you have to put all that aside. The child is sick, there is no doctor, no hospital service, Lucinda has diagnosed the problem as best as possible without diagnostic equipment, and there is no diagnostic equipment available anyway. The child clearly needs antibiotics, we have broad spectrum antibiotics on hand, the solution is clear but still as Lucinda turns her kitchen into a makeshift pharmacy I can’t help feel strange. On Monday the family will go to the clinic to see the doctor already having three days of broad spectrum antibiotics, which is a great start. Latter in the day we went for a drive to a local village Wesar to visit a baby that had been born with some difficulty. There was some deep mud just outside the village which made it impossible to drive into the village. So here we are, Lucinda, I, Ms14, Ms 16 waking into a very traditional village in Timor Leste, the most exciting site in some time, judging by the reception. The hut was a very strong bamboo structure with a palm frond roof, containing one room and a veranda of sorts. The house was on stilts and very clean. I asked how many people lived there and the father told us four families live there, about 20 people. We came back to Weberek to hand out some birthing packs to Clara the local traditional birthing attendant. It is so hot here Clara had taken the walls off her traditional Timorese house. I thought I knew about constant sweating, being from Queensland, I knew nothing. Sometimes I wonder what the smell is, then I realise it is me. The day finished with a house Church meeting here in Weberek, it was an honour to worship pray and read Gods word with these people.