Monday, 8 June 2015

Island Getaway to Celebrate The End Of Week One in Timor Leste

 COUNTRY: Timor-Leste
PROJECT: Health Science
WRITTEN BY: Georgia, Tim, Katie and Jess - University of Queensland

Fast boat. Hammocks and coconuts. Tuk tuks. Nemo and scar. Loud waves. Slow boat.

After just one week we all felt well-deserving of an island getaway: Atauro was calling. We were greeted with open arms and a welcoming second-breakfast by one of the resort managers, Super-Mario/Superman, who never failed to make us laugh. We never realised how much funnier sarcasm is coming from someone who speaks English as a second language. His standard one-liners included ‘good morning’ instead of ‘good evening’ or telling us that the bananas at breakfast were in fact chicken sausages. His catching laughter was the punch line. After hearing the same joke over and over, it only became funnier (motor learning principles in action?).

First port of call was the markets, a strenuous 50m walk but well worth the 2-cent donuts and coconuts. Unfortunately we had to hold ourselves back from the dried squid. Next on the agenda was a tuk tuk ride to the Doll Factory. So bracing to enter the potential horror movie set… we arrived to find ladies sewing away at their very old Singer machines, piecing together anything and everything. Needless to say, not one person left the store empty-handed. After fending off the sales attempts of competitive local wood carvers, we arrived at the moment many of us had been hanging out for (literally, hanging in hammocks), we were off to find Nemo. Safe in our knowledge that sharks had been over-fished, snorkelling was incredible. There were many beautiful colours of the near un-disturbed coral and fish we had never seen before, some only as a Disney Pixar cartoon.

At dinner, a local band came to share their music with us and we were all able to play along with children’s percussion instruments and participate in a local dance for the final song. All this cultural engagement earned us a few cocktails at the bar. You’d be surprised to know that we still made it up on Sunday morning to enjoy the sunrise and we’re so glad we did. Sunday’s itinerary was a little different with not much muscle expenditure happening before 3pm. Left to our own devices to arrange ferry tickets home we were all questioning whether the hefty $US4 each had been given to a fraudster, sure enough we made it on board and 4 hours later we made it home for dinner and very soon after, bed.

Bouncy deer. Traditional music. Beach barbeque. Fish on a stick. Ginger. Obstacle course.

After all that rest we were raring to go on Monday morning. Just kidding, that was a tough wake-up. The clinical week was just as eventful, and was full of challenges and successes for everyone. One common discovery was the extraordinary ability of the mystical “bouncy deer” to improve almost everything during therapy sessions (including our mental health haha). On Wednesday we celebrated Independence Day, unknowingly attending a political party flag raising, that included a show of traditional dancing, with elderly dancers dressed in traditional woven fabrics and vibrantly coloured feathers.

To recover from the challenges of having a day off in the middle of the working week, we went to the beach barbeques at Bebonuk. Here we learnt the ways of the locals, spending an afternoon playing Frisbee with the local kids and watching the sunset over the ocean. After all the running around we were treated to various local delicacies fresh off the barbeque (including a whole fish on stick and chicken livers).

On Thursday it was back to clinic, which was full of moments that challenged us, but also brought us closer together. We also have the undying support of the local cat Ginger, who always finds a lap to stealthily sit and sleep on (we’re starting to wonder if it has a sleeping disorder…).

On Friday we were off to Maliana, where we spent the morning touring the rural health post facility and SISCa clinic, making friends with the local goats and kids as we went (let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be your friend when you’re giving away free UQ Frisbees). We then had lunch at $1 beach (we don’t know either), which excitingly enough consisted of peanut butter (and potato chips for some adventurous people) sandwiches. It was then off for a swim and snorkel (here’s looking at you Tim and Alice) before returning home to Hotel Lecidere. Dinner tonight was a special occasion as it was Ruth’s last night with us here in Timor. We went to Esplanada, one of the fanciest restaurants in town (there’s not many…). While the night was fantastic, we were all sad to see Ruth go. Timor will not be the same without her, and we give our heartfelt thanks to her for her support and comic relief.

Bye for now, adeus!

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