Friday, 5 June 2015

Settling In To Working Life In Timor Leste

 COUNTRY: Timor-Leste
PROJECT: Health Science
WRITTEN BY: Talita, Jocelyn and Alice - University of Queensland

After an emotional morning farewell (Ruth didn’t believe we would get up for her – we love you Ruth!), the CNR bus arrived at our hotel for an adventure to Maubara. Little did we know, the treacherous nature of the roads that we would face in the 17 seater bus - the CNR staff played on our emotions as they encouraged us to get photos of the cliff that was less than a metre away. Despite this, they treated us to a fantastic day at the beach (pigs and all) as well as a wander through the local markets, an exhilarating 4WD competition and topped it off with a visit to Pope John Paul for sunset. We can’t move on without a massive shout out to Bec’s husband, Kane, who filled his carry-on for the weekend full of muesli bars and vegemite chocolate – you do not know what this means to us!

We slept in. After an action packed few weeks, we revelled in the opportunity to relax for a bit and get some work done on the presentations that we are to present next week. We fit in a morning stroll to Santa Cruz cemetery – a sombre moment amongst the hustle and bustle as we gained a greater understanding of the sad history and suffering of the community.

The Occupational Therapy students had the opportunity to accompany the CNR Community Based Rehabilitation team staff to clients’ homes in the Dili region. This valuable experience provided a better understanding of the home environment of our clients to help guide our planning of therapy and goals. We were warmly welcomed into the homes, but it was a sad moment to learn that one of the clients does not leave her room due to disability and spends her days sitting. We recognised several areas in which therapy could help her and encouraged the CBR staff to get her to CNR for treatment. Monday night, it was time to break out the Vegemite chocolate, and to our surprise, it wasn’t half bad. At least it was almost as good as the mung bean muesli bars the Speechies decided were fabulous (definitely give these a go!).

Everyone is starting to relax and become more comfortable with each other, which is a good and bad thing. The good is that the teams are working well and we are becoming a fully functional IP team (/BFFs 4eva). The flip side is that pranks have started, and certain members of our team are one up, as another member returned home to find they could not reach their bed as their floor was covered in water filled saucepans. Retribution has not yet been received.

After a generally positive morning, we had an emotional afternoon. After giving a modified chopping board to a very grateful patient, we had a teary goodbye as she’d been treated at CNR for the last 5 years. This was followed by an upsetting realisation about the differences in medical treatments here compared to back home in Australia. A young teenager had a severely displaced femur that had not been operated on, and presented at CNR for physiotherapy. Unfortunately, the recommended management is surgery, and in the absence of that, there was very little we could do. This awakening to the reality of developing countries was upsetting to most, as it was probably the first scenario where we felt utterly helpless.

Everyone was really upset that NSW didn’t win Origin, but had enjoyed the mid-week break at a restaurant watching the footy. The last clinic day for the week was spent working with clients and finalising the program for our presentations next week. The presentations revolve around areas of our professions that the staff at CNR had requested information about. These include: cerebral palsy, safe feeding, stages of play and gait retraining. We are very much looking forward to passing on this information in a more formal setting.

A district visit was again planned for today, where we attended a private NGO funded health clinic in Hera; a short drive East of Dili. We were taken through the clinic, and spoke to the Cuban doctor about the challenges he faces. Some of these challenges included the lack of resources, the isolation, the large number of people that he services (177 families), and the fact that whenever it rains and the river flows, they get flooded in. Paulo then took us to his composting centre, the first, and only, of its kind in Timor. Throughout the drive, we experienced our first attempted hitchhiker trying to join us in the mikrolet; the Timorese are very competent in stepping into moving vehicles.
Tonight will be a quite night as we prepare for our 60km, 6 hour journey to climb Mt Ramelau on Sunday morning.

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