I have been in Dili for just over a week, and what a week it has been. This week was orientation week where we got shown the ropes about how life in Timor works. It was full of new experiences and adventures.
Throughout the week, we went over many practical aspects such as safety and security, visas and registering at the medical centre. We also visited the NZ Embassay and met the NZ Community Police and Defence Force. Two others came over to Dili at the same time as me to start their volunteer roles and it is awesome to begin this adventure together as we go through the adjustments of our new life. After being there for four days we had a farewell for two of the volunteers who were finishing up their assignments. At this dinner, I realised how much of a family the Kiwi’s here are. It was not just VSA’s present but Kiwis from all sorts of jobs. As there are not many of us in Timor, everyone gets to know each other very quickly. Being one of the youngest if not the youngest volunteer in Dili now I have already felt as though I have just gained many adoptive parents.
Eating out is a big thing amongst the volunteers, not having made lunch yet and been out for dinner at least 3 times I can see where all the allowance goes! The supermarkets are reasonably cheap and they have fruit and vegetable markets with an abundance of fresh avocados, passion fruit, kumara and more it’s certainly easy to get your 5+ a day!
One day of the orientation was dedicated to taxi practice and a Mircolet tour. The taxis do not have seat belts and the windscreens are often covered in tape that you cannot see out of but is holding the glass together. Microlets cost 25c per trip no matter how far you go and it is just a small van with bench seats down the side and no side door. You fit as many people as you can with people even hanging out of the door. They will stop where ever you want as you just tap your coin on the metal handrail and they will pull over. Again, the drivers do not seem to need to see out the window with soft toys covering the windows and the rear-view mirror is not often functional.
On this tour, we visited a wacky art gallery which had some odd sculptures and some beautiful paintings that had sadly been neglected. Next, we went to the Tais market. Tais cloth is a form of traditional weaving done by the women of Timor Leste to create items such as bags, scarfs other home décor and personal apparel. After visiting this market, we went to the Timorese resistance archive and museum which shows the history of Timor Leste. Though this was hard to read realising how much the Timorese have been through and all the struggles they have had it was very interesting to learn.
On Saturday, the other newbies and I got picked up by one of the other volunteers and we went out to an awesome snorkelling spot which is about an hour out of Dili. The roads are not in great condition but this made it more exciting when trucks taking up most of the road come towards you and you don’t have anywhere to go! It was a cool drive getting to see a bit more of the country. The four of us in the car met up with four others who all rode their motorbikes out to the spot. Even though the water was not as clear as usual the snorkelling was amazing. I got to test out my new GoPro and even got stung by something in the water which quickly swelled so that was fun- don’t worry I’m fine now! After the snorkelling, we drove back and watched the Highlanders vs. Crusaders game in a bar that shows lots of New Zealand and Australian sport and then went out for dinner.
I am having so much fun here already and cannot wait for the months to come, everyone I have met is so lovely and I know I’m going to make many friendships here!