Misconceptions.

Sorry it’s been a while, I had to start having more structure to my day with tetun classes and then starting work and it was hard to find the time and inspiration to write.

Misconceptions

When people ask me what I studied both here in Timor and in New Zealand I can instantly feel judgement on the faces. They of course support my decision to study geography but so many don’t understand. Many people think that geography is learning about the populations of countries and where they are on the map, they think it’s an easy topic. I always get questions and comments about knowing where an obscure country is or the population of some random city over the other side of the world.

Physical geography, at university level anyway is about natures systems and the science behind it. Why mountains, rivers and coasts form the way they do, how microclimates work and why different plants coexist.

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The beautiful mountains, so lush and full of life

We have to do whole assignments writing about why the level of lead in this soil is higher than in that soil, write formulas explaining the speed in which water is flowing down the river and try work out why one rock platform is eroding faster than the other. When you think about studying science most people think chemistry, biology or physics, geography is just a mix of all those disciplines, and more, combining to create the earths systems.

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Many different types of plants coexisting up in the mountains

I believe that Timor Leste also has many misconceptions surrounding it. If people even know where it is they think that it still has conflict and is a very dangerous country, truth is I feel safer walking down the street here than I do in Dunedin on a Friday or Saturday night.

Everyone is so friendly and curious as to why the malae (foreigner) is here in Timor. Waking down the street in New Zealand everyone is in their own world and you wouldn’t ever say hello to someone you didn’t know, that would be considered weird to most people! Here in Timor everywhere you go you hear bondia (good morning) or botardi (good afternoon), especially from the kids.

Yes Timor has had conflict in the past but that is *fingers crossed* in the past. It is amazing to see how far they have come and listening to stories from NZ military, or Sir Jerry Mateparae the other week about the difference since they came last in the early 2000’s is incredible.

If you were to compare New Zealand’s development in the past 10 years to Timor Leste’s then maybe people would start to appreciate it more. Yes they still have a long way to come but it’s such a young country there is plenty of time for that!

One thing I love about this place is the willingness to learn. All of the kids go to school, from ages 4-18, it’s free! They have 4 hours a day either morning or afternoon as the classes are too crowded, they go 6 days a week. All of them actually want to go and apparently now most people want to finish a university degree. It is so good to see the children eager to learn. Everyone is so active and you hardly see any overweight locals, coincidentally there is also no McDonald’s, however this is because Burger King has the rights to be here but whenever I walk past it is always surprisingly quiet, they have not yet been poisoned.

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Fellow VSA scrambling down the hill side, with our local guide who was just a small boy running ahead like it was flat ground

As the country is so young and misconceived the tourism sector in Timor Leste has not really established itself yet. This is both a good thing and bad in my opinion. Bad because tourists can spoil the natural beauty of a place as they take over and things such as big 27 story buildings get built. But it is also a good thing, one obvious reason is the economy which would improve with more tourism. Another reason is the rubbish, if Timor were to transform into a tourist hotspot then maybe something more would be done about the rubbish that is everywhere, lying all over the road and floating down the rivers into the ocean.

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More rubbish than water in this river bed

 

Timor is a beautiful country and I really do encourage more people to come explore this place!

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Traditional uma (home)

 

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