Adam’s Journey to Timor-Leste
On the morning of March 30 2015, I, Adam Given, departed on a three month journey to one of Australia’s closest, and poorest neighbours, East Timor.
I landed in Dili that afternoon following a connecting flight through Darwin. Traveling to the Carmelite compound in Hera through Dili, the capital of East Timor, I noticed that aside from government structures and embassies, no buildings were larger than three stories tall. Upon my arrival in Hera I was greeted with a smile and a Tai (traditional East Timorese garment) and was made to instantly feel at home. My brief stay in Hera consisted of waking up at 5am for morning prayer, and visiting landmarks in Dili such as Christo Rei Statue, Timor Plaza and the statue of Pope John Paul 2nd.
Two days later, it was time to begin my journey to Zumalai! Zumalai is a small village approximately 150 kilometres from Dili. However, due to the mountainous unpaved roads the trip would last about 7 hours. The scenery was beautiful. Driving through several small villages, children would run after the car, waving at me whilst yelling “Mulai”. This is the local word for foreigner.
My time in Zumalai has so far been an unforgettable experience. I was greeted with a nervous smile from the 13 boys who live in the Carmelite boarding house. They presented me with a Tai, served me afternoon tea, and showed me to the room I would be sleeping in for the next three months. After that moment, time flew by in heartbeat. Easter is a very busy period in Zumalai. The church serves as the centre of the community and people came from afar to be a part of the celebrations on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. Although a foreigner, the community made me feel welcomed. Everyone came up to shake my hand and introduce themselves.
Throughout the rest of my time in Zumalai, I was kept busy. My first English lesson with the children saw me teaching 46 students in one classroom. This was a challenging but very enjoyable experience. I have also regularly been visiting SOLS (Science of Life Systems), a small university in the centre of town, to help them with their English. Everyone, from children to the elderly, is very interested in improving and practicing their English.
East Timor inspired and amazed me. The people are warm, welcoming and keen to learn. I have had boys inform me that they want to study to become doctors, lawyers or politicians so they don’t have to complete manual labour their entire life. Likewise, girls have told me that they are not ready to get married and have children, but would rather go to university and further their education.
Adam Given – Class of 2010