Ba Distrito - Week 7


So, as I mentioned in my last blog, I was able to ride along on an assessment trip to Oecusse (Oh – COO – see) this Monday. If you look at a map of Timor Leste, you’ll see that the country is the eastern part of the island plus a small bit on the western side, surrounded by Indonesia. That small bit is Oecusse. Ba Distrito has a consultant out to assess their legal aid partners. The people going were the consultant, Maria Veronika who is the legal aid expert in the Access to Justice office, Carolyn (the boss) and Benicia who were going to meet with members of the government in Oecusse to talk about how the organization and its partners can better coordinate with the government, and me… who was really just along because they had an extra seat and thought I might enjoy the trip. We took a tiny 6-passenger plane. The views there and back were gorgeous. I took so many pictures! You can look at them (and a few othr pictures I've taken) in my Facebook album here.

I got to sit in on the assessment for a while. Alison (the consultant) is from Australia, but she had spent several years working in Timor Leste before going back home and was thus fluent in Tetun. It was great for her, since she didn’t need an interpreter… haha… but it meant that I didn’t really follow what was going on. She told me that I could look at her notes as she took them in English on her computer. That helped… when the computer was facing the right angle. What I did pick up was really interesting, though. We forget how easy it is to access a lawyer in the States… and how much simpler practicing is with things like reliable electricity and internet. It was also interesting hearing the general summary and overview of the report that Alison discussed in my office before her presentation. The legal system is still so new here. I was so shocked to hear that public defenders may refuse to represent people if they’ve done so for the same crime too many times. Also, the law schools here don’t teach proper case management, so Ba Distrito will be holding a training session next week.

I continued the training/workshop for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) this week. I felt far more relaxed about it than I was last week, as did my interpreter (he was just hired as a full time interpreter and Friday had been his first time working with me). Nino seemed to trust us a bit more – or decided he had to given that this is reporting month, and he has tons of work to do. He sat in for about an hour and said that we seemed to have everything well at hand. Everyone seemed to be grasping the concepts pretty well, which was great. Tuesday’s session seemed to take forever. It’s a bit of a merry-go-round because they are going through the original data, which is in Tetun, while I have the translations. So they will identify a quote that they feel falls under one of the categories that we’ve created; then Armando (the interpreter) has to figure out which part of the English translation that correlates to; then I either agree and have someone explain why or have to explain why I disagree, and the translation goes the other direction again. Then we actually have to put that data into our database for later analysis. Next week, they will be doing the data analysis on their own with me there to answer questions, so hopefully it will go faster.

I mentioned before that qualitative analysis is new for me, and I was a bit nervous about the prospect of teaching on something I’m only just learning myself. I have been sending my presentations to the qualitative analysis expert who designed the research we’re analyzing, and all of her feedback has been positive, which makes me excited that I’m understanding everything properly.

This weekend I’m housesitting/dog-sitting for Carolyn while she and her family go camping. She lives in a beautiful home in what looks a bit more like a resort area. It’s basically my own little weekend retreat.


So, I have grown rather accustomed to (and entertained by) the fact that my mixed ethnicity confuses people about my national origin. People assume I’m from various countries, depending on where I am. This week I discovered another reason for their confusion. The MOJ team had been under the assumption that I am Indonesian and that my name was Asli. It sounds close enough to Ashley, so I didn’t notice. However, Asli is the Indonesian word for “original.” I think it’s kind of cool, so I guess I’ll take it.