Ba Distrito - Week 2


This week was research week.

 I’m eventually going to be going over data collected by a study done by the government and Ba Distrito over the past several months. However, it’s qualitative data, gleaned mainly from focus group discussions. They recorded the discussions, and the government is transcribing them, then they need to be translated to English. It’s going to take a bit of time. I’m looking forward to it, though. My experience is with quantitative data, so this will be a new challenge.

 I was given several documents that outline the methodology and how the data should be interpreted. I think I got it, but I’ll have a better grasp once I have the actual data in front of me.

Everyone has their tasks around the office, and they seem pretty confident in their workload, so my assistance hasn’t been needed. Consequently, I’m spending my time familiarizing myself with the country and the organization. As an independent country, Timor Leste is very young, but it has a very interesting, complex, and violent history. It was a Portuguese colony for several centuries then got independence in 1974, which it had for only a few months before Indonesia invaded. An estimated half to two thirds of the population was killed during Indonesia’s occupation from 1975 to 1999. The Timorese voted for independence in 1999, and Indonesia destroyed basically all the infrastructure and killed over 1,000 people as they pulled out. The UN stepped in with a transitional government for a few years, and Timor Leste became an independent country May 20, 2002.

I am really trying to familiarize myself with the justice systems (yes, plural) since I’m working for the Access to Justice office. There’s the formal, codified system and the local, traditional system. The formal system is easy enough to figure out as it is modeled after Western systems. The traditional one is really interesting and rooted in the historical belief system. The following is a really simplified version of what I’ve found… The focus is more on community healing than on punishment of the offender. The offender is expected to make restitution in whatever way is determined best and then the community can become whole again. According to some of the international observer reports that I’ve been reading, the idea of incarcerating people just makes no sense to them (or didn’t when it was first introduced). Rather than restoring peace, the offender was allowed to sit and “get fat” while the community remained damaged by whatever wrong was done. I’m reading international observer reports and reports from people from the country. It’s interesting seeing the different perspectives on what the solution should be. I happen to be getting here after a new law was passed in 2014 that sort of fuses the traditional and Western systems. I’m excited to see what the law says and how it’s being put into practice.


If you recall from last summer’s international internship, I try to go on a different adventure each weekend when I travel. Last Friday, I think I mentioned going to Timor Plaza with the office. On Saturday I took a walk of about a mile to the grocery store on the beach. That night, the office went to a restaurant on the beach – same place I went for lunch after the trip to the village last week. I took so many pictures of the absolutely beautiful sunset.


It was a huge feast and delicious. Unfortunately, I started not to feel well before we started eating. It was then that I realized that although I had packed a bottle of water for my walk, I never took a drink during the long walk in 90 degree weather. This was a bad plan. I wound up spending my entire Sunday in bed.

Oh, speaking of, I’m in my new room now. I like it. It has more storage space, and yay for the private bathroom.

Alec (the missionary whose room I took over) told me that the person who heads up the World Vision office for Timor Leste lives next door and that he would probably give me a ride to an English-speaking church called Victory church, attended by ex-pats who work at the NGOs around here. He hasn’t been home to talk to yet, but I’m excited to make new friends at Victory. I’ve been warned against going out by myself early in the morning (when it would be less hot and better for exploring) so I want to find a travel buddy.

Meanwhile, Thursday was a Corpus Christi, a Catholic holiday, and since this is a Christian country, we had the day off. It was an unexpected adventure day. The weather was rather perfect for it. It was cloudy and windy, so walking wasn’t bad (haha…and I actually drank from my water bottle). I live about half a mile from the beach and took a path along it to the market. It’s orange season, so I had to buy some. Carolyn said I would have to bargain, which immediately concerned me. I am entirely aware that I’m a nice person. She said that three bunches for $5 would be a good deal. I got one bundle for $1, so I’m rather proud of myself.


I found a little plaza with a plaque as I was walking. It was dedicated to the UN workers who helped in the time between the 1999 conflict and independence in 2002.


I also found a museum! It was closed for the holiday, but I know what my Saturday adventure will be!

I think that’s it for this week. Ciao (I should learn how to say goodbye in Tetun…)