Category Archives: Uncategorized

The East Timor Diaries – Pre Departure

Soon, I will be heading into the Pacific to East Timor with a small bunch of students to spend a couple of weeks examining the “Development-Peace-Security Nexus” in post-conflict societies. I am expecting my ideals to be challenged, my worldview to expand and my brain to possibly explode from the truckload of readings and new theoretical concepts I am being introduced to.

I am excited. I am also freaking out a little, as continuing in my habit of getting sick at very inconvenient times I am currently melting from a slight fever and an incessant cough that is beginning to sound quite nasty. And so every time I get up to pack or study a little more I find the world spinning and shortly end up back in bed. Am frustrated and feeling a little overwhelmed about all I need to get done, but hopefully this cold/flu/bronchitis/whatever will run its course quickly and I’ll be up and at em in no time.

But I certainly can’t wait to get there. East Timor has captured my heart.

Quick History
East Timor. A land of breathtaking scenery, a wonderfully pleasant climate, and possibly the most resilient people of the world. Also a land of great suffering and hardship, East Timor sat under Portuguese rule for over 400 years, were briefly occupied by the Japanese during WWII, and after finally declaring independence in 1975, were invaded by Indonesia a mere 9 days later.

The world turned a blind eye as the occupying forces of Indonesia reeked havoc across the nation; pillaging, burning, raping, killing; it was a campaign of terror designed to subdue the East Timorese until they willingly submitted to Indonesian ‘integration’. Horrifically, approximately one third of the East Timorese population died from conflict related causes during the Indonesian occupation. Amazingly, the strength of the East Timorese did not wane and they continued to fight against Indonesian invasion both within the country and outside the country.

Their indomitable spirit paid off when following the fall of the Suharto regime, President Habibe called for a referendum in East Timor; this would decide whether East Timor would become an autonomous state within Indonesia or not (consequently regaining their independence). In spite of the intimidation and violence by Indonesian military and Indonesian sponsored militia groups, an overwhelming 78.5% of the vote was against autonomy (that is, for independence) and East Timor was free once more. Sadly, the violence was far from over, as the angry militia and military went on a rampage – burning everything in their path as they retreated to West Timor.

Since then the nation has struggled to rebuild itself, and unfortunately East Timor now gets to carry the label of the poorest country in Asia (according to the HDI). The rapid UN led transition to democracy left many gaps in institutions and relationships of this nation and 2006 saw further violence erupt in Dili.

And so it is to this troubled but beautiful nation that I am flying off too…with a suitcase full DEET spray and spare shoes and little koalas to give away, but most importantly, with an open mind……I have so much to learn, about peace building, about nation building, about state building, about interventions, about ideas of development, about cultures and traditions, about…everything. I have a feeling I will come back with more questions than answers…


“Never forget…

…justice is what love looks like in public.
– Cornel West


44 days to Timor-Leste.

Bit excited.

A beautiful country still struggling to recover from its tumultuous path to independence, Timor-Leste, I’m looking forward to meeting you.

And can’t wait to leave this 6°C weather in Melb far, far behind.

When the universe speaks to you through a t-shirt

I was sitting at work this week.

It was busy busy busy.

And thinking about my poor dad in hospital (my family seems to like hospitals. he’s home now)

Busy busy busy.

And was thinking of the TON of uni work I have to do.

Busy busy busy.

And thinking of the housework and many errands to do.

Busy busy busy.

And thinking about how little energy I had.

Busy busy busy.

And thinking about the kind of work I hope to do in the future, and wondering how on earth I’ll ever arrive there considering the above factors.

Busy busy busy.

Then a lady walking a dog stopped right outside my work window and stood facing me. Her t-shirt read

Never, never, NEVER give up.

I appreciate timely messages.

One thing at a time, right?

Estoy bien agradecida

My desk at work

Sometimes first reactions aren’t the best ones.

When I rocked up to work on Friday and saw my work bench covered in those small glittery stars (a remnant of Children’s Eye Health day the day before) my first reaction was just a huge ‘ugh’ and ‘hmmph’.

All I could think of was how long it would take me to clean them up.

But then I caught myself….have I really become so old and jaded that I can’t find any enjoyment in something beautiful and fun…something that kids would revel in?

So I stopped and looked. And decided they were actually really pretty. And I watched a little girl play with them (and drop them all over the floor) for about 10 minutes.

And thankfully, my old-and-jaded moment passed. So maybe I have had a bad head cold all week, maybe I am feeling totally swamped under with uni work even though it is only week 2, maybe I have had to work extra days this week, maybe things aren’t unfolding just the way I want them to in life.

But lately, I just keep finding myself filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Sincerely. Not fake, not ‘I should feel thankful’, not ‘I would be grateful if I didn’t feel so sick all the time’ etc. It’s something deeper than I’ve ever had before.

I just feel so, so deeply aware of the fact lately that right now, on this same planet, in this very moment,

…13 million (possibly as many as 27 million) people are living as modern day slaves.

…almost 1 billion people are going to bed hungry tonight

…right now, somewhere, someone has just lost someone they love.

…that for so many people of the world, conflict and violence are just an everyday thing

etc etc. You don’t need me to list every horror of the world to get the idea.

And I just feel grateful. Grateful for the BILLIONS of abundant blessings in my life.
So maybe I still have bumps. And obstacles. And maybe I have to expect to be dealing with poor health for awhile.

But I think I have finally realised that to expect to get through life without hitting regular bumps in the road is just incredibly naive. And when I contextualise these difficulties within the reality that bumps are to be expected, and then place them alongside the truth that there are multiple far, far greater challenges that many are confronting right now,

I just feel genuinely, deeply, indescribably grateful.

When you want what you can’t have.

Today I really wanted ice cream.

Peppermint choc chip. Mmmm.

Sometimes life without ice-cream really sucks.

Que en paz descanse

Sometimes people die.
When they shouldn’t.
Even if they are far short of their 3 score and ten.
Even if life has already dealt them an unfair hand.
Even if in spite of that they’ve spent hours investing into the lives of others.
Even if they are kind to the ‘least of these’.

Goodbye, Chopen.