Closed mindedness

I think I’ve just completed some kind of strange cycle or spiral*.

I came to Bali in 2002 a pretty naive, innocent, innocuous boy amongst mostly people older than me. I didn’t really comprehend everything that was happening. In fact, I don’t think I had a clue. I couldn’t read people, I couldn’t tell what they were thinking, feeling or what they wanted. I was armed with a very basic set of assumptions about the world, which with hindsight, were great. I was the quintessential country bumpkin with deep sense of curiosity. I absorbed what I could identify, I was excited by it all, but ironically I think I thought it was all a bit immature but I also recognised that maybe I was a tad serious and that this was part of why I was here – to let go a little bit, to be a bit more fun.

Nine years later, I feel like I have completed a loop of the spiral. I learnt to really appreciate the moment during uni and to have fun. I physically realised during honours and in getting a job at PwC that your own expectations can be limiting. I nearly didn’t. I learnt at work a bit about people, finally. Previously I thought if I treated people how I wanted to be treated that is what would happen. I thought ‘Management’ as a subject was a waste of time. Not always. Eventually I learnt a bit about girls, but it took a long time. They still astound me on a regular basis and my stupidity probably still astounds them sometimes. I learnt all through this a little about being more open minded, to love and express feelings, to thank my dad and take care of my mum. I met amazing people and I wanted to be like them.

Now, sitting in Bali again – trying to be like the amazing people I know, I feel like I might be losing touch with the open-mindedness and I may have forgotten that first lesson a little bit – How to have fun and appreciate the moment. I think this because I look around me and instead of seeing innocent, ignorant or naive (20 yo) boys who really know how to appreciate the moment, I see drunk obnoxious louts and girls who should have more sense than to like them. Most of them are Australian.

* Why does ‘Spiral’ have downward or negative connotations? A spiral could be upward or downward right? I actually meant an upward spiral – to what I’m not sure but the upwardness in my mind signifies progress. Even though I don’t believe in teh virtues of heaven, hell or the corporate ladder, up is strangely still the way to go.


The environment here is just damn strange
There are different currents going many different ways
At times I’m stuck in a whirlpool of human emotions, mine and others.

At once
Fighting strongly in the rough chop of intellectual challenge
Enjoying my work
And then
Tiring and drowning under waves of cultural misunderstanding
Despairing the work

Once again
Buoyed and lifted by an unexpected gust of inspiration
Applauding the development world
And then
Depressed and sucked under by carelessness and arrogance
Despising the development world

Once more
Whipped into ecstasy and elation whirling around and around
Meeting new people
And then
Spat into a backwater, still, quiet, deep, cold and devoid of anything remotely human.
All alone


It was Timorese Falintil (rememberance) day on 30th August and they get 2 days off to celebrate. That was Tuesday and Wednesday so of course nobody was coming to work Monday. Mega long weekend – just what is needed to make the trek to Jaco Island, one of the few national parks in TL.
Titarala – Far East Timor Island

Due to work departure was delayed until Sunday afternoon, by which time the group had been whittled down to just 3 – Tanya, Marta and myself. The girls had hired a huge Toyota Land-Cruiser Troop Carrier, so I decided to give the Bike a break and ride with them on the bench seat. I took the tent and they put a mattress in the back of the truck. Tanya loved that truck.

We had dinner in Baucau and ran into Will from Mercy Corp. Timor is a small place. Dad had tipped me off he stayed with the Managin Director of Moris Rasik’s nephew the night before. We met him and said hello then headed down the beach to camp. Nice spot but a bit creepy arriving in the dark and whilst tramping around the lagoon (albeit very small) stumbling across a half eaten crocodile warning sign. Swimming the next day was limited to the shallows.

Found this sign while collecting fire-wood in the dark

The Baucau camping spot at sunrise

 We got up early and headed to Jaco the next day. It is on the South Easten tip of Timor Island, about as far as you can go and a nasty decent from Tituala down to Tituala beach. We ran into dad coming the other way and a large group of school girls on the way to Tituala, and gave them all a lift. They hardly stopped screaming  in excitement the whole way.

Teke bulak ten barak
Tituala beach was nice but the guest houses were seriously under-stocked. That night was the high light of the trip though with a nice big fire on the beach, a small but friendly and understated global group, some local rice wine, cheap $3 bottle of whisky and the sound of the waves to lull us to sleep (and high tide to wake some of us up!)

Morning after
 The next day we were out at the island early and I was cooked by about 10am! Bloody Portuguese girls didn’t put sunscreen on once and roasted themselves like very attractive chestnuts, at the end of the day they were still a very toasty caramel brown.The coral was good but I think I managed to pick up a sinus problem in an hour or so of snorkelling and was knocked for six for the rest of the day (and week).

Sea Urchin on Titarala beach

We headed back towards Com that night and arrived just before it got dark. From there the next day we went onto Baucau very early and then turned off to go to Ossu, over the spine and very close to the south coast, to check out a waterfall. We were pushing it and trying to cram a lot into the weekend, but Ossu was nice and we only (just) missed the closing time of the car hire on the return back to Dili

A market stop on the way back to Baucau

On top of the The Spine of Timor on the way to Ossu

It was an action packed trip, with lots of driving .but it was a great chance to gaze out the window at some of the spectacular scenery for a change.

Timorese Wedding!

No it wasn’t mine! 
Went with Renato down to his friends Timorese wedding with Paolo. It was located abiout 30 min out of town in Tibar. Big calico tent of sorts was erected at the back of the families house with the dirt semi cleared and ‘watered’ to keep the dust from the dancing down.  I was surprised to note though that the dancing is 100% formal, all night. They love to dance, but it is latin/portuguese inspired dancing – I think the last time I danced like that was in high-school. And the dancing had rules set by the suco chief – no talking while dancing and no dancing outside the official area! 
It was a complicated social occassion with maybe 400 people in attendance, seats set like a grand-stand around the dance floor. It was pretty cool setup actually, but the rocks didn’t make the dancing any easier – and some of those poor girls were in 2 inch heels that they weren’t used to! 
I asked one girl for a dance, I don’t think she realised how tall I was – she was lucky to reach my chest. Combined with the fact I was wearing my riding boots, and was only 1 of 2 foreigners there she nearly died of embarrassment before she went and sat back down before the song had even finished! After that none of the girls would dance with us! :O

Ainaro & Manufahi Field Trip

In late August I managed to head out with a translator for my first field trip – an Energy Needs Assessment.

Number of clients interviewed:
Languages spoken:
Number of Centre Meetings:
Distance Travelled:
Number of Districts:
Days on the road:
Number of Sucos:
Total Cost:

Centre Meeting in Ainaro
The bike in Same
The assessment went ok. We we underwhelmed by the lack of energy access and the difficulty of explaining how solar lighting systems work and their benefits to people who have hardly seen electricity in operation. In hindisght, I really should have taken a few products along, I didn’t because I was worried about tainting the markets perception of the products available.

Renato (my translator) and his aunt and cuzs in Same

It was so cold in the mountains in Maubesse we got the open fire going!
At the end of a very long, dusty and tiring week, the assessment was a sad success I guess – not one of the 96 clients interviewed had access to grid electricity. 10 had solar panels. On average 70% want solar power of some description.