When people ask me about how my Encounter to East Timor went, I reply, “It was a true, learning experience” and it really was.
Before you start your Encounter, Palms sends you readings by people who have really walked the walk. Participants are then invited to journal their thoughts and form a plan of action that encompasses before, during and after the experience.
I found this part of the journey so beneficial. It helped me to identify why I’d had difficulties and successes in my past cross-cultural experiences. Don’t get me wrong, the difficulties can still remain but the way you work through them is different. Through the readings, I learnt how important it was to observe, question, reflect and allow myself to be treated as a guest/stranger – not trying to take control or be too independent. In a society that encourages you to be able to take care of yourself, this can really be a challenge!
During the Encounter, Palms gives you further opportunities to learn. The Palms volunteers and the Timorese people, who they work alongside, were always ready to share their experiences with our group. I truly appreciated the chance to hear both the struggles and successes of the volunteers.
Our group was led by Pollyanna, an enthusiastic and caring, former volunteer and Barry, Palms’ In-Country Representative. Barry, not only expertly drove us through the weathered Timor roads but also gave us, what I believe is a rare opportunity to learn about crossing cultures from a man who has been there and done it himself. Through his example and advice, we saw how important it is to work with the people of Timor in a true spirit of solidarity.
I will remember the conversations that I had most of all – from the chats in English and beginner Tetum with the children in Atabae where we had our homestay, to the Portuguese talks I shared with some young adults and senior Timorese people.
After the Encounter, I had the opportunity to meet with FPET, Friends and Partners with East Timor, in Brisbane. It was a special thing to see that the great work achieved in Atabae was a result of the partnership formed between Australian and Timorese families.
Obrigada Barak for the experience!
By Guida Cabrita, Primary Teacher
St John Vianney’s, Manly, Brisbane QLD