Surprises, Similarities and Differences

Surprises, Similarities and Differences

Palms Participant Gavin Purcell left for Timor Leste at the end of February 2024. Gavin brings his vast financial experience in the UK and Australia to mentor the finance team in The Institute for Teacher Education in Kasait. Gavin writes his response to a number of questions relevant to this beginning stage.

I would say how genuinely upbeat the local Timorese people are; from the subsistence farmers to the stall owners to the slightly better well off. Also the very young population and how in tune with their Catholic faith they are; this is very profound. The respect for foreigners is quite overwhelming also and is almost embarrassing to a point; I think this is an embedded Timorese psychology from the UN days at the tail end of the conflict with Indonesia. I’m also amazed how polite and beautiful the local kids are. Also the work ethic here for people wanting to progress their lives is admirable. People will travel to Australia to pick fruit and send or bring most of the funds back to Timor.

I note in Timorese society that people mean what they say initially, there is no BS so to speak, they keep their promises and once they make a commitment will keep it; also they are very pragmatic in regards to problem solving, they find the easiest solution in quick smart time and do not get bogged down in procrastination. I believe this is due to the resources here being very limited and in essence forcing people to problem solve on the fly. There is limited bureaucracy apart from the Immigration department of course!

Of course the mod cons being absent like cafes, WIFI and Uber eats. The standard wages are very low. People dress impeccably despite this, especially for Sunday mass. No thongs or tees! The very skilled and adventurous road drivers/motor bike and scooter riders who literally drive like they do in ‘Mad Max’  – they have the need for speed and overtaking at every opportunity!

The climate is quite hot and it is the humidity much more than the temperature that is hard to bear! This does not hold the local people back from dressing completely appropriately for the respective occasion!

Socializing and enjoying each other’s company; its seems everyone here is an extrovert and wants to chat endlessly; sometimes I need to withdraw politely! I’m an introvert mostly!

Easy going and love of music and sport.

Always finding opportunities for a laugh or light banter !! Very similar!

All Tetum Greetings and practical phrases, of the course the price for these goods or service; crucial lingo when haggling with a Taxi driver or a Tom Tom (local transport). My favourite phrases  – Sesta Feira (happy friday) , Nee Folin Hira (how much is this) Boufim de semana (have a nice weekend) nee mak Moris (that’s life), Kalan D’iak (Good evening).

Cock Crows at first light, the mad bellowing music all over especially from the local transport , (I heard the Corrs from Ireland bellowing more than once) on the local DILI bus. Some very unusual landscapes , reminds me of some of the NZ geography. The smells of freshly grilled fish at the endless street vendors!

Cheers ; Saude