"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." Joseph Smith

Saturday, August 15, 2015

LDS Charities First Week in Timor-Leste

Getting LDS Charities established in a new country is a wonderful and exciting opportunity!  Elder and Sister Johnson, the new LDS Charities volunteer couple, have been working to set up their apartment and establish the LDS Charities office in their apartment.  We have become a little more familiar with Dili, the capitol of Timor-Leste, and have been meeting with possible NGO (non-government organizations) partners. There are so many wonderful people here doing amazing work.

We met with Palmira Pires, Executive Director of East Timor Development Agency and discussed possible opportunities with her organization.

Catholic Relief Service (CRS) Country Manager Torrey Peace (center) met with us and shared their vision, goals and objectives in the humanitarian work they do in Timor-Leste.
Torrey Peace, center, Country Manager of Catholic Relief Services
We’ve been in touch with Sister Aurora, a Catholic nun, who is setting up an appointment with us to learn about the history of the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste and how they have been a sustaining power of hope in the lives of so many people over the years.

We met Brother Chong Jong, an LDS member living here in Dili, and his son Robert.  We met in their comfortable home and had a tour of their expansive chive garden in the backyard. The garden is the fruit of Mrs. Jong’s hard work as she supplies chives to many distributors throughout Dili. We also met his other son Robin, who happens to own the furniture store where the Johnsons are buying their office furniture.  The Jong’s are very nice and we look forward to getting to know them better.

Robert (red shirt) and his father Brother Chong Jong (pictured center)
 We spent a morning visiting the famous Cristo Rei statue.  The air was cool when we started, but the sun soon was beating down without mercy and we were grateful for whatever shade we could find.  It was quiet and peaceful, and the spot has a wonderful overlook of the city of Dili.

Today we visited the Disabled Association of Timor-Leste (ADTL).  It was very hard to find – we are at the mercy of the taxi driver’s knowledge of where things are.  ADTL is not a prime tourist spot, and Timor-Leste does not operate with addresses or even street names.  You just have to know where things are!
Disabled Association of Timor-Leste
Finding the NGO Forum was even harder.  It took quite a bit of work for our taxi driver to try to find it, asking multiple people, driving around in circles, and finally we just got out of the taxi and started walking.  We knew we were close, and someone from the Ministry of Health knew for sure where it was and steered us in the right direction.

Coming up – a meeting with USAID and hopefully the Rotary Club.  It’s been a busy week!  Now time for a P-Day – a walk to the beach and maybe even a swim in the pool!  A well-deserved break!

The walk to the beach was so interesting - we passed through a local neighborhood through a dusty narrow alley on the way there and enjoyed seeing the traditional homes... the people were so friendly and we were greeted with many a "Bom Dia" -  "good day" in Portuguese.

The neighborhood vegetable stand

The local mall - we passed several of these stores on our walk.

Doesn't everyone use a Gremlin for a footbridge?  Getting in an afternoon siesta in the shade...

Elder and Sister Johnson on the beach

 Senior missions are great!  A lot of hard work, but also many phenomenal experiences that can't be duplicated any other way. What a joy to serve the Lord wherever He calls. We are so happy that LDS Charities is getting established in Timor-Leste.  We love Timor-Leste!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Dili Tais Market

Tais is a traditional cloth made exclusively by women from Timor-Leste.  Intricate designs and colors combine together reflecting the dynamics of a people who for generations have clung to culture to bind them together. Skills carefully passed down from one generation to another preserve the knowledge that is unique and distinct to the people of Timor-Leste.

Each municipality in Timor-Leste produces Tais with their own woven pattern with unique colors and patterns. If you knew the patterns well enough, you could identify where in Timor-Leste your textile item came from.  

                                           Welcome to the Dili Tais Market!

Down this little alley are family-run shops full of Tais products, everything from bookmarks and purses to table runners and bedspreads.

The Tais Market is one of the key tourist stops in Dili.  Problem is, there aren't many tourists.....

Women weave the cloth with cotton thread traditionally dyed with tree roots, bark, flowers and other natural items that give the unique colors to the fabric. Today some of the dyes used are no longer from natural substances, but red is still the favorite color, being one of the national colors 
for longevity and courage.

This woman used a spinner to form the cotton threads, and here is rolling the cotton thread into a ball for dying and weaving.

These women show the traditional method used for making the Tais woven designs.

Over the years, this little area where the market now stands has been burned and destroyed multiple times by occupations forces.  In 2008, USAID began providing assistance to help vendors have a secure location for the setting up of stalls to sell their goods. Today babies feed in mothers arms, children grow up under feet, and boys play along the street - and life goes on in the little Tais Market.

Waiting for customers....

Elder Coffey made a new friend.  The mother is wearing a sarong - typical of the traditional skirts worn by many women.  Sometimes these sarongs are also made out of Tais fabric.


Table runners with the traditional colors. Red, yellow and  black are the colors of the country flag. I especially liked this one because it has the classic Timor-Leste crocodile image on it.  


Tais has been one of the ways that the Timorese people have held together culturally through the years of wars, destruction and genocide. Capturing the determined spirit of the people, Fernando Sylvan, a Timorese poet, writes:

Culture are the memories of a people who refuse to die!  
Action is the history of a people who refuse to die!
Did you hear me?
Did you hear me well?
Life is the freedom of a people who refuse to die!
Independence is the craving of a people who refuse to die!
Did you hear me?
Did you hear me well?
Justice is the endowment of a people who refuse to die!
Struggle is the finding of a people who refuse to die!
Did you hear me?
Did you hear me well?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LDS Charities Begins in Timor-Leste

August 8th, 2015 was a historic day.  Elder Douglas and Sister Lucinda Johnson, LDS Charities volunteers, officially arrived in Timor-Leste to begin humanitarian work. Elder Coffey and I are privileged to travel with them during this set up period.  We will be here in Timor-Leste for several weeks and then return to Hong Kong.  The Johnson's will stay here.  They have been serving in the Hong Kong Area Office with us as Area Welfare Specialists, and have been re-assigned to Timor-Leste.  We are so excited for them!

Elder and Sister Johnson arrive in Dili, Timor-Leste

Arriving at the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste

First, we worked on settling into our apartments at JL Villa. The inside of the one-bedroom apartments are simple and adequate, but need some tender loving care. But the grounds look like a lush tropical paradise!

Included in the rent is a daily cleaning service.  The housekeepers will do dishes, sweep and mop, clean the bathroom and kitchen areas, and take the laundry away to wash. But the dryer lives on our balcony!

We found one of the best grocery stores in town - complete with a simple metal roof with tin awnings.  But it has most everything you need for basic survival.  Even Oreo cookies.  

We've been meeting with NGO partners and working to get LDS Charities set up. Meanwhile, we have enjoyed meeting the people of Timor-Leste.

The monetary unit in Timor-Leste is the US dollar. This man was selling the orange beaded necklaces for $20 apiece!  We politely declined.  Of course, when the other hawkers saw we had stopped to look, they started running up to us to get us to buy their wares.  Fortunately, we made it through the group without buying anything.

Children go to school for half a day, either the morning or the afternoon.  So at any given point of time, there are hordes of young people just sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for time to pass or for some excitement to happen. With the young adults, the unemployment rate is extremely high.

Children collecting minnows along the freshwater run off near the beach in Dili.

Enjoying sandcastle building

There is always time for soccer on the beach!

Waiting for time to pass....
Sometimes they get very creative!

This 4 month old baby came to visit the housekeepers at our apartment.
She brought her mom along too but slept through it all!

Selling cock cages for cock fights - popular in Timor-Leste

Geckos are our friends, geckos are our friends -
just keep repeating.... geckos are our friends.
We stopped for a delicious lunch at a Portuguese cafe/restaurant called Kakau, and shared our meal with this gecko who was eyeing our food.  Actually, he was trying to get back outside through the glass window. I think geckos are cute, but I am finding out I am in the minority.... ha!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

The view from our window is always a delight. Looks like a tropical paradise!  From our apartment/hotel, we can stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui  (So hard to say! - so we just say TST instead!) Promanade, a wonderful walkway that meanders along the side of the harbor from Whampoa to TST, where one can catch the Star Ferry to cross over to Hong Kong Island (seen in photo).

The Promenade is an extremely popular attraction for locals and tourists from all over the world.  I think you can see why:

The Chinese walk of fame!  You can look for the stars of your favorite Chinese celebrities. We only recognized a few -Jackie Chan, Jet Li - and the ever popular Bruce Lee. 

Bruce Lee even gets his own statue!

Whether it be fishing, photo shooting, or falling in love, 
the promenade attracts people from all over the world. 

And the architectural skyline just can't be beat.

Hong Kong Convention Center with the rounded roof architecture

We take the Star Ferry nearly every day from Hong Kong Island back to home in Kowloon.  A relaxing way to end the busy day at the Area Office.

 And the views at night are stunning.