Following are a few of the photos I took while working for The International Rescue Committee in East Timor from November 1999 to June 2000. We'll start of with a map of East Timor. I was living in Los Palos, which you can barely see on this map. It's just west of the lake seen at the far east of the island. The name "Timor" comes from "Timur", the Indonesian word for "east". So East Timor is actually East East, but that's just what we call it. The official name under the Constitution is República Democrática de Timor-Leste. Leste is derived from the Tetum word for East. The new government has requested that the official name in all languages be Timor-Leste, but most English speaking countries still call it East Timor. So there!
Traditional Timorese House. There aren't too many of these left.
On August 30th, 1999 the Indonesian government held a UN sponsored referendum in East Timor to choose between special autonomy and independence. 78.5% of the Timorese people chose independence. However, as the Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian militia pulled out, they left a wake of damage, destroying most of the countries infrastructure. So, I arrived in Dili, the capitol, at the end of November in 1999. Not much was left of the city but smoldering ruins.
Shops in Dili beginning to re-open... slowly.
UN Land Rovers (Eddie Bower additions) damaged in the fighting following the August Referendum.
What was left of the village of Illiapa, near Los Palos. This was one of the worst hit villages in the region where I was working, and the first on our list for aid. In short my job was to provide shelter materials to those people who lost their homes after the referendum. For a more detailed job description, check out the blog. By the way, the black and white photos were all taken with some very old rolls of black and white film that had spent way too much time away from cool environments.
My staff, or at least a good portion of it. At one point I had 14 guys working for me. This was taken on the front steps of my house, which was also the IRC Los Palos office and storeroom.
Beach near Lore I. This was my first day off. I took the truck south until I hit water, then drove as far down the beach as I could for a little privacy. Of course the curios folks from the village had no problem finding me, it just took them about an hour on foot. Prior to the referendum this area was off limits to foreigners, so you can imagine their interest. I gave them all a ride back to the village.
Kids in Lore I.
Girls collecting fire wood in the village of Chai.
Traditional House in Titilari.
Movie night with the Korean Peace Keeping forces. Soon after the referendum the UN created INTERFET (The International Force for East Timor) which was a multinational peacekeeping task force headed up by Australia. Out in Los Palos, we had the Koreans. Tonight's film, Hot Shots Part Deux.
Getting some help from the local kids. While I was waiting for shelter materials to arrive, I used our trucks to help the church distribute supplies. These guys are unloading sacks of corn seed.
The warehouse at Com Port. I was sharing warehouse space with C.A.R.E. another aid organization working in the area. There was nothing here when we arrived. These buildings were thrown up by Australian contractors just weeks before the materials started to arrive. Here you see our first shipment. Time to get to work!!
Tito and Antonio doing assessments. Basically we would meet each and every family that lost a house and record what damage was done. There were an estimated 1900 houses lost in the districts where I was working. We only had 1500 shelter kits to distribute. So, we had to draw a line somewhere. These guys helped me do that.
Alexio, IRC guard/carpenter, building some new shelves for the office.
Construction begins in the village of Rasa.
The shelter kits we were distributing included 10 sacks of cement. In order to make concrete from cement you need an aggregate. We quickly learned that many of the villages were just too far away from the beaches to get decent aggregate, so we ended up using the trucks to deliver sand as well.
Pedro doing an assessment in Titilari.
Bad plumbing in Baukau is used as a shower by the newly homeless.
Part of the Korean bridge building crew. Long story, read the blog.
Lore I villager
According to IRC in New York, East Timor was considered a conflict zone and an area of extremely high stress. Therefore, after 3 months of employment they bestow you with 5 days of R&R and an throw in an extra $300 US to make sure you leave the country. I decide to use the money to rent a car and tool around Australia's Northern Territory. Of course it was way, way off season, but at least there weren't a whole lot of tourists around. Here we are just outside Kakadu National Park. Please note the flooded parking lot.
Although I was supposed to take holiday after 3 months, it was actually close to four by the time I got my act together. That means I got to Australia smack dab in the middle of April. Please check the chart.
Roughing it in Kakadu National Park.
Back in East Timor, we too were dealing with some nasty storms. Flooding, collapsing roads, and landslides made things very difficult. Since the coast road had washed out in multiple locations, the only road to Com Port was the one you see here. Well one day a tree fell across the road, blocking the way. I and a few guys spent a few hours chopping up the tree enough that I could get my truck around it. The next day this rock, fell directly on top of the fallen tree. I managed to get my truck around it again, but the larger trucks moving material could not squeeze by. A few days later the Koreans blew up the rock, and the trucks started trucking again. Damn those guys were handy to have around.
Adilio, my translator was telling me that local legend states that if you kill a snake it will not stop raining. Well, when I saw these snake poachers near the village of Suro, I knew why were were having all the flooding problems.
Here is the main road to Dili. We were now officially cut off. The only thing we could do at this point, was to continue delivering what materials we could and wait for things to dry out a bit.
Kids in Los Palos. Los Palos, of course, translates to "the sticks".
Little girl in Illiapa.
Kids swimming along side the road to Dili.
Driving on what was left of the road to Tutuala. The Lake was beginning to take over. The following week the water was over the hood and the village was cut off.
I spent a good deal of my days off down at the beach near Tutuala. It was one of my favorites and was also popular with the other ex-patriots in Los Palos. Behind me you can see Jacko Island. Sometimes, we would offer local fishermen beer to bring us over to the island for fantastic snorkeling.
Outrigger on Jacko Island.
Another favorite beach near Com Port. Above this cave were a series of cliffs you could dive off of.
Church in Manatuto
Those cokes look huge! Local kids crash an IRC picnic.
IRC Los Palos. Staff gather for my going away party, June 2000.
Lovely cassava dessert and fried goodies at the going away party.
Parting Shot... shelter crew outside of Trans.