Timor 2019 in Review
I recently returned from the 2019 Timor Leste Immersion. This experience begun long before we embarked on our journey. In fact, it began with a hand written application in which we were required to explain why we should be considered to travel to Timor Leste and was followed an interview. The successful applicants were from then on to be known as the 2019 Immersion Team.
We quickly began preparations for our trip, formulating potential fundraising plans and researching our destination – Ainaro. The successful fundraising process lasted nine months and all of the monies raised went to Timor, either to our sister school in Ainaro, Santa Maria, or to various organisations that provide support to the youth of Timor.
When the time eventually came for us to embark, we spent roughly 24 hours travelling. We left the Ballarat train station at about 4:00pm on the 20th of June, and left Melbourne airport 9:25pm. We arrived at Darwin airport at 1:10am and departed for Timor at 6:30am, landing in Dili at 7:20am. In Dili we met Aje, who helped organise our transport to Ainaro and purchase water. After stopping at Ba Futuru, an organisation that works to protect women and children, reduce violence and inspire young learners, we then got on a small bus and headed to Ainaro. On the way we stopped to see Sister Mary Ann Dwyer rsm in Aileu. And eventually arrived at the Villa Maria in Ainaro about 4:30pm. By this point we were all exhausted, and as such, had dinner and went to bed.
The week we spent in Ainaro was unforgettable. We spent a few hours everyday teaching English to the wonderful students of Santa Maria. This was an achievement in itself, forming relationships with students that had limited English skills proved easier than one might think. Most students were eager to learn and as such were very outgoing. Our off time was spent either checking out local areas of significance, or interacting with the locals. A highlight was the Taekwondo class we were invited to participate in. I am sure we were worthy opponents. The Thursday we spent in Ainaro was my favourite part of the trip. We taught our final lessons before venturing up to Doko Mali, a spectacular water fall. We unintentionally constructed a convoy of Timorese students that followed us to the waterfall on their motorbikes. That evening, we were treated to some beautiful performances by the students of Santa Maria at our farewell ceremony, before bidding farewell to our newfound friends.
It really was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
Written by Tom Byrne