The end of the dry season in Timor-Leste feels a little bit like being in a pressure cooker. From about September through November it gets hotter and more humid until usually sometime in mid November the clouds finally burst, the rainy season starts and people get busy planting corn.
Last week I paid a visit to some church members’ farms as vegetable season wound down and people were busy prepping the land for corn. From one of the main roads in Lospalos three of us headed off on foot down a dusty trail, climbed over a home-made fence, crossed a stream and entered one family’s “toos.” A toos is a large garden; it’s the place most members of Immanuel Church, like most Timorese, spend their days as subsistence farmers. In this toos, papaya and coconut trees scattered amongst vegetable beds are surrounded by scrubby forest with cassava growing on rocky hillsides. Most folks also have a small shack with a bamboo platform that serves as a shady napping place in the heat of the day. Small fire pits are used to cook the mid-day meal and clotheslines show that the chore of washing never stops.
Mana (sister) Rita, the owner of one toos and an elder of Immanuel Church, walks across a single log bridge over a stream to join us. She is a small woman with high cheekbones and bears a broad smile, evidently delighted that we’re interested to see what her daily life entails. A couple kids follow, running barefoot behind her, obviously more than at home in this land that feels like a mix of wilderness and farm. Before we leave, Rita insists on giving us a bunch of cassava leaves and roots, both of which are traditional staple foods here.
Also last week, Monica spent 3 full days in the village of Nacroman. As part of its community health program, Clinic Immanuel staff went door to door with surveys on tuberculosis, sanitation and nutrition. They’ve identified a dozen or so households in need of a toilet. As part of its outreach Clinic Immanuel will provide the materials for a few toilets, while the families will do the actual construction. In the past, the clinic has spent about $125 per toilet, so this year, we will be able to support building four toilets in Nacroman. Hopefully we will be able to do more in the next budget year.
Did you know that November 19this World Toilet Day? Yep, it’s true. Nature calls to every one of us, but billions of people in the world still don’t have a toilet. Keep that in mind next time you get grumpy about a slow internet connection! If you’d like to find out more about World Toilet Day you can go to www.worldtoiletday.info. The past two years Clinic Immanuel focused its community health efforts in the village of Sorolua, a remote place 45 minutes away from Lospalos. After assisting with 8 toilets in that community, almost everyone in Sorolua has a sanitary place to answer nature’s call.