Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fresh Strawberries

We always seem to crave the very things that we can't have -- strawberries are hard to come by here in Timor. I happened to come across this photo I snapped in '06 or '07 along a roadside in Tajikistan.  The berries there are absolutely amazing -- sweet with just a hint of tartness.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tree Farmers

Augustino outside his home in Bucoli Village
Augustino Matos da Silva grows teak and mahogany trees on his land in Bucoli -- a village near Timor-Leste's second largest city, Baucau. When the trees mature, he's hoping to make as much as $5,000 dollars for each of his teak trees.  He says he'd like to build a permanent house, one day.

The Old Market in Old-Town Baucau

Endless Waiting

I met a couple in Baucau the other day who told me a story that breaks your heart.

The man, Alberto, sat with his hands in his lap and his eyes on the table in front of him -- he spoke softly. His voice sounded tired and hopeless.

Alberto explained to me that on June 9th, his daughter went missing. "The last time I saw her, she was standing in the kitchen at the house. Since then, there has been so many sleepless nights."

It's a complicated story.

It began about two years ago when his then 16 year old daughter became pregnant. The father of the child is a married man who lives next door. He has admitted being the father, and agreed to pay $2,000 in child support, but never paid a dime.

The man's wife apparently made threats to the girl's family and according to Alberto, told him and his wife, that she was going to kill the girl. That same day, the girl disappeared. The police were called and they interviewed the woman who made the threats, but then she apparently denied making them. The police said it's her word against theirs and since there were no other witnesses, nothing can be done.

The police have launched a search for the missing girl, but Alberto says they have no leads.  He and his wife are caring for their two-year old granddaughter -- praying they will get some good news soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Candle Nuts

Ms de Sousa stands under a candle nut tree.
I met 60-year old Etalvina de Sousa up a dusty road in rural eastern Timor-Leste today. She's a farmer and one of her crops is candle nuts. If you wear cosmetics, you may be wearing some of Ms de Sousa's candle nuts. The nuts are used in, among other things, cosmetics. Locally, the meat of the candle nut is smashed and then mixed with cotton to make candles!

She's got 36 trees and carries the nuts in a sack on her back down to her house where she shells them and then sells them to a buyer. She can carry about 20 pounds of candle nuts in one trip.

Shelling the candle nut is an art form.
The shelling process is an art form -- she uses a piece of a hardened tropical leave as the tool. She inserts the candle nut into a hole at the end of the leaf and then hits it once or twice on a piece of rock. If done correctly, the whole candle nut pops out. She told me it takes her about two hours to shell one kilogram of candle nuts.