Over January I went to Timor-Léste with the group Project Everest. The main purpose of the trip was to work with a team on Project Everest’s Timor Energy Assessment project whose task is to establish a sustainable solution to energy problems in Timor-Léste. However, this trip was about more than just the project, it was an opportunity to jump into a brand new situation, navigate through and challenge myself. Throughout the month we were given the opportunity to plan our own days and work schedules. Although we had group leaders to guide us, we were expected to work independently to achieve the goals we set ourselves.
The first week in country had some of the most stressful moments. On my first day I learnt about the microlet transport system around Dili, dealt with taxi drivers trying to rip me off and learnt how to set my phone up with a local sim card. I met some very nice people including Robby the Scotsman; Kyle, the woman running the backpackers at the time; and Chris, a fellow Project Everest trekker on my team. We began project with an introduction day and some workshops setting goals for the month.
The next few weeks went much smoother, with everyone in the team getting more used to each other and what we needed to do. The previous team had established connections with a supplier in Timor-Léste and we were worried at the start of the project that we would just be sales people. In actuality we ended up solidifying the arrangements with our supplier and forged good connections with customers. Although we didn’t make any sales we were confident in where the project had progressed.
The month wasn’t all work, there was plenty of time for socialising. Most evenings after dinner we played cards, either with normal playing cards, UNO, or Exploding Kittens (I won the first 3 games of Exploding Kittens I played and became a little infamous for it). The leaders also had activities organised for us some afternoons. We visited the Resistance Museum to learn about the history of Timor-Léste and the long running conflicts that have shaped the country. We undertook an amazing race around Dili which involved completing tasks to gain points. Some things we did included: doing yoga in a milkshake shop, running to the top of Christo Rei and finding a concrete frog. As well as the in-week activities we went on three amazing weekend journeys. The first was a trip to Mt Ramelau, the highest mountain in Timor-Léste. Incredible views and the surreal feeling of standing in 7ºC weather in the tropics. Our second trip was a drive from Dili to the eastern most point of Timor-Léste then spending a day on Jaco island for plenty of beach fun and reef snorkelling (we needed a lot of sunscreen for this day, I managed to get through with only a small sunburn patch, others had sleeve tan lines). Our third trip was to Atauro island, off the cost of Dili. For this trip we trekkers had to organise the logistics of getting to the island and staying there for the weekend. This was personally a leadership development exercise for me as I managed to get everyone together to work out what we wanted to do to get there and stay there. The initial accommodation we planned fell through but fortunatelly the best place to stay on the island, Barry’s Place, had a large group cancel soon after we arrived.
I feel that this has been an amazing and unforgettable month. I’ve had such wonderful experiences from living and learning about this new culture through my experiences here. I’ve made new friends, learned new skills for leadership and public speaking, and had a month I hope to never forget.
By Carl Hemsworth
Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronic Engineering) Bachelor of Science (Applied Physics)