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Friday, April 22, 2005

Timor-Leste day 5

At the airport
The last day of our trip began with me waking up at about 7:15am. I joined the others for breakfast at the hotel's restaurant and ate some bee hoon and other stuff. The TV was on and it was showing the local news by TV Timor-Leste, but I couldn't understand a word because it was in Tetun (I think). But from the pictures, it showed that the *only* story of the day was about the previous day's protests and responses from government leaders, including the president.

A debriefing session started at 8am. Everyone, including those who had gone to the othere villages, gathered in the restaurant to hear from each church group. It was quite interesting to hear the different stories. For those of us who stayed in Dili, we learned about life in the rural villages, i.e. no running water, sleeping in wooden sheds. Ruth told the group about our church's objective on this trip (to recce the area) and said that we now had a better idea of what to present to the church about the country.

The debriefing ended with some words from Bishop Moses. He stressed on a few things. One of them is that we should move away from the word "adoption" and use "partnership" instead, which denotes a more equal pairing between Singaporean churches and Timorese villages. He also wished that the churches would move out of the comfortable Dili to the far-flung villages. And he told us to be watchful of the government's policies, especially with the possible election of a staunch Catholic to be the new president.

After the debrief, my church team held its own debriefing, basically to gather our feedback on our feelings of the trip and what we thought RCC's involvement should be.

At 10am, we returned to our rooms. I packed up my stuff, which fortunately wasn't a lot. It was definitely not a bittersweet parting with the little room. I checked out with the others and paid US$60 for the three nights.

We went to the airport at 11am. On the way, I felt nostalgic. I don't know if/when I'll return, so this was going to be my last look at Dili. I looked at the rundown houses, the undernourished people, the plentiful vegetation, the dusty roads, the dried out rivers. I wanted to remember these images for a long time.

At the airport, as we waited for everyone to arrive, I realised that after the four days together, we didn't even have a group photo of our church team! Church members would see pictures of Timor-Leste but none of the team members. So I suggested a group picture. In the end, we included members from the other teams. After all, after four days together, we were practically one big team.

Checking in at the airport was a relatively smooth process. There's only one area for check-in with three counters. There were no questions asked as we got our boarding passes. Then we went to another counter window to pay our airport tax, US$10 per person. And then we just had to wait for our flight. A few of us got together and talked about how we could collaborate to show our joint experience, e.g. setting up a website.

We went into the passenger area at about 12pm and waited... and waited... and waited... And then we learned that the plane from Bali had been delayed. Since this is the same plane that would take us to Bali, that meant our return flight had also been delayed. To complicate matters, we would miss our next flight from Bali to Singapore. The team leaders quickly got together to inform Garuda Airlines about our delay.

Meanwhile, the rest of us just hung out. It was lunchtime and we were hungry. Biscuits appeared on the scene, including my untouched Oreo biscuits. We also learned from our team leaders that they had successfully arranged for the Garuda plane to wait at Bali for us.

Finally, at around 2pm, we saw the Merpati airplane arrive. An hour later, we were aboard and soon on our way back to Bali. At Bali Airport, we were rushed through transit by a Garuda staffer. He helped us get our boarding passes in double-quick time. While he did his thing behind the scenes, all we could do is go up one level and wait for him at the departure area. A few folks bought ice-cream to bide the time.

About half an hour after we had arrived in Bali, we were in line for the Garuda plane. This too went smoothly since we were the last of the passengers to board. I didn't notice any sour faces from the other passengers, though, so *whew*!

And then it was home sweet home.

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