By Juana Encalada

This is almost my sixth month in Aileu, East Timor.

I have been attending a language program for 9 weeks and volunteering in my free time.

It has been a very good experience; it is helping me to understand a little bit more about the Timorese culture.

In my first weeks, I experienced culture shock and what a change from Cambodia. In any case, I am grateful for the experience and the insights I gained through that. I feel more adjusted and grounded in the reality in front of me.

I observed a lot of abuse against children and animals during my walks and stay in Dili. I’ve had a few occasions to witness verbal and physical abuse and I felt helpless that I could do nothing to help the children, but I also learned through one of my teachers that I should have done nothing since it is part of the culture and one of the traditional ways to educate children. It is/was hard!

The great news is that a number of organizations with the government are starting to respond to this problem.

I continue to enjoy my visits to rural areas with the mo-bile clinic and spending time with special needs children and young adults. It is so wonderful to see their faces of joy!

I was also asked to teach English to a group of young adults. They seem very motivated and enthusiastic in class. It is fun to be able to teach and refresh my knowledge of how I learned, too, and still do.

While Sr. Rosalva is on renewal I am accompanying a group of Catechists every other Saturday. It is wonderful to listen as they reflect on the readings. I am just a listener and enjoy seeing their interaction and sharing. Many of them ask about our sisters who spent time with them.

Winter has arrived here and the winds, too! I am trying to keep warm after so many years in a warm country!

It is wonderful to hear the wind sound, and at times it carries the voices of young people singing, laughing or talking. ~Juana~