Karen returns from East Timor

Karen Fowke recently returned from her working holiday in East Timor. Normally lessons are held in the ocean however weather conditions made it impossible to utilise that water. Instead, Karen says, “I only ended up working for a total of 15 hours because I spent most of the first week helping a local tradesman fix the out of ground pool.”

Crowds of children would gather at the gate waiting to see if lessons were on for the day – the abject poverty of the local population especially children raiding garbage piles for food was a real  eye opener for Karen as too was the razor wire on top of the fence surrounding the property Karen stayed at.
Karen felt that there was basically two societies – white and Timorese and the children loved lessons. The lessons were so popular Karen really needed an assistant to control the crowd.  The children were extremely excited and happy and before swimming lessons each day they would eagerly crowd around the gate. The local children seem to have a much better appreciation of how important learning to swim is to them as not only a source of great enjoyment but an essential life saving skill in a society where the ocean plays a vital role for fresh food.

While in East Timor Karen found these “Awesome and amazing restaurants” and met lots of other nationalities who are in East Timor as part of the UN nation building exercise. Karen had a fantastic time and bought away the sense that even though life for most in East Timor is a harsh experience the Timorese are happy and this impressed Karen the most. “It really brought home to me how you don’t need lots of material things to be happy.” Karen felt that too much assistance from the international community may have created a society used to being supported by those various world organisations. The various museums and historic site helped Karen gain a great insight into the life style and history of one of our very near neighbours and was shocked at the lack of the elderly amongst todays population, “70% of the Timorese were killed over the many decades of invasion and occupation including helping and protecting Australian soldiers during WWII.”

Karen was sad to leave this vibrant part of the world because the Timorese were very friendly people and the children really appreciated their swimming lessons. One highlight of her visit was when Karen spent time in a local village where she witnessed life at its simple best.

“It was a wonderful experience. My only regret is the pool was out of action for the first week. Seeing how the children gathered en mass for an opportunity to receive expert instruction made me feel really special. I loved the experience and urge swimming teachers throughout the country to volunteer their time and turn a holiday into a productive adventure.”