Parallel islands

June 2, 2013

I’m writing this from Timor Leste (East Timor) where my wife Pip and I moved in April to begin a two-year stint with Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA).

We’ve settled in well but home feels a long way away, and Ireland even further. Quite a few Kiwis live here and there are enough Irish to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the capital, Dili.

At our Tetun language classses I met two young Irish women working for the UN and, in the town of Maliana, a woman from Tipperary whose mother lives not far from where my Martin forebears hail. Many Irish are here for the same reasons as the Kiwis – to help rebuild a new, very small country.

Pat and Pip in Balibo, at the house where five journalists (three Aussies, a Kiwi and a Brit) were murdered by invading Indonesian forces in 1975. The house is now a memorial.

Pat and Pip in Balibo, at the house where five journalists (three Aussies, a Kiwi and a Brit) sought shelter before being murdered by invading Indonesian forces in 1975. The house is now a memorial.

Timor Leste is the world’s first nation of the 21st century. It was a priority for Irish aid when the Celtic Tiger was roaring in 2003 but Ireland closed its aid office in Dili last October. Read the rest of this entry »

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