Ita koalia Ingles ka? (Do you speak English?)

Our first three weeks in Timor Leste were largely occupied by language classes at the Dili Institute of Technology.  Each morning we’d pile into a taxi with fellow AVI’s Mel and Bernadette for a $3-$4 ride across town to the campus at the end of a dusty, pot-holed road.  Most taxis would only drive partway so we normally walked the last few hundred metres.

We were taught by a different mestra or mestri each day in a building made from shipping containers and assembled into small classrooms.  With tiled floors, white-washed walls, and windows that open onto a wrap-around veranda, you wouldn’t guess the classroom once held cargo.  However ahi mate (power dead) is a daily occurrence and when the fans stopped the still air made it even harder to concentrate.

Now that the formal classes have finished, the challenge is to continue building up my vocabulary, especially for work.  It is amusing and humbling to stammer through a Tetun phrase, only to receive reply in perfect English.


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