English classes and local villages
Day 93, Saturday
Saturday is market day, so a good day for a big grocery shop. I also love the energy of the big local market – there are hundreds of people there, buying and selling. It’s right on the outskirts of town, so you can get a mikrolet (if we have a hire car we drive) but most people walk there and back.
This has been a full and eventful week. It’s been shaped quite strongly by our regular attendance at the local English classes. We started this the previous week, thinking it could be a good way for Tony’s daughters to meet some English-speaking people their own age, and continued going all of this week too, as it was bringing us in contact with such a range of people, all keen to share their experiences and ideas with us in the spirit of an exchange.
On Monday afternoon, we asked the class to talk about what interesting and special things there were to do, see and experience in Lospalos. We discussed the idea of ‘special and interesting things’ all together first, to gather ideas and put the question in the context of visitors coming to Lospalos. Then the class gathered into pairs and presented one idea to the rest of the class in English.
One boy said, I would show the visitors the Lake Ira-Lalaru, because it is very beautiful. It is the largest lake in Timor, fed by seven springs, and it is close to here. It also has an interesting story and I would tell them the story:
Long ago, there was a village where the lake is now. One day, a snake with seven heads came to that village. This snake bit the daughter of the village chief. In his anger, he called for people to kill the snake in revenge.
However, the snake turned out to be a king of snakes. So nature then took its revenge. Water began to pour from each of the seven heads of the snake. Rain poured down from the sky. The ground cracked open and water came bubbling up. Soon the village was submerged, and the lake is still there today.
That’s one version of the lake story – I’ve heard two other versions since then, but that is unsurprising as it is passed down through an oral tradition. I like the idea of it changing, like a game of Chinese Whispers.
On Tuesday, Tony led what sounded like a superb conversation lesson. He wrote a list of questions on the white board, asking the students to imagine that they had met him, a visitor, by chance in the street, and were having a conversation with him.
- Which village or town do you come from?
- What is interesting to see or do in your village?
- Is it far from here?
- How do I get there on local transport?
- How much does it cost?
- Can I there and back in one day?
He arranged the group into two concentric circles, facing each other in pairs, and they each had to ask these questions to their partner and give the answers in English. The inner circle then moved one place to the left and had the same conversation with the next person.
Tony explained that he wanted them all to have the conversations at the same time – “Like at a party!” Everyone laughed and the energy lifted, and it sounded like they had a very dynamic, engaged lesson together.
The lesson revealed information that we had been looking for – where could w get to in a day using the local mikrolet and truck transport options. Tony’s daughters were particularly keen to go somewhere in a truck.
The conversation class led to invitations being issued by different students to come with them to their village, and the following day (Wednesday) Tony and the girls travelled with two of the students to the village of Kakavei on the back of a truck. Kakavei is high in the mountains. The student showed them around – they met local children and did some music games with them, they met a local song-women who performed for them, they visited their host’s house, and his wife had prepared local food for them – sweet potatoes mashed and wrapped in banana leaves, and a drink made from crushed corn – watched tais being woven and got to try some on.
They got home around 5pm, very happy with their adventure. I was envious – I had opted to spend the day working, but Wednesday had turned out to one of the ‘backwards steps’ of the Lospalos shuffle and I hadn’t had the productive, energised day I’d hoped for. Never mind. It all balances out.