Mak ne’e deit

By Sally Bolton

On my final road trip to Passabe with FEEO’s Kopernik team, we invented a new game. It was based on Spot-bug, a game I used to play on road trips as a kid. Spot-bug, as I remember it, involved yelling out each time you saw an old Volkswagen Beetle on the road. A variation called Punch-buggy involved meting out punches to friends or siblings if you were the first person to spot the VW.

In six months in Oecusse I haven’t spotted a single VW Beetle, so we adapted the game into something I’ll call Spot-light. The goal was to be the first person to spot a d-light solar lantern charging under the sun. We scored one point for the S10 d-lights, the smaller lanterns.

The S250 d-lights are larger and have a separate solar panel which is often wired in place on the roof for charging, while the lantern remains hanging inside the house. As such, they can be harder to spot, so we decided to award three points for an S250 sighting.

The mountains have faded from a lush green to a dusty brown since the dry season took hold, and it was easy to spot the bright orange lanterns in many villages that we passed through. I quickly took a commanding lead in the game.

I will concede that I was sitting in the front passenger seat where it was probably much easier to see the lanterns first. Or maybe my colleagues were just indulging me because they know how much of a thrill I get from seeing the lanterns being used all over Oecusse, and this was our last trip together. Or possibly my years of experience dodging (playful) blows from my brothers in games of Punch-buggy had given me a competitive edge for these sorts of games.

The drive to the mountain village of Malelat took in some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen in Timor-Leste. It also reacquainted me with a sensation I had almost forgotten – what it’s like to feel cold in the middle of the day. This was the first place I’ve visited in Oecusse where the solar heating properties of the Solvatten unit to provide water for bathing seemed very appealing. In the neighbouring suko of Abani we sold one Solvatten and took an order for another unit.

Each time we distribute a Solvatten (or a fuel-efficient stove, or a solar lantern) feels like a small win to me as I think about what these technologies will mean for the quality of life of the individual family. The Solvatten means that Agustinho Nikin’s children won’t have to spend so long collecting firewood, and will have less exposure to smoke. His wife won’t have to spend so long beside an open fire boiling water to make it safe to drink. And his family will have enough Solvatten-treated water to meet their daily needs for drinking water and have warm water left for bathing in the evenings.

Although I won’t be he here in Oecusse to see it, the potential long-term, collective impact of these new technologies is equally exciting. Three months, six months, twelve months down the track, what will the reduced dependence on kerosene mean for household spending? What will the increase in income-generating work at night using solar lanterns mean for household incomes? What will changes in children’s study patterns using solar lanterns mean for their education? What will the small group loans, reinvesting the money raised from selling the technologies, mean for micro-businesses in these villages? What will reduced demand for firewood mean for deforestation in Oecusse? What sort of health benefits will come from reduced exposure to smoke?

I’m leaving the Kopernik-FEEO partnership in the very capable hands of Dedy Hanning, Kopernik Project Officer, until the next Kopernik Fellow arrives in Oecusse. I’m already looking forward to hearing how they go answering some of the questions above. I’m also looking forward to hearing if they manage to beat my top score on Spot-light. Given the cracking pace of distribution of the new shipment of d-lights, I imagine there will be plenty of opportunities to play Spot-light all over the enclave.

Mak ne’e deit. (That’s all, from me, for now).


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