Today was one of the highlights of the trip! We began the day travelling from the stunningly beautiful Tutuala and Jaco Island beach huts to the historic town of Lospalos. Lospalos played a critical role in the country’s resistance during the time of Indonesian occupation which has left the walls of building decorated with resistance artwork and graffiti mixed in with the old Portugese buildings.
The plan was to then have lunch with a women’s weaving cooperative in town, CTKDS and have a weaving workshop with them. CTKDS was founded by an Australian-Timorese woman and is made up of a group of very strong and loving, Timorese women and their families, widowed from the resistance. These women are hands down the most welcoming and generous that we encountered in Timor-Leste; which is saying quite a lot! Despite being the poorest families in the community, they gave us a spectacular lunch, dinner, had us stay the night and a breakfast and lunch the next day, on their insistence.
Straight after lunch today, the women started showing us the techniques for dying the cloth, using natural barks and roots which they ground up and added water to, and the weaving contraption – which was surprisingly hard and complicated!! Despite knowing next to no Tetun and them knowing very little English, we were still able to have a laugh and bond over terrible Tetun attempts; it felt so natural and easy.
The day wound on with coffee, chats and laughter and gradually dinner came around. Dinner was a miraculous feast which was followed by a spontaneous dancing party! As we were staying the night at the weaving office, some of the women stayed late to chat with us and keep us company, despite having homes to go to and children to feed. It was only later that we discovered that these women were planning on staying the night on the office floor (all 15 of them) while three of us slept on the double bed, we had no choice but to politely accept – classic selfless, amazing, lovely Timorese women. The night of dancing was incredibly fun, despite no words or conversation, we were still able to communicate through laughter, music and dancing.
The organisation itself is a fantastic example of grassroots development which is sustainable but also preserved the traditional Timorese culture and empowered the women. Wonderful. Needless to say we were blown away with their generosity, strength and love of life. We all left the next day with our hearts full of love for these wonderful women and with a butt-load of memories.