8 – 19 August 201
Sometime April this year, we attended ADEX in Singapore. Yogi & I were invited by John Thet, publisher of Asian Geographic Magazine as well as Asian Diver and ScubaDiver Australasia, to give a series of public slideshows on The Coral Triangle. In one of the days when we were gallivanting around the halls, a well dressed man in a grey suit made a beeline for Yogi and said, “I have a personally signed letter from President José Ramos-Horta of Timor Leste for you!” “HUH?! Say that again? I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.” replied Yogi. So, our now good friend Sean Ferguson-Borrel repeats what he said and brought us to his booth in ADEX, hands over the letter and said, “it would be an honour for Timor-Leste to have Mr. Freund over as the Ambassador to the Environment and to judge the inaugural Timor-Leste Underwater Photo Competition this coming October.” WELL, needless to say, we were bowled over. You don’t hear that everyday.
But was it fateful serendipity or just random coincidence that we had to go to Timor-Leste to finish photographing the 6th and last country of the Coral Triangle for this expedition?! The newest nation on earth needed to be shown and we were there for almost two weeks to photograph it. Timor-Leste is a small country right beside its border of Indonesian West Timor. Due to its turbulent recent history with its neighbouring country, they now have a very young population left. Close to half of East Timorese are younger than 15 years old, and a lot of its mid adult population of age 40 up were eerily and conspicuously not there. That said, we still got to see many older adults and some amazing culture. For a young nation, they have a pretty old and thriving living culture and this blog entry is a tribute to the People of Timor-Leste.
Then, we went on a day trip out of Dili one day and saw the countryside. Our last stop was a place called Maubara where there is an refurbished Portuguese Fort and cafe where they served some great locally grown coffee. A funny character in traditional garb walked about but he refused to have his picture taken. But when we went to the public market, there were loads of people dressed to the nines, Timorese style. Again we were serendipitously at the right place and perfectly timed. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão was in town to talk to the people of Maubara! We brought out our black cloth and had an instant studio amongst the vegetables and chickens. Here are some stunning characters:
And one day we were invited to a special place called Ba Futuru, a non profit development organisation that help transform lives of Timorese children through peace education. The girls in the group were performing their traditional dance and here is a little glimpse of that day: