I have just a few short weeks left in Oecusse, so I’m trying to find time to enjoy the simple pleasures of enclave living. Morning runs through the rice paddies in the cool of dawn. Lunchtime swims in the sea. Coconut water on the beach in the late afternoon. The slight chill in the air on a June evening. And gazing up at Oecusse’s infinitely spectacular night sky. What Oecusse lacks in night time entertainment options, it makes up for with a display of stars free of almost any light pollution. I had plenty of time to take it all in last week, with overnight ferry trips to Dili and back to transport a new shipment of solar lanterns to Oecusse. Lying out on the deck of the Nakroma, staring up at the star-studded sky, I reflected on what we have achieved over the last few months here. By my calculations Kopernik technologies are benefiting more than 5,500 people and have reached almost all of the 18 sukos in the enclave. Jose Sonet and I arrived back in Oecusse just before dawn, watching the stars fade as we unloaded almost 1.5 tonnes of new solar lanterns onto the dock.
Tuesday we drove out to the western border at Citrana to distribute solar lanterns, fuel-efficient stoves and water purification units in villages that had been inaccessible during the wet season.
The highlight of the day for me was seeing Berta Nesi’s kids run off to fill up their new Solvatten solar safe water system as she talked about how much time they will save now that they won’t have to collect firewood and boil water to get safe drinking water. Although Citrana is only about 40km from Pantemakassar, it takes a good three hours to get there along a bumpy, bone-rattling road/track. It was a long day, and by the time we passed through Suni Ufe on our way back to town it was almost dark. Suni Ufe is the first village where we distributed solar lanterns last December, and word had got around that the FEEO team had new lights for sale. We stopped twice in the village, each time quickly selling lights to a couple of dozen people who kindly used their new lanterns to give us light so we could write down their details and collect payments. Driving out of Suni Ufe, it was easy to spot the distinctive white light of the solar lanterns in almost every house and kiosk along the road. Bobbing lights in the distance revealed families who were using their solar lanterns to walk home from the fields. A wide expanse of rice paddies was dotted with solar lanterns lighting up the small huts where people were resting after a day of harvest. We stopped and counted more than 20 lights across several hectares, the lights dotting the paddies mirroring the clear white light of the stars up above. Crossing the Tono River we spotted fishermen using their solar lanterns to fish at the mouth of the river. Suni Ufe is something of a model Kopernik village. The close ties that FEEO has with the community there have allowed Kopernik technologies to reach many people. In the coming weeks and months my superstar FEEO colleagues will visit many more villages throughout the enclave, as roads damaged during the wet season are repaired by local communities. The new shipment of solar lanterns has arrived at a very good time indeed.