Anne-Laure Lecomte, 22 years old, is a French volunteer working for a Dominican volunteer organisation on mission in Timor-Leste for one year as an English and music teacher. She missed the last flight home after borders were shut when COVID-19 hit and had to stay in the South-East Asian nation.
She told upstart about how the pandemic has been affecting the country and how she has been continuing her volunteer work, giving her time to the Timorese people despite the situation and improving her language skills.
What has been the hardest part of being stuck in East Timor for you?
Actually, I am lucky for I am staying in the countryside with a big area and garden. So this lockdown situation is not too difficult to live for me compared to the daily life of other people in Timor, especially big families living altogether in a small house. Nevertheless, maybe the hardest part can be the tensions that may appear because of staying always with the same people.
What measures have the East Timor government taken because of COVID-19?
The East-Timor government has launched an emergency situation. People have to stay at home, there is no more public transportation, the airport, port and borders are closed. The police are on the road controlling the traffic.
In the middle of May, the government gave subsidies to families because people are getting hungry and this emergency situation has been a difficult time for poor people, especially in the city.
How have you been spending your days in East Timor?
Gardening mainly, but as well cooking, sewing, manual activities, maintenance of the property—especially the school. We are not bored at all, there is always a thing to do!
What is the best thing to come out this situation for you?
During those two months of lockdown, I stayed all the days with Timorese people and thanks to that, I discovered more deeply the culture, the way of life, the way of cooking, thinking… But the best thing to come out of this situation for me is, without doubt, the improvement of my level in the local language, the Tetun. And I am really glad about that because it’s a big part of my integration in this country!
Article: Sam Hughes is a third-year journalism student
Photo: Supplied by LeComte