Acting Lieutenant Eric Chapman
5 December 2012
Postcard from Dili, Timor-Leste
by Acting Lieutenant Eric Chapman
I arrived in Dili at the beginning of November. As soon as I got off the plane, I was struck by the blistering heat, which was a huge contrast to the cold New Zealand weather I had left behind.
As Deputy Service Delivery Manager, I run a team consisting of 5 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel which provides logistical support for the ADF and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) missions in Timor-Leste.
Acting Lieutenant Eric Chapman is welcomed to the International Stabilisation Force by Lt Col Michael Sasse, Commander of Joint Task Force 631.
My day usually starts at 0600. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we have Physical Training sessions. On other mornings, I do cardio workouts, alternating between running, cycling and rowing. On weekends, I hike 8km up the hills to the Dare Memorial, which was built by the Australian Forces who fought in Timor-Leste in World War II and offers stunning views of Dili.
After finishing work around 1700, I get in touch with loved ones back home either by email or Skype. After dinner, I head back to the gym to do weights.
Working out in 30-degree heat is tough. Three weeks ago, I took part in a 10km fun run and struggled with the heat and humidity before completing the race in 58 minutes. (The Timorese winner did it in 34 minutes.)
The remaining NZDF personnel here are going home in two weeks, leaving me and New Zealand Army engineer WO2 Aaron Cook in the headquarters of Joint Task Force 631.
My NZDF colleagues are, of course, in an upbeat mood. They have worked so hard since getting here and are looking forward to spending Christmas back home. They’ve worked long hours to achieve the mission and it is all coming together nicely. Their hard work is clearly paying off.
Fortunately, the start of the rainy season seems to have been delayed. The rains would have made the cleaning and packing up of equipment a lot more difficult.
There are some “perks” to being deployed here. Last week, I saw knock-out views when I went on a three-hour familiarisation flight around the country. And for a coffee lover like myself, Timor-Leste is heaven. The Timorese grow and brew excellent coffee. Their coffee is so good I’ve sent a few packets back to my family in New Zealand.
We are well regarded by the Timorese people for our professionalism and good nature. When we are out and about, the locals always greet us: “Hi Kiwi!”
I’m sure those who were deployed here previously would be amazed at the progress the Timorese have made. There is still a fair bit of work to be done but Timor-Leste’s future looks bright.