Waddaya want -a medal??!
Dili Travel Blog› entry 41 of 86 › view all entries
Well, in a couple of weeks the members of Tuituia 7 will be divided again. Having met each other in February this year we developed strong bonds and then were deployed over three different dates from 9th April to my deployment on 14th June. As I’ve told you all my few months here has been incredibly busy so it seems like just yesterday I was greeted by those who came before me.
Before the 12 early arrivals head home we are gathering for our medal parade. UN presents a medal after 180 days of service and although I haven’t passed that milestone at this time I am included in the parade as it is usual the timings will see you in mission for one parade only.
I will be here for two (unless something
untoward happens) as I have been granted an extension for a further six months.
Everyone came in from the various districts
on the Wednesday and we all met at the Timor Hotel at 5.30pm to set up the
conference room for Thursday’s event. I
was in charge of the sound system and the music as I have some experience with
theatre sound production. My biggest
concern was the music tracks for the Timorese and
After a couple of hours and a few anthem and haka practises we were happy with arrangements and headed back to the Esplanada to get ready for dinner at the Nautilus.
Dinner was very nice.
We started Thursday with breakfast and a final Haka and anthem practise. We made our way to the Timor Hotel at 9am and I went over the sound system one last time. The orphanage was already there and the kids were excited to be involved in our event. I hadn’t seen them since our pool party several weeks ago so it was nice to have them here.
The ceremony began at 10am with 3 Moari warriors from the NZ Army greeting all our guests in the foyer and leading them along the hallway to the conference room where they were seated. Speeches from 4-5 VIPs followed the anthems.
The orphanage sang beautifully and we were not too bad ourselves. It was great to have that out of the way and be able to relax while the speakers had the floor.
The next item was a short video of NZ scenery. It went for about 3 minutes and it was nice to see the shots from home flashing on the wall before us. We then moved to position for the presentation of our medals.
I was in the front row with the Officers holding commissions. Our medals were presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Mission in Timor Leste. His deputy presented to the 2nd rank and the 3rd rank received their medals from the UN Police Commissioner.
Once that was over we returned to our seats and the children sang a traditional Maori song from NZ. Many of the NZers mentioned afterwards that they felt very emotional during this song but I enjoyed it very much. The children did a fabulous job.
The next item on the programme was our haka. The haka is a traditional challenge made by Maori before they fought or to perhaps win battles without fighting. These days the haka is seen as a symbol of NZ pride. I have spoken about the haka previously as we had to learn it for our “changing of the guard” when we came into mission. We will do our next when the 12 new members of the next contingent arrive in mission.
So this one was not so much a challenge to our guests enjoying our medal parade but the NZ pride thing. Everyone knows the haka done by the NZ All Blacks and they want to see the thrill of that up close.
Up close is what they got. I had arranged for one of my staff from National Traffic to use my camera and record the haka but he recorded so many of the speeches and other things before it that he used up all the memory and I now have nothing but memory of the thing.
Anyway, I was in the front line with the rest of the big guys and we stood no more than a metre from the dignitaries at the front of the packed conference room. As we lined up and the leader began his introduction in Tetum we twitched and shuffled, raising our adrenalin levels ready for our chanting. 25 voices roared our answers and the crowd sat silent except for the click of digital shutters.
As the haka progressed our voices and actions became more pronounced and then we started the second time through. The whole thing was only about 2 minutes long but I can’t remember what happened at the end. I guess they enjoyed it – not that anyone said that to me but no-one had a bad word to say about our morning and after all the dust settled and the coffee and cake was eaten I was just pleased that part was over and the rest of the day was going to be spent in the pool, around the barbeque and up in the bar dancing.
There was drunkenness, there was blood, there were tears and yes there was dancing and laughter. I decided I’d had enough just before midnight and left them all too it.
Next morning I heard it had packed up about 2.30am and those from the Suai district had gone home about 7am. It had been a good day!