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Banyan trees in Baucau
Banyan trees in Baucau
Satish Cheney

BAUCAU — Eleven years after achieving independence from Indonesia, Timor-Leste is still one of the youngest countries in the world. And while economic growth rates are good, thanks in part to recent revenue from oil and gas, most people here still live in poverty.

But now, the government is hoping to diversify the fledgling country’s economy by focusing on the tourism industry, banking on the the country’s natural beauty as a perfect draw for holiday and adventure seekers.

Ricardo Ximenes Marques wakes up to paradise every morning at one of the beaches in Baucau, where the 26-year-old works as a waiter at the bar here.

The water nearby is so clear that you don’t even need to dive to see some of the coral and marine life. But only about 27 people visit this untouched paradise every week. And this isn’t helping Marques’ aim for higher education for both him and his siblings.

“My mother and my father, they don’t have much facility to help us, to put us in university,” he says. “That’s why we decided to go another way, how to help each other. I’m the oldest one, so I try as hard and as fast as I can to get what’s needed.”

Marques is part of a community program that employs about 15 people. Started two years ago, the program aims to create sustainable marine industries here, including fisheries, agriculture and marine tourism. The founder of the project is 42-year-old Kevin Austin, a former United Nations security advisor in Timor-Leste. He stayed in the country after the UN forces left at the end of last year.

But it wasn’t exactly an easy start, Austin admits. “There’s was a lot of mistrust here initially, especially with a community that, I guess, was at the heart of the former independence struggle.”

Austin teaches skills to those in the program — everything from cooking to organizing boat tours and other hospitality ventures. He started with $4,500, just enough for a small bar and a barbecue grill.

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Coronavirus

The Main COVID Risk Now: Long COVID

Death rates are down, masks are off, but many who have been infected by COVID have still not recovered. Long COVID continues to be hard to diagnose and treatments are still in the developmental stage.

Long COVID feels like a never-ending nightmare for those who suffer from it.

Jessica Berthereau

PARIS — The medical examination took longer than expected in the Parc de Castelnau-le-Lez clinic, near the southern French city of Montpellier. Jocelyne had come to see a specialist for long COVID-19, and exits the appointment slowly with help from her son. The meeting lasted more than an hour, twice as long as planned.

“I’m a fighter, you know, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, I’ve been around the world twice… I’m not saying this to brag, but to tell you my background," says the 40-year-old. "These days, I’m exhausted, I’m not hungry, I no longer drive, I can’t work anymore, I have restless legs syndrome.” She pauses before adding sadly: “I can’t read anymore either.”

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