Barry’s Place is a popular eco-lodge on Atauro island. Directly across the road from the Empreza Di’ak business centre (Sentru Atauro Di’ak), we enjoyed our daily feeds there and made regular crossings to get to the beach. While I was grateful we had free accommodation with Empreza Di’ak for the week, I was quite envious of these cute little bungalows right on the beach. The entire place is designed based on permaculture principles, using locally-sourced sustainable building materials (like bamboo and lontar palm), traditional construction techniques and employing local builders.
Meals at Barry’s consist of a variety of tasty local dishes served in buffet style, which for me meant repeated serves of deep fried banana bits and vegetable fritters.
Owners Barry and Lina Hinton have also contributed a great deal to the local community, supporting various development projects like the construction of schools and helping send 5 locals to university in Indonesia.
One of those five is fun and good humoured Mario, or “Super Mario” as he refers to himself. Mario currently works at Barry’s on weekdays and on the weekend manages his own eco-lodge (Mario’s place) on the other side of the island in Adara. Friendly and a bit of a jokester, he enjoys announcing it’s breakfast at dinner time, referring to fish as “chicken” and vice versa, and casually adding “and blah blah blah” at the end of every sentence. On one occasion one customer repeatedly complained that the self-serve coffee was not hot enough and rather than taking his words seriously, Mario laughed and agreed yes it was not hot.
Behind his charm and humour it’s difficult to imagine just how much he’s been through. Throughout secondary school, he slept on the pier for 6 years because his family lived really far. He told us that when he went to Jogja for university, he struggled with money and would sometimes not eat for days. To this he laughed and added, because he was funny he occasionally received free meals from friendly locals who would ask him if he had eaten.
His parents, who make their living through fishing, sent him $50 USD a month to support living costs. He talked about how hard his parents worked and how a whole day’s fishing would sometimes only equate to a couple of dollars of income. Now that Mario has completed his studies and is earning an income himself, he is helping support his brother and cousin to study as well as a few others in the community.
There is a great documentary called Wawata Topu (Mermaids of Timor Leste) which Mario worked on as production assistant. It takes a look at generations of fisherwomen in Adara (West Atauro) and the struggle to make a living as well as the breaking down of social barriers in the fishing community. The film provides great insight into the daily lives of fisherwomen and has picked up many awards.