Monday, September 2, 2013

Tour de Timor - Short message & thankfully not short of breath

I managed to get into Baucau (125km) in 38th place (6th for veteran men) in 6:38min. A good measured day of cycling within my ability. I lost 2kgs by the final weighing at the finish line. Solution: drink water bottles of .... water and then add 3 sachets of orange-flavoured gastrolite to the mix.There was a concert put on by dancers from local primary schools (no boys to be seen)

Tomorrow we cycle to Ossu (only 75km, but over steep hills). We'll go off road and visit the local hot springs.
Day three is Ossu to Same (well 4km south of the town centre) --> 127km

After a big late lunch and a double helping of the evening meal, I am now well filled and the bed beckons.
More reports om Sat/Sun next

Monday, August 12, 2013

One Less Bar – Stone Me – ANZ Banking where you want it – UNPaz - Telephone companies talk to each other - Power to the people – That’s not a knife – Security – Miss TL – Tour de Timor - Helmet shop – Padaria – Little trenches – Fertility clinic - Scrabble - Not a Dali clock - Wee batteries

Photos added; just double-click to view the large size 

Friday week ago OMB (One More Bar) closed and then sold off everything over the next two days. Sunday evening was open season for locals and I observed sink units and toilet bowls being stacked up for relocation; probably to sheds where they’ll gather dust and wait in expectation of more prominent bums. Some rumours say that the new rent for the next 2-3 years was $1million and that was a just a bit steep. Apparently the place is also prime real estate and will now be knocked down for a five storey hotel. The neighbouring building on the corner (facing the angel statue and across from the bishop’s residence) has already been flattened to rubble, so construction of a monster edifice using both sites, won't be far off, in Timor terms. At night the site is now a dark ghostly shell, partially lit by a single street light. Two security guards look after the remaining walls and roofing iron.

Stone fish are crafty little buggers that don't bother to warn you about their presence until the ‘Got yah!’ spine shoots through your foot. I was told a story, two weeks ago, about such an experience in Australia. The bloke as walking on a tidal sand bank and thought it was just a piece of metal or something similar. The excruciating pain, copious blood, blue rings around the ankle and leg (this is a neurotoxin at work) convinced him it was pretty serious. Fortunately he got medical attention within 45 minutes and a doctor recognised a stone fish’s work. Morphine pain killers had no effect :-p and the best treatment was to put the limb into extremely hot water – reducing the pain from a 9 or 10 out of 10 (he said he would have accepted an amputation just to get rid of the pain) to a 5. He still had a hole in the sole of his foot 10 days later. Some US State flags have a snake on them with the legend ‘Don’t tread on me’ – maybe Australia should use the stone fish?

ANZ - no queue on Sunday afternoons

The ANZ announced that their old branch would close and all business would move to Timor Plaza. The new ATM (on the right) has been out of action for nearly a month now. The close-down and move date has come and gone, yet the old branch still appears to be operating. The current advertising line ‘We live in your world’ appears to mean the west end of Dili, not Balidae and the east. To be fair, ANZ were always here as a business bank and the ATM/private customer thing is not a profit maker.

Celebrations central and the admin building is back & centre

    I was asked to check out a PC or two at UNPaz (University of Peace) a privately funded institution located just East of Dili Institue of Technology (DIT). They were having a celebration because of some international recognition for a component of their curriculum. There was a lot of regional dancing going on and I was invited to share lunch with the staff. The large white administration building cost them $60k to complete and the Prime Minister came to look at it because the Government departments require $1million to build the equivalent.

Timor Telecom (why don’t they have a fan page on Facebook?), Telkomcel and Telemor now all talk to each other. This means a SIM from any one company can make a local call to the other two. With Government encouragement, cough, it all happened on August 1st.

Power to all is stepping up by over 100% when the new power plant in Betano (double the grunt of the station at Hera) officially opens on August 20th. Well I think that’s what the giant bill board banners mean. There is a crowd of camo-wearing men in the poster foreground and the new power station is in the background. Falantil and the years 1975-2013 are also mentioned. There is a connection somewhere there. Like many others, I am keen to hear how the station will be fueled, as there isn’t a pipe line and as late as Febuary, there wasn’t a local supply wharf (Betano being on the south coast and the Pertamina fuel facilities are here in Dili on the north coast); leaving the option of tanker convoys from Dili?

Just wait until a coconut fails to 'respect' me
A few weeks back four of us (Sue, Tracey, Robyn and I) visited Ataturo Island. Sue and Tracey are right into singing and Tracey can play guitar and ukulele pretty well, so that spiced up the evenings. I bought a locally made machete from the Saturday market for a good price (for the seller). Made from an old leaf spring and some local wood (handle + scabbard) I was happy with $25, but it should have been around $10-15. While I waved it around at Barry's he advised me to bury the blade into a banana tree trunk for 3 days to cure the blade. So, back in Dili, I managed to find a tree at a friend’s place and the blade was stuck there for four days. I haven’t got it back yet, but Holger says the blade doesn’t appear to be that much different, apart from some extra rust – hmmm.

Outside: traffic and dust - Inside: dogs, pigeons, roosters &
pigs over the fence
The front gates to the family compound and yard (where my apartment is) are now repositioned further into the yard and have been rehung so the ends don’t jamb together when closed. A padlock was added two weeks ago and it is locked about 10pm every night. The Martial Arts Gangs (MAGs) are… working through some differences with each other, since one member died on a business trip to the west end of the island some 3 months ago. The night time traffic has dropped off considerably and more local people are minding their immediate street areas. The police patrols are typically noticeable by the flashing lights, deep sounding fog horn blasts and higher speed than usual. Surgical visits to some areas are done by the BOP – a special police section, trained, I think, by the Portuguese GNR. Two weeks ago a friend of mine witnessed a surprise visit at the soccer field area near Lita supermarket; around 5:10pm. The guys were dressed in khaki and one was using a baton to hit a bloke near the fresh fish sellers. The other fish sellers had dropped all their fish and were running away. Heaps of traffic and witnesses, as it was rush hour out through Ariea Branca. My witness decided not to use a camera, but to quietly get out of the area immediately and go home. I left Timor Plaza, for Bidau, about 20 minutes later and passed two open back vehicles (outward facing seats) as they headed toward the airport on Comoro road. The front one had blue uniformed police and the second had guys in khaki T-shirts and cam trousers. They looked a bit flushed, as though from recent physical activity. Maybe a match to the earlier report?

Discussions continue: Which tourists is this event aimed at?
Another big bill board has been erected in a frame across the road from the Palacio. It advertises the Miss Timor Leste competiton for April-May 2013. 'Yes', I know it is now August.. The first round was stopped, but with renewed backing from the Minister of Tourism, the event maybe getting back underway again. The new dates appear to be unknown at this stage. Maybe the corrections will be hand-written?
If there is more advertising, then no one I know has seen it

The Ministry of Tourism is also running the Tour de Timor for 2013 (Sept 2-6th). This is a big change from the group that ran the event for the past four years, @ $1,000 an entry. The entry fee is now only $500 and entries close on August 19th. It promises to be quite different from previous years as this time around there will be no assistance from the UN, expat military or international volunteers. I am holding onto my precious $500 (no refunds) for a few more days until a minister’s retreat is concluded and we find out if a certain portfolio change occurs and what impact that change might have on the above two events.

It the empty space across the road
A local landmark corner office block is now gone. It was just to the south of the central bank, east of the Palacio and just over the road from Café Brasil. Squatters had been living there for a long time and the distinguishing feature was the sale of motorcycle helmets - long rows of them were lined up parallel to the street. Apparently, it all happened one Monday morning with a strong police presence. The squatters were moved out and then wreckers immediately moved in and flattened the place.

This cross was used by the Templer Knights -
what could the connection be??

Padaria Brasa continues to be a favourite place for coffee and baguettes on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Christopher Columbus used the same cross on the sails of the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria - who sponsored that advertising?

Trench across the road + ex-traffic light stump
Something is changing at intersections all over town. It could be that traffic lights may be returning. There are narrow-cut trenches everywhere. I was fortunate to witness the first batch of traffic lights being commissioned during 2006 and then I witnessed the last, dusty, scratched ones, going out for good earlier this year.  I wonder what the life span of the next generation will be.

Only $5.25 here
After hours, the price goes up

I heard a garbled report of a fertility clinic or some sort of supply system down my end of town. That can’t be right. I kept my eyes open and found some low profile advertising that appeared to be a lead. Pretty bold, I thought, but that’s marketing for you. Getting to the source took a night visit, fortunately no stake out required. The product is dried and dispensed in 20kg paper sacks. But it wasn’t adding up. Easy answer was to look at the phonetics   Semen = cemen(t)

Katy, Rob, Christina and I had a scrabble game yesterday. It was a brunch event that had two warm up sessions of Bananagrams and then the main event until around 4pm. Huge use was made of two and three letter words that no one uses in normal life. No triple words came my way and the best double-word was only worth about 22. I came last on 147 with Christina top scoring on 165. Life is so unjust.

Early on Tuesday and sometimes Thursday, mornings I run with some friends from Ocean View along the beach, past the airport runway and on to the building where the Pope spoke many years ago. On Tuesday the sea was very high and had come over the top of the concrete walls backing onto the giant concrete caltrop collection (sea erosion prevention). Everywhere, the land was being washed away and several palm oil trees had toppled over into the growing beach area. Maybe there is one Honda 'Scoopy' too many on the Dili streets and this is our local climate-change reward? I picked up a sea-cured plastic clock facing. Kind of appealing in its own way. I call it 'Timor Time' and am waiting for someone to offer me lots of money for this 'one-off'

Batteries are a problem, until you can find a reliable and cheap source. These batteries are essential in my smaller bike lights. They're also used on some PC motherboards. In Timor Plaza, I was quoted $3 each, yet the Loja Lidwi (long counter parrallel to the road) in Colmera sells them for $1 each. Apparently they're even cheaper at the $2 shops in Oz, but there are delivery difficulties involved there.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nothing much has happened recently apart from the Dili Marathon, finally moving office from Motael into Timor Plaza, the new Portuguese bakery on Lobato, , new drains in Bairo Pite, bamboo furniture, world war G, Insects away & liquid medical kit

Blog finishing 2nd  July 2013

Dili Marathon
The Saturday marathon really started three weeks before the event when the rumour mill ran hot. The people who’d previously done the organising and run the web site had ‘left’. No one was doing website updates nor responding to emails. There was no course map, method of entering or other details such as the start line.
My concerns were more about would I run the half or the full? After knocking off  a heavy hill and flat-mixed 10km run on the previous Wednesday in 56 minutes and feeling good afterwards,  I decided I would take on the full distance of 42km + a bit more. Nagging thoughts kept bugging me about a lack of training (true, but not helpful for race preparation). These thoughts were cast aside – ‘You are either with me or against me’. Reality gradually focused my mind around the 30km mark – the wonders of lactic acid..
I'd decided to enter on the morning of the event, 06:10 to be exact. My guess was that it would kick off in front of the Palacio on the waterfront and that was correct, a morale-boosting location. When I reached a tent that seemed official enough to accept entries, I was told ‘Entries are full/closed'. Speaking to other runners at the start line, it turned out that you had to hear by word of mouth that the entries had to be made at some building two days prior. At least one runner had to insist on an entry, even though the attendant claimed it was ‘full’, by pointing out they still had piles of numbers on the table.
“Darn it,” (family classified blog) I said. No number for me, but I resolved to run anyway. This was not a problem and the Minister of Tourism, after a double take, still draped a tais around my neck at the finish.

 I’d borrowed a Garmin GPS + heart meter from Karin and this was running the whole time I was out there. Neat piece of kit as there are heaps of stats and a dotted track of dots to overlay onto Google Earth.
No one was writing down numbers so that kind of stymied an official result list.
Important stuff: Total time of 4:20 hours, half time of about 1:40, then my body began to copy the spiral of a failing finance company. Ummm, not really true. : heart, breathing, fluids and energy all ticked the boxes, but those legs kept complaining that they could not do what they’d done 10 years ago in London. The result was over an hour slower. Still, it rained most of the time, so no problems with tropical heat and blazing sun. The flood waters took my mind off the run as I guessed what was or was not under the flowing brown water. Frequently, the roads grow large holes that everyone drives or walks around. In the wet, one tends to miss the warning signs but not the hole. One circuit for the half marathon, two for the full. On the second circuit (once around for the half marathon) nearly all the flood water had gone, leaving lots of mud.
Second time round, Tracey, another VSA volunteer, came with me to provide water bottles, bananas and photo opportunities. I posed in front of a banner 4km from the finish and this probably cost me a podium finish :-p
I walked part way home afterwards clutching a goodies bag from an exhibition in Shanghai 2010. Inside was a 500gm bag of roasted coffee beans. I don’t have a grinder so the beans have been re-gifted. I tried my first massage at Thai Herb four hours later, but it didn’t provide much relief. The Garmin said I’d burned 2,876 calories so I ate a nice Thai rice dish and then nibbled most of the evening. Cycling was easy next day but the lactic acid was still a real pain. I was nearly right three days later, but the Wednesday had me nodding off all day - a 'dalayed' reaction?!

Moving up in the world
Well, our business has moved into the new offices and that was a mission. Just as well I organised our IT to move first so we could see everyone else trickle in over the next three days with three rearrangements of people and units. OK, we have our own office, so it’s easier. A longer cycle to work, yet pleasant enough and very handy for grocery shopping.
One of our contract workers (from India) got assaulted by a taxi driver last week. The driver must have had a real problem as he charged $5 for a $2 ride and then, even when he got his way, jumped out after receiving the money and hit the poor passenger. They’d passed the NZ Embassy. so it may be possible to get some film from the security cameras. Always agree on the taxi fare before getting in! That’s been my rule. If things look bad, get out early or in a public place with lots of people nearby, not near your accommodation. But it’s easy to be wise after the fact.

Café culture

Three young Portuguese have opened a bakery/café, ‘Padaria Brasia’,  a few hundred metres west of the ANZ. It’s right underneath the large white sign with red writing saying ‘Sugar Travel’. Very nice atmosphere and service. The baguettes are delicious – so delicious that I would hesitate to get my friend Helen to collect a baguette order and expect the whole stick to arrive back.

Water works
After the new bridges by the President’s Palace, new drains have been progressively installed through to the Banana Road area. They have caused major traffic disruption as the builders dictate when they will close roads by digging holes. The benefits were there on Saturday during the marathon when all the water was successfully drained away into the stream and under the new bridges.

Bamboo to you
Rob, another VSA volunteer, is helping the The Bamboo Centre in Tibar with design and construction work. The pictures look really good on the website  and I think there’s a market here – just publicity and fair pricing required.

World war G
There’s a world war going on and I know someone trying to get Dili involved. Yikes!!! It’s called ‘Ingress’ and is sponsored by Google. Check it out on Wikipedia. I don’t know if it’s for me as I am a pacifist – unless I’m winning

Insect spray success
This will keep little nasty things away from your skin.
1/3 Dettol, 1/3 coconut or olive oil, 1/3 alcohol- Add together in a recycled squeezy bottle, shake, spray and spread. All you need for the day.
This weekend I'll give it tough test vs the black flys on Atauro Island

Handy medical for the tropics
This keeps wounds clean, dry and getting a top to keep the bad stuff and moisture out. Buy iodine (about $5 for the pictured bottle, try a Dili chemist) then add to squeezy bottle for quick spray jobs. Sure it stings, but worth the grimace to avoid infection

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bridge before opening time - Hash hits the dance floor – Reading room work – Work becomes ‘interesting’ – Atauro Island: bags and bikes – Baucau music and lit-up skirts – Ultimate road map – Sunday bikers - Turkish goes Burmese

Four weeks ago, May 11th, the Hash was out at the US Seabees compound, up the Comoro river past Timor Coffee – a darn good feed + drinks after the run/walk. A turn-out of about 80 people (biggest most of us had ever seen). Ed and I cycled back into town around 6:30 and the new bridge, while still being finished off, looked rather inviting; so over we went with our cover story ready ‘We’re engineers!’ (Well, IT engineers actually, but we were counting on no one getting that many questions in before we got past them). No problems encountered, so maybe we were the first to cycle across the new structure? Anyway, it is now officially open, but I don’t know the exact day the ribbon was cut. Yesterday (2nd ) I went over the bridge for a practice cycle up to the first ridge on the way to Railaku; about 15km above Tibar. It took me about 1:45 to get there from the East end of Banana road. Got a sweat up and as I entered the cloud belt; got rained on. Down in time to go to Hash at the L&D pizza place behind Hotel Timor and then have the circle on the top floor where the ‘Q bar’ is, with a sound-proofed room, two poles and flashing lights. Techno music doesn’t do it for me. Nice $5, 8” pizza for afters.

I think it was around the 25th that I dropped into the Xanana Reading room after a Dare cycle and asked them to open up, as the sign said ‘Open at 10’ and it was a quarter past. Interesting to view the three rooms inside: Room on the right – long table piled with books and a PC for cataloguing the books and issuing them. “Do you know how to use this?” asked the librarian. She startled me as I had already fired it up and been adding my name in as a borrower and also added the book I wanted to the read. It appears she was new to the job and the previous librarians had left two weeks prior. Evidently no transfer of skills. “Does your manager know?” I asked. Apparently he did, but when he eventually appeared, I asked him and he didn’t know. Hmmm. On to the room on the left, where I saw stacks of books waiting for cataloguing and odd bits of furniture and computer parts. There was also a PC with internet access. 'Oh goody’, time to check it out. I had to use some special software to clear out the inevitable viruses (all on my memory stick with a write-protect switch) and then get AVG on and….oh, I'm getting boring for non IT people. Anyway, I found another PC in a stack of stuff and got permission to set that up for them. Same procedure, all the way to AVG protection. The manager sat all this time in the middle room, where the rows of chairs, TV + two VCR machines and about 100 tapes were. He wanted me to replace the TV with a large flat-screen computer monitor. "Um, no it doesn’t work that way", I said What exactly doesn’t work? “Both VCRS”, he said. OK, so why not get them fixed? (Blank look). I gave an address and contact details for a handy electrical shop between Timor Plaza and Banana road. Some careful testing using the computers showed that the cable connection for the librarian’s PC was faulty, possibly from people tripping over the cable as it had to cross open space to the table. Back to the left-hand room to search the piles of donated goodies…there were three computer stations that were perfect, so I got the manager to help me carry one across the way and we, sorry I, moved the issuing PC to the new station, against the wall where the power and the (faulty), LAN connection were. There is a very nice building going up at the back, where everything will be re-located; maybe later this year. After two hours I had a lunch break and then left my card before heading home.

We’ve had changes at work, with two key people deciding, independently, to leave. One immediately and the other before this month is up. Successful transition to a financial institution now depends on quickly replacing the ‘orchestra conductor’ and the ‘tour manager’. I hope to look back on this period and comment that my concerns were unfounded. After much thought, I won’t make bets either way.

Miang, Tracey, Robyn and I visited Atauro Island over the long weekend of May 18-20th. We took the local ferry out at $4 each and came back by fast Compass launch for $35 a head, early on the Tuesday morning and in time to go directly to work. I took my bike over again (new bike, #3) – we all took a bike each, for the ride from the concrete jetty in Beloi, near Barrie’s, down to Manukoko Rek, opp. Bonecas, in Villa. Only about 8km and pleasant as not much traffic, apart from the motorised trike-bikes – the local taxi service. The accommodation was a deja-vu experience with the same catch, on the door of hut #3, falling off again (despite Steve and I pointing this out to them in December, precisely nothing had happened about repairing it.) We ‘lost’ the loose catch in an effort to incite some activity on the repair front, but nothing doing. In the end I went over the road to the local store, bought a new door catch for $1 and presented it to the Manukoko staff. They were pleased. The same light bulb over the common area was also still broken, so maybe that can wait for another visit. Saturday morning is when all the ferry day-trippers hit the island, so the local market sets up by the jetty and you can take your pick of food stalls plus a few arts and crafts. The tomatoes were the size of marbles, so we didn’t buy any.  Later that day we descended on Bonecas and bought gifts. I went for a range of bags that are now, hopefully, in the NZ postal service somewhere.

Bonecas bags

Inside Bonecas workshop
Flag-raising - Villa parade Atauro
Singers + musicians at Barrie's - Atauro
There was very big parade on that afternoon between Bonecas and the beach. A large grass area was filled with local groups from villages all over the island, many had walked for 5+ hours to get there, plus army and police. The police compound is opp. our accommodation and they like to play very loud music from 9pm until around midnight. After the parade it rained and then there was a soccer match that turned the central area into thick mud. The crowd was still entertained. I don’t know whom won. The internet worked OK at Manukoko, they have four PCs and a wireless connection as it is the Timor Telecom link for the island. Ironically, because hardly anyone has internet, the speed is pretty good at around 70kbs. Sunday I cycled up the road, back of Barrie’s, to the new clay sealed road about 2km up and to the west. The road veered north for another 5-6km and I eventually ended up in Doro village where the road stopped and there was a metal bell hanging from a large tree. Nasty pesky flies ignored the deet repellent and bit my legs while I cycled and the sweat dripped off. I have heard of a recipe, out New South Wales, that is guaranteed to get rid of anything, including Finnish mozzies! It is: coconut or baby or olive oil + methylated spirits + Dettol = 1/3 of each. Shake it up in a plastic hand spray bottle and spray away once to last the whole day. Barry had a local music and singing group in for a special concert. They have been together for over 7 years and played for evacuees in 2006. The Kiwis were invited to sing Pokarikariana, but we only knew a few of the words. There is an identical Timorese song with the same tune but local words!

$10-$30 tais
Last weekend Tracey, Robyn, Trisha (now back in NZ) and I went to the Baucau music festival. There were several arts and crafts stalls there as well. One had a 60 year old tais from Lospalos for sale. Trisha convinced them not to sell it, even for $300, as that would remove it from the community. A better option would be to invite sponsors to pay for the tais to be retained – maybe mount it in a glass-covered frame? Highlights of the event included: the range of dresses hanging in the tree at one end of the school playground. These were lit from the inside by separate light bulbs on the Friday night and looked excellent. After heavy rain, for most of Saturday, the lights didn’t go again. Maybe because the electrics were rather exposed and either shorted out or it was deemed unsafe; pity. 

Close up - 60year old tais
Dress light tree being admired
Paparazzi from NZ
old tais - kitchen picture
Lospalos performers after extracting $1 for photos @ Baucau

Local and groups from Viqueque + Lospalos were on stage during the day while the big local bands, ‘Inferno’ (Baucau) and ‘Galaxy’ (Viqueque) were on during the evening. Three Aboriginal guys from Oz, ‘B2M’ were one of the key acts, but they played on the Sunday night when we had to take the 3-4 hour trip back to Dili. Fortunately they did a sound test earlier in the day and we got taste of how good they are.

How does one get maps of Timor? 
I’d been trying to get the ‘freebie’ ones from SDV last year. A recent donation from Sue at Red Cross is now ready for the new work premises. Recently, there has been an initiative from GIS fans associated with the Dept. of Statistic  (stay with me please…) They suggest, well Dave does, that it would be good to have a general sharing of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) information between all agencies that deal with it. We’ve had two meetings so far and after some talk, the time approaches, similar to the little Red Hen gathering ingredients for the bread, when work has to be done. I put in my two bits worth by introducing the value of records management: good file names and version control. No one interrupted nor asked questions, so I guess everyone all ‘got it’; Right? (don’t worry, I am under no illusions. We have enough of a challenge explaining the difference between ‘debt’ and ‘credit’ to some staff in our own organisation; they have been managing funds for years; empirically in some cases, it now appears). Now, that was a Ronny Corbet diversion. David found out I was eager to get hold of a map and he introduced me to the GIS map makers downstairs - freshly installed with all the kit from UNMIT (recently departed Dili). Exciting stuff with massive printers that can do A0 - Very impressive resolution down to smallest roads and villages. I got a couple of maps run off and then took them to a laminators (‘Sugar’) where some negotiation got them done for $25 the pair. Monday 3rd pickup, as Sugar needed to dry out the edges after I got caught in a tropical downpour when  delivering them on my bike.

Sunday evening should be peaceful, but One More Bar now gets to ‘enjoy’ the local motorcycles as they ‘hang out' around the wee gardens between the blue pavilions by the shore and OMB. The riders like to rev the heck out of the engines and cruise around the park for 15 minutes, in a low gear. Conversation ceases & unwilling listeners think of satisfying, but technically illegal responses.

The new premises at Timor Plaza are finished and we’ll probably be moving there either this coming or next weekend. It’ll be sad day; not to be able to store my file server in a shower and the keyboard next to the sink.

Tony’s Turkish has been shut for a while now. Rumour is that he’s investigating a business move to Burma.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

ANZAC day – aromatic waters – Trip to the SW: there & back again – Baking a cake – new bridge on Comoro road – twice up Dare again – well stone me – getting hold of bike bits – a very old coffee tree – meeting halfway – Flash dance

We gathered (I reckon about 300) at 05:30 on April 25th and the Dili Choir sang four national anthems a Capella: Timor Leste, New Zealand, Australia and Turkey. Tony’s Turkish (Tony is taking a break and his brother is running things) supplied some delicious Turkish breads for afterwards. There weren’t many programs as we were meant to print off our own. Someone had thought of providing candles inside paper cups and that worked really nicely. If ONLY the poppies had been delivered well in advance, we could have been wearing them for a few days beforehand, rather than mere minutes. The choir of expats sang each anthem very nicely and that meant that the poor singing performance from the audience didn’t matter that much. A special commendation for the choir’s rendition of the Turkish anthem (written on the program in phonetics). Afterwards 'One More Bar' appeared to have forgotten that they were going to provide a venue AND drinks + food. Sooooo, nearly everyone shoved off to Castaway for breakfast instead.

My shower water smells a bit ‘off’ and I thought it was due to the water table being contaminated by ‘other water’. Well, I‘ve heard that it might be more to do with geothermal and so that might explain why the odour has more in common with NZ’s Rotorua area than waste water. I hope so, but then I haven’t suffered any ill effects.

Monday 22nd - Wednesday 24th was another IT trip, this time to the Covalima area in the south west. We visited Liquica, Atabae and Maliana on the first day. I stayed at a reasonably nice place in Maliana, just 1km north of the main market. In the morning I had breakfast with a rep from Timor Oil and Gas. He was scouting accommodation for what sounded like a team building outing for over 100 staff. I took the opportunity to ask about how the power station at Betano was going to be powered. Well, apparently a pipeline will be built between Hera and Betano – right across the island with all its hills. Hmmm. There are a few gaps to fill in as I think that those 5000l tankers are running all day from Pertamina to Hera, just to keep that site running. Soooo, why have a pipeline unless the fuel was going to run from the south to the north? Begs the question on how the fuel gets to Betano, as there isn’t a wharf yet and the station looks as though it will be finished this year. I’m sure someone will enlighten me with the info.

We traveled the reverse way (see Feb trip) from Maliana down to Zumalai. I was astonished to see a bus coming the other way with ‘Suai – Maliana’ above the windscreen. Another look at the large washout showed I was a bit dramatic in my earlier report as to how wide it is. You still wouldn’t get me on any bus or truck taking that route.
The work in Suai went well and I showed everyone how to scan in documents and use the power conditioner + UPS correctly. The premises are being upgraded so part of the outside wall was missing on one half of the building. Accommodation was initially at a place 200m away & they wanted $20 for a bed with half a fan hanging off the wall, no furniture, apart from the bed and a bathroom that didn’t have a water supply. Some surprise when I walked out. Rapid conversation got me the room over the passage way with an ‘ensuite’ larger than the bedroom. Pipe plus tap, instead of a shower head, was the shower. Fan was connected to same circuit as the ceiling light, so lights-out meant no fan. I groaned and draped a shirt over my face and slept with the light on.
Home trip was via Ainaro, so another new place which I had first heard about in 2005 from a fellow Kiwi that had been there in 1999 for the election. Had lunch at warung and was suddenly accosted, in a very friendly way, by a man I hadn’t seen since we worked at Ministerio de Saude in 2007. Alvaro was having lunch there with his wife and child. We hope to catch up again in Dili some time.

Wednesday 1st was a holiday. I had a piece of lemon + coconut cake at Beachside and it was delicious. In the evening a friend, Robyn, coached me through making the same cake! It took a long time to get out the juice using just a fork, peeler and a knife. The 'zesting' bit also took a long time, but the results were even better than the morning cake. I think I’ll have another go at this…

Finally, the little bridge near the President’s Palace has been successfully widened. There are some teething issues with how traffic will take to all the extra space, effectively two lanes either way, but I’m sure everyone will adapt. An extra ‘baily’ bridge was erected, just 50m to the south, a few weeks back and that is taking some of the traffic loading away. I get the impression that changes are just 'made' and then we all have to wait & see how good the results are.

Even after rain, there is dust in the air again within hours. Very evident at night when every mote swirls around in the light beams. Maybe Dili should be called the ‘big dust’, instead of the ‘big smoke’  

Unlike last Saturday,  Saturday 27th was another busy one with Eddie and I going up and down twice. The 2nd time was for the annual ANZAC Hash run to the top of the hill – starting from the church west of Dare. It was heavy going and I was glad I had my off-road running shoes that didn’t slip. I still fell over and grazed my knee coming down from the top, due to being rather tired.

A good bit of advice in the tropics is to drink plenty of water during the day, every day. I haven’t been doing enough of that and the consequence was 3 hours of discomfort one night. Some stones are by the side of the road and are a problem for a short period of time. Other stones are tiny and a right b#####d until they go on their merry way. Lesson learnt for the 2nd time . My next work day was exhausting for some reason, maybe due to lost zzzzzz.

Bike #3 still needs a carrier + a few other items and I have found someone to bring them back, via Brisbane. Getting anything bigger than a postcard delivered by mail to Dili is not guaranteed; thus the frequent requests of people visiting other countries. In January I bought a book from called ‘Mathematics and the Imagination’, but it has never arrived, for me to collect anyway. I hope some local person, associated with the postal service, is enjoying the content including how to derive ‘Pi’ from a random series of events (ask me and I’ll tell you how I worked out the secret, as there is no explanation in the book)

During a Tuesday morning run with some friends I heard a story about a very old coffee tree. Apparently this was on East Timor Action Network (ETAN) email feed. Anyway, apparently there was a world-wide coffee tree blight in the 1920’s that was wiping everything out and someone discovered a natural hybrid, here in Timor Leste, that was resistant to the blight. That tree was somehow propagated around the world so that all other coffee trees became resistant as well. Recently, this tree has been re-discovered. How is that for an important bit of coffee trivia?

One of the new Financial system PCs had a problem at Viqueque and I was the only one who could fix it. I estimated about an hour’s work, but it was 5-6 hours return by car to Viqueque and I didn’t want to make such a trip, because it would be an over-nighter and make me carsick + listen to the driver’s sound track 8-9 times. We got the people in VQQ to deliver the PC to Manatuto, so I could travel for only 90minutes, do the work and then go home again. Worked nicely. Turned out that SQL didn’t like us using a specific database name; so I changed it and everything worked fine after that. Now identifying the actual problem and then testing a work-around took quite a while – 3 hours.

Two weeks after starting tango lessons I was part of a lunchtime crowd at Hotel Timor that became the first ever flash-mob in the country! Or so we think. We entertained the lunchtime crowd in the dining area for a couple of minutes and then dined at the pleasure of the Hotel. Exciting and I was a bit nervous beforehand.
I am there somewhere  in a white-striped shirt.