Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting cleaned up & walking, driving and hopefully cycling

Dili has a lot of dust; so many people are out early in the morning, with hoses or buckets, to spread water outside houses and businesses, so it looks as though a mini shower has hit the area. Within an hour or so the moisture has evaporated, allowing the passing cars, trucks, scooters, bicycles and feet to start their daily stir-up.

Down at the ANZ Bank, many tellers wear facemasks, as the dust manages to filter indoors from the busy street corner. Tomorrow I will be visiting that bank to collect my new EFTPOS card; with it I can make use of the 7-8 ATMs located in town – come to think of it, that might be the total for the country.

Being on a limited budget I have to decide this week whether to buy a bicycle or a washing machine. The latter options start at US$185 and, even though it has an Indonesian design award for 2009 and it's rather tinny, in a plastic sort of way.

Installation back at the house will be interesting, as I will need to buy some extra hose to connect the water supply in my bathroom’ (no actual bath – but a good 40 litre plastic bin + scoop) to
the machine.

It is an interesting series of requirements, along the lines of the challenge NASA had with Apollo13 and jury-rigging an oxygen cleaning system with some odd components.

My situation involves:

· an outside electric pump with some creative electric wiring that will be a concern in the wet season (no cover from the elements & it provides water next door as well, but goes through my power meter, hmmm)

· water supply appears inside the house (short hose over the 40 litre bin)

· washing machine will need to be positioned outside the bathroom door and extra hose purchased to provide water a way in and a way out

· Power extension cord too (secret is too keep everything dry & suspend cables on the wall)

Less drama was involved with the 06:30 morning walk last Sunday, over the hill to Kiwi Beach and back up to the Jesus statue on ‘Christa Rae’ before back done the steps (past the 12 stations of the cross – large embossed brass panels 2-3m tall, each in its own alcove) to the beach and breakfast on the beach (food and seats supplied by the Caz Bar - no relation to the larger one in Algiers).

My ‘Banana-grams’ game was played before and after the eating phase (timing is everything). It has proved popular with the Scrabble players rising to the challenge. Rather too well; still I am welcome, as I provide the game and make up the numbers :-(

With work, eight of us went out to Manatuto (about 60-70km) on Wednesday in two vehicles to discuss how a new finance system, 'Abacus', will be introduced (replacing masses of manual entries and spreadsheets). I am not a good traveler and the driver didn’t help my condition during the 90 minute drive over twisty hill roads by the coast.

He had a tape that appeared to be an Indonesian version of Country and Western. The songs all sounded the same and it was on a loop ('A Walk in the Black Forest' or Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits would have been eagerly accepted as alternatives)

The speed varied from 5km/h (no seal at all and heavily rutted) to 100km/h (seal hadn’t broken up yet).

Transitions from fast to slow were achieved by quick and heavy braking

Accelerations were done in as high a gear as possible, with low ‘gas’ so it sounded as though we were frequently about to stall.

The road frequently narrowed, so getting around some corners was only one vehicle at a time. The rule seems to be that you toot your horn to warn those going the other way and head on around…. This is a sure cure for boredom and keeps those people on motor scooters, very aware of other traffic. In our turn, there were some large trucks going about their business too - this is the main road East from Dili.

The roads are worse than last time (when I was here in 2006-7) in that there are more holes, ruts and general break up of the road edges and surface.

An indicator of how much this has slowed down traffic generally, is that the villagers along the route no longer place piles of rocks on the road to slow down the trucks, vans, SUVs and scooters – the non-flat surface appears to be doing a good job as judder bars (UK=silent policeman).

Despite missing breakfast, it took another three hours, after we stopped, for my appetite to kick back in.

The views over the sea (coastal road) were very nice and there were many local canoes pulled up with bamboo outriggers; one on each side. One of these days I’ll go out on the sea in one of them (bought my paddle from NZ, as one does).

The previous resident of this house, another VSA Chris, left a special tennis racket behind. It is a favourite of many people here, as the strings are actually metal and there are batteries in the handle; so it is really a mobile ‘buzz bar’. When those mosquitoes come visiting, I just have to press the button and do a simple fore hand/back hand swing. If my aim is good, then there is neat wee ‘bang!’ and a spark (if you are a Jaine Buddhist, then I apologise)

My Tetun language lessons start on Aug 6th, so I’ll need to get a bike before then, as I have to get to the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT) about 3km away. The bike will also make shopping easier too, as I have bought a carrier + pannier bags with me.
Fortunately it only takes me 10minutes to walk to work and that is past the NZ Embassy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Earlier this evening, as the Dili day moved leisurely from dusk to dark, and the mosquitoes cruised for some action; I walked out of my ‘new’ house, on a mission to get another 20 litres of drinking water. Many of my neighbours were out in the street, with children in tow, walking and talking with each other. Orlando called out to me to go to a shop barely 30m away in someone’s courtyard.
For the price of US$1 I had my water and also 3 Timorese bread rolls @ 10cents each.

So, what has happened in the last week?

My early morning flights to (departing Christchurch 06:00) and from Melbourne (departing 01:45) avoided the crowds & in Melbourne’s case, a large power cut about 7 hours later à

My visit to Melbourne included some great hosting from Gaye and Andrew and the chance to experience the metro and city trams (pedestrians really DO need to look both ways when crossing the streets, because a tram ‘argument’ can be rather conclusive and not require an ambulance)
Another highlight was an exhibition of Napoleon era artifacts followed by a tour of classic computer games (all free to play, I am still lousy at playing 'Asteroids') 
My evaluation of the displayed games is that the current creators of games no longer have the daringness of the 1980’s – now they are nearly all about shooting/destroying. Two exceptions were 'The Sims' & 'Machinarium', for about $5 it has to be excellent value for money and it works on the PC, iPad and Android platforms à

Darwin airport wasn’t too bad and I found a handy plug for my laptop. Like Melbourne, Darwin had a wireless network; unlike Melbourne, this one was free. Dili has free wireless in front of the Parliament area, just off the beach (so I am told). This is a recently developed area and has new awnings over the tables & alcoves. New signs have also been erected nearby, saying ‘Visit Timor Leste in 2012’

My house doesn’t have a number, so the address (not for mail) is:
Succo Palapasu, Farol, Dili,  Timor Leste.
(Travelling on Comorro Road towards the airport, take the first Right turn past the Tiger Fuel station. Turn second right down a small lane, head to the end of the lane and before the junction, the house is on the right (opposite a 2 story house) ß There, how could you go wrong?

Since I have bought a GPS with me, I can say I am also located:
S 08.553 and E 125.546
Everybody travels at about 30-35kmph and no one appears to have a problem with letting others come in off the side roads to join the daily ‘rush’.
While I don’t have a motor vehicle, I have found a bike shop and will be getting a purchase sorted out pretty quick, since my 50kg of unaccompanied luggage arrived today and I now have bike tools, tyres, carrier, panniers, lights, reflective gear and bar-ends for the handle bars.

Karen, the country manager has been briefing me on the politics (there is still some activity going on – a legacy from the elections on July 7th) and my schedule for the next few weeks: meeting my partner organisation and taking 2-3 weeks of Tetun lessons.

NB: I have found my old blog from 5-6 years ago:
In case you were wondering, I used two different email accounts and confused myself, thought I’d lost the first blog, created a 2nd and then found the 1st one again

I had a good sleep last night, as the night was cooler than in summer and the fan made conditions ideal for me - just another 731 to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In two days time I'll be headed for Australia and then on to Dili, East Timor (Timor Leste to the locals) for a two year assignment.
Right now I am enjoying a view of Lyttleton Harbour, 20m from the shore and it is a sunny, still morning. The down side being that New Zealand is in winter and everyone is noticing that this is winter and the temperature is 5 degrees right now, with an expected high of 15.
Dili will be much warmer and humid - all the year round.

Why am I headed for Dili again? (my last visit was 2006-7 when times were 'exciting')
Well, there is work to be done and I really wanted to see the country and people again, to check on the changes and show a bit of commitment.
The bigger picture is that I am doing voluntary work for ( via VSA (
Moris Rasik need IT help and that is where I can do a couple of things for them.
While I have two years up my sleeve, that time is probably going to pass fairly quickly, as there will be lots of things to do work-wise and elsewhere.
Moris Rasik are a micro-finance group and have operated across TL since 2002.
If you are keen on finding out more about microfinance, then have a look at: 

  1. See the country by bicycle (panniers, tyres and gear are on their way - just got to buy a bike)
  2. See if I can get a Toastmasters group going
  3. Check out the state of chess playing - maybe a chess ladder? (I can wow everyone with my 1340 level)
  4. Do quiz competition once a week (either competing or running it)
  5. Quietly promote good 'Record keeping' via PARBICA (search for that)
  6. See if anyone wants to do paddling races (am taking my out rigger / waka ama paddle with me) 
  7. Go scuba diving once a month (only did it once last time)
  8. Read a book or two
  9. Enjoy island life, meet the people and learn the language, 'Tetun' (this last item is out of my comfort zone, as I have never yet managed to pick up another language)
That will keep me rather busy I think ;-)