I have much to tell of this past week:
- · two traffic incidents
- · a run in the hills above the old Portuguese hospital
- · the sudden departure of the MIS guy from work
- · Timor Telecom changing everyone’s cellphone number
- · checking out the local quiz competition scene
- · one failed laptop and
- · helping out the ANZ bank with its ATMs
Last Sunday I shared a midday lunch with some Australian volunteer workers (AVIs). It was in an Indian restaurant near the Comoro road and down a side street, opposite where the President’s Palace (it looks really impressive and palatial) has been built on a section of the old heliport. After lunch I walked down to the main road (Comoro) and started strolling toward the airport (a bike or scooter would have been better, but I didn’t have either then). With the growth in the middle class(?), there has been a big increase in cars and scooters on the road, so we get rush hour morning, evening and in the weekend (compounding that situation, is this story told me by a fellow workmate: when he was passing the TL Defence HQ about 07:30, all traffic (outside on the road) was stopped while the flag was raised inside).
Anyway, this white SUV came barreling (about 80kmph+) toward me and the ‘+’ intersection I’d just left 30m behind me. Considering the heavy traffic and the general speed of other vehicles (cars, trucks and scooters) being around 30-40kmph, this was surprising. In mitigation, they did have their hazard lights flashing, but no siren. ‘Curious’ I thought, as I carefully got well to the side of the road and watched machine speed past toward the busy intersection – ‘this will be interesting’… It was.
One of the AVIs I had just lunched with, was slowly driving/nosing into the intersection (local way of getting somewhere). We now have 'fast' meets 'slow' at right angles… The fast vehicle, no registration plates I noticed, only put on the brakes at the last second and it skidded, around the front of the 2nd SUV, to a stop in the middle of the road. An armed local(?) soldier, wearing camouflage gear + armalite, with attached magazine, got out and approached the 2nd SUV. He got to within 5m, stopped walking, had a good look at the driver, then turned and got back in to his SUV and they took off again at the same speed.
It appears that hazard lights do mean just that, but probably in a different way to that intended by the manufacturer.
The other traffic incident occurred when four work colleagues returned to town from a work assignment in a town to the east. Their driver had been asked to drive more slowly, but chose to drive faster than the passengers wanted. After some remonstration there was an altercation that caused the passengers to get out and walk until they could arrange alternate transport. This was, apparently, the same driver I described in an earlier blog. For the full story, you’ll have to buy me a few beers ;-)
Every Saturday there is a Hash run (Hash House Harriers) and on Saturday it was from an old, no longer used, Portuguese Hospital in the hills to the south side of Dili. I borrowed a bicycle that requires lots of TLC and gears that need to be held in place. Still, it is a quicker way to get to any venue than walking!
A ‘hare’ had set the course with sprinkles of flour, just as well I wasn’t first to run off, as I thought it was quite novel of him to use ‘flowers’. Lots of hills, up and down, with some great views. Part way round I stopped by a power pole, painted a smart black colour and rested my hands on it to do some stretching. My hands stuck to the pole as it had just been painted barely two minutes prior. The painter was further up the hillside and came back down to put another coat on while I pondered how to get my one off. In the end I rubbed both palms in the dust and that was sufficient until I got home to use some detergent.
It has been barely two weeks since I arrived and the work MIS manager parted ways with the organization and then departed the country next day – very sudden and I hadn’t picked up many pieces of info from him other than confirmation that there is no IT documentation on anything, so I’ve begun writing some. More beers required for that story.
Everybody’s favourite phone provider, Timor Telecom, moved from seven to eight digits on the 31st July. There were some large advertising posters around town with the number ‘7’ prominently displayed along with a long message in Tetun. the English message was finally posted on the website, about 3 days prior. It turned out that all the cellphone numbers would have an extra ‘7’ added to the front of them, just after midnight, July 30th/31st. Easy eh? If you didn’t sit down and change all the contacts on your phone, then you couldn’t dial them anymore and their names would not be displayed when they rang you.
After three years of quiz competitions in NZ, I was keen to check out the local scene but all the usual team were not around so I walked to Dili Beach and joined up with a couple of Australian teachers. The local questions on the ‘Tour de Timor’ cycle race caught us out and the answers were a bit curious sometimes. The lesson appears to be that we’re there for the experience. I am keen to run one in the future, but it only happens every two weeks and someone else is running the next one – I’m determined to lift the standard a bit :-p
Surgeon heal thyself – my laptop has died a death, on my desk and it is in ‘Norwegian Blue’ territory. The lights went out and it stopped, so I've removed the hard drive and will plug it into another machine. Work has got me another laptop, so I’m not stuck, just inconvenienced a bit. Just as well I have backups ;-)
I went to the ANZ bank to collect my new ATM card and then found both ATM machines outside were non-operational: one would not accept any cards and the other had run out of money – it just took a while until you actually requested the money before it announced this. I went inside and tracked down a staff member to fix it. He went through the access door for 5minutes before returning and announcing the machines were now working. So they were, I just had to join the queue of local, expats & UN personnel extracting their $$ now that it was all ‘Go’ – people had been repeatedly attempting to use the ATMs the whole time I had been in the bank organising the repairs.
Thanks to a returning volunteer, I now have the use of a bicycle, the one mentioned above, and I’ll be using to get to my language (Tetun) lessons that begin next week.