Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Phone numbers and phones no longer with us – work dramas becoming less - managing a team of four – board gaming near marine life collectors – circuit boards are common - the latest quiz
Thursday, September 20, 2012
A lull on the Western front – Cycle carrier bolts + a new kitchen – an evening with a NZ Minister – Dollar Beach visit on Saturday – advertising in reverse with Timor Telecom - Transporting yoghurt
My bike still needs 6 special metal ‘pads’ + holes made for the rear frame. Once finished and attached, I’ll be able to position the bike carrier and my panniers for shopping and touring. Fortunately the bloke at Singapore Hardware has a micrometre and we now know the gap between the holes is 17.77mm. This is not really noteworthy, but the numbers have stuck in my mind and I’ll probably remember them for years, like some rotten song you can’t get out of your head.
Chris (another Chris), is very handy with building things and I admired his kitchen sink and tiled bench with shelves underneath. “All put together for $200!, You want one?”. Sure I do, just got to plan out the finances. Maybe some Quid Pro Quo, to offset some of the cost, with doing his computer work? Sounds good – we have a deal.
Last night I was nibbling on sate, fresh shellfish and checking out the wine range at the embassy. The invite arrived via email last week – ‘Business attire’ it said, so I rushed off on Monday to buy some black trousers in a large shop where I was the only customer. “These are very good trousers and are ….$39”. “I’ll give you $30”, I said. “Done!”. Hmmm, another fail on good bargaining. I made up some ground by insisting that taking up the hems would be included in the cost.
Last Saturday was a day trip, East, to the beach. It was meant to be ‘K41’, which is, um, about 41km from Dili. Our expedition of four did not include anyone who knew exactly where K41 was and no one knew where the distance was measured from, so we just stopped at a nice beach with a pathway and some little raised chalet/gazebos with bamboo floors and no walls. I believe it was ‘Dollar Beach’. Very relaxing and we had a good picnic lunch. No good for snorkelling as water too murky due to sand. A classic sleep-in-the-shade turned into a roasting down one side. On the way home I bought 8 bundles of timber, 50c each, from the roadside, for the pizza oven at home. Apparently my place has a history of pizza and parties. I will need to take that challenge carefully.
Part of my MIS project relies on getting info back from the districts to Dili. Either we use masses of memory sticks/USB thumb drives or get each location to use the internet. But, is the internet available via 3G from each region’s capital? Should be easy enough to go to Timor and ask (‘Yeah, right’). Well, I don’t get fobbed off anymore (qualification: 'easily') unless there something definite has been promised along with a name/time of delivery. The staff told me that while they had no brochures about 3G, all I had to do was look at the TT web site. ‘But, I said, there is no 3G info on your website’ . ‘Please show me the website on your screen and where the info is’ Eventually I discovered that the staff do not have access to their own company’s website let alone the internet, so no-go there. Plan B: ‘Please give me a piece of paper, saying that Timor Telecom has 3G in each of the 13 districts. Easy enough, right? Well, no. the manager had to do something like that and she/he didn’t actually work at the branch anyway. I was offered an address for the director of TT (!) along with a suggestion I write to him and ask for the information I required
Friday, September 14, 2012
Lunch down Beach Road at Aru Bakery in the hours before Hillary Clinton left town. The intersection outside the bakery (we were eating on the verandah) was closed 30 minutes after I passed through it
One of my hard drives wouldn’t read properly so I passed it off to a friend with a Linux system and he fixed it in no time – quite a difference not having access to over 1Terra Byte of movies, books and articles.
Thursday night Movie in Dili (held at a wee private theatre, holds about 120 people, near the ANZ – used for fundraising to complete the first home-grown feature film made in Timor Leste): “UN me” satire on how the UN appears incapable of saying or making a difference such as:
- No definition of terrorism. Hmmm, so how can the UN do anything about terrorism if there is no ‘acceptable’ definition of the term & no countries are identified as being involved in terrorism?
- No action taken on preventing the Rwanda tragedy, even when told by their own peace keepers. So who does the UN listen to?
- The UN spent US$8 billion in 2010 – I wonder what concrete results have been produced?
- The film maker compared the original UN Charter with the current situation and he pointed out that no nations have ever been expelled for breaking the charter rules.
- On the bright side, the UN is better than nothing at all and they possibly keep foreign driving schools busy.
Unhappy staff – a minor ruction on Friday, when a petition was presented to management to the effect that the petitioners, who’d come in from the districts, were unhappy. Quite a surprise but the Board of Governors has stepped in to investigate the issues raised. The petitioners have been in town since then and there is some uncertainty as to when this will be resolved. Update: situation has not got better. This is one situation that needs listening skills and then action, the sooner the better.
We informed the two new staff members (part of our MIS rollout, over the next 15 months) that they had jobs and would be starting later this week. That makes for a least two happy faces.
Friday evening was dinner on the beach opposite the ‘Excelsior’ Hotel, along Beach Road. Fish on a stick. Other things I couldn’t identify, also on a stick. Beer, in a can and labeled ‘Tiger’. Perfect with the sunset.
Saturday was another cycle up to Dare in the morning. This time I cut three minutes off the climb, so I got there in just over 55minutes – 10 slower than the lead cyclist, so plenty of room for improvement. Next day was the Hera circuit. This involves leaving town via the Becora suburb, up the hill and down the other side onto the flat and on through to Hera and the turn off back along the coast to the hill over near Christa Rey (Jesus statue area) and down to the beach for breakfast at the Cazbah. Sunday morning is church day and nearly everyone is out working along the road in their best, on the way to pray and sermons, which I could hear from the road. People appear to drive more slowly too, so I was overtaking car, trucks, vans and motor scooters (all travelling under 30kmph)
Sunday was visiting day, but my scooter, with disconnected speedo and stuck dials, ran out of fuel
After seven weeks of sleeping-in, I got out for a Tuesday morning run along the beach near the airport. There are heaps of runners out at 06:00. The airport fence has fallen down in large sections so we could have just run across the runway and even to the helicopters and terminal.
There is a lot of scope for tourism here. It came up in a conversation on Saturday night (Brazilian Day with a dinner of pork & beans + large amounts of sangria) where I heard Burma only has about 200,000 tourists per year while Timor Leste had only 1,700 official tourists in 2011. At least there are some big international events on the Timor calendar now; maybe they will start drawing in the travellers?
- Fishing competition
- Marathon and the
- Tour de Timor.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Cycling up to Dare – Lahane market for coconut – Cycling to Hera - Attaching the bike carrier – Quiz master for next week - Visiting the FDTL
My new bike had its first outing on Saturday morning at 0700. So on with the slinky bike pants + top, then off to the Lahane Bridge, on the south road towards Aileu. From there, five of us proceeded uphill for the next 50 minutes to Dare. That’s what those low gears are for, especially when not bike fit! Lots of local people out and about, watching the malae trundle past. Hard work and I was glad to stop near the top to
- chat to the other riders
- enjoy the view of Dili from a few hundred metres up
- read the plaque (put up by the Australian RSA for WW2 help by the Timorese against the Japanese) and
- size up the big downhill.
Enough clever talk. After my safe descent, it was barely 08:30, so I locked up my bike outside Lahane market and ventured in. A fascinating warren of alleys and stalls packed with sellers of vegetables, miscellaneous food products in cellophane, cigarettes for up to $1.30 a packet (Marlborough’s), loose tobacco in pinches and in flat, pressed squares of about 200gms and fresh meat + other off cuts (still had the red/purple colour, but I wasn’t tempted due to presentation being solely on a wooden bench). I spotted 6 avocados & got them. Next were some green beans and I bought two handfuls for a dollar. Both parties were very pleased. Hanging from a string in a vendor’s hand was a nice, large pineapple so I bargained it down to $1.50. After purchase, the seller departed and I then noted the other side was somewhat soft. Later cutting showed half was rotten – only one happy party in that deal. I had forgotten the lesson that all buyers of fruit and veges already know; to tap and press
Next day was another 0700 meeting near another bridge, along the east coast road from the Lita supermarket. We rode out to Hera (lots of rolling hills and Timor-mature, sealed road) before a hairpin around the Hera roundabout/turnoff and back the way we had come, to the beach area and lunch on the beach by the Cazbar. About 15-20km all up. Just when I was ready to buy passion fruit from the beach vendors, there was none for sale - oh dear.
One of my new cycling contacts, Chris, knows a bit about metal work and between us we designed a couple of metal blocks to act as spacers for the lower half of the carrier (the rear disk brakes prevent the carrier being snugly attached by screws). I managed to buy two Allen key-screws and a drill bit, for $1.90, from a warehouse called ‘Singapore Hardware’ that Chris knew of. Chris also advised me to take a 1kg bag of something to the market to test the scales. He had apparently bought 2kg of meat from the place, got it home and found it only weighed 1.4kg. Raised eye brows at that story.
I was asked to help out some Kiwi liaison staff at the FDTL (military defence) building (new in Feb this year and another palace-type complex off Comoro road). While I know enough about Access databases not to touch them (I’d rather bounce a cricket ball off a landmine… no, wrong analogy for this part of the world, but you get the idea), I have agreed to sort out the antivirus situation and remove the games and none work-related applications. Due to advice given to someone at the top, no servers have apparently been setup, so this, very new, building just has lots of standalone PCs and printers with internet connections here and there and cables draped all over the floor in each room. (If I find out later I am wrong on any points, then I’ll edit this entry with a correction)
Lining up the quiz for next week (less questions and a tighter process). ‘Yup’, we’re looking forward to 20 fewer questions (only 60 instead of 80) and a better setup. Having the questions pre-printed was popular, so I’ll do that again.
Hiring two new IT staff is going ahead, we just have to find out where we will put them. The project has to get 13 branches migrated to the new MIS system by the end of next year and that date is closer than it appears. With the UN leaving at the end of the year, anyone getting a new job now should be OK. The economy is possibly going to contract quite a bit until/unless more Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) arrive. According to the Wall Street Journal, there is significant interest in the country by China, Australia and the US, so there will possibly be some changes coming up (Hillary Clinton did a flying visit to town today)
Another VSA volunteer has arrived in town, on holiday(!) and he wants to interview me about my work, so we’re doing that tomorrow. Apparently it’s a project he’s working on to contribute to the 50 years VSA has been operating. Maybe I can reminisce about Dili in 2006-7.
The Tour de Timor begins on Monday 10th and it is one of the premier sporting events of the year. http://www.tourdetimor.com/race-info/2012-race-route/