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

Week ending Wednesday 19th Sept 2012

Life at work has become easier, with a key person taking two weeks special leave and previously unhappy staff going back to work.  Some sort of investigation will take place, hopefully this will proceed next week. Meantime I have four staff to take care of (two have recently joined). They had some training last week about the purpose and general operation of this microfinance organisation. I have obtained a diary for each of them and we have discussed how the diaries will be used to track tasks, appointments, meetings and their individual work. 
I had to ‘find’ two computers and chairs, as there was just a room with two desks in it. One laptop was with two others in a cupboard and had an apparently faulty hard drive. I managed to recover it by using ‘Spinrite’, from The PC came out of the same cupboard, but works fine, while the monitor is a classic 14”, TV-type, one from 12 years ago. One chair was ‘recovered’ from another office and I swapped an orphan plastic one for a metal one in another office while the occupants were out. On exiting the room I noticed an unused whiteboard, so I returned later to ask for, and be granted, the use of it. Sometimes some mental gymnastics/mental rationalisations are required, but I did it all with minimal financial outlay.
The laptop battery was replaced from one of the other two laptops (both really stuffed), the power cable was purchased on the Colmera shopping area, where I showed the staff my $100,000,000,000,000 (2008, one hundred trillion dollar) bank note from Zimbabwe. This caused amusement and my offer to buy the store and let them keep the change was declined with a grin, but they did give me an un-asked-for $5 discount on the power cable + transformer, so got them for $40.  

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.
The other part of getting ready was a cut throat shave and a haircut for $3. A good result. As it turned out,  I doubt anyone really noticed except me; still, I wore my NZ version of a Hawaiian shirt and that WAS unique amongst the guests.  I didn’t get caught in the parking jamb outside as I rode my bicycle there and locked it up outside the embassy wall. During my 30 seconds with Mr McCully I managed to tell him what it was like to be tear gassed (previous experience here in 2006). Maybe a nice break from the trade delegation stuff? The official speeches were initially greeted by silence, as was everyone was in a tiled area without a table to put their glasses down. The sound of one hand clapping, multiplied many times, sounds no different to just the one. In the end I put my glass down on the tiles and a couple of other people followed suit. When Murray finished his speech I lead the rest of the attendees into a good old Toastmasters round of clapping.
One introduction was useful, a second Australian doctor; I occasionally cycle with another one.

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 . I had one last attempt and asked when the last district had 3G introduced ‘Oh, that would have been last year’. Ahh huh. All that took only 70 minutes.
I think it will have to do. Even a local IT guy suggested that all technical questions  regarding TT should be directed to three different people and if two of them agreed, then the answer was probably right.

Now that the Tour de Timor is over, I can buy yoghurt again ($4 for a litre), as the yoghurt maker had been in the cycling event. I purchased some on Tuesday night after work and decided I didn’t need a plastic bag…..yup, wrong move. One yoghurt-ed bag later, I got the remainder home, rinsed the container and then into the fridge. 

The chocolate is fairly cheap, but all the Portuguese stuff has been heated treated with tropical prejudice. Cadburys is not heat-treated, but costs US$4.50 for 200gm.

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