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.
After 2-3 horror stories about previous bike falls on the same road, I resolved to go a bit more slowly. This road is sealed, but with a somewhat broken surface, especially where locals have diligently dug a wee trench across in which to fit 3cm water pipes. Otherwise the road is given variety via general washouts and/or subsidence due to extensive use and no repairs for ‘x’ years. I’m sure it’s all just a little more ‘used’ than it was 6 years ago. I could lie and say, “You haven’t changed a bit”, which might be technically true, but lots of other road ‘bits’ have changed, significantly.

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 . Onward to a noisy stall that had a large pile of coconuts and a machine that the nuts were being shoved into. This was producing freshly shredded white nut meat. I was given the liquid content to drink (nice after the cycle ride!) for free. This coconut meat has been excellent in my breakfast and keeps well in the fridge. Deep within the market is a building that is really a wee shop. There I found a plastic scrubbing brush that has worked well for cleaning the dishes. On the roadside, as I was hanging my shopping bag off the handle bars, I noticed an elderly man barely 2m away with a long pole over his shoulder and bunches of bananas (‘hudi’) hanging off on strings. $1.50 and one bunch of bananas later, I was away home.

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.

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