Friday, November 30, 2012

Hash run from Timor Coffee Cooperative – Mass exodus of Dili to Same – Agriculture Graduation on Wednesday + celebration – Beach run – ‘Bloodshot’ film + director and familiar faces - UN create website fo/for Timor Leste

Ending Friday 30th November

The Saturday afternoon Hash started for me with a 10minute cycle ride along Comoro road, over the main river bridge (being widened) and then to the Coffee Cooperative compound where we chatted (you’ll see we have members from all around the globe and this was the first time we had someone from Sudan) then off we went, in two groups: walkers and runners. I ran. Tough going, without any cooling breeze and just the ever-present heat and humidity. Naturally the Timorese are fine with the conditions – just a malae problem . At one stop I checked my back pack and found an open pocket…oh dear, another phone gone. Then someone rocked on up 30 seconds later and said “I just found a phone on the road!”. So nice things DO happen occasionally. Photos here:
Me arriving in fourth place and rather rubbed in the chest, :

There was a huge celebration in Same during the week. Same is about a three hour drive to the south. Apparently there was a man who led a rebellion against the Portuguese in 1911 and then surrendered in 1912. It all took place in the Same area. So this was the official 100th anniversary commemorating his fight – I think it parallels the independence struggle against Indonesia. Many people and officials went to Same for three days of festivities. Wednesday 27th was an official public holiday and tied in with the anniversary. The Government also had Thursday as a holiday, while NGOs missed out :-(

My counterpart and his wife graduated with a degrees in agriculture, also on the Wednesday and that area of town was packed with students in gowns and sashes, he and she had a deep bright green colour. Scooters were parked everywhere and the traffic crawled. I had to leave work at 12:30 to get to the presentation ceremony and I was then invited to go back to their parents’ house for a food and drink later. So I was there, near the Cathedral, at 3:30 and introduced to everyone and given a seat up in the porch area. There was a large banner erected on the house wall with carefully cut out letters congratulating the graduates and announcing ’Knowledge is Power’. There were also about 50 other people being friends, relatives and families. Food and drinks were served. Quite a day for everyone. Americo actually won a scholarship to study Agriculture in any of about five different countries including Cuba and Portugal. I asked if he would and he said ‘No’, he was going to stick with computers. I wonder if there was also a challenge with managing two people in a foreign country and the associated costs.

Thursday morning I got Kate to go for a run along the beach past the airport. It is much easier now that someone has cleared away the rusted perimeter fence that had fallen across the route. A difficult and delicate stepping exercise each time. There were ten fishing boats out in the bay; most with a single paddler + nylon net. I hear that because there is no navy nor functioning inshore policing, that foreign ships are helping themselves to the fish off the south coast. There are some larger Zodiac-type craft pulled up on the beach across from the Palacio in Dili central, but I hear they are non-functional due to lack of fuel. If there is another reason, then I shall edit this entry at a later date.

Thursday night was film night at the indoor theatre – the only one I know of in town. The producer of ‘Bloodshot’, Peter Gordon, was there to talk to the sell-out crowd. Three of us had managed to grab some ‘primo’ seats 5 minutes before everyone else had decided to knock back their wine and head on in. This film was a recap of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre film clip + how two of the film crew had stayed in Timor: Kirsty Sword (married Xanana Gusmao) and Max Stahl (made more films). They visited parts of Timor in 2011 and reviewed what had happened since 1991 and 2002. There were some excellent interviews with Timorese affected and impacted in different ways, from ex-fighters to victims, to parents who had lost their children to the violence. Xanana and Ramos Horta also had important things to say. Several people featured in the film were also present in the cinema. One of them was a medical student at the time and met Peter Gordon on a beach in Bali, twice I believe, in 1991. I thought to myself, ‘I know that face!’. After listening and watching I recognised my ‘boss’ from 2006-7 when I worked at Ministerio de Saude (Ministry of Health) when the man, Dr Rui Araujo, was Minister of Health. I said hello afterwards, he remembered me and we exchanged cards.  

Tomorrow I am off to Brisbane for a week of IT training, on a product called ‘Abacus’. Designed especially for microfinance organisations such as ours. Is it possible to get a good coffee in Brisbane?

I just noticed a report released just over an hour ago. It covers a new web site created by the UN of and for Timor Leste. My initial check out is of some really neat photos. I'm sure there is a lot more depth than just photos. Have a look:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Successful quiz evening - Garden88 no more - 1st Lady Run - Scooters and riders meets eachother, the road & pedestrians in various combinations - Max Stahl

Blog ending 24th Nov 2012

Last night the Dili Hash House Harriers (H3) had a fundraising quiz plus some food  and drinks at the Cazbah, just off the beach, near Christo Rei. I got the questions together (thanks to Andrew at Kiwiz aka ) and we ran through six rounds in the end, with a couple of raffles and auctions thrown in to add variety. The auction featured two mint t-shirts from independence day in 2002; they went for over US$170 each (my opening bid of $20 was swatted aside like a mosquito ) I had to cycle the 6km with a whiteboard (for displaying the results) under my arm, so I was into my first drink fairly promptly. The microphone was dodgy from the start so my voice managed to give loud service to the end of the night. Why was the quiz run? To raise funds for training a kindergarten teacher in Dili. The target was about US$900 and we managed to top that with a total of about $1,800!  I am wearing a grey short-sleeve here: 

Thursday week ago, three of us did a morning run along the road to Christo Rei and we couldn’t help noticing that the ‘Garden 88’ restaurant had been burnt out. I guessed it may have been due businesses fighting over decreasing numbers of customers (NZ and Australian Army withdrawing as are UN personnel). A couple of days later I was told that the fire was probably due to young boys putting fire crackers in the thatching. The big celebration day had been on the 11th and everyone had bought fireworks. Even now they are still being let off at all hours of the night.
Last Sunday was the 1st Lady run. This is a big annual event and consists of a 10km run or a 5km walk. The H3 provide setup, traffic directing and barbeque help. I even managed to run, but suffered a bit in the heat and humidity. My time of 53minutes for the 10km isn’t very good but I managed to do it without walking. After crossing the line there were many blue ‘eskies’/chilly bins of cold drinks. I knocked off about 6-7 of the sport replacement ones (felt sick next day) to replace the sweat and distress. After that, I helped supervise the queue for the free sausages + onions + sauce on a bit of bread. The locals did not like lining up, but preferred to push in. This situation was sorted out in 5 minutes and I spent the next 45 minutes directing line-jumpers to the back of the queue. By then the non-runners (local kids and 'hangers-on') had worked out that they could also get free drinks and sausages so both resources went fairly quickly.

When we were all tidying up afterwards; picking up every piece of rubbish in the area, as well as our own, two bikes were wheeled past me. “Are they for sale?” I asked. Sure were!. A couple of people had donated them to Rotary after finishing the Tour de Timor and the idea was to auction them at teh run. This didn't happen, so they were going back to storage again. I offered $500 on a bike that apparently cost over a $1,000. The offer was accepted and my last week has been great, riding a slick machine with an Italian seat, hydraulic brakes and smooth gear changing. What you’d expect from a bike that only has about 600km on the clock.

Scooter incidences: I heard a story about a scooter accident nearly 10 days ago that involved a death. The teller of the story was driving a truck back from the interior of the island and found two scooters and four  people on the road. Two of the riders on one scooter were drunk and had been riding on the wrong side of the road, no helmets and at speed. When a local nurse finally arrived she flipped the guy with the worst head injury (bleeding from the nose and difficulty breathing) on to his back and put a saline drip into his arm. He stopped breathing almost immediately and then died, despite my friend’s final attempt at mouth to mouth and pushing on the guy’s heart. The ambulance finally arrived from Dili, but had no doctor. It did have 3-4 police with tape measures. They got out to measure up the accident scene and I gather the remaining, living, people were then loaded into the ambulance for the trip back to town – looking after themselves. Hmmmm.

I happened to see two guys on a scooter attempt to drive through the pedestrian crossing outside the  Lita supermarket last weekend. They hit an off duty local policeman who then grabbed the bike and forced it off the road. The pillion passenger quietly and quickly got off and walked away with a backward glance; so much for moral support. Another off duty cop came over and, holding his walki-talki, also started yelling at the motorcyclist. A crowd had now gathered and I though it time to leave. Ignoring the pedestrian crossings is common here.

The weekly films have started up again and next week they are showing a documentary: 'Bloodshot', using Max Stahl’s footage from the Santa Cruz Massacre of 1991. Why? Well people need to see something on the news – images are king. This was a major breakthrough in getting the world to notice East Timor and start the road to change with the Indonesians finally leaving in 1999

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beach resort, Cycling - running - not cycling, 'Trouble-at-mill', Heat heat everywhere & still no rainy season, Webinar, Attempting to go straight, An airline that cannot go straight,Handle-bar bag, reading and watching

Blog Ending Monday 12th November 2012

Yesterday I returned from an overnight stay at Black Rock Resort, on Camieo beach, Liquica, about 40km west of Dili. This is a new place that has not been advertised yet as construction has only recently finished (gabions to protect the beach from the sea) and the local staff are still diligently (a nod to Wayne's blog) learning how to be good service staff (it is totally new to them as there is nothing else in the area that already caters to tourists). It was a Dili Hash trip that started with a drive out then, on arrival a drink or two then a 45 minute run or walk and finally a barbeque dinner and drinks barely 20m from the sea. I slept on a patio couch with the sea quietly roaring all night and a gentle breeze keeping the mosquitoes away. Breakfast was preceded by a pleasant swim. Out in the bay area were 10-12 local fishing canoes. Each of them with two outriggers, so technically they were trimarans.
General Hash photos are here:

This was in contrast to the start of the same day when I peddled my precious bike (sigh) into town to run the 12km marathon. An oddly organised event that consisted of about 300 school children and 25 adult runners. The reason may have been due to the advertising being sent out, to every Timorese cell phone, in Portuguese, only the day before, advising recipients that the previous race day of Nov 12th (that no one knew about anyway) had been changed to the 10th because the organisers had got their dates mixed up. We were issued numbers at the finish line, but no entry fee nor name taken, and we then had to get to the start line about 1500m away, near the Motael church (west on the Beach Road). I pedaled there and shackled my bike to a Timor Telecom pole under the trees, just in time for the start. My goal was to run the whole way without stopping. My pace was predictably slow  and the front runners pretty quickly disappeared. But within the first 2km I caught up with increasing numbers of 10-14 year old children, already walking. Many wore tops showing that they belonged to Athletics clubs, so I wonder what they train at when attending the club, because I doubt it is running. Some of them certainly got motivated when I shuffled past and off they sprinted for about 300m, but ‘old slow and steady’ caught them about 5 minutes later and they all gave up after doing that trick 3-4 times. It was quite warm, but the marshaling at the intersections was well done by the organisers and the Timorese police (they recently became the sole police force, after the UN Police presence officially finished on October 31st). When I finally reached the finish and asked for my time, they weren’t taking times, not for malae anyway. Another expat runner came in after me and I estimated my time from her watch as being about 54 minutes. Next stop was a 1$ coconut from a barrow seller on the side of the road and then a walk back to the start line for a ride off to a friend’s place for breakfast and then a ride to Liquica in the afternoon. The good news is that Timor Telecom still have their painted blue pole and there is also an excited Timorese somewhere with a smashing set of new wheels and I assume, a lock, because nothing was left behind. I on the other hand am not happy and had to phone up for a lift in a vehicle. I don’t know why this is happening but I wonder if it is related to the huge increase in those wee trick bicycles that young boys use on ramps and in concrete bowls in skateboard parks back home. Here we now have instant masses of boys riding them everywhere – must have been a mass donation from somewhere. Bikes are very popular and in high demand, huh. One of the recent ‘tricks’ has been to ride around on the back wheel only. The gun riders remove the front wheel completely and then go down the road like that. Defensive driving and riding by all other traffic has increased somewhat as these bike groups merrily cycle everywhere in large groups, in various combinations of: no brakes, no lights, on the wrong side of the road and at night.

Work has settled out a bit with staff now saying management have 6 months to sort out their leadership concerns and that they don’t want the audit group to audit the area offices (?!!). Sometimes the logic becomes more in tune with Monty Python and Terry Gillam’s ‘Brazil’. They have apparently been working on another 25 requests/demands that include a 25% pay rise for everyone. If that includes me, then should I support it? hmmmmm  

We have a new project manager join us and that is a relief. He is doing lots of good planning already. The Operations manager suddenly left the country on Friday 2nd and returned to the Philippines after being threatened by a staff member from the districts. It’s complicated, but it boils down to the organisation not covering the fine/costs of a worker who drove badly, caused an accident and now has to pay compensation to the other party. This is a determination from a Timorese court. Simple enough, eh? Nope. The financial ‘hit’ is not acceptable from the staff member’s point of view. Aaccording to his way of thinking and it would chew up his wages for 3-4 months.
This reminds of when I worked in England for a computer outfit called ‘Medion’. They outdid themselves month after month with bizarre behaviour and decisions - OK, this was the management and not the staff. Entertaining if you are part of the audience, but could you really see yourself actually working in an environment like ‘The Office’?

October 27th was supposedly one of the two hottest days of the year, as the sun was almost directly overhead (in February, the sun goes back the other way). I have noticed the last ten days as being particularly warm and humid, even the Timorese are saying it is hot. One night I woke up and had to put the fan on (no air con). If that hadn’t worked, there was only the option of having a shower. I buy my fruit juice and chocolate milk in 1litre cartons and I polish off at least one per day. Nearly frozen ice chocolate is heaven, ahhh!

One Wednesday 7th I helped Jenny (ex-VSA, here same time I was in 2006 and now back for a a volunteer role with a different organisation), at the Dili University, run a webinar on her Timor experience for a New Zealand audience. Quite a mission, as we had to use my laptop and the modem/dongle SIM had run out of credit. I used my bike to quickly scoot through town to Timor Telecom in Colmera and get another $10 added on. A 10-15 minute round trip including a frustrating wait for the TT staff to actually process the purchase, even though I was the only customer. Many people are very keen to see the next telecom company go live – hopefully sometime next year.
Jenny’s specialty is teaching English and the English Learning Centre (ELC) is a magnificently setup area of classrooms plus a library of English books and magazines. In TL, English and Bhasa Indonesian are recognised as working languages with the official languages being Tetun and Portuguese. I heard a rumour today that next year all university courses, and this apparently includes Dili Institute of Technology (DIT), will have to give instruction in Portuguese. This would be a huge amount of extra work for students and staff and get in the way of interacting with the rest of the world – the two biggest and nearest neighbours speak Bhasa and English so the rationale for pushing a minority European language to the top of the list would make interesting reading. Mind you, it is just a rumour.

One problem being based in Timor Leste (TL) is purchasing software (or anything else) over the internet. TL just doesn’t appear on the list of world countries, so I have to either select Australia or New Zealand. Then there is a problem with using a perfectly valid credit card from country ‘A’ and an odd IP address, I think I show up as being in Guam, indicating country 'B', but the billing address is in New Zealand ‘C’ while attempting to purchase from country ‘D’. After much calculation they all come back with a ‘fail’ and suggest I try again. It could be that the above profile has more in common with internet credit card fraud and so it is easier to say ‘No’. But now we REALLY need to get the server virus s/w licence renewed, but since I cannot do an online purchase I sent the organisation, Kaspersky, an email outlining the problem. They replied with a link to all the resellers, worldwide that I could contact myself and purchase from them personally. But….TL is not on the list. Admittedly, buying legitimate s/w here is an extraordinary thing to do as modified versions of just about anything can be obtained for US$2. Frustrating that no one wants to sort things out. At least I have a good response now for accusations of s/w piracy, it is next to impossible to be legal.

Merpati is one of the two main airlines servicing the Dili and Bali link. the other airline is 'Batavia'. Merpati have recently had a couple of interesting flights that involved delayed departures, then flying very close to the sea for about 30+ minutes (you could apparently see the upturned fishermens’ faces) before returning to Denpassar airport. This seems to be consistent with mechanical/maintenance issues. The airlines imminent closing was broadcast on local TV last week, so if that news wasn’t exactly true (libel appears to be fairly loose over here) then the business hit caused by scared punters worried about their Christmas holidays might be the final straw. Still, another rumour and we’ll see if they survive it because so many people want to go to Bali and the flights are cheap. Maybe there is a connection?

I helped out one of the new volunteers with a handle bar bag. It is one I bought over, but decide not to use. You might see a picture of it here, on my carrier (it broke off then but has since been repaired) in the final 4-5 photos of the where I.... made sure all other cyclists had finished.

Last week I read my first Harry Potter book, ‘The Deathly Hallows’. It took two days, so that counts as a good read.  Last night I got to see my first BluRay movie, another Harry Potter one called ‘The Order of the Phoenix’. Having read the book, last one of the series, I was able to identify most of the locations and characters. When it comes to reading non-fiction I have to recommend Derren Brown’s ‘Tricks of the mind’. Covers hypnosis, memory tricks and how psychics do their tricks (they are all fakes – check the web site of the Amazing Randi for details on how to win US$1,000,000 if they can prove genuine ability ;-)