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 ;-)

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