Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wind down for staff – Christmas nativity - bike siting – one volunteer to Darwin then home – paying the price for no mudguards after rain – Christmas lights - Dinner

Blog ending Saturday 22nd December 2012

This last week has seen the final exodus of expats to their country-of-importance and Friday saw the beginning of local people heading back to the districts. Many people need that ‘extra’ money for the Christmas break and they were lining up all week at various financial institutions for payouts. I saw one of them, right next to Tiger fuel and I thought it was a political gathering, an end-of-year get together or some other celebration/social occasion. Wrong on all counts. The ANZ money machines around town were not working including one  of the two at the main bank itself, so I joined the queue before the machine ran out. The ATM in Lita still has the software upgrade warning of late August covering the dead screen and the one at Leader is apparently out of action as well.

There are many small huts-cum-shelters going up- around town. They have wee fences and are variously ringed with lights, artificial grass and attendant watchers to make sure the statues/profiles that make up the Nativity scenes are not tampered with. I took some photos of one very large nativity scene erected in the Defence building compound. It was covered in lights and quite impressive, even from the road 250m away. Less than five days later it was gone – maybe not military enough?

One fellow volunteer had to go to Darwin, on Friday, for a blood test – something to do with blood sugar. Now they have been sent back to NZ for two weeks(!). A surprise Christmas back home. Hopefully it’ll be all sorted & they can return in January.

My bike now has a carrier, but that it is not good enough to keep the mud off me when I cycle. After work yesterday, I went, watched the afternoon rain shower then wore a nice white shirt to the Dili Beach Hotel – cycling. I nearly got there OK, before passing through a puddle and getting black spots all over my front :-(

While in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, I bought some Christmas lights – not as good as the flashing ones here that also play Christmas carols with an Amercian accent, but nice lights anyway. They are now draped over the porch in front of my door and protected from the rain. Since I am cycling 122km to Baucau in a few hours time and won’t be here to turn them on at night, I bought an extension cable and threw the loose end upstairs to the land lord’s place so they could do the honours whenever they wished to.

Yesterday, we volunteers organised a Christmas dinner at one of the houses and had a suckling pig + a variety of goodies prepared by different people. Secret Santa involved swapping your present with others and I managed to get a magnifying glass and a mini pool set that I have given to the local children.

Merry Christmas (where did this ‘Happy holidays’ rubbish come from? Are people afraid to acknowledge the origin of this festive season?)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hera loop reverse - bike paid for, finally - Wet roads and running - a week in Brisbane - expats to the rest of the world - Finding Santana and a clear piece of road - new digs - animals (reminds me of that Pink Floyd albumn)

Blog ending December 16th 2012

This morning Helen and I cycled the Hera loop in reverse, a nice change from going via Becora. We passed a man and woman running the other way and I was impressed that they would be running 20+km in the heat. People were still walking along the road in Hera, dressed in their Sunday best – it was about 07:50.

Yesterday I finally paid the $500 for my new bike. The money had been moved from safe place to wallet and back again before I found out that the recipient, Tony, lived in a yellow house near ‘Beach Side’, down on the coast; so I cycled there after taking a morning coffee at the Darae cafĂ© – a 50 minute cycle uphill. Tony was out, but someone else was there to take the cash. Later in the day I visited Obrigadu Barracks, where the UN was based, in Caicoli. They apparently had a notice board in the PX, with bikes, cars, motorcycles, electronics and other stuff for sale. They sure did but I couldn’t find the PX and then security sent me back for an ID check and a pass. Seeing as they had about 6 people + a metal detector there, doing nothing, it gave the place a little bit of life. Nearly all the UN have left for good and many of the remainder are out of Timor, so it is a bit of a ghost town.

Last week we had rain on the Wednesday afternoon and I was intrigued at the difficulties locals had driving in the wet afterwards. I was headed out to the Beach Hotel for a H3 evening run and observed motorcyclists riding with one foot hovering just above the wet road. Cars went a little more slowly and carefully. My bike is a mountain one and I know how to ride in the wet, so I went at full speed through slow train of vehicles while locals lined the side of the road to observe the results of their fellows’ efforts. I was cheered, but I didn’t work out why until later, as keeping a good line and braking in a straight line are kind of obvious. Apparently not to those who are used to driving any which-way in dry conditions. There were, apparently, several accidents. Not surprising as some of the younger guys insist on traveling at speed though the traffic as though they were skiing slalom. Results are predictable.

Yesterday's H3 run was near the Santa Cruz cemetery and went up the hills to the south east. Great views once the scrambling had finished. There was thunder and lightening, but only light rain on us. The coolness was really nice instead of the close humidity.

Two weeks ago, I and Richard spent a week in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane learning all about a product called ‘Abacus’. It is the financial system we are rolling out here in Dili and country-wide. It was nice to be in a different place for a while, as I’ve been here for 6 months now and really appreciated having a break, of sorts.  I’d ordered computer parts plus some snorkeling gear and had it delivered to the accommodation. Nearly everything arrived except for some RAM (PC memory) and even though I left a registered letter behind to forward it all onto Dili, the security here for mail actually ending up and staying in, a post box is flaky.

All the team at work have left for ‘home’ (Latvia, Philippines, England and Holland) in the past three days. There are people still here in town, but most have gone elsewhere for the annual celebrations. Some of us are planning on going to Atauro island and I haven’t been there for 6 years. Maybe a good time to take my outrigger paddle over and have a crack at a local canoe.

The traffic around town has been getting increasingly worse in the past weeks, with sections shut by the police for 'events', visiting dignitaries (Australian Bob Carr) or funerals. One, last Tuesday 10th, was for the exhumed remains of a resistance leader & fighter from the 1990s; Santana (see earlier blog about the book by Jill Joliffe). There was a big gathering in front of the Fretilin headquarters in Comoro road. The police simply closed the road while trucks loaded with people, some in traditional dress, parked outside, waiting for the official convoy to begin. I was on my bicycle, so I managed to get through everything and make my meeting at Gios, Timor Plaza

 I’m living in a new place in Bairo Pite and it's really nice, even though much smaller than before. I have two ceiling fans (I just had two small free-standing ones before) and two air conditioners. The settee + comfy chairs still are padded and not collapsed vinyl-covered ones that one might sit the subject on before interrogation began. I have excellent access to animal life; directly outside the front door is cage with a rooster with a morning clock beginning around 05:30 and a dovecote with residents that know to be fairly quiet and not poo around my entrance. Outside the living room window is the fence to neighbours and their 3-4 pigs. The latter are vocal most of the time; especially so in a terminal way, occasionally. I know I grew up on a farm, but it takes getting used to. We volunteers are going to share the cost of a suckling pig for a dinner around the 22nd – just remember kids, your food has to come from somewhere and it isn’t merely from a foam tray at the supermarket!