A week is a long time in politics and it feels like a month in Timor – always something happening. Stimulating? ‘yeah!” tiring? Certainly. Over the past couple of weeks many people I know have gone on holiday to Australia, Bali (Hash wedding) or further afield. More volunteers have turned up to be greeted by exhaustion from the months of rearranging their lives, long, convoluted travel itineraries to get here from New Zealand and the confusion of a new place where the names and places will mean little until they get the local area mapped into their heads. We number nearly twenty now and considering there were just three of us in August last year, this is a growth area and we might be competing with AusAid soon – probably not.
Two weeks ago on Friday, the last two sets of traffic lights stopped working – Colmera central, by the Timor Telecom corner and the corner by the ANZ Bank, just near Tony’s Turkish and Kamanek. I remember when all the lights were brand new, ummm, about late 2006. At that time no one really knew what to do when the colours changed, so they were mostly ignored. Everyone is adaptable, so traffic is now flowing through both places without a problem. I think road users here take their responsibilities more carefully than they do back home where there people think it is up to the Government or the other driver and ‘I will protect my right to drive and not give up the right of way’. Here, there are immediate and medium term consequences for having an accident. The other person may be unhurt enough to express themselves physically, or other people may on their behalf, or relatives may do so later or the police may operate in a way that I bet doesn’t appear in the law books.
One example happened some months ago when a malae (non-Timorese) was driving along Comoro road toward the airport and a motorcyclist tried to overtake him on the outside. Fine, except someone else was backing out from an angle park and, with nowhere to go, the motorcyclist crunched into the rear end of the backing car. Everyone stopped and there were only minor injuries + $400 damage to the backing car and the motorcycle wasn’t operational, so the rider couldn’t get away. The police showed up and when the motorcyclist changed his story several times, it was pretty clear whom was in the wrong. BUT the only one with any money was the malae, so it went a bit like this. Police: “We have to check all this out and it will take three months, but we can settle it now with you paying the repair costs for the other car”. Malae: “ummm, no, I wasn’t at fault”. Police: “We’ll have to take your vehicle into custody for the next three months until this is resolved” Malae: “OK, I’ll pay”. Now this is a good story, but shouldn’t be taken as firm evidence because, while I was told this by the actual driver, I wasn’t there and this was told me over a beer.
Last Saturday I joined a select group of walkers and we walked up the trail to Dare memorial for an official opening of said trail. A project of Kirstie’s for the past seven years, said the representative from Alola. We took up candles to light and leave along the way. Food was served at the Dare café and the dignitaries sat under awnings for the nxt two hours of speeches and dances. The school children were particularly entertaining. My camera battery expired and then I remembered my Asus tablet (like an iPad, but uses Android) and the cameras it has, front and rear. Fine except I hadn’t really used them before, so there is a sequence of pictures of my face looking increasingly annoyed because I switched the cameras from back to front and it took a while to get them back again. Next challenge is to actually get the images off and onto a PC. We were each presented with a certificate, so that was nice. There was a representative for the Australian Sparrow Force (WW2) and his father is pictured on one of the Dare Café banners along with his Timorese helper (Credos?). The photo was taken barely eight years ago, just before both of them died.
April 3,4 and 5th I traveled to Manatuto, Viqueque and Lospalos to put in the new finance system PCs for the micro-finance upgrade. We arrived in the dark each time and I dislike the bumpy roads in big vehicles. The sound track of the driver’s was about two hours long, but I think we listened to it about ten times. Two songs were in English; one by Bryan Adams and the other a Rod Stewart number. The rest were Timorese or Bahasa. This coming Monday-Wednesday we travel West to Liquica, Atabae, Maliana and Suai to do the same again. Probably have to go over that road down to Zumalai again and come back via Ainaro.
Road repairs here involve cutting large squares out of the existing tar-seal and then leaving it for weeks of traffic to flow over – maybe to compress the dirt? Finally the crew comes by late at night and dumps a load of mixed tar+shingle on top, scrapes it off then runs a roller over the top. Looks nice, but doesn’t appear to last very long. Speaking of roads, the dividing barriers down Comoro road will probably be finished in a couple of weeks. They will/are causing problems where the few gaps has traffic backed up waiting to turn across to the other side; thus one line on other side is taken out of use with backed up traffic.
Thursday evening was busy; firstly wine, cheese, bread and chirizo at Pateo where I also found out the sound tracks I’d put together for the Black Rock restaurant (Liquica) were well received. Only there for 45 minutes before off home for a shower and change then cycle to Arbiru to learn Tango. Never done it before and everyone was kind enough to speak English rather than Portuguese. Seems like fun, so will go again next week. Also got a session on this evening, Hotel Timor at 7pm.
We (work) are moving to Timor Plaza soon; maybe by May. The ceiling was dripping constantly in the unfitted office space and there was obvious new plumbing right beside wet spot. Apparently the plumbing wasn’t part of the original design, but we have been told this a condensation problem from an AC unit on the floor above. I have my doubts. The repair work is proceeding and they have dried the concrete and sprayed a sealant on it. I worry that the sealant will be hidden by our new hanging ceiling and then start leaking again, but be semi-contained and a bubble behind the sealant. Hopefully I am wrong.
Last Saturday Red Cross ran a wee fund raiser at Chris and Pam’s place with singing, guitar, ukulele, flute, violin and electric organ. Chris and Pam made about 30 pizzas in their garden oven while we 30+ sat on the grass to listen, enjoy and occasionally join in. They raised about $850
I cycled up to Dare yesterday morning in 45 minutes, so getting better. A local Timorese cyclist, in Tour de Timor clothing, went past and on up the hill, after I’d stopped. He still looked fresh and fast. I do like the idea of age-groups for the TdT.
Another volunteer + partner have moved into the same building as me, through the wall actually. I’d never make a good secret agent, as I was unaware that an apartment existed around the back! Rob is here to help with bamboo furniture design and it sounds really interesting – making things is really useful, while fixing computers doesn’t produce the same tangible outcomes.
Fruit: Passion fruit is nearly all gone (four for $1), but we have piles of papaya now (still $3-5 each). Bananas always appear to be in season ($1 bunch). Avocados are rare and not ripe (4 for $2). I bought a rare pineapple two weeks ago, but it wasn’t ripe then and hasn’t obliged after being cut up into a plastic container in the fridge. Maybe I should have placed bananas and apples around it first.