Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bridge before opening time - Hash hits the dance floor – Reading room work – Work becomes ‘interesting’ – Atauro Island: bags and bikes – Baucau music and lit-up skirts – Ultimate road map – Sunday bikers - Turkish goes Burmese

Four weeks ago, May 11th, the Hash was out at the US Seabees compound, up the Comoro river past Timor Coffee – a darn good feed + drinks after the run/walk. A turn-out of about 80 people (biggest most of us had ever seen). Ed and I cycled back into town around 6:30 and the new bridge, while still being finished off, looked rather inviting; so over we went with our cover story ready ‘We’re engineers!’ (Well, IT engineers actually, but we were counting on no one getting that many questions in before we got past them). No problems encountered, so maybe we were the first to cycle across the new structure? Anyway, it is now officially open, but I don’t know the exact day the ribbon was cut. Yesterday (2nd ) I went over the bridge for a practice cycle up to the first ridge on the way to Railaku; about 15km above Tibar. It took me about 1:45 to get there from the East end of Banana road. Got a sweat up and as I entered the cloud belt; got rained on. Down in time to go to Hash at the L&D pizza place behind Hotel Timor and then have the circle on the top floor where the ‘Q bar’ is, with a sound-proofed room, two poles and flashing lights. Techno music doesn’t do it for me. Nice $5, 8” pizza for afters.

I think it was around the 25th that I dropped into the Xanana Reading room after a Dare cycle and asked them to open up, as the sign said ‘Open at 10’ and it was a quarter past. Interesting to view the three rooms inside: Room on the right – long table piled with books and a PC for cataloguing the books and issuing them. “Do you know how to use this?” asked the librarian. She startled me as I had already fired it up and been adding my name in as a borrower and also added the book I wanted to the read. It appears she was new to the job and the previous librarians had left two weeks prior. Evidently no transfer of skills. “Does your manager know?” I asked. Apparently he did, but when he eventually appeared, I asked him and he didn’t know. Hmmm. On to the room on the left, where I saw stacks of books waiting for cataloguing and odd bits of furniture and computer parts. There was also a PC with internet access. 'Oh goody’, time to check it out. I had to use some special software to clear out the inevitable viruses (all on my memory stick with a write-protect switch) and then get AVG on and….oh, I'm getting boring for non IT people. Anyway, I found another PC in a stack of stuff and got permission to set that up for them. Same procedure, all the way to AVG protection. The manager sat all this time in the middle room, where the rows of chairs, TV + two VCR machines and about 100 tapes were. He wanted me to replace the TV with a large flat-screen computer monitor. "Um, no it doesn’t work that way", I said What exactly doesn’t work? “Both VCRS”, he said. OK, so why not get them fixed? (Blank look). I gave an address and contact details for a handy electrical shop between Timor Plaza and Banana road. Some careful testing using the computers showed that the cable connection for the librarian’s PC was faulty, possibly from people tripping over the cable as it had to cross open space to the table. Back to the left-hand room to search the piles of donated goodies…there were three computer stations that were perfect, so I got the manager to help me carry one across the way and we, sorry I, moved the issuing PC to the new station, against the wall where the power and the (faulty), LAN connection were. There is a very nice building going up at the back, where everything will be re-located; maybe later this year. After two hours I had a lunch break and then left my card before heading home.

We’ve had changes at work, with two key people deciding, independently, to leave. One immediately and the other before this month is up. Successful transition to a financial institution now depends on quickly replacing the ‘orchestra conductor’ and the ‘tour manager’. I hope to look back on this period and comment that my concerns were unfounded. After much thought, I won’t make bets either way.

Miang, Tracey, Robyn and I visited Atauro Island over the long weekend of May 18-20th. We took the local ferry out at $4 each and came back by fast Compass launch for $35 a head, early on the Tuesday morning and in time to go directly to work. I took my bike over again (new bike, #3) – we all took a bike each, for the ride from the concrete jetty in Beloi, near Barrie’s, down to Manukoko Rek, opp. Bonecas, in Villa. Only about 8km and pleasant as not much traffic, apart from the motorised trike-bikes – the local taxi service. The accommodation was a deja-vu experience with the same catch, on the door of hut #3, falling off again (despite Steve and I pointing this out to them in December, precisely nothing had happened about repairing it.) We ‘lost’ the loose catch in an effort to incite some activity on the repair front, but nothing doing. In the end I went over the road to the local store, bought a new door catch for $1 and presented it to the Manukoko staff. They were pleased. The same light bulb over the common area was also still broken, so maybe that can wait for another visit. Saturday morning is when all the ferry day-trippers hit the island, so the local market sets up by the jetty and you can take your pick of food stalls plus a few arts and crafts. The tomatoes were the size of marbles, so we didn’t buy any.  Later that day we descended on Bonecas and bought gifts. I went for a range of bags that are now, hopefully, in the NZ postal service somewhere.

Bonecas bags

Inside Bonecas workshop
Flag-raising - Villa parade Atauro
Singers + musicians at Barrie's - Atauro
There was very big parade on that afternoon between Bonecas and the beach. A large grass area was filled with local groups from villages all over the island, many had walked for 5+ hours to get there, plus army and police. The police compound is opp. our accommodation and they like to play very loud music from 9pm until around midnight. After the parade it rained and then there was a soccer match that turned the central area into thick mud. The crowd was still entertained. I don’t know whom won. The internet worked OK at Manukoko, they have four PCs and a wireless connection as it is the Timor Telecom link for the island. Ironically, because hardly anyone has internet, the speed is pretty good at around 70kbs. Sunday I cycled up the road, back of Barrie’s, to the new clay sealed road about 2km up and to the west. The road veered north for another 5-6km and I eventually ended up in Doro village where the road stopped and there was a metal bell hanging from a large tree. Nasty pesky flies ignored the deet repellent and bit my legs while I cycled and the sweat dripped off. I have heard of a recipe, out New South Wales, that is guaranteed to get rid of anything, including Finnish mozzies! It is: coconut or baby or olive oil + methylated spirits + Dettol = 1/3 of each. Shake it up in a plastic hand spray bottle and spray away once to last the whole day. Barry had a local music and singing group in for a special concert. They have been together for over 7 years and played for evacuees in 2006. The Kiwis were invited to sing Pokarikariana, but we only knew a few of the words. There is an identical Timorese song with the same tune but local words!

$10-$30 tais
Last weekend Tracey, Robyn, Trisha (now back in NZ) and I went to the Baucau music festival. There were several arts and crafts stalls there as well. One had a 60 year old tais from Lospalos for sale. Trisha convinced them not to sell it, even for $300, as that would remove it from the community. A better option would be to invite sponsors to pay for the tais to be retained – maybe mount it in a glass-covered frame? Highlights of the event included: the range of dresses hanging in the tree at one end of the school playground. These were lit from the inside by separate light bulbs on the Friday night and looked excellent. After heavy rain, for most of Saturday, the lights didn’t go again. Maybe because the electrics were rather exposed and either shorted out or it was deemed unsafe; pity. 

Close up - 60year old tais
Dress light tree being admired
Paparazzi from NZ
old tais - kitchen picture
Lospalos performers after extracting $1 for photos @ Baucau

Local and groups from Viqueque + Lospalos were on stage during the day while the big local bands, ‘Inferno’ (Baucau) and ‘Galaxy’ (Viqueque) were on during the evening. Three Aboriginal guys from Oz, ‘B2M’ were one of the key acts, but they played on the Sunday night when we had to take the 3-4 hour trip back to Dili. Fortunately they did a sound test earlier in the day and we got taste of how good they are.

How does one get maps of Timor? 
I’d been trying to get the ‘freebie’ ones from SDV last year. A recent donation from Sue at Red Cross is now ready for the new work premises. Recently, there has been an initiative from GIS fans associated with the Dept. of Statistic  (stay with me please…) They suggest, well Dave does, that it would be good to have a general sharing of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) information between all agencies that deal with it. We’ve had two meetings so far and after some talk, the time approaches, similar to the little Red Hen gathering ingredients for the bread, when work has to be done. I put in my two bits worth by introducing the value of records management: good file names and version control. No one interrupted nor asked questions, so I guess everyone all ‘got it’; Right? (don’t worry, I am under no illusions. We have enough of a challenge explaining the difference between ‘debt’ and ‘credit’ to some staff in our own organisation; they have been managing funds for years; empirically in some cases, it now appears). Now, that was a Ronny Corbet diversion. David found out I was eager to get hold of a map and he introduced me to the GIS map makers downstairs - freshly installed with all the kit from UNMIT (recently departed Dili). Exciting stuff with massive printers that can do A0 - Very impressive resolution down to smallest roads and villages. I got a couple of maps run off and then took them to a laminators (‘Sugar’) where some negotiation got them done for $25 the pair. Monday 3rd pickup, as Sugar needed to dry out the edges after I got caught in a tropical downpour when  delivering them on my bike.

Sunday evening should be peaceful, but One More Bar now gets to ‘enjoy’ the local motorcycles as they ‘hang out' around the wee gardens between the blue pavilions by the shore and OMB. The riders like to rev the heck out of the engines and cruise around the park for 15 minutes, in a low gear. Conversation ceases & unwilling listeners think of satisfying, but technically illegal responses.

The new premises at Timor Plaza are finished and we’ll probably be moving there either this coming or next weekend. It’ll be sad day; not to be able to store my file server in a shower and the keyboard next to the sink.

Tony’s Turkish has been shut for a while now. Rumour is that he’s investigating a business move to Burma.