Monday, August 12, 2013

One Less Bar – Stone Me – ANZ Banking where you want it – UNPaz - Telephone companies talk to each other - Power to the people – That’s not a knife – Security – Miss TL – Tour de Timor - Helmet shop – Padaria – Little trenches – Fertility clinic - Scrabble - Not a Dali clock - Wee batteries

Photos added; just double-click to view the large size 

Friday week ago OMB (One More Bar) closed and then sold off everything over the next two days. Sunday evening was open season for locals and I observed sink units and toilet bowls being stacked up for relocation; probably to sheds where they’ll gather dust and wait in expectation of more prominent bums. Some rumours say that the new rent for the next 2-3 years was $1million and that was a just a bit steep. Apparently the place is also prime real estate and will now be knocked down for a five storey hotel. The neighbouring building on the corner (facing the angel statue and across from the bishop’s residence) has already been flattened to rubble, so construction of a monster edifice using both sites, won't be far off, in Timor terms. At night the site is now a dark ghostly shell, partially lit by a single street light. Two security guards look after the remaining walls and roofing iron.

Stone fish are crafty little buggers that don't bother to warn you about their presence until the ‘Got yah!’ spine shoots through your foot. I was told a story, two weeks ago, about such an experience in Australia. The bloke as walking on a tidal sand bank and thought it was just a piece of metal or something similar. The excruciating pain, copious blood, blue rings around the ankle and leg (this is a neurotoxin at work) convinced him it was pretty serious. Fortunately he got medical attention within 45 minutes and a doctor recognised a stone fish’s work. Morphine pain killers had no effect :-p and the best treatment was to put the limb into extremely hot water – reducing the pain from a 9 or 10 out of 10 (he said he would have accepted an amputation just to get rid of the pain) to a 5. He still had a hole in the sole of his foot 10 days later. Some US State flags have a snake on them with the legend ‘Don’t tread on me’ – maybe Australia should use the stone fish?

ANZ - no queue on Sunday afternoons

The ANZ announced that their old branch would close and all business would move to Timor Plaza. The new ATM (on the right) has been out of action for nearly a month now. The close-down and move date has come and gone, yet the old branch still appears to be operating. The current advertising line ‘We live in your world’ appears to mean the west end of Dili, not Balidae and the east. To be fair, ANZ were always here as a business bank and the ATM/private customer thing is not a profit maker.

Celebrations central and the admin building is back & centre

    I was asked to check out a PC or two at UNPaz (University of Peace) a privately funded institution located just East of Dili Institue of Technology (DIT). They were having a celebration because of some international recognition for a component of their curriculum. There was a lot of regional dancing going on and I was invited to share lunch with the staff. The large white administration building cost them $60k to complete and the Prime Minister came to look at it because the Government departments require $1million to build the equivalent.

Timor Telecom (why don’t they have a fan page on Facebook?), Telkomcel and Telemor now all talk to each other. This means a SIM from any one company can make a local call to the other two. With Government encouragement, cough, it all happened on August 1st.

Power to all is stepping up by over 100% when the new power plant in Betano (double the grunt of the station at Hera) officially opens on August 20th. Well I think that’s what the giant bill board banners mean. There is a crowd of camo-wearing men in the poster foreground and the new power station is in the background. Falantil and the years 1975-2013 are also mentioned. There is a connection somewhere there. Like many others, I am keen to hear how the station will be fueled, as there isn’t a pipe line and as late as Febuary, there wasn’t a local supply wharf (Betano being on the south coast and the Pertamina fuel facilities are here in Dili on the north coast); leaving the option of tanker convoys from Dili?

Just wait until a coconut fails to 'respect' me
A few weeks back four of us (Sue, Tracey, Robyn and I) visited Ataturo Island. Sue and Tracey are right into singing and Tracey can play guitar and ukulele pretty well, so that spiced up the evenings. I bought a locally made machete from the Saturday market for a good price (for the seller). Made from an old leaf spring and some local wood (handle + scabbard) I was happy with $25, but it should have been around $10-15. While I waved it around at Barry's he advised me to bury the blade into a banana tree trunk for 3 days to cure the blade. So, back in Dili, I managed to find a tree at a friend’s place and the blade was stuck there for four days. I haven’t got it back yet, but Holger says the blade doesn’t appear to be that much different, apart from some extra rust – hmmm.

Outside: traffic and dust - Inside: dogs, pigeons, roosters &
pigs over the fence
The front gates to the family compound and yard (where my apartment is) are now repositioned further into the yard and have been rehung so the ends don’t jamb together when closed. A padlock was added two weeks ago and it is locked about 10pm every night. The Martial Arts Gangs (MAGs) are… working through some differences with each other, since one member died on a business trip to the west end of the island some 3 months ago. The night time traffic has dropped off considerably and more local people are minding their immediate street areas. The police patrols are typically noticeable by the flashing lights, deep sounding fog horn blasts and higher speed than usual. Surgical visits to some areas are done by the BOP – a special police section, trained, I think, by the Portuguese GNR. Two weeks ago a friend of mine witnessed a surprise visit at the soccer field area near Lita supermarket; around 5:10pm. The guys were dressed in khaki and one was using a baton to hit a bloke near the fresh fish sellers. The other fish sellers had dropped all their fish and were running away. Heaps of traffic and witnesses, as it was rush hour out through Ariea Branca. My witness decided not to use a camera, but to quietly get out of the area immediately and go home. I left Timor Plaza, for Bidau, about 20 minutes later and passed two open back vehicles (outward facing seats) as they headed toward the airport on Comoro road. The front one had blue uniformed police and the second had guys in khaki T-shirts and cam trousers. They looked a bit flushed, as though from recent physical activity. Maybe a match to the earlier report?

Discussions continue: Which tourists is this event aimed at?
Another big bill board has been erected in a frame across the road from the Palacio. It advertises the Miss Timor Leste competiton for April-May 2013. 'Yes', I know it is now August.. The first round was stopped, but with renewed backing from the Minister of Tourism, the event maybe getting back underway again. The new dates appear to be unknown at this stage. Maybe the corrections will be hand-written?
If there is more advertising, then no one I know has seen it

The Ministry of Tourism is also running the Tour de Timor for 2013 (Sept 2-6th). This is a big change from the group that ran the event for the past four years, @ $1,000 an entry. The entry fee is now only $500 and entries close on August 19th. It promises to be quite different from previous years as this time around there will be no assistance from the UN, expat military or international volunteers. I am holding onto my precious $500 (no refunds) for a few more days until a minister’s retreat is concluded and we find out if a certain portfolio change occurs and what impact that change might have on the above two events.

It the empty space across the road
A local landmark corner office block is now gone. It was just to the south of the central bank, east of the Palacio and just over the road from Café Brasil. Squatters had been living there for a long time and the distinguishing feature was the sale of motorcycle helmets - long rows of them were lined up parallel to the street. Apparently, it all happened one Monday morning with a strong police presence. The squatters were moved out and then wreckers immediately moved in and flattened the place.

This cross was used by the Templer Knights -
what could the connection be??

Padaria Brasa continues to be a favourite place for coffee and baguettes on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Christopher Columbus used the same cross on the sails of the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria - who sponsored that advertising?

Trench across the road + ex-traffic light stump
Something is changing at intersections all over town. It could be that traffic lights may be returning. There are narrow-cut trenches everywhere. I was fortunate to witness the first batch of traffic lights being commissioned during 2006 and then I witnessed the last, dusty, scratched ones, going out for good earlier this year.  I wonder what the life span of the next generation will be.

Only $5.25 here
After hours, the price goes up

I heard a garbled report of a fertility clinic or some sort of supply system down my end of town. That can’t be right. I kept my eyes open and found some low profile advertising that appeared to be a lead. Pretty bold, I thought, but that’s marketing for you. Getting to the source took a night visit, fortunately no stake out required. The product is dried and dispensed in 20kg paper sacks. But it wasn’t adding up. Easy answer was to look at the phonetics   Semen = cemen(t)

Katy, Rob, Christina and I had a scrabble game yesterday. It was a brunch event that had two warm up sessions of Bananagrams and then the main event until around 4pm. Huge use was made of two and three letter words that no one uses in normal life. No triple words came my way and the best double-word was only worth about 22. I came last on 147 with Christina top scoring on 165. Life is so unjust.

Early on Tuesday and sometimes Thursday, mornings I run with some friends from Ocean View along the beach, past the airport runway and on to the building where the Pope spoke many years ago. On Tuesday the sea was very high and had come over the top of the concrete walls backing onto the giant concrete caltrop collection (sea erosion prevention). Everywhere, the land was being washed away and several palm oil trees had toppled over into the growing beach area. Maybe there is one Honda 'Scoopy' too many on the Dili streets and this is our local climate-change reward? I picked up a sea-cured plastic clock facing. Kind of appealing in its own way. I call it 'Timor Time' and am waiting for someone to offer me lots of money for this 'one-off'

Batteries are a problem, until you can find a reliable and cheap source. These batteries are essential in my smaller bike lights. They're also used on some PC motherboards. In Timor Plaza, I was quoted $3 each, yet the Loja Lidwi (long counter parrallel to the road) in Colmera sells them for $1 each. Apparently they're even cheaper at the $2 shops in Oz, but there are delivery difficulties involved there.