Silly season

There is very little of that mad Christmas shopping here but it is the time to build your nativity scene or buy a Christmas tree from the tree vendors on the strip between the Palacio and the Stadium.

The street traffic has been getting very silly but that is not silly season’s fault.  During the week, the number of ships anchored offshore made it to 13 later in the week.  I am told mostly rice shipments but I also understand some port improvements may also be slowing things down.  Looks very silly but could be a genuine attempt to look as thriving as the waters off Singapore.

Malae (ie expats from somewhere else) are starting to de-camp for the holiday season and the Christmas Fairs have been providing gift shopping opportunities so they (errrh we) can be extra silly at this time of year.

The town seems to be slumping under the weight of banners strung across streets everywhere – for all sorts of things.  The queue at the ANZ bank remains very silly.

I noticed a new restaurant “Coconut Resto” is having a soft opening in their premises in the old Thai Pavilion.  I think it is Aru Cafe outside on the porch and the Coconuts inside.

The wet season seems a little wetter than last year so far but no real ball-tearing storms leading to the Comorro River running bank-to-bank.  I think the last time that happened was December 2005.  I can’t help but notice the semi-industrial premises on the west bank of the river that has built a retaining wall structure about 30 metres into the river channel in order to create more land for themselves.  In most parts of the world, this would be a no-no and we will have to see what it does to a genuine bank-to-bank flood down the river.  Very silly to me but potentially exciting for somebody.

Bicycle tales

The old bicycle is showing signs of wear and tear, mostly rust from the salty humid air, I suspect.  The bell (yes, bell) is now rusted solid.  Now that I am on the OZ-sourced inner tubes, I do not have to pump the tyres up every 2 days and I have gone more than 2 weeks without an inner tube failure.

A couple of months ago, one of the pedals snapped and I have now moved onto the $5 all metal locally-sourced version.  The bearings seem to have a problem already and these will not last long.

Early on, I bought the cheap locally-sourced lock and chain.  Within 2 months, the lock had rusted up and was unusable.  So I bring back into the country a flash, expensive, guaranteed-for-life lock and chain.  Last week, the chain snapped right next to the built-in lock.  So I am back to the cheap, locally sourced variety.

My bike seat started deteriorating rapidly a couple of weeks ago and accelerated until bits of foam underneath started poking out.  It is now held together by black linen tape ($2 at Oceano).

But I can’t say I am not getting my money’s worth.

Roadside fruit and veg – going, going …

In a couple of days, the roadside fruit and veg market near the Pertamina Wharf will be gone.  Its underway right now.  That quaint dream of brunch at Thai Pavilion prior to fruit and veg shopping (including delicatessen items) is no more.  Even the Thai Pavilion has made way for the Aru Cafe.

The Aru Cafe actually looks like a cafe by day with an outdoor servery on the balcony.  Menu is “Asian fusion”, juices are excellent.  Who knows what the view across the road will be like soon.

And on views across the road, the Aribu Resort Hotel down near Ocean View Hotel is ever so slowly taking shape.  There will be a huge 1st floor balcony bar/restaurant (I think) overlooking the sea.  Maybe next year.

Nautilus seafood restaurant is still under final fit-out.  Can’t be much longer now.

Random comestibles

On the weekend, I whipped out to the Doulos to check out the floating bookshop – the huge ship docked at Dili Wharf and attracting hordes of schoolchildren.  To be honest, the whole thing was over in 30 minutes.  About 1/3 of the books were religious tomes or advice on how to rear children and husbands.  The second 1/3 was children’s books and the rest, a mixture of classics, nature books and cookbooks.  What I did notice was that sales were next to nothing.  That is, most of the books were in English and very few students would have even the most simple knowledge and possibly no money anyway.  (And there is no public bar on-board.)

One could not have noticed the 2 or 3 commercial freight vessels hanging around offshore for the week.  This is unusual but explained by the Doulos occupying prime dock space.

I paid for scoffing at this costly arrangement by going to the bank today and spending 36 minutes in the queue to attend to my 3 minute over the counter transaction.

I hope I do not pay again courtesy of yet another “Indian” restaurant opened up.  The “Flavors of India” has opened about 100 metres on the sea-side of Vasco da Gamas restaurant.  The proprietor is Nepalese and tells me he is still in the setup phase but expects to be fully kitted up in about 2 weeks.  He assures me he does not use oil and that this is healthy Indian food.  In the interests of random-ness, give it a try.  It is open, quiet and airy and suggests lunchtime is a good time to start.  (Tiger beer is $2 and cold.)

The fruit and veg markets on Comorro road have now finally completely moved – mostly to the old Comorro market area which extends from Comorro Road towards the sea for about 200 metres.  Pumpkins finished, papaya hard to find (except out near Liquica), plenty of bananas, mangos, potatos, limes, tomatoes and greens.  Beans OK, as are snow peas.

Largest Floating Bookshop coming to Dili

MVDOULOS
The World’s Oldest Passenger Ship and
Largest Floating Bookshop on her first visit to Timor-Leste

November 5 – 10, 2008
Dili – The DOULOS will open to the public for the first time in history in the port of Dili, on November 5, 2008.

This World’s Oldest Ocean-going Passenger Ship has been crossing oceans and building bridges between the nations for over 30 years by promoting Knowledge, Help and Hope. The ship’s volunteer crew of 320 people from 50 countries offers an unique opportunity to cross cultural barriers, and raise cultural awareness and understanding of other cultures. Members of the public have opportunities to meet the international crew, experience the numerous cultures on board, and discover more about this historic ship.

The DOULOS is operated by the non-profit charity organization Gute Bücher für Alle (“Good Books for All”), based in Germany. The ship was originally built in 1914 – this makes her only 2 years younger than the Titanic! It is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Oldest Ocean-going Passenger Ship still active. In the past 31 years, the DOULOS has visited almost 600 ports in 103 countries, and has welcomed over 21 million visitors on board. East Timor will be the 104th country she will visit.

The 130-meter ocean-going vessel offers the World’s Largest Floating Book Exhibition with 8,000 titles in English and a selection in Bahasa. The books cover a wide range of subjects: Dictionaries, novels, cooking, hobbies, sports, medicinal, Bibles, children books, Chrisitian books, etc… During her 6 days stay, various programs such as school visits and International Music Cafes will be offered.

Opening Hours: Everyday, 09:30am – 18:00

Entrance Fee: Free

Note: The ship’s largest event is actually held on-shore. The International Cultural Festival will take place at Salão Delta Nova, 18:00, on the 5th of November, 2008.

Tickets: US$ 1,00
Available at:
Zeon International (Mouzinho de Albuquerque Colmera)
Loja Livru Gracia (Kuluhun st.)
For more information, please check www.doulos.org

Felipe Boechat
Mv Doulos – TIMOR LESTE
Email: doulos.dili@gbaships.org
AMI CONVIDA ITA BO;OT SIRA MAI ASISTE RO’O BIBLIOTECA

LORON : 5 DE NOVEMBRO 2008

FATIN : PORTO DILI

HORAS : 09:30 – 18:00 TL (Loke Loron – Loron)

Changes, always changes

It seems like every time I look, something has changed.  I have made a few changes to restaurants in my Google Earth landmarks file which include amongst other things the apparent change of HarbourView Cafe to a Thai restaurant.  Maybe the sign was knocked down, is being cleaned/changed or maybe the HarbourView name is no more.

Besides becoming increasingly difficult to cross now, Comorro Road is changing at a rapid rate.  Perkins shipping has moved to “Banana Road”.  There must be about 4 new petrol stations and if you look over fences that you may otherwise fly past in your car, you will see lots of cleared land ready for something.

Physiotherapy Timor is now operating from near the Dili Club so you can get the full body service in that strip of shops now – haircut, massage, a curry, Thai food, pizzas, beer and physiotherapy if you fall off a bar stool.

Guido Valadares National Hospital & food

One of the most significant changes around town must be the transformation at the national hospital in Dili.  Two years ago, I would have been tempted to fly to Darwin to get an ingrown toenail attended to, but now the national hospital is starting to look fairly good.

It was held back for a long time by the large number of IDPs living in tents scattered across the hospital campus but since their move a couple of months ago, the renovations have continued.  Give it another 6 months and it should look pretty nice.  And there are no wandering pigs or chooks on the grounds anymore.

Oxfam have just released a revised report on the food supply situation and it does pose a warning about the ability of TL to feed itself.  In theory, there ought to be enough arable land and water to produce adequate supplies but the whole infrastructure around food production is a long way from being able to do this.

A few months back, I dropped into a farm just outside Maubisse while on the way back from Mt. Ramelau.  Unlike most rural properties, it looked like a market garden and I wondered who they sold their stuff to.  It turned out that they had no mechanism to get this stuff to Dili.  No transport of their own and no established mechanism for uniting buying and seller.  (I drafted up some text for a sign and told them to put it facing the oncoming traffic so they can’t miss it – I wonder if they did do this.)

Apparently USAid have helped setup such a mechanism.  I don’t know if that particular property is part of it, but a group called “Zero Star Company” (operating as Timor-Leste Fresh) are selling fruit and (mainly) vegetables by the crate and doing home delivery.  With the closing down of many of the street-side markets, it will probably affect the expat buyer the most and fortuitously, this new delivery procedure will probably appeal to expats most.

Maubisse is about 2 hours drive from Dili in the hills.  It is much cooler and provides better conditions for growing some of your typical western favoured vegetable items – broccoli for one.  This is also the place for the premium coffee.

Fruit & vegetable markets moved on

For those accustomed to buying fruit & veg across the road from Lita Store, those days are now over.  They are no longer there.  For traffic and parking, a good thing.  For convenience and a feeling of putting money directly into Timorese pockets, not so good.

And if you ever used the fresh fruit & veg markets near the Stadium round-about (outside Mercada Lama), gone as well.  And I see the first signs of the ones on Comorro Road going the same way.

The fish sellers who were making the seaside strip across from One More Bar a home, have also moved on.  At least I know where they are and they have finally made those lonely structures down near “Pig Bridge” their new place.

I wondered if the road accident I saw last week outside Lita had anything to do with it.

At this stage, the rugby scrum that you pass through on the way to Dare is still there and there is no sign yet of movement in the market at Pantai Kelapa next to the Pertamina oil facility.

Not sure where this will all end up.

ADDENDUM :

The Mercado Lama group have returned to the new Taibesse market.  The Lita group have also gone there.  The Comorro Road sellers are due to move shortly.  Some will move back to the old Comorro Market site.  The Pantai Kelapa sellers will move after that.  I am told that unresolved east/west issues mean that sellers would prefer to move with their monu/sai mates.

This stuff is good for traffic flow but real bad for providing accessible shopping for non-pedestrians.  The new locations will be hard for car shoppers as parking will not be easy.  I imagine security and convenience will be a problem for a few malae which will drive fresh produce sales back to the supermarkets (ie from the little guys to the big guys).

A couple of events

It may be a bit late but the Alola Foundation is having a 20% off sale today (ie Saturday 20 Sept. 10am to 3pm).  All sorts of tais-based goods are available and these days, things like laptop bags and trendy document wallets are also there.  If you haven’t been to Alola, its about 300 metres south (ie towards the hills) from the big roundabout near the Stadium – on your right.  Stock up for XMas presents … did I just say that !?

On September 27, there is the “Great Dili Dally Car Rally”.  (Note to file : Do not go out cycling that day !)  $10 Adults, $5 children, free for under 10s.  Phone 7328804 if interested.  Proceeds go to the Fuan Nabilan centre for blind children.

Amendment : if children under 10 are getting to drive around Dili for free, then I’ll not only lock up the bicycle but climb up a mango tree until its over.

Coffee plungers and Darwin

As I always travel with ground Timorese coffee and a coffee plunger, it is bound to happen and that extra squish of the bag breaks another plunger glass insert. Fortunately, I was on my way to Darwin where I could whip down to Casuarina Mall (by free bus of course) and solve the problem.

For some reason, going to Casuarina Mall always makes me feel healthier. Watching the engorgement of food in the food mall reminds me of this. But the Mall always gives one a chance to update the aging Dili wardrobe of shorts, t-shirt and sandals.

In the end, it took a veritable coon’s age * to acquire the necessary plunger replacement glass insert. It could not be found at the Mall at all. Later, I visited 3 homeware stores in central Darwin and finally came up a winner at Alfreds in Knuckey Street – you know the place a short walk from your hotel (and not 20kms away at Casuarina) ! Best places for new ones are Alfreds and Cameo in Cavenagh Street.  Alfreds were out of stock of the flash all stainless steel plungers.

I have probably been asked a dozen times about where one can buy a plunger in Dili. I saw one at Leader supermarket 2 years ago but have not seen one since. Fortunately, caffeine has no effect on me whatsoever … no effect on me whatsoever … no effect on me whatsoever … no effect on me whatsoever …

* A “coon’s age” is a very long time and a term I learnt from wharfies at the Watersider Hotel in Melbourne. Obviously it refers to aged/matured cheddar cheese known as Coon Cheese in Australia – an essential part of my diet along with Vegemite when I was younger (and still wearing shorts).  Both of these products were manufactured by Kraft at that time.  Can’t understand why Kraft offloaded it !  Besides, the Dairy Farmers version is an inferior product and no longer on my shopping list.