Hash in Brisbane

I started hashing in Ankara in Turkey in 1987. I had absolutely no idea what hash was, but in Ankara at that time, it was almost the only organised social activity amongst the small English speaking community. And no public swimming pools, public tennis courts, squash clubs etc.

Over the years, it has become a reasonably good point of first contact when arriving in a new place. I now realise how stupid I was when I worked in the Sultanate of Oman in the mid-80s. Yes, there was an active hash group but no, I didn’t even know what it was. Would have made a nice break from living in a pre-fab hut located under the end of the international airport runway !

Time check – now. I am in Brisbane doing full-time language training with the brain doing overtime trying to keep up with all this new information being jammed in. Need physical exercise. Need mental diversion. Know (almost) no-one. So where is hash ?

The Royal Exchange Hash operates from the same location every Wednesday. Ye Gods ! The Royal Exchange is THE hotel just up the road – about 7 minutes walk. Every time I look on the internet for another hash, the location is miles away. Too easy.

So I go to RE Hash. Interesting. Same starting point every week. No marked trail. No checks. No false trails. Flat out run for an hour. I am buggered. My body was never optimised for this. I realise my body was designed for drinking beer in front of the TV. Do it anyway.

I am left in the dust by the local athletes. I struggle to keep up with 60+ year old who plods on and makes me feel real bad when he surges past me at the same pace up steep hills. A kind-hearted soul drops back to make sure I don’t get lost. Hash was never meant to be like this. Bastards !

Tetun Traps

Now that I am half-way through my Tetun course, I can comment on some of the easy bits & some of the hard bits. We were told that Tetun was easy. Compared to Chinese, this must surely be the case.

For instance, Tetun verbs do not change, no matter what the tense. Think of “is, am, are, was, were, will be, would be” as many of the variations for the word to be. Even better, Tetun does not even have “to be”. But “I am/was/were a drunk” etc. literally becomes “I drunk” (ha’u lanu). And “I drink” becomes “ha’u hemu”. “Hemu” is always “hemu”. Nice one that.

However, Tetun is a bit short on words compared to English. Where you might be able to say something 10,000 ways in English, there may only be 5 ways in Tetun. And sometimes, some concepts are incredibly difficult to translate.

The Tetun word “hein” can mean “to wait”, “to guard/watch over” or “to hope”. As for which one it is at any time, you have to work it out yourself. So maybe “ha’u hein serveja ida” means “I am waiting for a beer”, “I am guarding a beer” or “I am hoping for a beer”.

Now, when you have spent your whole life living in a village without a TV, refrigerator, cold beer, rugby, take-away pizza and have never had a 9 to 5 job because all of your time is taken up growing your own food, rearing your own animals etc., you don’t need a word for weekend. So there isn’t one.

When I attempted to use the word for run or jog (as per the dictionary), I was informed that (until recently) the only word that covers this concept really meant “to flea” (halai) as in run to escape being shot. The teacher said “why else would you need to run”. Good point. Common-sense has prevailed & the quaint habit of running for no reason (a foreigner thing) has also adopted this word.

And if you say you run “to stop getting fat”, the response is “why would you work so hard in the fields in order to provide more food to get fat when you could be relaxing”. Another good point.

So it seems the only people who go running in Timor Leste are those crazy foreigners.

Brisbane Coffee

One of the joys of living in Wellington must be it’s coffee. Not that coffee is grown anywhere nearby but as a result of a thriving local coffee roasting scene, not to mention an active coffee shop scene. Cafes live or die based on their ability to provide a well-made coffee based on sound technique but above all, freshly roasted & ground beans.

According to my intensive research on the matter, there are about 8 roasteries in the Wellington area, most of which will provide freshly roasted coffee beans to its customers (that is, to its cafes which usually promote the roasting company for the benefit of the discerning drinker).

One quickly becomes accustomed to drinking coffee that is certainly ground on the same day and often roasted within the last 48 hours. My own personal favourite just happened to be People’s Coffee in Newtown, which was not only within walking distance from home but roasted beans on the premises. About once a week, I would walk to Newtown to purchase 100 grams of freshly ground coffee which was almost guaranteed to be roasted within the previous 24 hours. I would stop for a chat with Dave & consume one of his expertly delivered coffees.

One gets spoilt. Its just one of those things that the coffee scene in most of Australia is way behind Wellington. I have struggled to find access to any roastery within spitting distance of St.Lucia (where I am staying) but eventually things have worked themselves out to my satisfaction.

However, it has involved going through the discovery process. Firstly, the quality of coffee delivered at most Brisbane coffee shops is on average, vastly inferior to the typical Wellington offering. Much of the coffee used in the local cafes is based on beans roasted & ground outside Australia, which have been shipped in vacuum packs just as one finds in supermarkets everywhere. Not that this coffee is necessarily bad, but there is little chance the coffee was roasted less than a month before it is consumed.

And probably due to the much greater influence of Mediterranean culture in Australia (ie Italians, Greeks etc.), there is clearly a bias towards coffee directly imported in vacuum packs from Italy – or so it seems.

But lets get to the point, what do you do if you are in St.Lucia and want fresh coffee ? Well, Zarraffa’s Coffee is available at Toowong Village shopping centre. My understanding is that they get deliveries of freshly roasted beans once a week on Wednesday morning. These roasted coffee beans are stored in vacuum packs in a freezer. The tip is that the freshest is at the back of the freezer.

I have now consumed coffee from many outlets at the University of Queensland. Most are fairly ordinary. However, the cafe (Bar Merlo) just outside the front door of the main library in the Duhig Building seems to produce the best. The brand is Merlo and they deliver (as I am told) freshly roasted beans to this cafe every morning. They also sell the beans & can grind them on the spot. I was promised that the roasted beans were never more than 48 hours old. It is also significantly cheaper than Zarraffa’s and if you purchase beans, a gratis coffee is provided.

It has taken a bit more work but a good coffee is possible.


I admit great personal failure in this department. When the humidity genes were dished out, someone must have put the incontinence gene in the wrong place.

I have always suffered. As a kid, I would play tennis in the middle of winter and still turn into a wet, soggy sack while my opponents maintained impeccable levels of personal hygiene and still maintain perfectly coiffed hair. It caused me great personal anguish.

I have been quite fortunate in my work career that I have only rarely found myself in work situations where a suit was mandatory. Its just something I could never understand. A suit is just so inappropriate for the temperature-challenged in both cold winters or hot summers.

In Canberra, there were many occasions when a hot summer lunchtime of 35 degrees would see me transform into a soggy sponge while lunch partners would remain completely dry.

And later, when in New Zealand (not the warmest of places) I had the only job of my life where a suit was compulsory. I travelled by bus to this job and found that the clammy nature of buses caused me immense grief. On numerous occasions, I would start sweating profusely in the warm, clammy atmosphere. No windows were open and I noted the number of fellow travellers wearing winter jackets while underneath my suit jacket, I was sweating profusely, converting my lovely white shirt into a dishrag. I MUST have fresh air and I can never understand why no-one seemed as distressed as me when it comes to re-breathing foul, clammy air in enclosed spaces.

Then comes Brisbane – perhaps the first time I have spent any length of time in a hot AND humid environment. Now I wonder why I brought any cotton shirts as whenever I wear them, I turn into a sloppy mess. I need shorts and very airy t-shirts but this still does not stop me arriving at language class each morning looking like I have just put my clothes on after a swim.

Roll on Dili where it is both hotter and more humid. I think this is why beer was invented.

But which language ?

It was always clear that English was a minority language in ET, but it seemed to take quite a while to get a grip on the real situation with respect to languages spoken on the ground.

The history and politics of the changes in language influence are best left to a later time, but briefly it seems to go like this :

  • There are numerous local languages that exist through-out ET.
  • The local Dili language (Tetun) is probably the most common of the local languages and being spoken in the capital, well, it shouldn’t surprise that this has become the most significant of the local languages.
  • The Portuguese first occupied ET over 400 years ago, but although they were fairly passive in spreading its usage, it was inevitable that the local ET elite would pick up on the first of the foreign imported languages.
  • With the occupation of ET by Indonesia, their banning of Portuguese and compulsory teaching of Indonesian, this brought Indonesian into the picture.
  • With the departure of Indonesia and the creation of the new independent state, the nature of the Indonesian departure led to a reversal of the previous stance on language, such that Indonesian is now on the outer & Portuguese coming back into vogue.
  • With the return of Portuguese, a decision was made to elevate Tetun to a similar official status.
  • Tetun had a long way to go to get the same levels of research and development & codification of any common accepted vocabulary & grammar.
  • It seems that nowadays, Tetun and Indonesian are the most widely used, with Portuguese still having a strong influence & English reserved for communication with foreigners.

This formed the basis of the decision to study both Portuguese and Tetun, with more emphasis on Tetun. As Tetun is still in the process of formalisation, grammar, spelling & vocabulary, it’s usage is much more informal than your typical language & it is no surprise to find the language littered with mainly Portuguese additions, and even replacement.

This informal development of the language also means that in spoken language, one can interchangeably toss Portuguese words into the mix without missing a beat. Forget the Tetun … just use the Portuguese instead.

Its Dili, isn’t it ?

I can finally come clean after months of keeping a secret. It’s Dili in East Timor. Immediately to the north-west of Australia adjacent to Indonesia and tropical. No need for the gloves or balaclava. Strong need for the insect repellent and a fan. Should arrive in December 2005 after some language training in Brisbane.