Old year resolution

I am not into New Year resolutions because that gives you 365 days to be accused of procrastination.  Far safer to do an old year resolution which has a life of … 11 hours.

I achieved throwing away bedtime reading for sudoku puzzles but don’t have much time left to attain supreme levels of fitness before the day is out.  But I am well on the way.  A bit of heavy lifting of beer cartons and re-stocking the fridge should just about do it.

Living in Dili remains a roller-coaster ride.  What next ?  Another generator failure, more bowel trouble, more rises in airfares to get out, a return of local police to the streets, more yogurt shortages, TL’s first aircraft carrier … the suspense !

But my water tells me that tonight would be a good opportunity for the “scrotes” to nudge the turps and have a handy excuse for having a bit of fun at someone else’s expense.  My advice is no matter what you do to greet the New Year, try not to get a lift in a UN vehicle … and never get caught without clean underwear.


Finding sudoku

Sometimes some things just pass you by living here but while in Bali recently, I was looking to buy a cookbook written in Indonesian but with western-style recipes – as a Christmas present.  Then I saw sudoku books in Indonesian.  Forty US cents for a smaller edition – seemed a safe place to start.

For the moment, I am hooked.  So today I go looking for a fresh sudoku puzzle book.  I go to the new “Loja Livru Gracia” bookshop in Audian.  Nope but I walk out with 3 copies of the “Time Timor” magazine written in Tetum.  And yes, there are a number of cookbooks in Indonesian, the usual religious tomes, some language dictionaries (Indonesian-Korean).  And a large rack of used PC magazines in Indonesian.

I had a few other little fiddly shopping chores to undertake and schmoozed through shops I had not schmoozed through for a while.  It struck me that there has been a large increase in the number of clothing shops and a matching increase in shops offering clothing repairs and adjustments.  Karaoke systems are now big as are numerous small stereo systems.  Maybe I had not noticed the shop selling electric guitars.  I did notice the absence of small electricity generators which have obviously moved from the front of the shops to down the back (where they ought to be since the reduction in power cuts).

Anyway, I called it a day and downloaded a sudoku puzzle generator instead.

The sod break-in and general fluff

I must say I feel quite let-down after hearing about FOS’s Christmas Eve break-in at Chateau Sod.  I had a fairly full and event-free Christmas and was quite emotional at the end of the day.  But the scroats (as FOS calls them) are definitely increasing in number and starting to get smarter.

For those that don’t know, most expats live behind some form of walled property with windows ranging from iron bars to heavyweight mesh grille to lightweight mosquito netting. Many window frames are made from unseasoned wood and a good shoulder would do a job on some of those. But there are other failings which include having the hinges on the outside and some pretty weak closing/locking apparatus. It is not uncommon to see walls with spikes, razor wire or broken glass set in concrete but also not uncommon to see a simple weak point in such setups.

Forget the peaceful scene of palm frond huts and no form of security at all. The only way you could get away with that is to employ a trusted guard, either by employing one from one of the two big security companies (Maubere and APAC) or by co-opting a friendly neighbour. By employing a neighbour, you may be able to gain respect as a decent (and perhaps only) local employer and thus get full neighbourhood protection. You might rent from a landlord who also provides the service and who knows that losing a rich foreigner following a theft is not a good long-term arrangement.

Unfortunately, FOS lives in an area which has many scroats and I am not sure if he is able to co-opt locals. And yes, Doris (the dog) lets you know when you approach the premises.

There have been incidences of supposedly trusted local staff (like guards and cleaners) suspected of participating in inside jobs with their mates, although this is NOT widespread.

Anyway, it is a wake-up call that it is best to do all the right things and lock doors and windows. And it now seems that one ought to install mesh over windows and some form of “climbing over the wall slow-down device” such as razor wire.  And keep cash in used underwear in your sock drawer or something like that.  It is sad really – who wants to live in a Stalag ?

Food for Christmas

Its that time of the year when many expats intend to gorge themselves for a day starting tonight.  Pity I am still struggling a bit with some stomach bug that has blown my guts up – blocked them up mainly.  All I need is one more wafer-thin mint and I am nearly exploding.

So I was just reading about the restaurant situation in Kabul where there are now dozens of restaurants (I will assume 50) serving cuisine from all over the world.  Here in Dili, it is possible to get Southern Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, Portuguese, Brazilian, Turkish, Japanese, Macau Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indonesian, Australian (ie hamburgers, steak sandwiches, 12 inch T-bone steaks !), Malaysian Chinese and Burmese.  I may have missed one but there are definitely no Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Greek, German, Lebanese or Mickey-Ds.

I can’t say there is such a thing as a Timorese restaurant.  Nor could I say that any of them can be categorised as a fine dining experience.  One or two come close.  From time to time, you do come across exquisite dishes – perhaps when the occasional batch of lobsters hits the restaurants at prices that would make you wilt (ie cheap).

A few of the restaurants are offering Christmas lunch feasts and I hear that turkey will definitely be on the menu as it is available in the supermarket freezer.  I notice that supplies of premium beers have fallen and my favourite tipple (for casual not volume consumption) is out of stock.

I believe I have committed to 3 different locations tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how close I get to joining Mr.Creosote in gastronomic oblivion.  May your Christmas Day be stress free.

Security blather

In Dili, it seems fine to me but one should remember that stuff is still happening from time to time around the place. Take this snippet from the UN Security report for yesterday for instance :

Fighting erupted yesterday morning between two martial arts groups at
Buikaren market, Viqueque. Approximately 100 members were involved and
had used weapons consisting of machetes, knives and sling shots. One
20 year old gang member, badly injured, passed away at Viqueque’s
Hospital at approximately 14:15 hours. One suspect has been placed
under arrest.

On Monday afternoon, a 12 year old boy, was seriously injured by a
mailman wielding a machete, in Wailili – Waturou de Baixo, Baucau’s
District. The victim was admitted to Baucau Hospital and the suspect
has been arrested. The investigation into the incident is continuing.

Now if this sort of stuff happened in Hawthorn (in Melbourne) or Crows Nest (Sydney) or wherever you would like to insert*, you’d be a bit worried … no ?  These days, barely rates a mention here in Dili.  Thank god Dili has no mailmen !!

* Glenelg in Adelaide (New Year’s Eve excluded) or anywhere on “schoolies week”.

Some pre-Christmas titbits

It is raining right now for about the 10th to 15th time this wet season. By this time last year, it had probably only rained about twice and that was in November from memory.

The horrendous power cuts of November appeared to have been solved on about the 27/28 November. Those cuts which started about 20-25 October were due to a mechanical failure in the big new generator installed in early 2007.

The “Sanan Rai Foun” restaurant (or “New Sanan Rai”  sanan=cooking pot, rai=ground) has opened about 100 metres east of the ANZ Bank on Rua Nicolau Lobato. Also 50 metres east of the Roo Bar (Tropical Hotel). I presume this is an up-market version of the original Sanan Rai down the western end of the same street.

Like last year at this time, there appears to be a slight difficulty getting eggs. A tray is costing $7. I seem to recall paying around $4 about 6 months ago.

Beer at bars seems to have increased from the $2-50 mark to the $3 mark. I am mainly talking OZ beer here which has mainly risen due to the change in OZ/US exchange rates. Tiger and Bintang ought to be cheaper. I also notice an increase in Filipino San Miguel beers including the cheaper end “Red Horse” beer. This reflects the increasing influence of Filipinos in the commercial sector, particularly construction. $2 happy hours may become more popular.

I saw my 1st bookshop in Dili in the Audian shopping street towards the eastern end. There may be a small amount of books and magazines in other shops and the odd books sold on the pavement but this is a whole shop with a sign out the front saying “Loja Livru Galeria”. Will go in one day.

If you want Christmas trees, then the strip of shops across from the stadium is chock-a-block with trees of the tinsel and plastic variety.

Nativity scenes are cropping all over the place and seem to be significantly more numerous than last year. There are some quite flashy ones including some quite advanced ones with flashing lights which at first, could be mistaken for a police vehicle attending a security incident (when seen from a distance).

The dirtiest city in the world

Last week was a week of grumbling guts and an even bigger week for international relations with the visits of the Port Royal (a US Navy cruiser), the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the new OZ PM Kevin Rudd. Personally, I have always wanted a PM called Kev … or Barry (ie Baz) … or even better again, Les.

But my award for international diplomacy goes to the President for claiming that Dili is the dirtiest city in the world. I am humbled that he has obviously analysed my recent post on the subject of garbage. However, there are plenty of cities with choking air pollution, obnoxious drains and horrendous noise pollution, all which would put Dili in the shade.

The President does regularly walk in the parts of town out east where garbage has been a problem on the beaches which is also near to where he lives.

He points out that contractors have been paid to do garbage collection but a weak supervision process in many public works contracts means things just don’t get done as well as they might. That needs to be improved and systems put in place to make it easier for people to dispose of garbage neatly. But lay off the pigs – the hardest working garbage processors in town.

The Rotary orphan’s XMas party

The annual Rotary orphan’s XMas party was held on the grounds of the World Bank/Asia Development Bank yesterday. Rotary Australia provided gift packs for each child, PDL Toll provided the food, CHC helicopters provided the BBQ equipment and the Dili Hash House Harriers provided the labour for food preparation and organised games for the kids who came from as far away as Maubara.

Santa sweated his way through over an hour of gift giving in his red suit and was later seen at a local bar re-hydrating.

If you see one of the over 350 kids with bright yellow “postman’s” bags, you know where they came from.  Thanks Daisy.

Granite guts

I swear I once had iron guts.  But the last couple of days, my once granite-like guts seem to be succumbing to some gastric nasties.  My stomach feels like I have eaten 20 meat pies whereas yesterday, I only had 2 cups of cup-o-soup after my weetbix for breakfast.

TL makes it the 3rd country where I have copped giardia and my amateur diagnosis is that I am in the early stages of yet another round.  I was in Lita supermarket at lunchtime and accidentally broke wind in the condiments section.  I fled to the cleaning products aisle fearing I may have injured some of the staff (or they might injure me).

It appears I am not the only one who is suffering from similar gastric difficulties but mercifully, I am still holding it together.  My understanding is that at this time of year when the wet season rolls in, a few nasties that have been lingering on the surface get washed into waterways and into the groundwater system.

The water barrels that we are all familiar with are all sourced from groundwater and if the disinfection procedure at the water factory is not adhered to (which it is supposedly often not), then problems do occur.

For the record, chlorination and/or ozone treatment is not much good for knocking giardia on the head.  UV treatment is better for parasites like giardia.  The UV basically makes the giardia bugs infertile so although they may still get inside you, they can not re-produce inside your guts and do not cause a problem.  Ideally, your premises should have a UV filter unit to be safe.

If not, JS told me that a sensible procedure is to leave the water barrels out in the sunshine for a couple of days if you want to be safe.

At times like this, air freshening techniques seem to be the go.  So last night, I dragged out the el-cheapo “essential oil” burner thing I bought in Bali and lit it up about 15 minutes before I went to bed.  I thought a bit of rose oil scent would calm the savage beast and be a pleasant way to head off into the land of nod.  When I returned, the whole thing was in flames and burning a hole in the chest of drawers (ie clothes drawer cabinet thing).  I tried to blow it out on the assumption it was just a candle but it just made the flames worse.  I grabbed food handling tongs from the kitchen and carried the blazing thing outside, hosed water on it and it spat stuff everywhere.  The house stunk of burning petroleum for hours.

The post-mortem was that the tealight candle had a healthy dose of kerosene or similar petroleum product as evidenced by the black stains up the bedroom wall and the damage outside the backdoor.  Moral – don’t buy cheap tealight candles.

Some days – sheesh !

Recent increase in fighting on Comorro Road

Although this sort of thing has really been going on for quite some time but at a lower level, over the last week or so, the area between the airport roundabout and the Timor Lodge Hotel has come under repeated and increased rock fighting activity and worse (ie bow and arrow, slingshot and rama ambon).

At mid-afternoon today, it didn’t look too good in the distance down the road so I guess it was on again.  I saw 2 ambulances with sirens blaring heading from that general direction towards the centre of town (perhaps the hospital).

Someone told me it is a bit of gang warfare related to paying back for the death of someone in an earlier conflict.  So I guess it may continue for some time if it is going to be a tit-for-tat exchange of rough stuff.  One thing the crisis of last year did was upset some of the balance between rival groups/gangs who have existed long before last year’s problems.

The first of the Christmas nativity scenes are commencing construction but I suspect there will be none to be seen down near the roundabout this year.