I have’nt experienced Christmas outside the Dili environs since 2004 and I can’t even recall ever venturing out for Boxing Day* sales in the western world since Moses was sailing amongst the bullrushes. So why did I do it this time ?
It was embarrassing. I bumped into people, tripped over imaginary and other tiny objects. I had lost all ability to negotiate crowds without retiring to the roadside gutter. I excused myself in department stores and knocked stuff off shelves. I had lost the devil required to negotiate the sales, the urge to buy something (or anything) as long as it was on special. And the one thing I bought, failed to work when I got it home. I even wore jeans that I had not worn in 3 years. The crutch hang down near my knees … and the belt didn’t have enough holes. Too much Dili good living had stripped off enough “condition” to reduce me to a waif-like state (compared to when I first arrived). I dared not venture out in my Dili shorts, t-shirt and sandals for fear of terrifying the well-dressed locals.
I felt defeated. Would I have felt the same if I had negotiated the hordes (buying blue jeans) in Colmera. I don’t know. Did I really need to buy anything anyway ? Seems I am not the man to buy the world out of economic hard times … nor to be used as a role model for the fashion industry.
And a tip for fellow bloggers, this time of year is murder for blog spam. The rate of inane, machine generated drivel comments has gone up 50 fold over the last 2 weeks.
* For the uninitiated, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day renowned for huge cut-price sales, Test matches at the MCG and the odd horse race. All may involve drink to some degree.
I wouldn’t be the only one to be breaking out of town to check out life out of TL at this time of year. Apart from a couple of very touristy/rest trips to Darwin I haven’t re-acquainted myself with life in OZ for over 2 years. So I am doing a south-east OZ tour of old stamping grounds and mates. (The things you have to do to reduce the OZ wine lake !)
If you thought that arriving in Dili was a bit of a shock, the reality is that going the other way is every bit as shocking. I certainly was not prepared for the 1st grog shop visit where there were more beers on offer than wines. What happened ? It seems like very man and his dog is brewing beer. Not that this is bad, but get a grip guys, beer has never been so expensive. Hint – start brewing in Dili boys. Dili Draught … Becora Bitter … Maubisse Mild … Same Stout … Palacio Pilsener … are you with me ?
And OZ tomatoes … perfectly red, round and tasting like cardboard. I miss the gnarled but tasty Dili tomatoes already.
And everybody tells me I need to consume. You know, buy stuff I don’t really need. Replace those shorts I have worn for ages in Dili. And that mobile phone is just so OLD. And those t-shirts look oh so naff. Get a grip – I am not going to buy a new car for the good of the country. Besides – every man and his dog in Dili seems to be buying blue jeans in Colmera.
I went to a local suburban club with some old mates and was amazed at the apparent dagginess of the premises until the beers kicked in and the band transformed from ho-hum to rock legends. It could have been related to the fact that the local hairdressers association were having their Christmas party and hit the dance floor. I was more than prepared for a trim right there and then.
And the internet speed – WOW. See you next year (1000 Gigabytes later.)
This is to my friend J-Lo (the name I shall refer to her even though she is not a film star and lives in Dili).
J-Lo is a treasure. I met her in 2005 and one day I even ended up working in her work-sphere. We traded friendly insults for ages and I even cooked for her. And one day she announces she has found THE man. It was’nt me. As a sop, she even conceded that in another life I might have been that bloke but we both know that Dr Who and the Planet Zog are not real.
Thanks sis, I will be biting at your heels forever. And “shut-up Barry”.
It appears this is the weekend for nativity scene building to start. It is on in earnest. But just try approaching the airport roundabout at night at the moment. It is one huge Christmas tree light show and Comorro Road even has Christmas tree lights down the middle.
I just don’t recall this level of Christmas activity in my time here. Similarly, Colmera shopping centre was buzzing on Saturday morning to a level I do not recall. Admittedly mostly clothing vendors selling from the footpath but activity of a high level with lots of buyers.
The waters off Dili remain filled with commercial vessels. Mostly vessels with rice which I am told will take several more weeks to process through the port.
This year, the road to the Cristo Rei statue has been upgraded and is now almost 100% pothole-less. It even has lights. It has new restaurants at Metiaut who have lifted the game a bit.
Further down past the Metiaut restaurant strip, there are signs of increased development with a trend to building properties on the seaside of the road with 2 metre high fences around them. Maybe one day, you will not be able to see the sea from the road.
Further along again, there is a big re-development of the Cristo Rei restaurant strip from Caz Bar onwards. Public toilets are being built at both ends and a new low stone wall alongside the road. Small statues sit each side of the numerous openings in this stone wall. A footpath is being constructed just over the wall.
I can almost see the day when this area has sun lounges for hire. Although this may appeal to some, a typical OZ response to that is to find another beach. Anyway, welcome to Cristo Riviera.
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.
On 2 February 2009, Timor Air intend to start an air service in direct competition to Air North. Rather than just do the Darwin-Dili leg, they intend to link from Cloncurry to Brisbane to Darwin to Dili to Bali.
This is a very attractive option if the price is right. They intend using a Darwin-based 94-seat Embraer E-190 which I guess means the draconian luggage limitations of Air North will be over. Not to mention that Darwin check-in chick.