Christmas stuff

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.

Cristo Riviera

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.

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.

The big backlog

Apart from being a bit behind in my random ramblings, I can’t help but notice the “backlog” of ships sitting in the waters off Dili.  There are 2 commercial vessels docked at the port, two being the port’s limit.  But there are 8 vessels anchored offshore.  Seven of these look like your typical commercial freight vessels and one looks like a dredger or something like that.

This backlog seems to have been here ever since the MV Doulos commandeered the port a couple of weeks back.  It just seems to be growing.  In “normal” times, one might see 1 or 2 vessels anchored offshore but they usually have moved on within 24 hours.  ???

There has another little flurry of road repairs lately, with the roads around the Palacio getting a new surface.  I am still swerving around imaginary potholes indelibly imprinted in my memory, even though they are not there anymore.  The road on the east side of the Palacio up past the Stadium has also received the treatment right up to Taibesse.  I almost miss that pothole nightmare at the stadium corner going into Audian.

It would be nice if they had a go at that section just outside Hotel Vila Verde.

For the past couple of weeks, there has been construction activity across from Lita supermarket.  Yes, these are to become permanent structures for fruit and veg sellers.  Am crossing fingers that they will not end up being shiny tin roofs.

And the construction across the road from the new EU embassy (on the eastern side of the Palacio) is landscape works funded by the EU.  Could define the likely future of landscape works from the Palacio to “Pig Bridge”.

The intention to convert all taxis to canary yellow is proceeding to the point where it is now more common to see yellow taxis than the more traditional alternative.  Given the deterioration of my bicycle in the local maritime environment, I will be interested to see how long the yellow taxis remain yellow.

The standard of UN Police driving yet again comes under the magnifying glass after a week or so of particularly shabby form in the accident department.  To be honest, it is becoming a joke.  It may just be bar talk, but tell me why UN Police are the most feared drivers in town.  Seems like many of them got their licences in a “super mi” packet (instant noodles – the local equivalent of the cornflakes packet).

Dili renovations

Some may have noticed renovations to the “Tais Market” in Colmera.  New roofing and walls plus a sign.  There are a few of those banners strung across the road at a few places promoting the new improved market – courtesy of USAid.

The future Presidential palace building next to the heliport is moving along, as is the new Chinese Embassy building on the seafront.  Perhaps something of more interest is the new 1st floor deck being built at Casa Minha thus providing another venue with views across the road to the sea.

The Aribu Beach Resort (near OceanView Hotel) remains in permanent building mode – one wonders when it will end.

Mid-year budget update background info

We all seem to know that there is an extra mid-year budget update process going on which at this stage represents a 122% increase in the budget allocation.  As always it is best to know your facts and Lao Hamutuk have kindly made some official documents plus some responses available on their web site.

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed.  I got sunburnt on Sunday and felt like a cooked prawn yesterday.  I had 3 bicycle flat tyres – (1) the original hole, (2) the faulty replacement inner tube and (3) my 1st repair to the original hole failed.  I am down to less than 10 minutes to do a tyre change now – something I have always aspired to !!!???

Student demonstrations

On Wednesday, students at the National University (just behind the Parliament Building) put on a rally demonstrating against the government providing new cars to all MPs.  They claim that in a time of increasing food prices, the poorer people in this country are having a struggle just to get enough food.  The government claim that MPs need cars to do their jobs.

From what I heard, it sounded very entertaining but appeared to have no effect on the government decision and security was never really an issue.

That night, I was woken several times by “yahooing” out in the street – motorcycles revving, car horns blowing, chanting.  Sounds travel a long way in the dead of a still Dili night and maybe my brain is sensitised to these sorts of sounds after 2006.  “Damn those students, I said … I need sleep”.  Gong !  It turned out it was a cheerful group doing some serious celebrating after a football game.

OOPS : Local papers report that following discussions between the government and the students, the students actually got the government to back off and reduce the number of new cars from the 65 planned to a much lower figure with none of them actually assigned to individual MPs.  Such success ought to get them employed as lobbyists for a whole range of issues.


I have almost forgotten what has changed lately, having spent far too much time pondering over Dili-gence technical problems in recent weeks.

As one commenter mentioned recently, it does look like the Indian Megha restaurant is closed and I think the Thai Pavilion has also shut its doors. That all comes not long after the Fat Boys closure and the temporary Thai Jasmin closure.  [ADDED : and Carlos (ex-Purple Cow) across from Exotica].

The Jardim IDP camp (ie the one between the port and Hotel Timor) has almost emptied of people and tents. To be honest, the area looks a bit on the post-apocalyptic side today.

The road block near the Memorial Hall by the lighthouse has now been removed, which will take the heat off the roads around Motael. Regular roadblocks outside Hotel Timor seem to be more common these days, presumably because some person deemed to be of note is staying in the hotel.

The odd bits of road repair are occuring. I am sure traffic is the heaviest I have ever seen these days.

The Mr. Timor competition was held last weekend. (Think male bodies, oil and bravado.) I was elsewhere at a farewell function but I am told it was all a bit of a laugh.

The dog bite wound is still slowly healing up. The back is better after the fall 2 weeks ago but the shoulder is not in such good shape – strained ligaments or something. Note to file : do not trip over while running at pace and hit a solid immovable object.

And FOS had a big birthday a couple of weeks back.

Tea and biscuits concluded

You could hardly have missed the commotion today as Gastao Salsinha and 11 of his “rebel” mates were escorted into the “Palacio do Governo” (Parliament House and associated Ministries). It was not the time to be out on the road around midday when the howling vehicles streamed in, the sirens blew and the chopper escort flapped in.

An hour or so later, it appeared to be repeated as the “rebels” were escorted to the Memorial Hall for a de-briefing by the “Joint Command” – the name for the combined F-FDTL (Timorese military) and PNTL (Timorese police).

Hopefully, all states of emergency and curfews can now be lifted and the coffee season can get underway, particularly in the Gleno/Ermera area.

Hopefully, some of the roadblocks (ie near the President’s home and around the Memorial Hall area) will be lifted. While the road out to the Christ Rei statue to the east is in absolutely marvelous condition after its recent re-surfacing, some of the normally quiet roads around the Memorial Hall traffic deviations have copped a pounding.

The road upgrade from Pig Bridge to the Hera turn-off is magnificent compared to what it was 2 months ago. What was becoming a torture track for the cyclist is now a smooth bitumen race-track all the way. Now if the President could just acquire a few more residences around town and share out his occupancy between them, then maybe we can have a few more road improvements.

On another note, I made the mistake (again) of declaring wet season over, only to be savaged again last evening by a proverbial bucketing *. Back to the knitting.

* Bucketing – a quaint term for acquiring extreme wetness in a similar manner to having a bucket of water poured over one’s head. Also used to describe being the victim of a verbal assault as if a full bucket of insults were poured on one’s head. Take your pick.