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 !

Waste, trash and other rubbish

I went for a long walk along the beaches towards the Christo Rei statue recently and was amazed at the amount of rubbish washed up on the sand.  I suspect most of it was flushed out of the Dili city drains after recent rains and later deposited to the east of town.

This area on the east side just happens to be touristy/relaxation side with restaurants and often used for exercise.  It looks bad.

Another related thing is the slowly increasing size of the ad-hoc dump on the top of “Ramos-Horta hill” (as it is often called).  Right at the top of this hill (which has sweeping views of the seaside below) is a small area which is used to dump rubbish.  It is at the top of a natural drainage path, which in heavy rain probably runs like a torrent.

This drain empties into the bay area occupied by Caz Bar, Sol e Mar and as it looks right now, one or two more new establishments in the making.  This is probably the most heavily utilised relaxation spot in Dili.  This area is also behind a reef which at low tide extends a long way out, so any “pollution” entering this area, has a bit of a struggle getting flushed out.

It is my guess that if this situation is left too long, horrible nasties will eventually leach out of this dump into the natural drain and end up in this nice touristy recreation area.  And as it is behind the reef, the nasties will more than likely settle in the area behind the reef.

This situation applies on the Dili side of “Ramos-Horta hill”.  But on the other side, the amount of urban rubbish being dumped is steadily increasing.  Maybe I am too sensitive, but it is becoming a disgrace.  Piles of rubbish dumped on the once pristine areas of the foreshore.  Try to find a clean spot to park near the water amongst the trees and you are more than likely going to find a pile of bottles or cans etc.  Fortunately, the dogs and pigs have snaffled out all the usable organic matter before it arrives on the beach.

Some of the used bottles do get recycled as containers for fuel, tua, and honey.  However, it is a pity that there is no noticeable domestic waste recycling industry here because if there was a return for all the empty glass bottles, plastic bottles and cans, I am sure there are plenty of people who will clear it up.

Yep, it did rain again

Having previously bagged the forecasters for predicting rain which never came, it finally did come on Tuesday via an afternoon bucketting.  It really tested the newly constructed drains around town but until I stand out in the rain and watch the water movement in detail, the jury is out on the usefulness of these new works.

The new drains comprise quite a high barrier on the kerb which may annoy low-slung cars no end in the door opening department.  The drain itself seems a little on the small side given rain here usually comes by the container-load when it does come.  And it is noticeable that the drain itself is a bit on the rectangular side making it a bit bumpy for vehicles entering adjoining properties.  The result is that many people have already filled in the drain outside their premises to smooth vehicular entry.  Something tells me this is not going to work.

Nevertheless, during this rare rain event, the roof at home leaked as usual, water hammered in under the back door, the front gate was reduced to a lake and it was business as usual.

Predicting Dili weather like betting on the horses

A while back I plugged as the best Dili weather report on the internet.  Up ’til then, all I ever heard was the daily Radio OZ report which told me 30+/-3 degrees every day.  Then it would tell me “cloudy all day” when it wasn’t, “thunderstorms” when there was no rain at all.

I just can’t see the point in telling me the temperature here.  I know it is going to be 27 to 34 degrees every day of the year and the temperature is not going to have any effect on what I wear or do.   The key differentiating features are humidity and whether it is going to bucket down rain or not.

When it comes to predicting rain, Dili is a bit of a forecasters nightmare.  It sits in a little bowl just between the sea and some steep hills.  At this time of the year, the clouds will often creep over the hills after lunch, look ominous then fall back again.  This can go on for weeks and it is the time that the weather reports predict rain over and over again and nothing comes even close.

Just like betting on the Melbourne Cup which had Dili Club, Dili Beach Hotel, One More Bar and others hopping on an otherwise quiet Tuesday afternoon in Dili.

Clean air

Apart from when it is windy and you might cop a lungful of dust, Dili air approaches magnificent … except when you pass the odd ablution premises in need of a bit of a rinse or a rubbish receptacle being gorged by a ravenous pig.

If I was an Olympic athlete (shooters and other more sedentary “athletes” excluded) I would be very nervous about next year’s Beijing Olympics. I would be doubling up on the clean underwear and praying like hell that competition day is one of the good days. I know you sometimes can’t see Atauro clearly but imagine rarely being able to see the Christo Rei statue from central Dili because of pollution.

Meanwhile, enjoy the clean air in Dili which each and every day is becoming heavier and heavier with humidity. The glasses are starting to fog again … the optical ones I meant !  OK, they both do.

Bring back the drums

Last week, it was the phones. This week, it is increasingly becoming power. We seem to be back to daily power cuts which would appear to be scheduled to give everyone a fair go. Based on past experience, this indicates a shortfall in generating capacity and I understand that another generator has bitten the dust.

Lots of power cuts mean lots of lost productivity and more stresses on equipment. More time to find out that the generator monitoring person has not filled the diesel tank or has no reserve supply of fuel. More time to mutter – “let’s go to the pub instead”.

Doesn’t really matter – no-one sets the time on a microwave in Dili anyway. Expect cuts like this until New Year.

Food shortages

There have been a couple of recent articles citing a World Food Programme (WFP) report on food shortages here.  The June 2007 WFP report was based on the situation as it stood in early April 2007.  At that time, the wet season had been late and brief.  Many rice paddies that should have been wet and soggy were bone dry.

I invite anyone to correct me here, but I understood that unseasonal rains in June kicked off an unseasonal additional planting.  And hence, the local supply situation changed.

I recall an acquaintance arriving fresh off the boat and being gobsmacked at the plentiful supply of food available in the local markets.  He had come expecting that food supplies were critical.  When relatives ask me if I am having trouble obtaining food, you realise it is all about perceptions.  I am OK – the farmer way up in the hills is the one with the problem.

The January rice shortage was related to stuffing up the supply of imported rice which TL requires every year.  For the past few months, I have noted regular large shipments of imported rice coming in.  These rice arrivals are noticeable as they are accompanied by a fleet of over-laden trucks escorted by UN police.

Anyway, I am not sure one can keep quoting the WFP report and its expected 30% shortfall in staple grains.  Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with beefing things up in an attempt to reduce the reliance on imported staples.

The weather

It rained for the 1st time in a couple of months on Friday.  Only light but followed days of overcast skies.  Most mornings, I listen to Radio OZ and shake my head at the Dili weather report.  Predictions of rain are mostly wrong and some of “raining now” comments even more wrong.  When the maximum daily temperatures are in the range 26 to 34 degrees year-round, it doesn’t tend to tell me anything I need to know.  As for comfort, humidity is something that tends to be an important factor.

However, I have just subscribed to the free daily weather reports available at and it seems to provide the information that gives a better picture – including humidity.

At 2pm, I read 29 deg and 79% humidity.  Freemeteo predicted 28 deg and 72 to 86% humidity and partly cloudy with chance of rain.  I tend to go along with that.  Freemeteo predicts humidity to rise to 88 to 89% this evening with more clouds.

Does humidity matter ?  Well, spot the fresh arrival straight off the boat in a smart business suit – a garment totally unsuitable to this climate.  You can bet that underneath the jacket, the pristine white shirt is in a sea of perspiration and the wearer being aware of this, unwilling to take off the jacket to display the carnage underneath.


I did a big trip on the bicycle on the weekend (4 tyre punctures) on the seaside stretch to the east. Even the “green slime” tyre inserts did nothing to prevent the punctures.

But what disturbed me more was the increasing rubbish on the top of “Ramos-Horta hill”. If you go east towards Hera past Jose Ramos-Horta’s residence, you climb a steep hill and at the top, there has been a burnt-out bus for ages. Someone has finally pushed the bus over the edge and it is now looking exactly like a rubbish dump. People are using this spot (with wonderful views) to dispose of industrial rubbish. It is getting worse.

Further on, I passed a number of beaches where similar rubbish dumping is occuring. So you go to relatively remote beaches and find truckloads of rubbish dumped in the vegetation by the beach.

Guys, this is a trend that needs reversing. And pumping out septic tanks into drains and …

So much for my end of dry season

Right through the wet season, the clouds roll in over the hilltops over Dare, sometimes rolling on for a downpour and other times, lingering then rolling back again later in the afternoon.

Then that seems to stop, the dust starts rising and you feel that the wet has ended.  I thought that 2 weeks ago.  Then today, Hughey dumps what seemed like the biggest dump of the year.  Down the street, several trees lost huge branches over the roads and the locals were chopping them up straight away.  A huge lightning burst followed by instantaneous thunder suggested a local lightning strike to me.

Outside the front gate and back door was its usual temporary lake.  The roof leaked as usual, water came in under the doors and one window leaked badly.

And as usual, the local kids were out playing the rain, lying in puddles and generally doing exactly the opposite of what I was told to do as a kid.  With me it was “now don’t you go down and play in the canal” – I did.

I suspect that it is the reverse here : “now go out and play in the rain”.  And they do.

It can not be great fun living in the IDP camps which still exist.  The camps tend to have fallen off most people’s radar now but if I had to guess, numbers have probably only dropped by 1/3 at the most.  They are just not set up to handle living in a few inches of water.