How did I miss World Toilet Day ?

What was I doing last week to miss “World Toilet Day” ?  The 19th November is now in my electronic diary forever.

It reminded me of some of my Asian toilet experiences :

  • Like the toilet that was concreted off-center onto the outlet pipe thus ensuring minimal passage of articles through the opening.  Now when you are on the 10th floor and and the eventual blockage resulting from your poorly placed “can” causes the higher 5 floors to backfill your toilet (and half of your apartment) with nightsoil water, I can tell you that you have got a problem.
  • Or the one where the new modern western public toilet block is constructed, training in use carried out BUT there was no door to lock off the toilet block BEFORE the outlet pipes were connected.  When discovered, it was a nightmare scene.
  • Or the very 1st time I had even seen an Asian “throttle pit” (ie squat toilet) was at an airport where I had foolishly had a blindingly hot curry the night before and had to hastily leave Customs with luggage in tatters while I made an emergency sprint to the toilets.  I had thought that the best way to transport the suit was to wear it – in retrospect, not on this occasion.

Alas, none of the above tales occured here in TL and I can not even think of any serious incident (actually involving a toilet where it was at fault and not me).

Is 19 November in your diaries yet ?

Changes, always changes

It seems like every time I look, something has changed.  I have made a few changes to restaurants in my Google Earth landmarks file which include amongst other things the apparent change of HarbourView Cafe to a Thai restaurant.  Maybe the sign was knocked down, is being cleaned/changed or maybe the HarbourView name is no more.

Besides becoming increasingly difficult to cross now, Comorro Road is changing at a rapid rate.  Perkins shipping has moved to “Banana Road”.  There must be about 4 new petrol stations and if you look over fences that you may otherwise fly past in your car, you will see lots of cleared land ready for something.

Physiotherapy Timor is now operating from near the Dili Club so you can get the full body service in that strip of shops now – haircut, massage, a curry, Thai food, pizzas, beer and physiotherapy if you fall off a bar stool.

Guido Valadares National Hospital & food

One of the most significant changes around town must be the transformation at the national hospital in Dili.  Two years ago, I would have been tempted to fly to Darwin to get an ingrown toenail attended to, but now the national hospital is starting to look fairly good.

It was held back for a long time by the large number of IDPs living in tents scattered across the hospital campus but since their move a couple of months ago, the renovations have continued.  Give it another 6 months and it should look pretty nice.  And there are no wandering pigs or chooks on the grounds anymore.

Oxfam have just released a revised report on the food supply situation and it does pose a warning about the ability of TL to feed itself.  In theory, there ought to be enough arable land and water to produce adequate supplies but the whole infrastructure around food production is a long way from being able to do this.

A few months back, I dropped into a farm just outside Maubisse while on the way back from Mt. Ramelau.  Unlike most rural properties, it looked like a market garden and I wondered who they sold their stuff to.  It turned out that they had no mechanism to get this stuff to Dili.  No transport of their own and no established mechanism for uniting buying and seller.  (I drafted up some text for a sign and told them to put it facing the oncoming traffic so they can’t miss it – I wonder if they did do this.)

Apparently USAid have helped setup such a mechanism.  I don’t know if that particular property is part of it, but a group called “Zero Star Company” (operating as Timor-Leste Fresh) are selling fruit and (mainly) vegetables by the crate and doing home delivery.  With the closing down of many of the street-side markets, it will probably affect the expat buyer the most and fortuitously, this new delivery procedure will probably appeal to expats most.

Maubisse is about 2 hours drive from Dili in the hills.  It is much cooler and provides better conditions for growing some of your typical western favoured vegetable items – broccoli for one.  This is also the place for the premium coffee.

The bad week has now ended

I believe I have almost recovered from the expired credit card saga.  Not that a credit card is particularly useful here, but if you have a few automatic deductions going through your card and it expires and due to a delivery error, the replacement card is returned and destroyed, and you start getting notifications suggesting that automatic payments are failing, well …

And then you have all this trouble re. this website not being visible to local internet users – need I say more in this post.  I think I am making headway on this one.

And you cop a bad prawn at a local restaurant on the weekend thus resulting in “enjoying oneself in reverse”, mercifully in the ablution facilities at home.

And you also hurt your back by tripping over while running thus making lying down an ineffective vector for cutting edge relaxation.  Well, its over.

I am popping an ibuprofen and am going to stack a few zeds tonight prior to tomorrow’s cultural extravaganza in front of the Palacio do Governo.  Military parade and flag raising at 9am.  Cultural activities during the day.  More military parade and flag lowering at 5pm and fireworks at 8:30pm down at Cristo Rei.   Monty Python here we come.

Cuban Doctors

I’ll get to the Cuban doctors but I was visiting the National Hospital during the week and was gobsmacked to find that the huge number of IDPs (internally displaced persons) have disappeared.  I know this was causing a major problem.  Imagine running a hospital with many of the bits of green space between buildings and pathways filled in with people living in tents.  It had been like that for about 2 years.

Dili National Hospital is a sprawling campus of ground level buildings in various states of repair and renovation.  New parts have been built in the last year or so and they look quite reasonable and even more so without the mini-tent city to navigate around.

The removal of the IDPs must have happened within the last 2 weeks.  There will be fewer chickens wandering the grounds and one suspects a vast improvement in general sanitation around the place.

I understand that the hospital system relies quite heavily on the input of Cuban doctors.  There was an interesting documentary on TV a few weeks back which helped fill in a few information gaps for me on the Cuban health education system.  Cuban doctors work for very little money and a lot of them are sent around the world.

There are over 250 Cuban doctors here in TL, practicing in hospitals all over the country.  Their salaries and flights out here are paid by the Cuban government but accommodation and local transport is provided by the TL government.  Some say the whole health system depends on the Cubans to keep it running at all.

St.Patricks Day

In Dili, this is my one day of the year when Guinness takes priority over all other forms of ingestible substances.  In fact, its the only day at all in Dili when it is possible to imbibe of the elixir of life – well, its the elixir until tomorrow morning.  It dredges up memories of evenings at Filthy McFaddens and afternoons around the keg …….

Getting back to reality for just a moment, the Riung Kuring restaurant seems to be now known as the “Wasabi” Japanese/Indonesian restaurant – card marked.  I think I recently called the “Sabai Sabai” restaurant (ex Soupys/Bangkok Thai) the Sabia.  You know what’s its like … you try to remember : “when I get home, its the Sabai, Sabai, Sabai,  Sabai,  Sabai,  Sabai”.  Then you get home and its the Sabia.  What was I thinking ?

These days, there is a new establishment next to the Sabai Sabai called the ???? which does body maintenance or something like that.  Presume I mean massage, hair cut or something along those lines.  I couldn’t remember that one by the time I got home either.

Its not all gravy though.  I once did the Guinness brewery tour and I wasn’t sure if I was in Disneyland Dublin-style or not.

Dengue valley

Now that the 6th expat I know has succumbed to dengue fever within the last month, I reckon it is becoming an issue.  Hearing of the 5 or so days of lying prone in bed feeling like crap certainly has elevated my analness re. slapping on a bit of the old “Eau de Repellent”.

However, one of my doctor mates says it is still nowhere near as bad as it was at this time 3 years ago.  I am not sure exactly how it all works, but dengue mozzies operate in a short range and if you just happen to operate in the same zone, you are choice material unless you have the appropriate chemical arsenal on hand.

If you add in the number of people who have suffered some form of gastric utterance over the last month, it seems like a pretty unhealthy time all up.  I haven’t heard of any malaria issues so see no need to stock up on the gin just so I can get enough tonic into me (yet).  Are you with me ?

Shorts – to read not wear

(1) I noticed another raid on known girlie bars around town has netted another 87 foreign Asian nationals. I understand that people involved in the trafficking of women and associated prostitution regard countries going through internal conflict as good bases for their operations. I suspect the presence of the UN is also a good indicator.

The raids have included Mona Lisa, Moon, Great Wall and Mayflower Bars and (although I am not sure on this one) the Non-Drunking Bar. I have never been to any of these – honest !

(2) A couple of days ago, I read that the Timorese government had asked Australia to allow Timorese workers in to mitigate labour shortages in the fruit picking industry. I was speaking to a Timorese who runs his family’s coffee plantation way up in the highlands and he laughed. He struggles to get Timorese to work for him to pick coffee. He might get a couple of days work then they have had enough. His worker retention rate was less than 10% and he aint giving up those 10%. He knew why OZ had ignored the request.

(3) The Comorro River mouth has broken through to the sea about 300 metres east of the most direct route.  The current channel runs parallel to the seashore and runs right past the Ocean View deck which has been running a big risk of being undermined.  Some of the supports have been strengthened.

(4) There is a bar that is new to me called “Amigos Club” which is upstairs from the New Sanan Rai restaurant a couple of hundred metres east of the ANZ bank.  Cozy with a terrace bar feel, it looks promising for a private function of about 20 but no more.

(5) A friend underwent emergency surgery at Dili National Hospital a couple of days ago.  The preferred option of flying to Darwin simply wasn’t on in this case.  The operation was performed by an OZ doctor and a Dutch anaesthetist and reportedly, the experience was a happy one – at least the bit after the emergency reception area.  The operating bit was done in the new section of hospital opened not so long ago.  No red wine was involved.

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 !

A dengue fever heads-up

A dengue fever outbreak is spreading throughout SEAsia.  TL is at the southern end of SEAsia and currently in the dry season unlike some of the other more northern SEAsian countries.  However, outbreaks in Indonesia are expected to double the number of cases this year.

Maybe TL will be spared during the dry season but later in the year when the rains come, it could be interesting.  I admit to becoming a bit complacent with the application of repellent which is a bit stupid when not so long ago, you have seen an acquaintance leave the country after contracting dengue.