TL and the obesity epidemic

There isn’t one.  Next.

So I read today that nearly 50% of OZ adults are overweight or obese.  After a while here, you forget but one quick trip to Darwin (and the Casuarina Shopping Mall) and you start to become convinced it may just be true.

I suppose it says something about the expats who are here.  Maybe they are the go-getters who are prepared to just “do stuff”.  I mean if you want to do as many things as easy as possible, you probably don’t want to be here.  And with no Maccas, KFC, Crispy Cream Donuts, fried take-away joints and no air-conditioned shopping malls to wile away the hot periods in between ice creams, well it may not be the place for those who always get their money’s worth at a smorgasbord.

Dili now has traffic lights which occasionally perform a useful function and new street lights are in operation in parts of town, so it may only be a matter of time before a true foreign junk food outlet arrives to attack our guts.

You see the occasional overweight expat but they really are rare.  As for the Timorese, I don’t think I have ever seen an obese person.  There is one exception here and that is Timorese politicians.  Some of them have clearly adopted western dietary ways and are carrying a shade too many mangos under the shirt.

At the end of the day, the constant heat coupled with the proximity to places where you can exercise freely (ie running, cycling, swimming) means that my own general health is as good as it has been for a long time.  The downsides tend to be higher risks in the hygiene area, general food safety and water supply purity.

There are two dedicated ice cream shops in Dili that I know of, but if you are really into western food that puts on a bit of tonnage, you are stuck with pizzas, hamburgers and as-many-as-you-can-get-down “pasteis de nata” from Hotel Timor (mmm).  Oh yeah, and beer.

Driving blindfolded

Driving between 6pm and 8pm is now becoming a bit like driving blindfolded.  Having had a near collision with a motorbike without lights, you may as well drive blindfolded.  (After 8pm, the general traffic diminishes so it is not as noticeable.)

Having been sensitised by this incident (ie he was heading for my driver’s door), I counted well over a dozen similar blacked-out motorbikes and a few cars as well over the next few minutes.  Having raised this in conversation, it appears I am not the only one to notice.

The curious belief that using lights uses up more petrol is often mentioned.  In other cases, the bikes and cars just do not have functioning lights – a lot of this from being belted with rocks or sticks over the last 12 months.  I suspect few vehicles would pass OZ-style roadworthy tests.

There are a few other aspects that would also fail such tests.  The first is cars with tinted windows so dark, you can not detect any sign of life through the windows and secondly, vehicles with cages instead of windows, which make them look like vehicles from a “Mad Max” movie or from a speedway circuit.

It’s safer on the bicycle.

Water problems

If you can’t talk about bottoms and personal hygiene, do not read any further. This article is for scatologists only. Repeat : “Warning Will Robinson”.

For the last week, I have self-diagnosed myself as having a mild case of giardia. In the past, I have had the real deal but this is very mild. If you have had it, you know the drill – bad wind, burping, distended stomach, bloatedness, following by the occasional evacuation. Add on to that a bit of lethargy and loss of energy.

For me, it has been manageable this time except for the day I “followed through”. May I thank the Lord for permitting this to happen while at home and not (for example) while riding my bike.

While in South America, I was not so lucky. Three hours on a bus in the Andes, precipitous drops right outside the bus window, arrive at destination, feel warm wetness in nether regions, ask partner to check rear-end, confirmed severe accident and I didn’t even know I did it. Emptied contents of underwear, hauled them straight back up and proceeded to tackle the day as planned (sans toilet or any personal hygiene products). That was one of those days when you just want to go into a coma until it is all over. And the next day, I was in a coma.

I had pondered whether you should all know this, but I grabbed the half-consumed plastic bottle of commercially acquired water from last week, opened it up and … it smelt like a botty burp (ie toilet water). I had another bottle in the corner that had been opened for a couple of weeks and … no smell of used toilet paper. Conclusion : I copped a bad bottle and domestic environmental conditions were not to blame.

I am not the only one who been affected by reverse enjoyment, and I have got off lightly as the main detrimental effect has been loss of energy and the strong desire to lie down and have a good deskansa. (Or malinger around my laptop and write blithering dross.)

The word around town is that the culprit is the large plastic water barrels that many people use for drinking water. I doubt that any expat would risk tap water, whether it be the Dili piped supply or bore water. The OZ doctor has had a big run with this one and the drug that appeared to fix it up for severe sufferers was the classic anti-giardia drug, Bactrim. Hence my self-diagnosis.

It seems to be well-known that the bottled water company has quality control issues at regular intervals. I assume this means “run out of chemical A … she’ll be right for a week”, or “UV lamps broken … better order some more”. A long-term resident once told me to never use the barrel water. So one reverts to the smaller 1.5 l and 0.6 l plastic bottles, which has been the house rule for last 2 or 3 weeks.

It is somewhat disconcerting to cop a bad small bottle as well. But I did buy it in LosPalos last week and I had never seen this particular brand in Dili before. Warning over.

Driving – Dili-style

During the week, UNPol announced that they would be clamping down on cars without licence plates, unregistered cars and unlicenced drivers. They were also going to target riding on the roof of microlets (mini-buses) – a very common sight outside of Dili.

The roof riding practice is a bit dangerous, particularly on some of the mountainous roads around the place. UNPol refer to the high accident rate but I would like to see some statistics on this.

One day, the infamous new traffic lights will actually be switched on and this is likely to cause quite a bit of trouble. People do not bother with give-way rules or stop and give-way signs so it will take some to time to become accustomed to a new road discipline.

My general feel is that speeding is the most dangerous form of driving here. Supposedly, the Dili speed limit is 45km/hr but I would think that apart from taxis, this limit is exceeded by most drivers most of the time. But I am not talking about drivers doing 50 kph but those sprinting down Dili streets at closer to 100 kph. When I am on my bicycle, I don’t like it.

Although I have never had a dangerous moment, I have withdrawn off the road a couple of times in the face of vehicles overtaking and coming straight for me. They had plenty of time to adjust their manouevre but elected to press on. I had plenty of time to move off the road and on the odd occasion, have enough time to make rude hand gestures and curse their mothers. There is just a bit too much overtaking on urban roads for my liking.

That brings us to “Whitey”. I don’t know “Whitey” but apparently, he was a well-known local fixture in the building contractor game. While riding his motorbike on New Years’ Eve, he encountered 2 F-FDTL army trucks seemingly racing down the beach road near the Ocean Harbour View cafe*. He was hit badly and sustained very serious injuries. The army trucks did not stop and I am unaware if there has been any success in finding the trucks or drivers.

I believe “Whitey” has had a number of operations in hospital in Australia and I know a number of people here are thinking about him. It is worth noting that there is no insurance system in TL, so unless his employer has some decent cover, it could be a bit of a problem financially.

* I often make the mistake and call Harbour View the Ocean View which is of course the other end of town.

Dangerous Mangoes

Over the last couple of weeks, mangoes have hit the streets in big numbers.  The tree hanging over the back fence had been bulging with ripe fruit until today when some of the local kids got up into it and harvested as many as they could.  They did a lot of shaking and quite a few landed on our side of the fence.  Thanks guys.  I ain’t climbing up into a 15m high mango tree.

Just yesterday, I had been speaking to a volunteer doctor who had told me one of the most common injuries at this time of year is kids who have fallen from mango trees. It is always kids and there are few safety measures put into practice.  At this time of year, there is no lush greenery so wherever you fall, it is hard.

Whereas I am happy to wait for them to fall, when it comes to the potential income hanging up there in the tree, why wait when someone else may nab them first.

I just wish mangoes were easier to eat, instead of being like a slippery bar of soap. But I just lurv mangoes.

First Lady Fun Run Results

Last Sunday’s 2nd Annual First Lady Cup Fun Run is over and was a great success. The UN police were most impressed with the organisation of the run and it was totally problem free.

For the record, the results are shown below. Timor-Leste runners did pretty well, particularly the girls.

Top Ten Male

1st... William Harding 35.03
2nd... Richard Quirk
3rd... Filipe Rodrigues (TL)
4th... Augusto Ramos (TL)
5th... Januario da Costa (TL)
6th... Jameto Doreigo (TL)
7th... Steven Tetley
8th... Salim
9th... Robert Murphy
10th... Christian George

Top Ten Female

1st... Ines Markes 48.50 (TL)
2nd... Ruth Cornelius
3rd... Lola salves de Gama (TL)
4th... Gloriana Fatima (TL)
5th... Celia Martin
6th... Annabel Taylor
7th... Fatima Soares (TL)
8th... Aliansa Ramos (TL)
9th... Maria Duana (TL)
10th... Maureen Bronjes

I finished the 10kms … lets talk about the weather, shall we ?

Getting blog technical

I have implemented some blog site anti-spam software AND closed off permission to comment on older postings.  Most blog comment spam seems to be aimed at older posts so closing those has cut 98% of all my comment spam.

The anti-spam software that sifts through the recent posts seems to be spot on and catches the other 2%.

This move is saving me lots of headaches and frustration.

The Slob returns

I was doing so well, then 10 days in OZ and I am a wreck. Stress relief ? Recidivist slob ?

I did my bit to reduce the OZ wine lake and never refused seconds. Results +3kgs, out of shape, dacks a bit tight … back to the punishment.

Weather great as usual, popped down to Christo Rei to commence physical recovery. And what is there now that wasn’t there the last time I went. A whole lot of (presumably) Portuguese military police (GNR) stripped down to g-strings* doing push-ups I dream about.

Girls, I will give you a tip. If you like 6-packs and beefcake, Christo Rei in the afternoon is your place. As for me (and a few other normal types), I just tried to hide in the corner as much as possible.

* more commonly known in OZ as budgie smugglers

The Mosquito Terrorist

Now who would have thought ?

Most people I know here have equipped themselves with the near ubiquitous mosquito bat and I have several mates in other places envious of these essential anti-malarial and anti-dengue devices. (Refer a previous post Tennis anyone ?)

One of my long (but never lost) mates from Central Victoria expressed a desire to acquire one of these murderous weapons. I recall many moons ago working in that very place with both hands fully occupied with task at hand and 10,000,000 flies determined to tip me over the edge of sanity.

So on my recent visit to Darwin, I thought it a good opportunity to carry such a device for subsequent mailing through the OZ postal system.

“Excuse me sir. I am making you aware that you have stated that you are not carrying any weapons or other items in contravention of the customs act”. (Or words to that effect.)

“Wot?” I replied in my best strine.

“Can you move over here and open your suitcase?”

“Yes … don’t tell me it is the mosquito bat ?”

As he grabs it, “Yep … come this way sir”.

Twenty minutes later with feverish sweat on brow, the customs boys hand me my “Seizure Notice” as follows :

1 hand-held electronic device designed to administer electric shock on contact

I left a beaten man.

The Trip to Darwin

I had better get accustomed to return trips to Darwin as I have another 2 dental maintenance trips to do over the next 3 months.

The usual way to Darwin is via AirNorth flights in a 30-seater Embrauer Brasilia turboprop aircraft which takes around 1.5 hours.

On the way to the airport, I mentioned to the other half “I wonder how many people we will know at the airport ?”. Answer : about half a dozen. Yep, Dili is a small place.

The flight also included a small group of Timorese WW2 veterans heading off to Melbourne for Anzac Day. I had read all about them already. Check out the following link at the Melbourne Age – The Age 25 April 2006

Anyway, having copped the raw prawn * courtesy of my rear molar, it only seemed fitting that I arrive in Darwin a day before a cyclone warning. It was looking like the biggest cyclone to hit the north coast on record and bigger than Cyclone Tracy which obliterated Darwin in 1975.

Fortunately, it drifted south and missed Darwin and I only spent one extra day in Darwin while the city went into lockdown. I was told not to bother going to the airport to get my scheduled flight out as all other airlines had cancelled flights and someone even told me the army had taken over the airport for emergency measures.

I couldn’t contact AirNorth or the airport which was closed, so I didn’t bother going to the airport for my original return flight.

Now tell me why all the other airlines cancelled flights and little old AirNorth actually flew out at my scheduled time ?

* cop the raw prawn – receive something disagreeable, often hot and steaming