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.

Salsinha almost in custody

Reports suggest Gastao Salsinha is sort-of, almost in custody.  Given he has promised to hand himself in about 57 times, I am not giving this “just about, almost, anytime soon” stuff much credence until he is seen in Dili having tea and biscuits with the PM.

Ermera is still in a curfew condition and I guess that will not be lifted until Senor Salsinha is back here in Dili – plus a few of his mates.  Ermera is one of the main centres of the coffee industry and the harvest is due to start in a matter of weeks.  It will be a good thing to get all of this curfew stuff out of the way before then or people will get mighty cheesed off.  I understand that once coffee processing gets underway, its a 24 hour operation – hard to do with a curfew in place.

It has now not rained in Dili for a week and the weather pattern is pretty much dry season stuff now.  The air is not so humid and the dust levels are starting to get noticeable again.  Take a good long look at the lush green vegetation right now before it slowly slips away for 6 months.

State of emergency lifted, replaced by state of bamboozlement

Unless I am sadly mistaken, the state of emergency and associated curfew has been lifted thus enabling one to officially gather in large groups and stay out late. Around Ermera, the state of emergency remains.

I hope this means the Timorese military cool it a bit and stop this confounded racing at high speed around town with lights flashing just to get back for lunch. I hope it means one sees less of these guys with loaded (and safety off) rifles swaggering around the place.

President Horta gave a speech today in Parliament and I have only got snippets courtesy of a Portuguese to English machine translation. Lots of religious talk and lots of amnesties being tossed around like confetti. The follow-up to all this will be interesting.

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I am completely bamboozled by the President’s statements of late. I just can’t follow the flow at all.

The quake

The media is swamped with articles about the big shake here in Dili.  In January 2006, I commented on a big shake at that time.  But I have a less inspiring story this time.

I was mooching around the house this morning doing stuff and left my morning shower until I had done a bit of sweating first.  There I was showering away, head in a lather doing the shampoo job when the more attractive half of the house rushed in to share earthquake experiences.  Apparently the place swayed and shook and all loose items had a bit of a sway/shake/rattle.

Being in the middle of a good shampoo job on my head, I knew nothing about it at all.   Nothing broke, no tsunami, I must have been on the Planet Zog.  That’s some good shampoo !!

The end of the wet season – not just yet

To whoever it was I said “I think the wet season is over as the early morning and evening humidity has dropped dramatically” … well, that’s why I am not a meteorologist.  Over the last hour or so, it could well have been the heaviest bucketing this year or just that if you are caught in it, it just seems worse.

The house is surrounded by a 4 inch deep lake as is everywhere I have been over the last hour.  I actually feel drenched and cold.  I also looked out to sea and thought “wow, the world biggest low tide stretching out twice as far as I have seen it”.  Then it started sinking in, that’s not low tide, that’s garbage floating several hundred metres out.  Tons of it.

It is not pretty.  If the roads can be repaired in super-fast time just for the President’s return then stuff can obviously be done but this rubbish thing is getting out of hand.

Another reason I thought the wet may be over was the amount of dust in the air yesterday.  I’ll take a punt and suggest that there was a massive amount of extra sweeping yesterday just to make the street spotless for the President’s homecoming.  Now I know where all the swept away stuff is !

The return of the President

This is the time to be brushing up on the old Ben Hur movie as tomorrow’s welcome back for President Ramos-Horta is looking like it could be bigger than Ben.

Tomorrow has been called a “day of tolerance” and I believe this means tomorrow morning is a public holiday which might mean not much going on in government offices.

The President arrives at 8am which will be followed by a brief Press Conference.  The population are being encouraged to line the roads to welcome back the President.  I think it was decided it would be a good thing not to encourage people to swamp the airport.

Meanwhile the next move in the rebel stakes is that Gastao Salsinha has promised to hand himself in on 27 April.  I am not sure of the significance of this date but it may mean the “state of emergency” will continue past the current 22 April finish date.

The President’s return has been a magnificent thing for the roads from town out to his residence near the Christo Rei statue – except if you actually wanted to use that road during the roadworks of the past week or so.  I used that road on the weekend and can only say I am looking forward to the final result which in theory, must be finished by 8am tomorrow.

This is but one way to schedule roadworks.  But you need a lot of Presidents if you want the whole country done.

Food crisis

Until now I thought the world food shortage would have little impact on the typical ex-pat here in Dili.  That’s until I re-stocked the Mrs.Macs pie supplies at lunchtime.  Good grief, US$3-75 for a frozen pie.  This is certainly crisis material.

At last look, an Asian sourced 3-minute noodles was still 15 cents if you looked hard enough.  That’s 25 packets of noodles per pie.  Anyone for an eat-off – I’ll take the pie, you take the 25 packets of noodles.  I’ll even share the sauce.

Roadworks 101

I know it has been raining a bit lately.  And the roads have been steadily deteriorating but the current roadworks from “Pig Bridge” to the Hera turn-off are trying the patience of the most sturdy of characters.

Most of the remaining bitumen has been ripped up and numerous mounds of soil have been dumped on the road surface.  Travel times to the Christo Rei statue have doubled.  By the living Je***, its hard to cycle down there now !

The slow pace has meant more time to observe the fact that “Thai Foods” has morphed (ever so briefly) to “Thai Reterong” to “Thai Moon” restaurant.

My love of dogs has taken a severe battering lately after the dog bite.  Its now 2 weeks and the “hole” in my leg is still struggling to heal.  When a chunk of flesh goes missing, its pretty hard to facilitate a neat healing process.

I am due to visit the site of the bite incident next week and I will be taking the cricket bat as protection – vengeance will be mine !