More than one person whether it be friend or relative has said to me “why stay? … you must be mad”.
Good question. I am an expat. I am here as a short to medium term foreigner doing their stuff then moving on. While doing this stuff, I have no home to go back to. This is my home. This is where my slippers are ! If I leave, I either stay in a hotel somewhere or bludge off friends or relatives.
I sat around a couple of days ago with a group of mates shooting the breeze and consuming a few lagers. An attempt was made to solve the world’s problems but we failed. Not one person would rather be anywhere else. We regard we are now safe. We all looked at the setting sun and agreed that it was absolutely bloody fantastic.
We also agreed the current situation was an absolute bloody shambles.
I went to a BBQ on the weekend and there certainly was a sense of having been through a very tense period but maybe the worst was over.
That may be true for the expats, who at the end of the day will always have a free flight out of here, but there is certainly a feeling amongst the locals that it is far from finished and that there are quite a few moves to be made yet. On the weekend, the rumour mill was active again and there was an expectation of an “attack” on Dili on Monday.
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that over 1,000 well-trained, well-equipped and well-fed foreign troops supported by choppers, laser-guided weaponry, APCs and a couple of warships are going to make mincemeat of even a few hundred “rebels”. If they really want a stoush, they will want it up in the hills on their turf.
So a few more people left Dili, the shops are even quieter than last week and nothing happened.
Good on you for sticking it out. Like in most third world countries, the expat population do do plenty of good work, even if there is the occasional bout of colonial superiority!
Just curious. Did you ever really feel unsafe?
In retrospect, it is now much easier to answer that question. I would say that I felt unsafe for 24 hours, anxious for 10 days and apprehensive for another 10 days.
Unlike foreign journos, for instance, I did not seek troublespots and the trouble did not seek me. I know of few expats who ever saw trouble up close. They may have seen the results and I know some whose offices were trashed, one who lost his vehicle, one who had his motorbike beaten a bit (but fortunately had a petrol tank lock), but otherwise expats were NOT targetted.
I had declined an offer to take Air Hercules to Darwin during an apprehensive day. I did pack an evacuation bag and I have to say that deciding just what to take (on the basis that everything else could be gone on one’s return) is a sobering experience.
As soon as the very first OZ soldier hit the deck, any real safety concerns evaporated, although I do refrain from any unnecesary night-time activity.
Thanks. Always interesting to me to learn about expats ‘under fire’.Assuming your neighbours are locals, life went on for them much the same as yours did. No drama, just inconvenience.