Over the last week, it seems that many of Dili’s expat residents have started returning. I’d say more than 50% of people I know are back.
Some will just pick up the pieces from where they left off and kick on from there. Some others may not be so fortunate. I know some contract professionals at the Ministry of Agriculture who returned to find their offices trashed, files gone, computers gone, obscene graffiti everywhere. One would hope they do have off-site backups. If not, its a complete start from scratch.
Imagine what you would think if you came back home (after being evacuated to Darwin for 10 days) to find your office trashed with nothing left, your children’s school closed indefinitely and your accommodation compulsorily acquired by foreign peacekeepers. I would take all that as a good hint to retire gracefully.
Not that Dili ever was a great place for expat kids, but it would appear it certainly is not now. The two international schools (that I know of) are closed indefinitely.
But I find some perverted irony in the fact that a country like Timor-Leste which is predominantly an agricultural society, should lose its Ministry of Agriculture almost entirely. Some other government departments have pressed on albeit with vastly reduced numbers.
Now you might think that with all this trouble that the electrical supply might be disrupted. Wrong. It feels like the electricity supply has been the best it has ever been since I have been here. It turns out that courtesy of the significant reduction in demand (now down to 30% of normal), the pressure on the diesel generation system makes it easier. And I am told that the supply system is very simple (no sun-stations or high voltage pylons etc.) and any repairs required are generally quite simple jobs involving wire replacement and perhaps re-erecting a pole.
I guess there are always market opportunities when circumstances like these crop up. I have this feeling that with the influx of foreign peacekeepers, the demand for emptying of septic tanks has increased. Twice in the last week, I have seen full tankers sloshing their way down the street.
Note to file : do not cycle behind a full tanker literally sloshing its way down the street – once was enough.