Travels in Timor-Leste travel blog


Week 5 in Dili

8 – 14 August

It is exhausting here. Between the heat and the endless explanations of very simple things it is very tiring. So far, work has been very frustrating. There is no such thing as giving an answer quickly and in simple terms, using key words or making a point…….it is all very long explanations with lots of intricate details. People love to go over and over the same points, usually they go right back to the beginning of something and repeat it. I have worked out that this is often the tactic used when they don’t know the answer to our questions but don’t want to admit they don’t know. They want to talk about what they do know.

This week we actually worked in a real office. Chairs, tables and a printer and wifi. Wonderful! Everything seemed quite normal. Well, almost normal. On my first day in the office, the person with whom I am supposed to be organising our school visits for the month went to the district to collect his salary. They don’t have bank accounts here so the money has to be handed over in person by the municipal director. His district is miles away so he was gone all day as he has to catch a bus. He has not been paid in months apparently and I can that it would be hard to be motivated if there is no money coming in.

One of the national mentors is a mystery man. He popped into the office for four minutes, I timed him, and then disappeared. He goes to ‘meetings’ at the Ministry a lot. The boss muttered something as he wandered out the door. He is a hypochondriac and is forever going off for medical tests. He seems to have sinus problems and it would be good not to have to listen to sniffing all day. There is a young Fullbright scholarship receiver here who seems to be the only one with a good work ethic. He is amazing. He works very hard and is much more on the ball than the others. His position, however, makes him very junior in the organisation and he has no authority, even permission to print anything for us. Bizarre!

Amy and I decided we would like to go to Oecusse, which is somewhere in Timor and you can get there by plane. The only place to buy a ticket for this is at the airport, so off we went. The ticket office was a dodgy little room with one person in it who did not speak English but we managed to get a list of prices and times. Apparently, the company might not be registered and if not we can’t fly with them. Next time.

We caught a microlet to take us back. These are small mini buses that have set routes, they pick up and stop anywhere along the way and any trip is 25c. They come along all the time. We wanted a number 10 but the first one was full. A number 9 pulled up and the driver asked us where we wanted to go and off we went. A few minutes up the road, he stopped and made all the other passengers get off! We did not understand what he wanted but we could guess. Money to take us to where we wanted to go rather than on the regular bus route. We had a plan. Armed with 50c each we decided that when the bus stopped, we would hand over our inflated bus fare and run. Which is what we did. At least he didn’t try to chase us for more money.

We had a three day weekend as we had to work on a Saturday so Friday was spent moving into my new house, going for a walk, having a massage, lunch and coffee before heading out to the Sky Bar for Happy Hour. So much to do in Dili!

I had another microlet adventure on Saturday night. I was heading out to Janet and Ross’s (NZ friends) for dinner which is a 12 minute walk from my house. I thought I could catch the number 2 microlet as I had seen it stop close to their apartment. Off I went but the microlet got further and further away from the turn off. I became a little bit worried when we seemed to get to the end of a very long road and, when we stopped in a village, everyone got off. The buses don’t operate after dark and I was a bit worried that I had got to the end of the line and the driver was going home! We sat there for a while and then he turned around. At least we were pointed in the right direction. He started beeping the horn and we waited for ages until the bus was full. There were a lot of men on the bus and as it was getting quite late, I didn’t feel comfortable until three nuns got on. Finally, I reached my destination…..40 minutes after I had left home. I won’t be doing that again.

I joined the Saturday morning walkers again and this time there were about 25 of us. We walked through the streets for three hours, starting at Santa Cruz Cemetery, stopping at a market, a clothes shop, a nursery and a butchers and finally the Chinese Cemetery. It was good to see the area with someone who knows it well. Del, is New Zealander who organises the walks and seems to be an expert on Dili.

Sunday started with a walk to the beach, Areia Branca, and brunch at the Caz Bar. This time Ross and Janet came too and we walked along the beach as much as we could. The tide was in and there were people swimming in the water, riding paddle boards and kids were playing close to the shore. Some Westerners won’t swim as they are worried about the crocodiles and the pollution. Looking at the peaceful scenes on a Sunday, it is hard to believe that it might not be safe in the water. I have yet to try it out. Just sitting at tables on the sand, eating and drinking and looking at the view is enough for me at the moment.

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