A Travellerspoint blog

Western anger vs. Timorese acceptance

Thursday 9th July – 7 months, 23 days

In case you didn’t notice from all the complaining about Stuff That Is Wrong With My House, something I find difficult in Timor is the blanket acceptance of things, or lack of things, or brokenness of things. This, combined with the inability to think ahead about things one might want or need, makes for (what I believe is) unnecessarily uncomfortable or unsafe situations. For example:

I’m at work. The stapler is running out of staples. There are no more in anyone’s drawers, there is no supply cupboard. I say, ‘Hey, anyone got any more staples? We’re running out.’

The stapler runs out of staples. No one does anything, until two days later, when I ask again, someone goes ‘Oh yeah’ and buys exactly one box of staples. Why would we need more, mana?

Same thing for toilet paper. Same thing for the toilet (it used to be that it didn’t have water sometimes; now it has no water four days out of five). Same thing for the electricity in my flat, where the landlord didn’t see any problem with the fact that it had been wired up incorrectly and unsafely by her son. It works, right? If it doesn’t work, we’ll just wait for it to work again.

Of course this is an example in itself of my attitude to fixing things and discomfort, and also of Western quickness-to-anger and impatience when things aren’t working. On the other hand, although I’m sure Timorese view this with bemusement, wondering why we get cranky like a child and care so much about things, why we need to plan for the future so much when all they ever worry about is today. I guess I think that sometimes Western-style anger and impatience, if it isn’t directed at someone undeserving, is useful. And I know Timor has been a very hand-to-mouth, day-to-day, traumatised place to be for a long, long time. However … it doesn’t have to be so much like that now. I think it’s reasonable if I won’t put up with a toilet that doesn’t work or unsafe wiring, I won’t put up with not having bloody staples. So I ask someone to fix it or I go get lots of staples and then I don’t get disease, I don’t get electrocuted or set on fire and I have more time to do actual work rather than sit about waiting for someone to buy some staples.

So like all things, I think balance is needed. Sometimes it is good to be patient and not worry. Other times you need a bit of justifiable anger and discomfort to spur you to get things done.

Posted by timortimes 00:55 Comments (0)

House update

Monday 6th July – Wednesday 8th July – 7 months, 20-22 days

The score so far:

Airconditioner – we know this one already but let’s put it in – Fixed, near enough’s good enough – so far $0.00. Tradespeople don’t charge, their companies do. But I don’t know the name of these guys or their company or even where it is located; I tried to pay them after they’d done, and they said they’d return later to check it was working and I could pay then. That was five days ago. I presume they’ll turn up and demand payment eventually. I think it’s reasonable to presume this’ll be less than the $120.00 I paid to have the airconditioner uninstalled, moved and reinstalled by the first lot of idiots pretending to be airconditioner repairblokes (they were the ones who broke it! Fools!).

Electricity – A whole day spent sitting on my verandah and $544.75 later, that’s US, that’s five hundred and forty-four dollars and seventy-five cents people, I have SIX power points now instead of ONE, SIX COUNT THEM SIX MUAHAHAHA I AM POWERPOINT RICH IF CASH POOR, and the assurance that all the wiring is safe (and I can’t see any electrical tape or bare wires anywhere so I’ll believe them). It is rather good not just being able to have the powerpoints all around the flat MUAHAHA THE POWERPOINTS but also not tripping over cords in the doorway of the room next to the bathroom. (The bathroom floor is always wet – bak mandis are designed that way – and although there is a door on the antechamber, there is no door on the bathroom, so you can see why an electrician was necessary.)

Rent – You were feeling sorry for me about the aircon and the electricity still, weren’t you? Don’t feel too bad – although my landlord hasn’t bothered to offer to pay for the electricity work, she is very keen to buy my airconditioner. So she said I don’t have to pay rent this month if I’ll leave the airconditioner when I go. So, $0.00 rent and I think in my last month here, since she also wants to buy my furniture, I’ll tell her she can have it all for a similar deal or discount on the rent. Hehe.

Gas stove – Last week, after I got the gas stove working again with a refilled bottle, I got sick while using it and suspected it had a gas leak. So I haven’t been able to use it for a week and a half. This didn’t look like getting fixed at all since the idiots at Hotel Dili (where you get your gas fixed, der) said I would have to bring the stove in myself... and I don’t have a car... etc. But one of my lovely neighbours had to go to Hotel Dili herself today, and offered to take me and the stove. Cost to get it fixed (they tightened a loose bit and now it doesn’t seem to leak): $1.00.

So, especially with my new powerpoints (hurrah! Hurrah!) I am feeling rather awesome this week. There has been a lot of cross-cultural communication, waiting, sitting in the heat getting bitten by mozzies, more cross-cultural communication, patience and general wondering if I am paying people to actually do something that will last.

But now it seems I have all the major stuff done, so that makes me very happy (fingers crossed, godDAMN you don’t know how much I don’t wanna jinx myself there). I still need a new surge box – about $40 – I could still get the lights fixed (apparently it’s the fitting not the light) but that would have to be done by the happy chargers at Tam Electrics, and I think I’ll save up before I call them again. Plus the lights have been working ok for a couple of days. And, finally, I need to get my phones checked – apparently they’re not receiving all calls from Australia, which is a worry, but hopefully can be sorted out. Oh and the prank phone call idiots. But they never worried me and they haven’t called for a few days anyway. I’m leaving the plumbing of my flat alone – the water does work most days and crap water pressure is not a dangerous thing to live with anyway.

So, my flat is cool-ish, I can cook in my kitchen AND my antechamber (that’s where the fridge and stove live) without tripping over cords, and I don’t have a 6 outlet powerboard dangling above my bedhead anymore. It is MARVELLOUS.

Posted by timortimes 22:51 Comments (0)

Lotta yang energy

Sunday 5th July – 7 months, 19 days

I realised this morning that I live within 5 minutes walking distance of 3 cemeteries. Now I’m quite fond of cemeteries, and I particularly think that the other Timorese ones here are quite pretty, but I think the Chinese one here is the best yet.

I already knew about the Muslim one and the big Timorese one (Santa Cruz – where there was a massacre of peacefully protesting Timorese by Indonesian military, around 17th November, 1991). However, I went for a walk this morning, to find out what the big interesting-looking blue and red wall was up another road – and it turns out it’s the Chinese cemetery, which I’ve been past before but never been into. The gates were open, so in I went.
I was a little worried someone might come over and get angry with me for taking photos (I’ve given up trying to predict what people won’t like me to take photos of, I just get prepared to run now whenever I see someone angry approaching), I mean, I figure I can just apologise and stop taking photos. Also I was wearing my bright red hat*! And shorts! And a pink shirt! Didn’t exactly blend in.

But then I looked around and thought, ah no, actually, I blend right in. Pink and green and blue and yellow and red graves everywhere, higgledy-piggledy; no chance anyone would find me. Some were very ornate and enormous, with sweet tiling jobs; one had an awesome tiled picture of Jesus. And, best of all, with frangipanis and other delicate trees all throughout. Fabulous place to come back with a book and read. The few people in there seemed occupied with sweeping and cleaning the graves – I guess the Chinese are another group that really respect their dead – and my presence didn’t seem to make anyone put the ‘Argh bad malae!’ face on.

Like all cemeteries, lots of it looked a little shabby, a little worn; but it was very clean and qui-et compared to the rest of Dili. I thought that the wealth of Chinese people in Timor was reflected, with the large percentage of very spiffy graves.

I also thought it was interesting to see where cultures collide – on the few graves that had writing in Roman characters, every single person had a Timorese first name and a Chinese last name (Fernanda Lay, Carmelita Leong – that first one being the name of a big department building near the Palacio).

  • This hat gets comments; ‘sensible’ from Australians, peals of laughter from everyone else. It matches almost nothing else that I own, especially my work clothes. Makes it easy for people to spot me, though. And, oh yeah, STOPS THE SKIN CANCER.

Posted by timortimes 22:46 Comments (1)

Guess who just taught a bellydance class?

Saturday 4th July – 7 months, 18 days

  • I* just taught a bellydancing class!

Really it started with a friend saying a couple of weeks ago that she had danced in her house the other night, and it made her feel happy, and so she had decided she wanted to dance more. She asked me if I wanted to get together and just dance some time, as she knew I love dancing. I’ve been meaning to have a fun girls’ night with bellydancing for months, so this was the catalyst for me emailing Motion nightclub to ask if they had a free night where we could use the bar room for dancing.

We had seven of us in the end, including some people I hadn’t met before. People asked if I would do it again, and although I had planned for it to be a one-off, I thought since people want to and I enjoyed it, it would be fun. So I’ll be trying to find a regular night.

Posted by timortimes 22:43 Comments (0)

Seriously

Tuesday 30th June – Sunday 5th July – 7 months, 14-19 days

I have spent this week wondering just how long I can ‘live’ in a house that has all the stuff wrong with it from the previous ‘house’ entry, plus these, without going insane:

- Airconditioning broken (worked fine at the old house! How hard is it to uninstall and reinstall an airconditioner without breaking it?)

- Unuseable gas stove. It worked fine at the old house. Somewhere in transit it lost all its gas, so I got the bottle refilled (this took a whole day fitting the epic journey around work). But then I discovered it might have a leak. So now I can’t use it until I find someone to check it out (and there may not actually be a person in the whole of East Timor who has the skills or the tools necessary, so wish me luck).

- Water mysteriously off for two days straight.

- Kitchen light which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. (The kitchen door doesn’t lock either, and that is more serious than it sounds because the kitchen is a separate hut here, but I have resigned myself to this one; I say, good luck to anyone who wants to steal my plastic plates.)

- Blackouts around 7 each night (so you have to start cooking dinner as soon as you get home from work if you don’t want a blackout halfway through). I’ve learnt to strategically place candles around the flat, leave the matches / lighter in the same place, keep the torch with me at night, etc.

- Lights which sometimes flicker and refuse to be on – so that I race out and buy new fluorescent tubes – but then work perfectly well the next day, so that I wonder if I should bother changing them after all.

- ONE powerpoint, let me repeat that, ONE powerpoint for the entire flat – which is approximately four inches from the ceiling in the corner where the bed has to go. I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but I just want to emphasise that I have a 6-outlet powerboard dangling above my bed because of this.

- Oh, and my phone has decided to stop working properly (still get prank phone calls though – great) – so I have to go to Timor Telecom sometime to get that looked at.

Oh. My. God. I’ve had people to look at the airconditioner, and it seems to work now... sort of. Just have to concentrate on getting one item fixed at a time (it is madness to expect to be able to do more than one chore in a day in Dili).

Posted by timortimes 22:37 Comments (0)

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