A Travellerspoint blog

January 2009

The internet situation

Friday 2nd January - 1 month, 17 days

The best $14.10 ever spent: taking my laptop to the super expensive internet place and chatting to friends online for a couple of hours. Ahhhhh.

Internet pricing here is random and insane:

At Sugars Cafe (comfy chairs and desks, ok speed, aircon, no viruses on network, in main street): $6 an hour, $5 if you use your own laptop.

At ‘$1 Broadband Fast Connection 24 Hours’ (plastic chairs, tiny desks, reasonable speed but often slows down, aircon, totally has viruses on network, in back street): $1 an hour.

At another place even further away it was $4 an hour and we couldn’t get one page to load.

At One More Bar: they apparently discontinued their ‘$4.50 for an hour and a half’ deal and now you pay $100 to get 720 hours of usage that you have to use within 45 days.

EDIT: Matt used the wireless at One More Bar the other day and he got charged the hourly rate! What?!

Posted by timortimes 17:56 Comments (0)

In which I muse on transport

Thursday 1st January 2009 - 1 month, 16 days

Welcome to 2009! Matt and I were up early because he had a flight to catch that left at 9am – back to Darwin, then almost 24 hours and another flight to Brisbane, and then a drive to Bundaberg for his cousin’s wedding.

I was sad :( but we had a pretty amusing time taking photos of some kids in our street who were up early (everyone in this street goes to bed late and gets up before dawn, I swear). A boy called Joni, probably about 10, is the standout – he’s such a forward little guy. Posing, flexing his arms, climbing a tree, so Matt can take photos of him – meanwhile the littlest girl would smile, shake her head and run away when I tried to get her photo. Little cutie.

But in amongst all this, I am starting to see on a daily basis how much easier our lives would be if we had access to a vehicle. We called an English-speaking taxi driver here (note: no taxi company, just randoms who have taxis and charge $2 a ride) the night before, and he agreed to come... but 6.30 came and no taxi man. Matt texted him, only to get the response: ‘Sorry my friend, I have a problem, I cannot come.’ Yeah yeah, I know what problem you have mate, it’s the one we expected at 6.30 on New Year’s Day. So we walked up the road... around the corner... down that road... and finally a taxi appeared as it started to rain (this is the first time I have ever known it to rain before midday in Timor. Thanks for the insult added to injury, rain.) I walked home with the kids and got soaked. But, Matt made it to the airport, so yay.

Maybe I should explain this a bit more. Taxis here are only around during the daylight and only if it’s not raining – the potholes and puddles are too much of a hazard for the clunky, low sedans. The bikes are good but we have to be able to chain them up, they’re not good in the wet or the dark either, and they’re also no good if you’re sick and need to get to the doctor (as I am at the time of writing this entry).

So we walk places most of the time, it takes hours to do simple things like get the groceries and we get exhausted. I know that we chose this experience, to live a bit more like locals – because of course not everyone has cars here – but the problem is that we have a different cultural setting. Most families here who wouldn’t have a ‘family car’, do have friends / family with cars and scooters, who they wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a lift. We don’t have the language skills or the family members for that. We do have friends with cars, (Matt was offered a lift to the airport, we were given a lift home from the New Year’s Eve dinner) but we have a different cultural background: I feel uncomfortable with the amount of times I am dependent on someone else for a lift home, partly because they are not good friends. They’re all lovely, but they’re not responsible for Matt and I. In Australia, it would really be seen as taking advantage. Plus, Australians value independence more highly. I do find it difficult knowing I’m dependent on other people to get places and that I’m limited in places I can go on my own at night time.

So what is the solution? I don’t want to go into debt for a beat up old car. One volunteer we know just bought a sedan for $3000 (that’s US$, remember) which I would probably pay, oh, about $300 for in Australia. A 4WD, even a small one, which is what you really need to deal with the roads or get out of town with here, would be much more. People say that you can usually sell your vehicle for pretty much what you paid for it, but what do you do if it needs repairs in the meantime and you already spent your savings?

Of course to get out of town we can rent a vehicle for between $60-$100 per day. That doesn’t help us with getting to and from the supermarket, or a friend’s house at night, though; and if we did that once a month it would end up costing us well over $1000 for the year.

What would be best, I think, would be if we could lease a vehicle for a lower monthly or yearly rate, but this doesn’t exist, of course.

... I mean, that would be best, *apart* from the fairy godmother suddenly deciding that all AVI volunteers get a $10,000 USD car allowance.

Posted by timortimes 17:53 Comments (0)

New Year's Eve

Wednesday 31st December - 1 month, 15 days

Another on-the-spot decision: Libby and George invited us to a potluck dinner at their place for New Year’s Eve. So, a quiet one – but then, apart from all those with firecrackers, if you’re in Timor you’re generally having a quiet New Year’s Eve, I believe.

New Year’s Resolutions? Matt’s was to floss every day; me, I always have a set of goals for myself, in health, finance etc, so usually New Year prompts me to look over them again rather than make any resolutions specific to the New Year. Sounds dreadfully boring, I suppose, but I actually find it quite exciting to look back over a year and think about all the things I've achieved. It's not that I really stick to the list, or even check back against previous lists - I don't really need to anyway, I have it in my head mostly. I just generally get more things done if I think about it first.

I mean, last year (2007) one of the hugest achievements was getting my tonsils out, something I had been wanting for years - I'd been on the public hospital waiting list for three years alone!!! This year, I guess moving to Timor becomes one, not because I planned it out at the beginning of the year but just because it fulfils some other aims I had (working in gender; working in gender, overseas; getting to live overseas for a year, etc).

So I like to think about these things. Sometimes the goals you achieve (or try to) are not the ones that would be meaningful or even noticeable to others, but if they are important to you, that's what matters.

Posted by timortimes 17:48 Comments (0)

Doing things at the drop of a hat

Tuesday 30th December - 1 month, 14 days

So today was a surprise: our friends George and Libby called early in the morning and asked if we would like to go for a drive out of town to a village up in the mountains. YES PLEASE! It was the first time we’d been out of Dili and it was super fun. Bullet points:

• The mountains are pleasantly cool.

• There is an awesome memorial which is like a raised open-air tomb for 10 important people whom I think were killed in 1942 by the Japanese. It is pink and white with grass on top and it is impossible to describe, but it is lovely.

• It took an hour and a half to drive the 45 windy, bumpy k’s, and two and a half to get back. Growing up around Lismore and driving on the range to Armidale during college was apparently a good preparation for driving around the mountains of Timor, where narrow roads just drop away to magnificent views of hills and valleys. I felt right at home, while at the same time feeling a bit sorry for George’s son, who is our age but wasn’t very trusting that his dad would not crash into another vehicle on a narrow corner, or drive over a cliff.

Posted by timortimes 17:46 Comments (0)

Some kind of observational end of year post

Sunday 28th December, Monday 29th December - 1 month, 12-13 days

It had to happen eventually! These two days have been completely wiped from my memory, but I’m sure they were relaxing.

I will comment here that I do enjoy the time just after Christmas and before New Year, not because it’s holiday time but because I simply like the sense that one year is drawing to a close and a new one is about to open. For things to do I, unlike probably every other person on the planet (except maybe other Capricorns), actually kind of prefer the routine of the rest of the year. I like it when it’s busy; I like it when everyone’s around. Holidays to me always seem to mean that everyone else goes away and I am somewhere on my own (even here in Timor – I am away from the friends and family I’d usually be with, and all our new friends, contacts etc have gone back to Australia and elsewhere for the holidays... even Matt has a week in Australia for his cousin’s wedding soon).

Posted by timortimes 17:44 Comments (0)

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