A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

I am an overprivileged, overpaid Australian

…so I am planning to buy a car approximately two seconds after I return to Canberra.

I’ve been looking at cars (and car loans, but that is another entry entirely) and after looking at the low end of the market, with all the teeny tiny little vehicles, I am still pissed off that Australia doesn’t have proper public transport or a decent rail network or less polluting cars or that system where people just use plug in cars to get around town (you know - you don’t own the car, you pay to use it for a short time and just drop it off at one of many depots).

I mean in 2004 when I bought my first car, there was no way I could afford a Prius, the only hybrid car I knew of available, and there were questions about its green credentials anyway because it was still new. I ended up with a Hyundai Getz, for many good reasons and it was a great little car, but one of the reasons was that it had a relatively low emissions level.

5 years later and nothing has changed except there are now more alternatives Australia should and could be doing rather than letting private car ownership tootle us along merrily on the road to hell!

Anyway, I thought I should look at other cars in the small car class, but I haven’t seen any reason to deviate. I looked at Mazda2, Toyota Yaris (Yes I know you love yours Amanda), Ford Fiesta and Honda Jazz. Of them all, the Fiesta was the one I thought I’d be maybe best with… except it’s quite a bit more expensive than a Getz.

I’d love to not have to own a car, given I probably don’t need one to get to work, but damn. You can’t get anywhere at night time or anywhere other than city centres using the bus system, at least not without ridiculous lengths of time.

Any opinions? I might start a discussion on Facebook.

Posted by timortimes 23:17 Comments (0)

Having wheels was so awesome

Oh my God. I loved having a car. Not just a car. A massive 4wd. It was so big we felt we could get our own back on those bullying white UN 4wds that are always hogging the road and driving at breakneck pace, haha. We called her Jezebel :D

Guess what? When I do not have to walk everywhere, I do not get exhausted and sweaty all the time! It is amazing! Also you can check out restaurants, shops etc on the other side of town and it does not take 5 hours! And you can go places at night! Marvellous!

While having a car, in one morning, I was able to purchase a ladder, an oven, 6 boxes of bottled water, and a shitload of groceries. There is no way that could have been accomplished on foot or using taxis, each separate item would probably take one whole morning each. Over the whole weekend, I kept wanting to return to the supermarket *just because* we had a car and so I would not have to walk home carrying groceries all the time. No car = lots more trips to the supermarket because you can only buy as much as you carry. Frustrating.

There was a bonus with the water – not having to go to the nearest shop meant that we actually found a place where a box of bottled water was less than $4 USD – other places charge $5 or even $6.

I have now decided that I am going to rent a car approximately once a month to go somewhere and do something. I will be able to stock up on groceries and water and go for a drive out of town and go out to dinner. I can’t tell you how FABULOUS all of these things are.

Posted by timortimes 23:16 Comments (0)

Drive to visit APHEDA projects

On the Monday, Lena had organised with her contact* in APHEDA** to go for a drive out to the small districts to the west of Dili, where APHEDA had some projects going. We visited two carpenter’s workshops, a mechanic, a community centre, a restaurant-in-progress (foundations and roof laid), and also got to check out more awesome markets (I bought up again – oops).

Most of the things we saw are quite humble operations – think open shack, no vices, and homemade planing tool for the carpenter out of town. The one in Dili is still a partly open workshop, but it is much bigger and has better access to electricity. The mechanic didn’t even have a concrete floor to his little shack, but he was raking it in.

However the great thing about all of these is that APHEDA, through people like Elizabeth who understand what Timor needs, is working really hard to ensure that they are giving skills to people which they will be able to keep using. They don’t just throw money at people or put them in training and forget about them***. They really target their training, do follow up, help people design how their businesses will run, and so on, all with the target that they are leaving people with the skills to run a sustainable small or micro business.

  • a fantastically on-the-ball woman called Elizabeth – Timorese – who, among other things, was a human rights investigator in Australia between 1999 and 2002.
  • * APHEDA is the international union aid organization that Lena’s and my union, CPSU, is affiliated with.
  • ** You’d be surprised how often this happens. Either that or I’m delightfully naïve.

Posted by timortimes 23:15 Comments (0)

Drive to K41

On the Sunday we went for a drive to K41, a beach 41 k’s east of Dili. Actually we ended up at K45, which we didn’t know existed, but nobody else was there, so it was better than K41. Growing up on the north coast really spoiled me for beaches, I don’t like to share my beach with anyone, and I mean anyone…

So the water was gorgeously warm – plus one point – but the beach had rocks instead of sand – minus one point. Oh well. It was lovely anyway.

What was really great about the trip was getting to see some of the little towns on the way. We passed through Manatuto and Manleo, with the highlights being seeing people streaming out of the decorated churches (it was Palm Sunday), and seeing the awesome baskets and things that people weave. I’m afraid I went a little crazy with buying things. But they are so cool! And they will be awesome gifts! I promise! Chatting with people in the little towns is lovely too, lots of people speak Tetum there is always someone who speaks English or Bahasa,

  • Tetum has been set as one of Timor’s official languages (the other is Portuguese), but each of the 13 districts actually has its own distinct language.

Posted by timortimes 23:13 Comments (0)

Lena came to visit!

Thursday 2nd April – Tuesday 7th April – 4 months, 17 – 22 days

It was lovely having Lena here, not only was it a great excuse to rent a car and go out to the districts, but there were some really interesting conversations about the different kinds of travelling that people do.

Lena commented at one point, ‘Those travel advisories, on the government travel website, that say ‘Reconsider the need to travel’?* To me, that is like a red rag to a bull, that’s how I know where I want to travel next!’.

It’s an interesting idea because I haven’t been that keen on travel in the past, and part of the reason I decided to do this volunteer placement was because I want to work in development… which involves being overseas. I thought perhaps I should find out if I actually like living overseas (note this is different to travel, although the two obviously overlap), because if I don’t, I should probably concentrate on something where I don’t have to travel and / or move overseas every now and then in order to get the right kind of work experience.

Working at AusAID made me really interested in the little developing countries in our near region, though. I’ve never been attracted to the idea of going to London or Paris or even Bangkok that much, although I’m sure there’s lots of awesome reasons to go. But the cultures and the people and the … lack of tourists and tourist culture. There is no easy patina over the top here and in other little Melanesian and Polynesian countries (Timor is neither, by the way), you know?

I think the travel advisory for Timor is harsh – I suppose the situation could deteriorate easily any time, and I don’t want to tempt fate by saying this, but I just haven’t seen any evidence for that recently.

  • There are five advisory levels. ‘Reconsider the need to travel’ is the fourth and the fifth is ‘Do not travel’. Timor is at ‘Reconsider the need to travel’.

Posted by timortimes 22:59 Comments (0)

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