A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

A study in houses

It’s difficult to find a place to live in Dili. It’s not just that there aren’t that many houses available for malae. It’s also the simple fact that you can think a house meets all your (very low) expectations, and then realise it doesn’t have something else so basic it never even occurred to you the house might not have it.

In a house in Dili, ideally, one has mozzie net and bars on the windows, a non-grotty bathroom, (personally I don’t mind if it is an Indonesian bak mandi, with dipper and tub, but western toilets are preferable), a sink in the kitchen (no really) and lockable doors.

Additionally, you hope that it has ceiling fans or better yet airconditioning, and that the cleaner won’t steal your things (or better yet that you are not expected to employ a cleaner).

However! It is also quite likely that you will look around a house and realise:

There is no light in the kitchen! (as in, no place for a lightbulb, not mere absence of lightbulb)

There are no windows in three of the four rooms!

There is no door on the bathroom!

And thus, what looked like a cute little possibility is now just another crossed out line on the ‘no way in hell’ list.

One more thing. The strangest thing is not things like lack of windows. No, no no. The strangest thing is when you say to the owner ‘Oh... I’m sorry, yeah, I really prefer to have windows’ and they look at you like you have suddenly grown three heads. ‘WINDOWS?’, you can see them thinking. ‘Why would you want *windows*? In a town where the electricity goes off all the time? So you could SEE things in the house, or something? Crazy malae.’

Posted by timortimes 19:06 Comments (0)

People in the house

Another example of how this house is *really* not considered mine. I came home on Friday to discover that a whole lot of light switches in the house had been replaced, and the tap had been ‘fixed’ (the handle had come off, and they put it back on, but it still doesn’t stay on).

I am sure the landlord used his keys to get in and do this because he wants to fix the house up for his parents (although it seems a bit odd – I mean, the light switches didn’t all need replacing). However, given he’s decided I need to move out in two weeks, I don’t trust him further than I can throw him, now. So the doors are now secured with extra locks so that he can’t just unlock the door and get in when I’m not here. A part of me feels sad about this, because I’ve never had a reason to mind them going into the house and doing stuff while no one was home. They’ve never really done that before, anyway. But I can’t have him doing it without telling me, and I don’t trust him not to just get some mates to move my stuff out of the house.

Posted by timortimes 19:05 Comments (0)


Saturday 6th June – Sunday 7th June – 6 months, 21-22 days


Saturday morning – the third week in a row I’ve worked on a Saturday. That shit stops as of now. I don’t care if Xanana offers to come in and shake hands personally with every staff member; I’m not working another Saturday this year. As a volunteer, I’m working for my living costs and nothing else, so I’m basically already volunteering my time 5 days a week. I am not going to volunteer my Saturdays as well.

Saturday evening was pleasantly interrupted by a house viewing (vetoed due to lack of doors on the inside) and an outing to Motion bar, to check out a theatre performance organised by the Bibi Bulak (Crazy Goats) theatre group organiser, Johann. A guy called Panjab Mukharjee did a solo theatre performance called Necropolis, which I took to be about the brutality and all-encompassing power of governments over citizens. It was difficult to watch (because I am a big sook, basically) but it was v. good. Mukharjee had us all riveted to our seats, impressive in a small space and given the subject matter.

As for Sunday? Well. It’s 9.23am and next door’s stereo has already been going for an hour. I think I’ve got the only neighbours in Dili who party on a Sunday morning instead of going to church.

Posted by timortimes 19:03 Comments (0)

The title of this post has been censored due to profanity

Friday 5th June – 6 months, 20 days

Landlord / neighbour came over last night to check when my rent was paid up to. (20th of June.)


So he could tell me to move out, of course. He’s been bugging me for the last six weeks about paying him the next three months’ worth of rent (so the house would be paid until 20th September),* but at some point since the last time he did that, his parents have decided they want to move in with him. So he wants to put them in this house, and he and his wife will move into the little unit on the side of the house.

I’m absolutely, completely, utterly over people pushing me around, so I told him that I couldn’t move out until I’d found a new place. He wasn’t very happy about that – I think he wants me gone pretty much as of now, so he can do various things to the house.

I pointed out that if he’d told me a few weeks ago, I would have had a much better chance of finding a place before the 20th of June (it really is difficult to find places here, and they go really quickly). Of course I’ll pay for extra weeks I’m here – I know he just wants me out – but really, I can’t do more than that. He looked a bit dumb when I said that.

It’s funny, though. It really illustrates just how different the mindset about housing is here. This really is THEIR house; I just happen to be living in it, but they think nothing of telling me I have to go, because they want to use it. Now. There are no property laws so anything goes, you’re totally at the mercy of your landlord.

Anyway, I am hoping to find a place that is quieter (emphasis on ‘er’, there’s no such thing as a quiet place in Dili), closer to work and maybe even with a Western bathroom. Who knows. Wherever it is, it will be far away from my arsehole neighbours :D tra la la!

(UPDATE: On Saturday he came by to tell me that a place two doors over was available. It doesn’t have a proper kitchen or bathroom, though, and would still be near all the noise everyone at his place makes. So, no thankyou.)

  • We had a contract. Obviously, the contract should be obeyed when I owe him money, but not when I need a place to live.

Posted by timortimes 19:01 Comments (0)

I snap again

Thursday 4th June – 6 months, 19 days

Been a bit snappy lately. I snapped again this morning. Ooo! Why? The stereo next door came on at 6.30am. It’s not like this is unusual. Ever since the neighbours got a billiards table and a big fat bassy stereo, they play music all day every day: early in the morning, from 2 in the afternoon until 2am. And it’s always party-style Indonesian pop stuff, it’s not exactly relaxing.

Anyway, I was already awake, but I can’t even listen to the radio in my own house when they have the stereo going – it’s just too loud. So I went next door, hollered, no one came out, I crept around the side, hollered, no one came out, went in (the doors are always open), found three people sleeping in the room next to the stereo, came out and turned the stereo down myself. A young guy popped out of the kitchen at that point to see who was touching the stereo, but I made ‘apologetic face’, put my hands over my ears and he nodded, seeming to get it.

Of course, it was back up to ‘ears are bleeding’ level in half an hour, but oh well.

I’ve never gone next door and said ‘your music’s too loud’ before. Partly because, I feel like, this is their place, so I can’t say anything. Trying to fit in with the culture, you know? And it doesn’t always bother me; a lot of the time, I don’t really mind. But part of it also is, I know it’s futile. They’re not going to turn it down. No one can make them – I can’t call the police like I would in Australia. And none of them work, apart from the obvious child-caring and other domestic duties: there are about 15 people there at any given time, and they’re all living off the rent I pay for this place, the cockfights (which haven’t happened for a while) and the billiards table.

The fact that someone like me *who works in an office* needs to sleep at night and get up early is entirely foreign to them: they can have a loud party until 4am every night if they feel like it, and they often do; and if someone wants to get up at 6 and turn the stereo on, that’s also cool, and they often do. Nobody is going anywhere or doing anything; just another day of sitting under the tree, and shootin’ some pool.

It’s like my friend Nicole (forgive me for paraphrasing you, Nicole, but you expressed it so well) says: Australians don’t hate the noise most. No, what really bugs us is that in Timor, *we can’t complain*. Bug me with your stereo as much as you want, but take away my right to complain about it and hopefully ruin your fun (loud early weekday morning fun though it may be) and THEN see how passive-aggressively cranky I can be!

Posted by timortimes 18:59 Comments (0)

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