A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

Being away from it all... almost

I really enjoyed the quiet and calm of Same. Sure, there were roosters, motorbikes revving, and I even saw a billiards table under a lean-to on the side of a house. But none of it was within metres of my bedroom, so I slept a lot better than I usually do in Dili (despite Elfrina’s incessant late-night texting). Same doesn’t even have electricity – a few lucky places, including the guesthouse where we stayed, had generators running between around 6.30pm and 11pm, so there was light in the evening, you can charge your mobile, etc.

What? Charge your mobile?

Yes. Your mobile. I discovered that my mobile had service on the Friday evening, when I got a text from a friend, asking about the room in my place (welcome news). It seems incongruous, but in places of poor sanitation, wet season floods and dry season starvation (i.e. lots of developing countries), mobile phones flourish and are an important and common tool. Landline communications infrastructure, rather like roads, takes a lot of maintenance. Maintenance which governments like Timor’s couldn’t hope to keep up with. The rusting, broken telephone pole, across from our guesthouse, that was drunkenly leaning on its neighbouring pole, is the perfect example.

But, the infrastructure required for mobile phones is a completely different matter. All you need is to be able to set up the towers in appropriate places to reach the majority of the population in an area, and even in mountainous places, they can get great reception. (Take note, idiots running phone companies that provide ‘service’ in rural and regional Australia.) The key, of course, is that a huge part of the costs are offloaded to companies (who make the phones) and citizens (who buy the phones). All the government has to do is make sure there’s a phone company and towers (and come to think of it, I have no idea if Timor’s sole communications company, Timor Telecom, is government or internationally owned).

Of course, there are negative side effects. I discovered one that affects me: almost all calls I make for work, I have to make on my own mobile, and of course I can’t claim calls because my Timorese mobile is pre-paid, and anyway I think it’s a volunteer thing. So I spend way more on phone credit than I would just texting mates and family.

Posted by timortimes 18:48 Comments (0)

Tiny Timor

We detoured by the beach on the Saturday afternoon. I was really weirded out by this as it hadn’t occurred to me that a 4.5 hour drive into the mountains might take us to beach one hour on the other side, i.e. the south side of Timor. I really am used to the enormousness of Australia, I just can’t get my head around how tiny Timor is.

Posted by timortimes 18:47 Comments (0)

Sharing a room with Elfrina

Was fun: she’s a lovely fun thing, and I didn’t mind sharing a double bed with her for the four days, either, because we’re both quite small. We stuck together a lot and had a great time. We worked out we are both Capricorns, and I think if I had a sister, she would probably be a lot like Elfrina: we’re similar but different. Both speak without thinking, both like to disappear into books; but she is more bubbly, outgoing and heedless, the way a younger sister might be (I’m guessing, here). In any case, I didn’t hate her after four days of sharing a bed, which is not something one could say of many people, I believe.

At the same time, we did bug each other. She is a bit too attached to her mobile, I think: she sleeps with it next to her head, and her texting in the night woke me enough to the point where I told her to turn it off. The next day she laughed at me, saying ‘I missed my Daddy in the night! I wanted to text him! But you are funny malae, you tell me, No Karen*, turn it off! Haha!’

It’s lucky for cranky me that my Timorese friends think every time I say something crankily that it’s funny. I get them to laugh by doing an impression of myself being serious / angry. ‘Stop singing in the office! Turn that music off!’ Ha ha, ho ho, they’re rolling in their seats. Because why WOULDN’T you just sing in the office, or play music, or text your dad at 3am? Haha! Crazy malae, cranky for no reason!

  • Elfrina tells everyone she meets (especially malae) that her name is Karen, and malae always tell her that ‘Elfrina’ is a beautiful name. So we compromise by calling her Karen half the time and Elfrina the other half. I realised after writing the entry I’d done my usual thing and called her both names within 30 seconds, and thought I would explain rather than trying to use just one, because I’m bound to do it again.

For her part, Karen claims that ‘Elfrina’ is a ‘bad name’, like for a ‘bad woman’. Hmm.

Posted by timortimes 18:46 Comments (0)

Did you know there was such a thing as black rice?

I didn’t!

People claim it tastes great, but I did a blind taste test on myself, and I couldn’t tell the difference at all.

Posted by timortimes 18:45 Comments (0)

Pasar Same, or Burnt Out Buildings of Timor

This is the Bahasa for ‘Same Market’, and it’s a big burnt out building in the centre of Same. On one side, two small wings have been done up, for a library and a small district office. Out the back, a tree grows through the roof and enormous snails scare the life out of you; on the inside, a still-impressive stage graces what would have been a beautiful hall. One bloke nipped inside for a pee while I was in there marvelling over the stage (didn’t see me at first).

It’s so sad. The Indonesian army would’ve been the ones to torch it, most likely, when they left in 1999; however the locals could’ve done it too, I guess. I said to Kris and Rose, the English teachers, that if I had the doing up of it (a game I like to play with empty buildings), I’d make it a big open air theatre. They pointed out, with sad smiles, that the Timorese probably wouldn’t ever want to use it – if anything happened with the site, they’d knock this building down and build another.

I don’t know. There were quite a few renovated buildings around Manufahi and Same, for a small town, and there are around Dili, although Dili’s size means that the number of buildings that are still burnt out is gobsmacking. It’s hard to tell why doing buildings up isn’t higher on the priority list for this government: certainly when they want it to happen, it happens quicksmart. The State Secretariat for Youth and Sport has got a brand new building on the beach road in Dili which went from roofless, blackened shell to shining yellow and white monstrosity in 5 months, complete with lairy gold sign.

I mean, I guess the priority is health and food, jobs, justice, etc. Just seems a simple thing that *would* lead to health, more jobs, etc. (Less rubbish around and more places to live and operate businesses out of.) Not to mention it’d kick the tourism up a notch, having some extra (I mean cheaper) accommodation and more pretty things to see. You could hang on to a couple of significant ruined buildings in decent locations and make a memorial to the struggle. Yep that’s right: as of 10 years independence, there is STILL no monument to the Timorese people’s struggle for their own bloody country. There are little plaques and things all over this country, including a self-congratulatory one from the Indonesians on the beachfront, not to mention all the signs with Portuguese names and Indonesian titles which serve as a constant reminder of Those Who Came Before.

I don’t know. Guess I’m a crazy malae. Maybe Timorese people think having their country back is enough of a job for now.

Posted by timortimes 18:44 Comments (0)

(Entries 41 - 45 of 62) Previous « Page .. 4 5 6 7 8 [9] 10 11 12 13 » Next