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Learning the Ropes in Dili

April 4, 2015 0 Comments

Saturday, April 4

We’ve been in Dili since last Tuesday.

Dili itself has a population of a million people, but 10 km east or west and you go into a time warp: Grass huts among the mangroves.

There’s some industry here, but it’s limited, and sprawling along the west coast, against the ocean. Think Gold Coast, with a brick factory and a gravel quarry taking up the prime spots.

Immediately south the terrain is too hilly for factories, so they have to do what they can on the coast.

There’s a band of “freedom fighters”, to the east, so we are concentrating our views and exploration to the west! These people aren’t terrorists, but people who disagree with the way the government is handling things.

The people are lovely and the traffic reminds me of cities in Iran: Slow, chaotic, virtually rule-less, low/absent police presence (particularly compared to Australia!) and lanes mean nothing, nobody is ‘precious’ or possessive about their lane. There’s very little, if any, aggression and plenty of smiles. On Easter Friday there were too many cars for the parking spaces, so people just parked in two of the lanes and left their cars. Easy! Anyone driving still had the third lane…

Drinking water comes from underground springs and is of good quality.

We discovered we left Darwin with our car documents in our bags! The car documents needed to be with the cars, so Australian customs could sign them off. So, $220 US later, we bagged the documents back to Darwin from Dili.

The people struggle to earn a dollar here, so there are two economies in Dili, one for visitors and one for Timorese. A taxi trip from the airport to town is $3, but, a visitor can be charged $10. If he complains he gets a discount to $7.

Dili trades in US dollars so things are quite dear. A room can be $95 US per night. We’re staying with a friend of Barry’s named Rina, for free, so to pay our way we are carrying out maintenance work. She is a lovely single mum, living on five acres of banana farm, with a house, (where we are), and sheds out the back. She has about six brothers and sisters, is a grandmother and I reckon there are 50 people covering three generations on the farm. Lynn and Donna have been buying toys at the shops and the kids love it.

Here’s a list of what Barry and I’ve done:

  • Replaced the toilet cistern and shaft.
  • Resealed the shower to stop shower water racing along the floor.
  • Re-nailed the roofing tin, checked for slope along the roofline and re- attached the ridge and hip caps. These caps were simply flat tin, which didn’t curve over the ridge or hip, letting water get underneath. The roof beams are 90mm wide by 50mm deep, rainforest hardwood, spanning four metres plus, spaced at two metres plus, with a deflection of about 60mm. There are no building codes here…

Other jobs: we fixed the taps and then we built a roof over the groundwater pump – which supplies the house. Currently it and all the wires and switches sit in the bananas under a sheet of iron.

We also repaired three dining room chairs and repaired two doors all of which had been damaged by uncouth previous tenants.

Oh joy! We’ve just identified a power point that provides 50v instead of 240v…

Alan applying for a visa at the Indonesian Embassy

Alan applying for a visa at the Indonesian Embassy

One of the people here, Caesar, used to work at the Indonesian embassy, so he took us through and we got our visas easy. Caesar comes with us to buy building goods, to ensure we get the Timorese rate!

The other day, me driving, Caesar in the front, Barry and girls in the back of Rina’s ute, I asked Caesar where we would get a rivet gun. He looked across and said “small caliber 22 rifle or large caliber 45 hand”?

I rephrased the question and we got to a hardware store. I didn’t tell the girls.

The stores are branded ‘Australian’, ‘Indonesian’ and ‘Chinese’. The locals speak lowly of the Chinese store, due to poor quality, but the Australian store has 90 per cent Chinese goods, carefully branded. Look up Zenith hinges and tell me they’re made in Australia…

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