Friday, August 12, 2005

On my own

Sunday 7 August 2005

Last night on RTTL (also known as TVTL), the Director of the NGO I work for was profiled on Timor’s version of ‘Sixty Minutes’. I was even on screen for a few brief seconds as the TV crew came to my work during the week to film the Director, and some of my colleagues hard at work. After a 15-minute or so profile, the program then aired a particular news story from every day of the week, and at the conclusion of each story, the hosts of the show asked my Director to comment. I so wish I understood Tetun better because most of the stories were political including the issue of an International Criminal Tribunal. I also thought this was an innovative way to present a round up of the week’s top news stories: every week you provide an opportunity for a high profile person from the community to air their views on current issues of importance to Timor-Leste.

Yesterday one of Daniel’s work colleagues came over for lunch. She is a second year German American law student at Harvard University in the USA and has been spending her summer vacation doing an internship with Daniel’s NGO.

A couple of week’s ago she invited us over to her place for dinner and we had such an enjoyable time, we decided to return the invitation. She went to so much effort to make us (and four other colleagues) a delicious three course dinner (home baked bread with butter, pumpkin and apple soup, salad with dressing, vegetable bake followed by a pudding for dessert, all washed down with Australian wine and brie!) Even when the power went off (she doesn’t have a generator), she soldiered on serving us cold soup which we did not mind in the slightest as the taste was sublime.

She is German born and raised but has been educated in the USA since her teens. We very much enjoy her company and conversations, as she is part of that rare breed who likes to talk about serious things like society and politics. For lunch, I made a lentil and vegetable pasta sauce with wholemeal spaghetti and grated New Zealand tasty cheese served with Greek calamata olives and for drinks: gin and tonics. As we do not have an oven, I could not bake a dessert, so we bought three little cup cakes: one with pink folds and the other two with green folds (I dare not think about the colouring agents that were used to produce such colours). We put a candle in each and wished her happy birthday (she turns 25 on Monday). She was touched. When serving the cup cakes we did add the disclaimer that we had no idea what they would taste like and so she must forgive us. They turned out to be quite bland but we ate them anyway.

We left the house at 7:20am this morning for a two-hour walk along the beach and around the Tasitolu Peace Park. It was relaxing if a little hot. In future we decided we should leave the house before 7am to allow us the opportunity to enjoy the experience free of perspiration.

Daniel left this afternoon for Ainaro, 110km or a three to four hour drive south of Dili. He went with some of his work colleagues to prepare for a public education program they are holding in the town next week. He won’t be back until late Tuesday or early Wednesday. I miss him already and worry about him because the roads in Timor are dreadful (imagine taking three to four hours to drive 110km!). I will have to catch taxis on my own for the next two days which is a little daunting. I have also been invited to a birthday celebration of one of Daniel’s work colleagues (the woman mentioned above) in town tomorrow evening but there is the problem of getting home. Many people have told us that women on their own should not catch taxis in the evenings. And although I know the chances of me incurring the same fate as the poor young Australian woman who was raped are remote, I don’t like to think about the fact that the taxi driver who raped her, is still out there. He knows he has gotten away with it at least once (perhaps more?) and presumably thinks he could do so again. Since hearing of the rape, every time I get into a taxi I think to myself, is he the one? However, I have been given the name of a “safe” taxi driver that I can call on in the evenings. Originally an Australian nun living in Dili gave me his name, and then yesterday the colleague, whose birthday is tomorrow, also gave me his name, so I can be pretty confident of his character.

Daniel called me from Ainaro just before 8pm to tell me that he had arrived safely. However, an hour out of Dili, the driver realised he had forgotten to fill the car with petrol so they had to return to Dili! There are only a handful of petrol stations in the whole of Timor, and sellers on the side of the road pour petrol from a container. Daniel arrived with a headache from all the bumping around he endured in the 4WD. He said the road was bad, but not as bad as he expected. Nevertheless, in a number of places he regretted looking down! Apparently there had also been rain in the mountains which compounded the problem. Upon arrival to the guesthouse, all Daniel could get for dinner was some rice and a cooked green leafy vegetable; there was no tofu or tempe on offer. I suggested that on his next trip out of Dili he take some nuts with him. As vegetarians, we are fortunate to be living in Dili as I suspect that outside of the capital, our diet would be lacking in essential nutrients (Daniel: and essential taste!)

We discovered a fantastic Indian restaurant during the week. For $2.50 you get a buffet lunch and for $1 extra you get the most delicious banana lassi. This drink was the best in the banana smoothie/lassi category I have tasted since arriving in Timor. Their vegetarian choices were also good so we have decided to have lunch there once a week. We’re also regularly frequenting the two Thai restaurants in town, which are close to my work. One has a set lunch menu for $4 consisting of an ice cold freshly blended fruit drink followed by green vegetables with thick rice noodles, or tofu and vegetables with rice; followed by fresh fruit). At the other you eat from the menu which costs us about the same if a little more. We also eat at a Timorese/Indonesian place near Daniel’s work where we normally eat rice with deep fried tempe and tofu and green vegetables for about $2, along with a lemon drink with teaspoons of sugar sitting in the bottom of the glass for 50c.

I completed reading Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics this afternoon. It has been an amazing journey as I have found a philosopher with whom I am in total agreement with! I am now inspired to read more of Singer’s work. Next on my reading list is John Martinkus’ A Dirty Little War. I discovered, from visiting the Dateline web page at the SBS website, that Martinkus is a La Trobe Uni graduate and is a mere one year older than me. I always knew that my alta mater turned out wonderful graduates!

The neighbours have been very good this weekend and only played loud music briefly last night and again this afternoon. Mind you, our neighbourhood is so often without power (although our house has a generator) that this is hardly surprising. We actually have a secret wish for the power to remain off more often as this prevents our neighbours from playing their music. Isn’t that a dreadful thought?

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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