Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dili to Denpasar (Bali)

We returned from Bali yesterday, 10 days later than originally planned because I was hospitalized with a serious case of Dengue Fever which in all likelihood, I contracted in Timor. But before I get to that, let me back track to the beginning.

Our flight from Dili to Denpasar (Bali) was memorable because we shared it with President Xanana Gusmão. We noticed from the window of the plane a small entourage of “ema boot” (big/important people) surrounded by security guards on the tarmac. It wasn’t hard to pick out the President, the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta (with various other "ema boot" like UNOTIL chief Hasegawa). Daniel took photos through the window (one is included here) while we guessed as to who was about to share our flight: the President.

Xanana sat at the front of the plane along with one other man who Daniel informed me was Xanana’s chief of staff. As the aircraft was economy seating only, the President had no choice but to sit on a seat just like us “ema kiik” (small/unimportant people). A group of mostly very large Brazilians opposite us were practically wetting themselves with excitement and once in the air, couldn’t resist asking the President for a photo including one with a female member of the party in it. They were so over the top: whooping and hooting every time they saw the result on their digital cameras. Again, I thought, what is it with the Portuguese speaking expats in Timor? (You’ve probably noticed that I’ve developed quite a “thing” about them.)

Daniel asked me facetiously if I wanted to say anything to the President, and I just shot him an incredulous look and said, “as if, I’m so angry with him, the exchange would hardly be pleasant” (see Invasion Day and National Heroes Day).

We also wondered why on earth the President was flying to Indonesia on Christmas Eve when there is only one flight a day which meant he could not return to Timor until Christmas Day at the earliest. It turned out that Timor was opening a new consulate in Bali and we speculated that perhaps Xanana was officially opening it. Still, rather strange to open a consulate the day before Christmas, particularly a consulate of a Catholic country! (I wondered what his wife Kirsty felt about it. However, I’m sure she’s had to put up with far more impositions than having her husband the President and the father of their three children absent on Christmas Day, even if he returned part way through it.)

Upon lift off from Dili, we passed by our little house and neighbourhood which was exciting to see from the aeroplane’s window. We also passed by Tasitolu Peace Park and to our complete surprise, discovered the third elusive lake behind a series of buildings which includes a Japanese run engineering outfit, just a little to the west of the lake we normally walk around. Ah hah! I said to Daniel, there it is!

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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