Thursday, March 23, 2006

My morning from hell

This morning, I was rudely awoken by the new “manu aman” (rooster) tied by one foot to a pole not far from our bedroom window. We had only noticed (heard) him the past couple of mornings and wondered the reason for his sudden appearance. He’s quite a handsome creature but goddess how I despise his and his brethren’s constant racket and at all hours of the day and night at that!

Upon leaving for work, I had an opportunity to ask Senyora Domingas about the “manu aman” in my very disjointed Tetum. It turns out that Senyor Raphael purchased the animal a couple of days ago and that he enjoys cockfighting. I was so mad that I relayed to Senyora that in Australia, there are far fewer “manu aman” and cockfighting is illegal, punishable by thousands of dollars fine to the government. I couldn’t quite explain in Tetum that the reasons were to do with animal cruelty and welfare, which even if I could explain, the concept of which wouldn’t be understood anyway.

When our newest neighbours moved in next door, they brought a “manu aman” with them that immediately began to disturb our sleep. Now we’ve got one on our property and the two of them compete with one another (while we feel like the piggies in the middle) not to mention all the other bloody “manu aman” in Rai Kotu, of which there must be tens if not hundreds.

Fuming about the “manu aman” we now are forced to live with (purchased with part of the loan we gave our family in order that they could continue building their new house!), I walked down our very dusty road and Mr “bibi malae” noticed me coming to untangle him. But as I was bending over to do just that, he tried to mount me! This is the second time that he’s tried this on and I’m finding it most upsetting! I do not like being thought of as a female sheep! This may sound a little extreme but I feel violated by him and as a result have been unsettled by the experiences. I’m beginning to distance myself from him which is sad because I was very fond of him as he had become a surrogate animal companion. If anyone out there knows anything about sheep behaviour, please leave me a comment!

Upon walking down the dirt road to the main road, I was accosted by a middle aged Timorese man. He stuck his hand out to shake mine and began talking in Tetum. I thought, uh oh, what does he want? Although I could not understand everything he said, I got the gist of it. Someone had died in Viqueque and he needed money to catch the bus there. I said that I could not give him the money now and would need to talk to my "husband" about it first and may I drop in on him later after work? He said he needed the money now and so I apologized and said that I could not help him.

I walked towards the "mikrolet" stop angry, wishing that I could wash away the tattoo of the $ sign on my forehead.

I caught a “mikrolet” to work and was discussed by a bunch of men including one dressed partially in a police uniform. I was so miffed that I tried to stare daggers at him through my sunglasses but he probably didn’t get the full effect!

When I arrived at work I was pleased to find a parcel waiting for me. It was sent by a friend in Canada and contained a book about Afghanistan, which was quite fortuitous given I had just read The Bookseller of Kabul (see previous post). It was wonderful to receive such a thoughtful gift.

Attached to the package was a notice from the post office (PO) advising me (in Portuguese which neither I nor any of my Timorese colleagues could read!) that I needed to go and talk to customs about a box that had also arrived for me (that much I could figure out). I assumed it was the box my Aunt had sent me which was full of vitamin supplements and a couple of books, none of which are available for purchase in Timor.

Upon arriving at the PO a customs man ushered me into a room and opened the box in front of me. Australia Post had put a sticker on the box advising that because a customs declaration hadn't been attached, they couldn't guarantee that the contents weren't dangerous. The customs officer asked what everything was and I did my best to explain in Tetum that it was all for personal consumption and mostly “vitamina” (vitamins). He opened the calcium and evening primrose oil (EPO) containers, stuck his nose in the bottles and probably thought, hmmmmm, drugs? I surmised that this was the first time in his life that he had laid eyes on calcium tablets and EPO!

He asked for an invoice and I explained that there wasn't one because it was just for my consumption and that the order had been placed with my Aunt in Melbourne. In the end he wouldn't give me the box and said that the Director of Customs would have to make the decision. I was instructed to write a letter to the Director and personally take it to him. I was fuming as I knew it might take months to get the box out and I might have to pay customs duties.

I told Daniel my problems and he rang a lovely man who lives in our neighbourhood and works in the Customs head office and also drives taxis in the evenings because he enjoys meeting people (that's how Daniel met him). He immediately came and picked Daniel up and off they rode to the PO to see the customs officer. Felix was further up the hierarchy than the man I spoke with and after explaining that the contents were for personal use only and that I needed to take the vitamins for my good health, the officer reluctantly let them take the box. In the meantime, I had spent an hour typing a letter (in English with a few translations into Tetum of the important words, certainly not in Portuguese!) to the Director of Customs. Daniel then turned up with the box. What a relief and what a morning!

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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