Tuesday, July 25, 2006

House and dog sitting in Dili

It almost feels like I’m back in Australia for I am house and dog sitting for a malae colleague while she takes a two month break in Bali, Germany and Switzerland. We now spend Monday to Saturday morning in Aitarak-laran, a suburb of Dili 2km west of the centre of town, while we return to our home in Raikotu for the weekends. I have joked that we now have two abodes: a city pad and a beach house – how aspirational and terribly upper class for two volunteers!

My colleague’s home is an enormous three bedroom house which is part of an Indonesian-ish family compound. The landlady and her family live opposite and two recently built one bedroom units complete the grounds. At night there are two cars parked under the carport and a very heavy and large gate secures the entrance. The landlady runs a small shop on Komoro Road opposite the heliport which is currently occupied by the Australian military. The family are clearly much better off financially than “our” family in Raikotu.

The downsides to staying here are that a security guard arrives at 8pm every night and sleeps on the veranda until sunrise, something I find unnerving and intrusive to our privacy (the curtains are very flimsy). There is no hot water which makes for a very refreshing mandi in the cool mornings and there is no generator in times of power blackouts. Lastly, her house does not command a view of the ocean and the glorious sunsets to which we are privy to in Raikotu. It does however come complete with eleven clocks! (Is this because the owner is German?)

This house contrasts with our very small one bedroom home which is located deep in the community of Raikotu and which needs no security other than the presence of the family next door. What amazes me is the difference in rent: we pay $400 a month and my colleague pays $300! Does the one hundred dollar difference reflect our hot water, generator and beach views (despite the house being one third the size and a further 5km from town than my colleague’s) or is it just the arbitrary nature of the rental market in Dili?

I really enjoy living so close to town as I can walk just about everywhere I need to go and, thus don’t have to worry about the lack of transport. Moreover, my colleague’s house allows me the escapist fantasy that I could be somewhere else. It is such a secluded home that with the doors, windows and curtains closed and with only the sound of children, dogs, pigs and the occasional rooster to bring me back to reality, I am transported to another place, one that makes me happy.

My main task while living here is to feed Meemee, a lovely but very shy one year old female dog who recently gave birth to seven adorable little puppies. They all belong to the landlady but Meemee is referred to as my colleague’s dog as she took a special interest in her as a wee one, which wasn’t so long ago. I love playing with the puppies and often in the mornings sit outside on the veranda and do so for hours. They make me laugh and bring a smile to my face. My dreams of becoming “Dra. Doolittle” are finally coming to fruition!

I buy Meemee’s food from Leader supermarket, including dry dog food and powdered milk both of which are imported from Australia. Twice a day I give her a cup of dry food with half a cup of powdered milk mixed with a cup of purified water. She’s still terribly thin and her little ones are very demanding of her milk supply but I’m sure the food helps!

As previously written, there is only one Timorese vet in the entire country, but I have heard recently that there may also be an Australian one. In the West, Meemee would hopefully have been spayed and so too her seven littlies, but in Timor, animals like humans, beget many offspring.

Meemee takes a rest

Two of her puppies also take a rest

My favourite of the seven puppies

Meemee feeding her pups

Meemee feeding and grooming her pups

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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