Friday, 9 March 2007

Operation 'Wrap-up'

Today has been a peaceful one in the town of Dili (any resemblance to a western is deliberate, we still have a few varmints out there, despite everything/everybody taking a breather before the next thing happens). I had lunch with two friends at the Harbour View cafe and only needed to leave them once to collect a hard drive from a ministry (part of my 'share all your software and training data' policy). Anyway, the traffic was casual and unconcerned, while across the road and out over the shore and the harbour, local people were calmly getting on with life . Good enough for a tourist photo, but no one there to take it. Where ARE all the tourists?

I only managed to put in appearance of 40 minutes today at work due to my efforts at sorting out travel affairs and getting rid of my goods from the house. 'Everything must Go!' and people came and left with many different goodies, furniture, fridges (I had day I'll explain), battery and invertor, tennis balls, tins of chicken curry from China (I bought a box of 48 of them before Christmas, but admitted defeat a month ago and had contented myself since then building pyramids with the remainder)

Neighbours turned up to check for 'extras' and the landlady was keeping an eye on things while I also worked with three different households that were taking things for themselves or holding onto others on the chance that I could retrieve them when I came back later in the year (a positive thought that keeps me going at the moment along with three conversations with job prospects).

I just realised now that I skipped lunch and forgot to have dinner. Maybe that's why the cider at 22:00 tested so good?!

The house is looking rather empty now with table and six chairs and radio, plus piles on the floor waiting to be packed or sorted some other way.

I have a grand, cunning plan for tomorrow night. After send-off drinks (18:00 Motion) I'll return here and divide everything left over into five equal piles (I have five Timorese neighbours). Then, one neighbour will turn their back while another randomly points to a pile. The first person calls out a name and THAT person gets the pile. The caribbean pirates used this technique for parceling out their loot without arguments. Let's see if it works in Timor.

I put the word out two days about my house being available ($390, in a super safe area and with great space and three bedrooms) and had about 20-30 people informed. About two hours ago, a woman working for the UN came over looking for a change from Taibese, where she was forced out of her house after it was attacked on Saturday night (just a few hours before the troops attacked Renaldo in Same).
She'll probably take it, subject to the UN security officer's approval. I am dubious about that assessment procedure after she said that UN security had approved the Taibesse house and this house in Kuluhun might be a problem because it had only one entrance?! They say they'd then put in aircon and a 5,000 litre water tank. I am astounded at the money that is floating around while I fuss over a few volunteer dollars.

My last day in Dili is on Friday, well actually Friday has already arrived, but I have a wee sleep to fit in first.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Reality's so hard

Today I got the call to 'come on home' (back to NZ). That was a shock, but hardly unexpected. What was harder to take, was that the estimated evacuation period would be for about six months. (i.e. returning after the elections were over) This, the NGO said, was too long and so my program is being reluctantly terminated with nine months left to run.

So I have five days to pack up and get on a flight to Darwin (West Island - ha ha) then to the South Island, NZ.

There is so much work to do and no one to really take over from me.

I was told that this afternoon, DFAT (Aus) had changed their advice AGAIN back to 'evacuate'. If my bosses could get earlier flights, they would, but right now the first available is Monday 12th March.

Getting household effects home seems prohibitive @ US$480 per cubic metre.

Tomorrow I have a meeting booked with a senior official to see if there is a prospect of work here under a different set of conditions. If so, then I hope to be back before the end of the year.

Taking a breather

This morning I'll go and buy groceries to keep me stocked up for the next week. Then a visit to work to see off a couple of colleagues who are leaving, (one evacuating on a charter flight this afternoon with his wife) and then back home to pack what I can into a 'carry-on' bag should the call come to go and get on a Hercules for Darwin.

Hopefully the security forces will keep a lid on things and by next week, when commercial flights (Merpati to Bali and Air North to Darwin) become available, there won't be a need for me to leave.

Monday, 5 March 2007

All quiet in my Dili day

21:21 Dili time

Funny how being cooped up over the weekend of unrest got me motivated to go to work today, at a Government building. No other malae were there but I thought the local Timorese were OK for a full day's work. After lunch I found that they had gone, or rather simply not come back.

Late this afternoon I received a text message saying that DFAT (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) had issued an email saying that Australians in Timor should evacuate. I'm not Australian, but other Governments, including my own would certainly take note and lick their pencils. Well, that was stirring news, so I emailed it all out to my list. About an hour later I received an update; DFAT had changed their status down to 'leave if you feel unsafe'. Grrr. Still, this is better news than the first missive. Another mass-email, along with a Word document showing 'before' and 'after' changes to back it up has hopefully kept faith in the information I've been spreading!

A couple of charter planes are due in the next day or so to evacuate AVI (Australian Volunteers) and some AusAid people.

Right now I am home with the power off. Have got a good car battery and a 1000w invertor, so that will keep the radio, laptop and desklamp going for about 5 hours.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Off to work in Dili, Timor Leste

After the unrest of the past two days, I am assured by a co-worker that it is 'safe' to go to work. Since work is at a Government ministry, I'll need the little radar dishes (maybe a couple of 'stick-on' ones for my motorcyle helmet would lighten the mood?) to be working at maxmimum . Still, it beats going stir crazy inside a house.

I went out yesterday afternoon to meet friends at a beach restaurant. Quite a 'ghost town' out the Crista Rae way.

Renaldo is certainly keeping a low profile at the moment while the malae (mah-lie --> foreigner) in Dili are doing likewise.