Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You never get a second chance to make a first impression…

…so I guess these are my second impressions of Dili. The street kids are poor, but they are also dirty. Not sure why that is, as even in the slums of the Solomons you could have used their clothes as the after shots in a laundry detergent ad.

Everywhere there is building going on. All the footpaths are being repaved and the longer term expats say that there is a bit of a new feel to the people.

There isn’t much in the way of rubbish bins, but also not significant loads of rubbish around the place. At the same time they don’t burn stacks of rubbish, although I’m told they do burn fields and like a bit of fire.

I walk. A lot. The people are friendly and the place is laid out relatively predictably. I got turned around a bit once, but a nice young man, with almost as little English as I had Tetun got me to where I was trying to go (rather than back the way I came, which I could have managed). I’ve often guessed a bit wrongly as to which way to go, but I usually don’t get lost, just cut down a side street and re-establish my route.

You see more of the town that way, anyway. I could carry a map, but I haven’t bothered, at least to this point.

Expats here are referred to as “Mr [Firstname]”. I don’t resist, since I refer to my Timorese boss as Senhor A, and his assistants, my counterparts, as Senhores A, C and E. I’m still feeling my way around addressing the ladies in the office. My guess is that most or all are married, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to get wrong, and enough glitter and bling is worn to make judging by rings pretty unreliable.

I start Tetun lessons today after the lady at the college whose course teaches intensive Tetun promised that after 3 weeks of spending all morning learning Tetun ( big ask in time terms!) I would be able to barely hold my own in a short social conversation. So I’ve hired a tutor instead. Afterwards, I found out she has a PhD in Tetun, and maybe her linguistic bar is set pretty high.

There are lots of pigs and goats, with the occasional and always brilliantly coloured chook around. The huge number of goats and the lack of goat on ANY menu I’ve seen to date, makes me wonder if they are milk animals. The dogs don’t look exactly healthy but they aren’t mangy street rats.

My wondering about the vendors continues. A bloke with a pole with bunches of fruit on each end was trying to sell them, as you do. He chanted out “mango,mango,mango”, pretty much as one word, as you might, to draw attention to his produce. What is wrong with this picture? Well, he’d actually wandered into a restaurant at lunchtime while everyone was sitting down and eating. Oddly, he didn’t make a single sale.

The sun really bites here, you can feel it beating down. I wore a big hat everywhere, and collared shirts, but even so, I managed a mild sunburn but I got to it with cream and it has faded. I didn’t leave home without applying sun block this morning.

I'm liking it here.

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