Friday, May 23, 2008

Dissing Dili

Yeah, so Dili is a little played out. This is my third time here in the past seven months. And there was no political instability this trip (come on guys, it has been *weeks* since you last shot the president). This is good for the Timorese population, not so good for the interest level on the blog. I will give it my best shot with a couple highlights from the last two weeks.

Highlight 1: Betting the Turks at backgammon. Somehow, the same way beer always tastes better when your team is winning, it is always better to beat a Turk. They consider backgammon to be in their blood, a national pastime. But, when it really comes down to it, my American-ness has nothing to do with why they get so pissed off. It’s ‘cause I’m a woman. The guy that owns the Turkish restaurant that I pass on the way home everyday plays with one of the UNAPOL (United Nations Police – just one of the heavily armed foreign factions cruising around Dili on any given day.) I walked by and watched them play a couple times, sizing them up, before I casually mentioned that I could play too. And I got gifts when I won! I don’t know if I would qualify quite as a true backgammon hustler, but I kept myself in yogurt and flatbread pretty good.

Highlight 2: Diving. I was lucky enough to get an entire Sunday morning off this week. I headed out with a trip about 50 kms outside the capital. It turned out to be a complete shit show, but, man I still love diving. We got a flat on the truck, which would have been no big thing had we had a working jack. Instead you get a bunch of ailing 30-something former tough guys fighting with a jack that continually slipped, dropping the gear laden truck on anyone nearby. Fortunately a truck load of teen-something Timorese came by with a real jack and fixed the car for us. Then, I got into a brawl with a jellyfish. Admittedly, I was a little annoyed at the species already because one of his brethren had gotten my wrist on the first dive. So I took personal offense when I got stung again. And proceeded to flail around in annoyance enough to get myself three separate stings. Damned Cnidaria.

Highlight 3: Independence Day. I was hanging out in my hotel, reading my book, minding my own business, when I heard a series of pops and bangs and got a whiff of the unmistakable smell of gunpowder in the tropical air. Just then I noticed the wailing sirens in the background. Obviously the best place for me in an occasion such as this was on the hotel balcony facing the street so I could see what was going on. Ah. Fireworks for Independence Day. The sirens were just the usual background noise. (I had gone to the flag raising ceremony that morning, complete with sharpshooters and a military band that would be shown up by most elementary schools.)

Highlight 4 : Pig-dogs. I was up in the mountains supervising field training in a village filled with puppies and children in various states of malnutrition. (Timor has children everywhere. It has, by a long shot, the highest birth rate in the world. The average Timorese woman has 7 children. The average. It is incredible.) But, there, sleeping by the road, were a pile of four things that looked like pig-dog hybrids. Snouts and stumpy legs and fur and puppy tails. (I think they were actually dogs. Despite being a confirmed city girl, I am getting better at identifying these sorts of things, lots of agricultural surveys you know.) Just a last minute attack of rationality prevented me from taking one home for further analysis and fetch playing.

Well, that pretty much sums it up. I am going to hit the spa tomorrow in Bali, then spend the rest of the long weekend in Tokyo. I suppose things could be worse…

6 comments:

Forsoothsayer said...

your life sounds awesome. have you made any good friends? how do i get a pimp job like that?

Kristen Himelein said...

I have definitely made some great friends in random places of the world. And yes, I am quite pleased with how this all turned out.

Mohamed said...

I find amusing that in the paragraph on the pig-dogs, you put a photo of kids... you obviously think very highly of the Timorese, don't you..

Kristen Himelein said...

I *like* the Timorese. They are a really chill and happy people, most of the time. The reason for the picture of the children refers to the fertility in the paragraph above. Quit trying to get me in trouble!

Kristen Himelein said...

I *like* the Timorese. They are a really chill and happy people, most of the time. The reason for the picture of the children refers to the fertility in the paragraph above. Quit trying to get me in trouble!

Mohamed said...

I know, I know. But it was took good of a (cheap) shot to miss...

I hope you're doing great!! Cheers from Palestine!