A more recent update…. All of the other posts are basically background information to catch people up on my life here in East Timor. So here is what has been happening for the past 3 weeks or so. (beginning of November through the 3rd week).

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Bali

Kay (the woman I am dating) left East Timor to go back to Washington D.C. She is quitting her job with the World Bank and moving to Sri Lanka where she will start a new job with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). So what other choice did we have than to take 5 days off and spend them in Bali, Indonesia. So I worked overtime to get comp time and then we took off for Bali…my contract doesn’t give my any vacation or sick days.

We decided to head up to the northeast coast and go diving. After some confusion at the airport we rented a car, got a horrible map and took off on a 4 hour odyssey to find the right roads. It was a great time and we saw a ton of Bali by getting lost in the back mountain roads and small villages. We finally arrived and stayed for 3 nights in a resort right on the water that had a dive shop attached. We did two dives the next day, one to a ship wreck that was massive and about 25 meters down and the other to a drop off full of coral. We saw all of the normal tropical fish, such as puffers, clown fish (think nemo), a school of mackerel in a circle and even a giant barracuda.

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It was a really relaxing time and was just what we needed. We took the car out and explored the area and found terraced rice fields up in the mountains. They were so beautiful and such a vibrant green.

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On our third day we headed back to the south coast near the airport area and stayed at a small villa in the middle of rice fields and about 10 minuets away from the beach. We took our time shopping and spent a half-day taking surfing lessons. It was amazing and after surfing first in San Diego and now in Bali I think I really need to add it regularly to my life…more on this later. I was a bit bummed because I had been hoping to take kite boarding lessons (where you use a kite to pull you across the water on a board strapped to your feet), but the timing was just not right and between heavy rain and low tide I had to settle for only scuba diving and surfing…..Yes I know I have a rough life.

So to sum up Bali…great time, great weather, awesome sporting activities and possibly one of the best atmospheres I have encountered around Asia. The Balinese have a great sense for design, whether it is for architecture, sculpting, furniture making, or wood carving. I would be very happy if I could outfit my future house (if I ever settle down…just joking Mom…..maybe….) with anything from Bali.

We got stuck in about 15 festivals while driving. Bali is a mainly Hindu island and these festivals were to celebrate the full moon.

A view of rice fields from the road above.

Me and the rice fields…


Kay and I taking a break from driving

Some more rice fields built into the side of some mountains.

Traditional Balinese boat…you didn’t think all the pictures were going to be of rice did you?

Having fun on the boat

Back to Timor-

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I arrived back to Timor (alone…sniff sniff) and jumped right back into work. I am coming up on the end of my contract and the seminars/workshop I am organizing need to get done, and quickly. The problem is negotiating the agenda and content with my boss and still keeping the impact of the content close to my vision. In either case the situation is very fluid here and without notice the police and military have begun reconciling with each other (they had been shooting at each other just 3 months ago).

Yes, I know this sounds like a good thing…and it really is. But it makes organizing the seminars more difficult because the security sector has its own program going (with all the right secret handshakes) and getting our agenda picked up is going to be even harder. So what do you do when work gets difficult…go on a camping trip with friends.

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5 of us got on our motorcycles and drove an hour up the coast to Dollar beach (no I have no idea where the name came from) and camped out for the night. Yup, just one hour away and you get a nice deserted tropical beach. The ride out there was amazing as we zoomed over mountains and hugged curves that dropped hundreds of feet down to the ocean; through little villages and past fishermen spear hunting for dinner. I had bought a camping hammock in Bali, complete with a mosquito net. However, the breeze kept going all night so not only was it cool, and the sky star filled, but all of the bugs were blown away.

The next morning I hiked up a small rise to see the sunrise and then went snorkeling over the reef. Kay and I had come out to the same beach about 3 weeks ago with a friend to go diving so I had a pretty good idea of where all the fish were. It is amazing all the fish and other creatures you can see even just snorkeling.

Some locals were trying to bounce a truck on tires to get it high enough to work on its axle…so we got off your bikes and decided to help. Not the easiest way to raise up a car but when you don’t have a garage near by it is the only way.

Yup that’s right, that me and 125cc of pure power. This is the spot where we set up camp.

My new camping hammock and mosquito net. This is a single and I should have bought a double. Maybe I will buy a new one on my way through Bali next and one you lucky souls might be getting a slightly used single camping hammock as a present…one can only dream.

Dollar beach at sunrise…the next picture is from the small hill in the distance.

A view of the beach from a small hill.

Sunrise

Well that is basically what has been going on with me up to about 2 weeks ago. I will update you all soon on the past 2-3 weeks….

Dec 042006

As you may have already heard I have changed homes here in East Timor to a bungalow just outside of Dili (the capital of East Timor). I now live in a one room bungalow inside of a guarded “compound” right across the street from the ocean and a nice rocky/sandy beach. My compound has 3 other bungalows that are rented out by foreigners and our landlords live in a house slightly up the hill from us. There is 24 hour security, a wire fence with gate, 5 dogs, various other Timorese living in the compound (not sure who they are just yet), a bunch of construction workers building a new 2 story bungalow and a garden with three friendly monkeys that like to pick at my arm hair and try to find bugs.

I live about a 45 minute walk outside of town so I have bought (and learned to ride) a small 125cc motorcycle to get me back and forth (and out into the mountains in the near future). I have always wanted to learn how to ride and it is the perfect place to learn (minus the pigs, cows, goats and chickens that run out in front of me constantly). My commute is beautiful, hugging the side of the mountains and right next to the water. I am pretty much living up my tropical island fantasy, and the conflict and violence here keeps me from getting too bored. There have been a wave of stabbings recently and more and more foreigners are being attacked at night for money. Not sure if the trend will continue or not.

Anyway I decided to walk home on Saturday and take pictures along the way so that you can get a better feeling for where I live and my trips to and from home. I hope you enjoy the pictures and there should be more to come. I really want to buy a nice digital camera but it would never make it here in one piece (I might just have to make a trip to Thailand).

Enjoy!

In front of a supermarket and on the main road out of town people sell their fish. You can get 2 red snappers weighing 8 pounds each for about $20 US.


One more “shop” on the way out of town.


Just in case you didn’t realize that there are trees and houses outside of Dili (the capital)


The windy road just out of town. And yes this is a two lane road and SUVs and buses (called Microlets here) squeeze by each other.


Leaving Town we come to the first Beach (although the beach runs along the whole coastline, even in the “city”. I live close to the mountains in the distance.




View to the right of typical Timorese houses. There is not much to them and family sizes can be very big. The average woman has about 7.25 children in her lifetime.


Beginning of the first beach.


Fisherman fixing his nets.


Traditional boats. These are left all over the beach and are the main fishing boats used.

I passed by a bunch of kids swimming and a few adults looking for shell fish (I think).


The kids here love having their pictures taken and like seeing themselves and their friends on the digital screen even more.


The next J-Crew model?

Loving the attention!!!!!


View of the next beach/cove


This cove is filled with fish BBQ restaurants, and various other foods. There is even a “dance club” called Exotica.


Animals (like these goats) like to jump out at me while riding my motorcycle. The pigs here (hogs really) have no fear as they know I will die before they do! The chickens love flying right in front of my face too…


This is a shrine to Mary. The Island is mostly Catholic but mixed with a native animism that believes in a mother earth and a father sky. In the far back of this picture is a statue of Jesus up on top of the far mountain.


What more can you ask for. They have tables on and off the beach and two nights over the past week I had dinner with a friend here. You sit by candle like on the beach with the stars nice and bright overhead. Both nights a large pig as walked by. Animals here are not penned up and everyone knows which pig belongs to who.

Leaving the restaurant area.


Where I just came from. Damn Goats!!!


Looking back at the “City”


The beach and cove where I live

The cove at low tide


There are lots of abandoned or unused boats “floating” around…There are still about 100,000 refuges that have fled the violence here in Dili. A lot of their possessions have either been burned or taken by those who have stayed. It is a huge mess sorting out their return.


The simple life


The fishing village just before my house


The beach right in front of my house


The gate into my “compound”


View from the gate…not too bad right?


The center of the compound


My Bungalow (if you are lucky the next installment of Cribs will show you the interior)

And finally my Hog. This bad boy has 125cc of pure power. There is not much to it besides the gears and engine. No fuel gauge, no start button, just pure power and a kick start. It is really fun to ride around (yes Mom I wear a helmet)…..I am fulfilling my island fantasy as I ride around with flip flops all around town and out to the beach. I am going to take it for a day trip next Tuesday during a national holiday….stay tuned.

A more recent update…around the beginning of October

Well I have to say life is treating me really well at the moment. I have an interesting job, job security for the next 2 months (until December 8th), a great groups of friends out here and some exciting news…..I just moved to a place by the water and I bought a motorcycle and have learned how to ride it.

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But first things first. I had one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. Not really sure what happened on Friday night…always a good sign….I do remember Saturday so I guess I will start from there. I had my first diving session (my confined dives in the pool) and it was really fun. I get to go out on 4 open water dives in the ocean starting from next weekend. After wards I met up with the Hash House Harriers and we ran and hiked (I hiked because my dislocated toe is still bothering me) through the hills and up a dry river bed. We were met by a supped up party “van” that brought the beers and music. After getting trashed in the middle of nowhere we headed back to a private bar and ate, drank and played ping pong.

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Next I found myself at a toga party and danced until 2 am until a friend gave me a ride home. Although come to think of it, the Toga party could have been on Friday. Not really sure of time out here. Sunday morning saw me buying a 125 cc motorcycle (with clutch and gears) and spending an hour riding up and down the street learning how to ride it before I took it home.

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Shortly there after I moved to my new place, 10 min outside of town, and right across the street from the water. I live in a small 1 room bungalow with security and a friend who lives right across from me. There are 4 houses in the compounds, 5 dogs and 3 monkeys in the garden. I live a 10 min walk or 2 min drive to the best beach around and there is a small fishing village right down the street. The water in front is a small bay with mountain surrounding the area. The sunsets are amazing.

So now I get to ride back and forth to work on my new motorcycle. Most of the ride hugs the water so I get to feel the sea air on my face and soak up island life. The only dangers I have is dodging pigs, goats, dogs, chickens and oxen that like to jump out into the street. I am happy I left my old area as someone was stabbed to death at noon 2 days ago because he went into a store a gang was “protecting.” This all happened about 5 blocks away from where I lived.

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Ok I do not have too much more news. I hope you enjoy the pictures and keep the e-mails coming, it is nice to hear what is going on at home.

Kids I met by a dry river bed

Tricked out bus we used for a party on the dry river bed

Kay humoring some drunk Australian

A sunset from the beach near my house

Tough life I know.

I will send more pictures of my place, neighborhood and my motorcycle in the next blog…

Dec 042006

Hi Everyone,

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Ok, here is the first in what I hope will be a number of blog entries to keep you all informed about my life here. After struggling with a couple of programs (they kept mixing up my pictures) I hope this blog will turn out ok. These first few post are an attempt to catch you all up on my life here as I have been very lazy about keeping in touch. I also did not want to subject all of you to mass e-mails that none of you were going to read anyway. This way you can read about my time here if you like or just look at the pretty pictures for those of you who don’t read so good….

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So here is the quick update. I was in San Francisco for 3 months working with the Asia Foundation. This led to an opportunity to start up a project on governance and conflict vulnerabilities in Dili, East Timor with the Foundation’s office out here. It took me 5 days of traveling to reach East Timor and I have been here and working for just over a week.

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As far as work goes I am doing an analysis on the recent (and continuing) violence here in the Capital and linking the root causes to structural and governance weaknesses. With this I am issuing grants to a local NGO to organize seminars to develop recommendations for reform. It is actually a more exiting project than it sounds as East Timor is in the middle of a dynamic transition and we think we have the political connections with the Prime Minister and the President to support our recommendations. So that’s the background on that….now for the fun stuff.

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Dili is a crazy place. It is set right on a beautiful blue bay and flanked on the other three sides my mountains. It is the poorest nation in Asia and the average family makes about $1.01 a day (which is tough when the average woman has 7.3 babies). It makes for an interesting contrast with so many international organizations and the UN driving their Land Cruisers around. The police force and military have been basically taken over by a new UN mission and you see international police and their automatic weapons walking around the streets and eating next to you while Australian tanks patrolling the main roads. I wish I had my camera when two tanks stopped in the middle of the street, backed up and parallel parked so that they sandwiched in a car and the hot girl driving. Not sure how far they got once they started hitting on her from the top of their tanks. The funniest group is the Portuguese GNR (Paramilitary) who like to oil themselves up on the beach in their speedos on the weekends and work out all over the place.

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Security wise things ebb and flow here but it is not safe to be out at night without a car, and even then you have the danger of arrows and stones being shot at you. During the day things are mostly fine but one US female was held at knife point the other day in a popular area. Luckily she was not hurt because the guys with the knives only wanted to kill Australians. So there is definitely an air of caution about going out but going with a group to established areas is usually OK. Although most nights I have been stuck in my hotel room due to increased violence at night during which most organizations force their staff to stay in.

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I have made a number of friends thanks to a contact here from a Fletcher friend. I have been able to go out to the “bars” a bunch of times and hang out on the beach with a good group of people. Saturday I had my first Hash House Harriers experience. We started and ended at the New Zealand embassy where we had a pool party and BBQ. I spent Sunday on the beach swimming and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

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Unfortunately, Sunday is also when I had my first real “adventure” (besides everyday living here). I crashed into someone while going for the Frisbee and when I stood up my fourth toe on my right foot was dislocated and sticking out perpendicular to my foot. I hobbled up the beach and found Dr. Ross (who was sun tanning with his Brazilian boy toy who doesn’t’ speak his language) and he popped my toe back into place. Although it wasn’t all the way in so I had to pop it the rest of the way in when I got back to my hotel room. It was all a bit painful J

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So Monday is starting off the be a pretty rough day pain wise but work wise I am really busy with meetings and negotiating with a local NGO who I want to organize the seminars. I even had a meeting with the office of the President to discuss my project. It is odd how easy it is to see people when they think you have money that they need….

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So, all in all things are pretty crazy here in East Timor., and it seems a bit like a frontier town with all the crazy internationals you could hope for. There is a lot to keep me occupied, and in trouble, and the work environment can be difficult but rewarding. I think when I consolidate my schedule a bit I am going to get my scuba diving certification which will be a good distraction (at least once my toe heals). As for job possibilities after my 1 month contract ends, I am still trying to meet as many people as possible and figure it out.

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I hope you are all doing well and I would love to hear from you and hear what and how you are doing. If you respond back I promise you will get a more personalized e-mail that will not include all the background info I just forced upon you.

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Talk to you soon,

Todd

A block from my hotel

A Typical Sunday

Traditional Dancer

Across the Street from the Supermarket

The Perfect Combination

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Me with the Malaysian Police


Dec 042006

Hi Everyone,

I am sorry there are no posts for you to see yet. I am having some technical issues that need to be resolved. This will just require time and a bit of patience on my side considering the internet at work….I mean at home…yeah that’s it, is not all that fast. Please check back over the weekend by which time I hope to have everything figured out in time for my Bali, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bali, Lombok, Flores, Komodo, Bali, East Timor odyssey.

Thanks,
Todd

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