Welcome to Dili
Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
36Trip End Jul 29, 2010
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Where I stayed
East Timor Backpacker
Immigration is fairly simple here – you hand over $30 US and they give you a 30 day stamp in your passport – and then you're pretty much free to wander through the green customers channel into the terminal.
Very helpfully, the clinic where Liz is working had sent an ambulance to collect us – so we bundled into the back of that, put the rucksacks on the gurney and we were off to see where we would be living and working for the next couple of months.
First stop was the Bairo Pite clinic – where we met Dr. Dan, the American who established it 10 years ago during the problems in 1999. The clinic is a small cluster of buildings with a couple of basic wards, a basic lab and an office – and here they deliver c. 100 babies a month and see up to 300 patients every day, coming with a variety of illnesses and injuries. The Timor-Leste health service is improving, but the legend of Dr. Dan and the fact that he doesn't charge for anything means that there is a constant stream of patients coming here, and attending the various clinics that take place out in the countryside.
Next stop, after the clinic was the East Timor Backpackers – and much like the clinic it is a small cluster of buildings around a dusty courtyard, with the basic requirements for backpackers – a couple of dorms, communal showers that smell and a bar that has cold beer. Our room is on the simple side of basic – it has a bed and an air-conditioning unit that sounds like a lawn mower engine – in the last week, we've decided to move, and tomorrow take possession of a room in a place over the road, which is cheaper, cleaner, has an en-suite bathroom and air conditioning that allows you to sleep and keep cool at the same time.
We started the process of integrating into the local ex-pat community that evening, with dinner at Dr. Dan's along with one of his fund-raisers over from America and a collection of local volunteers and assistants, with a few NGO type charity people turning up later. The next day, we continued this process with a trip to the beach and the best hotel in town, courtesy of some Aussie ex-pat medics that Liz had met that morning at the clinic – they very kindly taxied us around and introduced us to a few people and also the swanky hotel and how to use the pool when required. Might come in handy this weekend.
Since our gentle introduction to Dili life, Monday cam as a bit of a shock really – full days at work – me having to trek 20 minutes across town on foot to my air-conditioned office with water cooler and filter coffee machine (East Timor coffee is highly recommended), where I have been learning the intricacies of EU bureaucracy and why it costs so much money to buy a stapler, and Liz with a much shorter walk to go and work amongst the poor of the Bairo Pite area in high temperatures – but she does get to go on day trips out of town to visit the poor of local villages as well, so it's not all work, work, work.
A week in now, and it seems as though we've been away for much longer already – either that means we're settled, or it means that we've been to busy to have possibly only been here a week. Dili is the largest city in East Timor, but resembles any small town in a developing country – apart from the massive numbers of UN vehicles that are everywhere. As a tourist destination, it would be terrible – but when you look at Dili bay, across to Atauro island, and manage to see past the container port, the mass of plastic bottles and the dust, you can see that people will be coming here in 10 or 20 years time in the same way they go to the Maldives now. All the country needs is a few more years of peace, a functioning government with the capability to run itself and manage the country, some roads and a collection of those private huts that stand on stilts over the sea and it will be fine. Simples!