Friday, April 13, 2012

Three Days in the East Part Three

I’d like to finish this story off quickly. So much more has happened since I returned from the East. Wow; time really has flown by.

A final note on what happened on the first day, Monday, 2 April. I felt like my head was going to explode. Dehydrated and too much sun – and super exhausted. We were promised somewhere to crash at the local Church. Sounded great. In fact, if it wasn’t for the mozzies, I would have slept on the ground outside, it was so cool outside and I was ready to collapse. Of course, best laid plans of mice and men.

Arrived at the Church and of course no one knew what was going on. Communication was zero. No one knew if there were rooms, no one knew anything. Couldn’t believe it. Just wanted to sleep, and my headache was crushing my spirit. The Church itself, as an aside, is an amazing building. Really impressive, great design and well put together – too bad I didn’t get to stay there. Looked good enough…

Instead, Mana A. and I are shipped off to stay at the house of a family who is somehow connected to the campaign. WHATEVER. I couldn’t have cared less, just give me a cold shower and something to sleep on. The place was lovely by the way, very grateful to the family who knew nothing about us to take us in. I don’t mean to sounds ungrateful, but I was really sick, and also tired of being at the whim of the campaign gods. I wish things had been a little better organised; communication in particular. The breakdown of communication would lead to the first major hiccup of the trip and the first of three miracles on Tuesday, 3 April.

Some discussion had taken place Monday night concerning the plans for the next day. TMR was head to the district of Lautem, the most Eastern of Timor-Leste’s districts. The first stop would be Los Palos, then Iliomar. The estimated time of departure varied according to the person we spoke too. We heard 5am, 6am and 7am. The last person we spoke to said 4am. Now, given my experience of how things run on time here (see Timor Time or rubber time), I felt we wouldn’t be moving till at least 6am. Still I set the alarm, just in case, for around 4am. I figured, worst case, they would wake us up when they were going to leave. They wouldn’t just leave us there, surely.

Of course, they left us there.

I had woken up a bit after four and nothing was doing. I talked with Mana A. later on and she had woken up a couple of times during the morning and nothing was happening. 

I woke up at 7.30am, not sure what was going on, and got packed. In a nutshell, they had left at 7am. They didn’t leave any numbers or any other way to contact them. We didn’t know the family we were staying with. We knew, effectively, no one. What a joke.

Miracle #1

With no other recourse, we went to the PNTL, the local police station. This was the first miracle. The officer in charge there was extremely helpful. After he and his mates had a quiet chuckle about our predicament, which I don’t blame them for, he informed us that he was going to Baucau a little later and could give us a lift. Ace! We bundled on board his very comfortable well equipped 4WD with some other people and made our way to Baucau. What a difference it makes to travel facing forward, with a seatbelt, in a 4WD. Was a dream compared to my trip to Quelicai. 

Miracle #2

Mana A. and I arrived in Baucau around lunch. The plan was to find some transport to Manatuto, then make our way South from there to Laclubar, where TMR was scheduled to campaign on the following day. Lunch before we travelled seemed sensible, and safe enough. Who knew?

Again, in a nutshell, during the course of lunch, Mana A. decline an offer for a glass of water from the restaurant’s water jug for some from her bottle. I didn’t immediately notice there was a problem. Half an hour later I was informed by Mana A. that she had inadvertently drunk something other than water. A fluid similar in appearance to water had been contained in that bottle, something less than pleasant.  It turned out to be kerosene.

In an attempt to induce here to vomit, I suggested salt water and fingers down the throat. What a sight it would have been for local onlookers and passersby. There was me, mixing salt I had bought from one of the street side stores with a bottle of water, then Mana A. consuming it and trying to throw up. Mana A. wanted to see a doctor or get to the hospital. A couple local guys on their bikes told us it was 2 kilos away. How were we going to get there?

We paid them to take us there. I guess it wasn’t that big of a miracle, paying them to take us there was a simple transaction, but it felt like a miracle at the time.

Miracle #3

After being redirected several times around the hospital to find the consultation office, we finally found it and Mana A. found an English speaking Portuguese doctor. X-rays were the order of the day. While I was waiting, miracle number 3 occurred. An Australian nurse, whom I had met previously in Dili, walked by. Of course, Julie! She was based in Baucau. How relieved I was to see her. 

Sight for sore eyes I tell; told her all about it and she called a toxicology specialist in Dili. It would have taken a lot of kerosene to have done serious damage, though something came up on the x-ray, some fluid in the lungs. Antibiotics were prescribed. 

Now, first time in Baucau, nowhere to stay and no idea of how to get anywhere from the hospital. Julie saves the day again. I am told I can crash at here place for the night and she drops me off there to rest up before returning back to work. Had a great dinner out with her and her housemate, Nicole. Had a couple of beers, thought I was due at least two.

The plan now? Travel to Laclubar in the morning and hope to catch TMR there. 

Wednesday, 4 April

Not a lot to say here. We got a lift with a family to Manatuto, where we envisaged getting transport to Laclubar. This car ride was something else. Placing one of my bags in the bag, I noticed that two pigs had been tied up and placed in the back – in the tray. Some kind of sacrifice or exchange was taking place in Dili; the pigs were part of the deal. In addition, there were two kids holding on in the back, I mean, in the tray with the pigs. Two more kids shared the middle seat in the back, while one more sat on mum’s lap. Good times.

Of course, to top if all off, we found out there had been a change to the schedule – again. Laclubar had been cancelled. Waves of frustration came over me, initially, then relief. I had been defeated and I threw in the towel from the last three days. At least I got one good day of research material. Things could have been worse and I came back with some great anecdotes. We went straight back to Dili from Baucau. I was happy to get back; especially when I saw that my bike hadn’t been stolen. I don’t think I’ll add anymore.

PS. Just heard that TMR’s campaign HQ had been attacked today. I’m not pointing fingers but could it be more than just coincidence that FRETILIN has been campaigning very hard for the last two days in Dili? Anything is possible. This is not good.

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