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September 17th 2011
Published: September 16th 2011
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It’s early Saturday morning and I’ve been in Dili (East Timor) since late on Monday. Once again I’m travelling with a group from work to train some local people in the use of some software that has been developed at work and to also run a workshop on climate and climate change for a larger group of people.

We had to travel from Melbourne last Monday because we could not arrange flights from Darwin to Dili for the weekend. We initially thought that this was because a lot of Army personnel use those flights but I think that it was because of a bike race. For the last few years East Timor has been running the Tour de Timor. This is a bit like the Tour de France but for mountain bikes. I also imagine that the cyclists aren’t household names either. Apparently the participants are a mix of locals and cyclists from many other countries. Well it was Tour de Timor this past week. Apart from difficulty in actually getting here we’ve also been affected by the fact that late last week the government called a public holiday for yesterday which was meant to be the second day of our training workshops. Normally this would not have been a problem but the reason for this one was because they closed all of the streets in Dili so that the cyclists could do a circuit through Dili on their way to the President’s Palace.

On our first day in Dili (Tues) we had meetings with various government officials, an AusAID person at the Australian Embassy and reps from some of the NGOs that operate here in East Timor. These meetings are held basically to tell these people a bit about our research program, explain what we are doing in Dili and also get some info about the local problems etc. Wednesday was “Stakeholder Workshop” day where we provide talks about some of the concepts that are important to understand when working in climate change and also provide an introduction to this software. Once this day is over we can almost relax. All of us, that is, except the person who is running the training sessions. In Dili, the workshops have been more complicated as we have to use a translator to translate what we say in English to the local Tetun language. This makes everything longer and it is more difficult to have discussions. So, now we’ve had 1 ½ days of training but still have another day on Monday. The locals are pretty keen to get training and most came in yesterday for a ½ day even though it was a holiday

I’ve gone for a walk on 2 mornings. The first morning we headed west from our hotel which took us along the beachfront in front of a large number of embassies. None of us have seen so many embassies lined up in one place. Yesterday, because it was a holiday, we were able to walk a bit further and so this time we walked east along the beach. There are lots of stalls, from hand held trolleys to permanent structures selling goods – coconuts, bottled water and cigarettes, fruits and veg stalls, fish etc.

My impressions of Dili so far are of friendly people, laughing kids, great food, great food (slightly spicy), car horns and a grittiness that is a bit different to anywhere else that Ive been. One thing that I really like about Dili are the trees that line the Esplanade and main streets. There are lots of huge Banyan trees, Breadfruit trees and Silk trees. One thing that I don’t like is the visibility. Most days that we’ve been here it has been incredibly hazy. We didn’t know what caused the haze, but the AusAID person at the Australian Embassy told us it was from cooking fires. When I went for a walk on Thursday morning you could smell the smoke. One of our party has also been able to see fires from her hotel room so that can’t be helpful either. When we arrived on Monday it was very windy and the sea has been quite choppy. However, yesterday it was very calm and the visibility cleared during our walk – it was really quite pretty.

I''l post photos later as I don't have time now. Today our group is heading off for an overnight trip to the town of Com. This is east of Dili, almost on the NE tip of the island. More on that when I get back.

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