Thursday, October 09, 2008

Splash for Trash – East Timor 8th October 2008

On the 20th of September it was International Beach Clean Up day. All over the world volunteers were picking up rubbish from their beaches. So to join in the spirit of things I decided that our dive centre was going to take part and if possible get as many kids involved as I could.

The event was a great success. We held it at the Ocean View Hotel as we needed shade and toilet facilities. 50 people took part including some regular divers, snorkelers and kids from both international schools here in Dili. We managed to get some Timorese teenagers involved as well. They were at the hotel for an English lesson and when they had finished I invited them to join us. They thought it was a great idea and donned their rubber gloves and joined in with the rest of us.

What I didn’t know was the Portuguese television company that was filming the event was going to show the footage worldwide. So I’m now an international film star, even the USA! We managed to collect 48 big bags of rubbish in two hours which were disposed of by Anteater (thank you!) Prizes were given to the kids that collected the most unusual pieces of trash which were a car bumper, a radio and a welding helmet.

I had my first encounter with a Lulik man (witch doctor) recently. We had a robbery at the office and to eliminate any suspicion the traditional Timorese way of doing things is to visit the Lulik man and he will tell you who did it. A load of codswallop you may say but the Timorese are very superstitious and really believe in this stuff.

So I went to see the Lulik man who told me who the culprit was. He did this by wadding his mouth with betel nut and lime, and then every time we asked a question he would remove this muck from his mouth, inspect it and give us the answer. The thing is about betel nut is it a mild drug, so the guy was getting stoned and looking into his drugs for the answer!

I then had to go and buy a candle and all the staff had to hold the candle and swear that they did not steal anything and they didn’t know who did. The weird thing was when I took the candle back it sent shivers down my spine and I had goose bumps for a good 5 minutes. Once the ceremony was over I had to return the candle to the lulik man and tell him what kind of curse I wanted. Anything from death to disability! I opted for a head cold. Needless to say his description did not fit any one person and no-one has got sick. This is not something I want to repeat, ever!

We have had a whole band of tourists in from Australia, 10 of them! Wow we had a busy week, just the logistics alone. But I did some incredible diving over on Atauro, the walls there are amazing. The Timorese polices have been having a clamp down on car registrations, If you don’t have the original documents on you then the car gets impounded. The tourists were driving around in a minibus we hired and of course got stopped at a road block, bye-bye minibus!

Now this is typical of Dili. The major car hire company had two partners who fell out so they split and are now both trading in separate premises but under the same name. I phoned the company to get the papers for the minibus only to be told that the previous company illegally kept all the papers for the cars and they are now in the middle of a court battle to get the papers back. This doesn’t really help when your hire car has been impounded by the police! We managed to get the minibus back though.

I did a deep dive course this weekend with 3 of my regular customers. The course is 3 dives and each one of them was fabulous. The first at Dili Rock we got 26 nudibranches in an orgy plus a winged pipefish (well spotted Annabella!) The third at Marble Rock we had a Bumphead Parrotfish and 2 leaf scorpionfish. But the second dive at K41 was one of my best dives there yet. At 40metres we had 2 white tip reef shark just laying on the sand, when they moved off an huge Napoleon Wrasse swam past. Then a huge barracuda, 21 squid doing a fabulous line dance, a flying gurnard, 2 lionfish, a scorpionfish, a swiftly moving nudibranch and a flatworm. To top it all we had a manicure courtesy of the cleaner shrimp.

We have some guys over here that are trying to raise a shipwreck in the harbour. They are a great bunch and we have been trying to help them out with their unexpected problems. So they invited us on their boat for dinner. It was bliss sitting on the top deck in the cool night breeze looking over Dili. Really chilled out especially as I am in the middle of a very stressful course with 6 Filipino cops who cannot seem to make it on time, ever! I did get a word of warning though, when using the toilet, check the area first. They had a banded sea snake in there, eek!

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