New Blog Map

Check out the new blog map on the right hand side menu bar!

Its not very sophisticated compared to what you can do these days but it still took me 2 hrs to work out! You can click on a location to open the blog post made about that location.

Alternative click here for the nomad-odyssey feed in GoogleMaps!

For an example of a fully interactive travel map check this great blog about a couples 5.5 years spent sailing the world with geo-tagged anchorage locations, blog entries and photos!

Jakarta by Jakartans

A wordy Jakartan summarised my impression of Jakarta aptly with this metaphor:

Jakarta will always be complicated. It is like a Durian. 
Not all the people like Durian because it is big, with spiky, dun coloured skin and has a very strong smell. On the inside though, it has a really soft and moist tissue and taste like heaven. 

Jakarta is just like that. Harsh, rough, and sometimes so raw that some people just can’t accept it. But if your willing to come closer and see the inside of Jakarta, you will find bursts of color, the warmth of the people and the fusion of culture from almost every part of Indonesia.

Thanks Lesthia for summing it up so well, although I’m dissapointed to hear that you have retired your dirty dancing shoes, Hijab and beer bottle swigging attitude from Ally’s ‘Black’ Bar – because that was my other favourite metaphor for Jakarta!

Working in a foreign culture

In uni, I did a subject called ‘International Management’. At the time I thought it was a bit of a joke. My ideology then was that everyone was the same, motivated by the same intrinsic things and culture was just a set of rules that could be understood and applied appropriately. 
It seems to me now that is not the case, although I still think the subject was a joke.
That subject focused on taking cultural considerations into account when considering a market for products. It focused on the impact of cultural considerations on the value chain and how this would impact sales and demand. 
No doubt these are important considerations. What seems more important is if the staff understand and work within the same ideology as the staff in the home country?
 I can tell you that here in Dili, that is not the case.
Its a really tough working environment and its baby steps here at the moment. I’m not even sure if everything I have learnt regarding behavioural change, motivation and leadership applies here. In fact, i’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Its a different world. 
The difficult concept to grasp about Timor is that up to 10 years ago, this place was equivalent in terms of business understanding as the UK in the 17th century. It was a cottage economy at best, and hardly even that. The concepts of producing excess for sale, selling services, contracting, efficiency, and mass production are all massively foreign. Can you imagine not understanding that? Can you empathise with how confusing and frightening all this change must be? I can’t, it is incomprehensible to me and probably many who were born and educated in a much more developed system. 
If the Timorese do not understand these concepts, how can we expect them to comprehend the individual motivating forces embedded in them. Of course we cannot, so we need to identify what currently motivate them and how that can be linked to the organisational goals. At the moment a huge goal congruence exists between organisations with western based development ideals and local timorese staff who do not understand how they fit into those goals. 


Made a whirl-wind tour of the north coast of Timor all the way to Com and back on the weekend. I went to attend a cultural event, a visit to the traditional place of the people of Com however the elder leading the event got sick before hand and the event didn’t happen.

Kids in Eucusse

 I was invited by Antunes, the Mercy Corp PPI Program leader as he is from Com. So i stayed with his family on Saturday night and returned back to Dili on Sunday. The trip was about the limit of enjoyable riding for me, 6 Hrs each way including plenty of stops. The trip gave me a chance to get a good look at the land-scape outside of the central districts, with just the south districts left to view.

Antunes, his mum and some of his lil cousins
:Portuguese governors house
Kids scaring the birds of the ripe rice

Timor is certainly a beautiful and diverse country. The landscape changes continuously. Stoney mountain fed rivers, with lush rice paddy valleys.

Dry and rocky red hills with spinifex grass clumps. Long, stalky dry grass mountain plains.

Sandy coastal plains with pebble beachs. Magrove outcrops with muddy croc-infested tidal creeks. Volcanic black rock spurs.

Finally, in Com – sandy white beaches with turquoise water and tropical palm back-drops.

Com Jetty at 9pm under the full moon
Com Beach at sunrise

Albums of Photos are now being loaded onto Facebook as it is quicker and more convenient than Picasa.

Australians – Who are you now?

Do you feel like Australia is over-regulated these days? Do you lament that the iconographic image we built of our-selves through the blood, sweat and tears of the Diggers and the integrity and determination our international sports stars during the 80’s and 90’s has been lost? I do and I hope you do to.

The image and identity of Australia as a land of larrikans, opportunity, fairness and a place where we work hard and play hard is important to me, because I’m Australian. When I meet people overseas and tell them I’m Australian it colours and tints their perspectives and judgements of who I am and can massively impact on my life.

When I was contemplating this trip I heard reports from some Poms and Aussies returning from London that  we worked just as hard, if not harder in Sydney than they do in London. Including longer hours. I was appalled. It ruined my mental projections of Aussies abroad and probably put a few cracks in the rose tinted glasses I know I wear when thinking and analysing Australia. This is one of the reasons why Morgan Parkers post struck such a chord because he has returned to Sydney after a long period away and about 6 months travelling by motorbike through Asia, and it seems he got a bit of a shock.
I wonder, what will Australia be like when I return? Will it have changed as much as how I look at and conceive it? Historical foreign policy choices are certainly starting to have much more of an impact on my thinking. 


Decided to investigate one of the apparently more remote regions in Timor over the weekend, the Turascai district. The level of concern from some of the other volunteers was endearing but a little surprising. It seems one assumption I had about the development crowd was that they were all mostly adventurous too, but it turns out that is not strictly true.

Left earlyish Saturday morning and had a beautiful ride through the mountains in Aileu district. Not Far from Aileu a brave Timorese flagged me down. Brave because most of them are toos cared to ride the bike in Dili, but this kid wanted a ride and who was I not to oblige. Besides, he would be able to point out my turn-off for me.

Road was fine with some big holes and one particularly bad stretch of roadworks but nothing like what was to come. Not long after I took the turn off for Turascai the road deteriorated into gravel, large rocks (about the size of Charlottes head I reckon, if she has the traditional Fuller boof-head anyway!) and clay but the bike handled it no problems. About at this point my camera also ran out of battery. Don’t give me that look, I charged it the night before! I think the connection must have been poor or the power went out and came back on again when I was asleep! Then I went around the bend and hit Turascais own mini-meterological system – rain and cold wind for the next 24 hrs until I passed the same point on my way out. I should point out that the mountains that pass through the middle of Timor from East to West are substantially, having a couple of peaks around the 3000 mark and one just in excess of 3000 meters high. Thats about the same as Australia’s largest mountain! All in a country smaller than Victoria and only about 100km wide!

The road became very slippery in the rain & I was hungry so I stopped and got some locals to cook me some lunch. As seems the culture, the women did all the work and then sat and watched while the men ate. This process was to repeat itself for the next two meals in Turascai. The plan back-fired as it was raining heavier when I left, but I was buoyed by reports that it wasn’t far and also at seeing two locals go past on the one bike! If they could do it on a 150cc glorified scooter with a pillion passenger I should be fine. And I was. I put the bike down in the mud and rocks twice but in very slow motion.

After an extended tour arounded Turascai sub-district checking out the road quality and existing renewable enrgy technology in place for work I asking for a place to stay in the small village of Beremana abd a few locals politely told me they had no beds available here and that if I didn;t want to freeze I should return to Meremana (the sub-district capital village). The local school teacher there had me introduced to the Suco chief in no time and I was promptly passed along to Salvador, the son of the a building constructor and put up in his nice house with a better bed and dinner than I get in Dili (Although Edy’s cooking is very good!).

I brushed up on my tetutm, he brushed up on his english and we both brushed up on our Indonesian. I found communiciating with these guys easier than communicating with a lot of people in Dili. It might be resentment in Dili, I hope not.

The return trip was interesting. It rained pretty much the whokle time I was in Turascai and the road was very slippery, I burnt a lot of rubber but also learnt a lot about riding through that kind of terrain. On the way home I took a detour off the main road in Aileu and passed down some much steeper roads in a similar condition but because they were dry there was no issue at all with them.

The views all along were breathtaking and the photo’s don’t do the steepness of the mountains or the depth of colour any justice.

Timor – First Impressions

I have the bike in Timor Leste and I feel much better for it. I headed up into the hills behind Dili on the weekend and was surprised at how steep they are. No wonder the Indonesians had trouble finding Xanana Gusmao and the Fretlin and Fatalin guerilla fighters, access is seriously limited in places. At the tops of the mountains are still some lush old-tree forests and they have a very calming and peaceful feel about them.

As benefits someone on a bike, I rode down a couple of random tracks and ended up in a few villages past Dare where the road abruptly stops. Looking for an alternative way down I ended up at fork in the road that led to two private drive-ways of rather large houses. One of the residents spotted me and we had a good little chat and some tea looking out over Dili and Atuaro. I can’t remember his name but he spoke good english and worked for The Asian Foundation (TAF) right near Mercy Corp. That discussion gave me the best insight yet into what may have been troubling me recently: How the Timorese think.

Our discussion was incredible deep and heart-felt for such a random meeting. In his opinion, in my memory and in my words the factors affecting the capability of the Timorese to develop a functioning society which was just, fair and productive includes:

  • A lack of skills, knowledge and understanding which breeds the confidence and belief inherent in such lucky educated Australians as myself. Not having the skills and knowledge is one thing, but lacking the confidence to make mistakes crucifies the ability to learn those skills and develop the knowledge which leads to the confidence. 
  • Responsible for the lack of skills and knowledge is the hundreds of years of colonial subjugation by Portugal where Timorese were permitted to labour but not to learn – especially not in the sense of being developed personally to question authority, to question tradition, to ask how or why it was being done. From this inheritance they learned to labour, to act as directed, not to think. 
  • A fear of authority that comes from tens of years of brutal oppression by the Indonesian occupying forces.
  • A tribal and regional royalty heritage (read about the Suco structure here) that has either re-asserted itself in the absence of other government control systems or been re-established as part of new governmental systems or been totaly ignored altogether. This has resulted in resurging nepotism and therefore skepticism, distrust, inefficiency and a lack of productivity.

I feel like I left that tea meeting with a much better understanding and yet I’m still struggling emotionally, with low motivation, low energy and a pretty poor outlook for the future in Timor Leste and i’m pretty sure it has to do with the huge work-force of international aid providers here. Undeniably some do an amazing job, with limited resources and huge amounts of effort. Also undeniably and rather disappointingly some don’t do their job at all and yet consume an immense amount of resources with no effort. Even worse, they seem to be proud of it. It got me down. Then I looked at the hills and sunset and thought that there are stronger, bolder elements at play in Timor Leste, and they will succeed eventually.