Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rain on the Roof

Darkness is descending on Dili.

The remnants of the red clouds to the east have just faded to gray as the sun dropped over the western horizon.

Hints of fog can be seen in the distance -- on the surrounding mountains.

It's raining there.

It's also raining here -- hard at times. The big drops are pounding the roof -- intermittently eliminating the traffic sounds on the street below.

It is calm.

The gray clouds have disappeared in the darkness.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Group Punishment

A friend told me the other day that her mom, in Baku, Azerbaijan, had no water in her apartment. When I asked what happened, she told me that several people in the building had refused to pay their water bills. So, the state-run water company cut off everyone's water until those who had not paid, paid up.

The technique is effective, but not before everyone suffers -- including, of course, those who pay on time. My friends' mom had to do without water for nearly three weeks before her delinquent neighbors finally paid up.

While everyone has his or her own water meter in their apartment, there is only one cut-off valve -- a holdover from Soviet times -- when water was very cheap.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Remembering Tajikistan

Sundays were often spent hiking in the mountains and valleys of Tajikistan -- usually within 50-60 miles of Dushanbe, the village-like capital. Sometimes there would be bridges -- often made of twigs, but other times you'd have to pull your boots and socks off and wade. In the spring, the water could be quite cold since it was coming off a glacier.

Below is a picture of the big market in Khujand, Tajikistan's second largest city. The market is always a fun place to visit and a great place to bargain.

And this is a shot taken in Dushanbe in 2007. He was my local baker. For about 25 US cents you could buy a bread loaf.

Monday, May 4, 2009

World Press Freedom Day - Day 2

More than a hundred journalists came together in Dili, Timor-Leste on Sunday to mark World Press Freedom Day. The event was held at Hotel Turismo -- a fitting location -- in that many international journalists bunked there while covering the tragic events in 1975 when the Indonesian occupation began -- and they stayed there again in 1999, when Timor fought for its independence.

Sunday's event was held in the hotel's beer garden -- with a canopy of cocoa trees providing cover from the afternoon heat.

Otelio Ote, the president of one of the five journalism associations in Timor-Leste, noted that no journalists are jailed in this country. He urged all the journalists present to make sure they make themselves heard when the latest draft of the Media Law is revealed. He said the document must contain input from journalists to ensure the law doesn't hinder their ability to their jobs. Journalists were able to get defamation out of an earlier draft -- that could have potentially sent those convicted of defamation to jail.

It's exciting to be living in a new country (seven years old on May 20th) that is still crafting its laws. Timor-Leste has a chance to create the best media law in the world -- one that journalists would help write. Who better to help craft the media law than journalists? After the speeches, journalists danced in the rain to reggae music.