Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Steak on the Stone

One thing that I have missed in Timor-Leste is a good steak. Colleagues always say "ah, you want a good steak, go to so-and-so restaurant."  My last mission for a decent steak in Dili ended, again, in disappointment.

Several people had recommended a place that served "steak on a stone."  The waitress brings you a slab of raw beef -- sizzling on a hot stone.  It seemed promising -- part of the fun was cooking the steak to order -- yourself.

I attempted to cut into the steak with a regular table knife, but that wasn't happening. So, I asked for a steak knife -- that, too, proved difficult. I assumed the knife was dull. Finally, I tore off a piece of meat and popped it in my mouth.

I have to say it was chore -- chewing it. It was one of the toughest pieces of meat I've had in a while. My friend ordered the same thing and it, too, was one tough assignment.

I brought the meat home and fed it to the cats -- who seemed to enjoy it, but they, too, struggled to chew it.

I think the restaurant should change the name on the menu -- "shoe leather on the stone" would be more fitting.

Leaving Timor

Farewells are never easy, no matter how much practice I've had over the nearly eight years that I have lived outside the United States. Saying goodbye to friends and colleagues is always difficult and I always leave with the hope that I'll see many of them again.

Surprisingly, that has happened a number of times. It makes the world feel smaller. For instance, colleagues I'd worked with in Mongolia -- turned up here in Timor-Leste. Friends I knew in Tajikistan turned up in Dili. Strange, exciting world. The internet, too, makes the world seem smaller -- chatting with friends on Facebook or Skype. It's easier to follow the lives of friends, family and co-workers.

I will leave Timor-Leste in a few days and I will leave with having made a lot of friends. Friends and colleagues that I will miss. Facebook will help keep us connected -- and I'm sure I'll cross paths again with a few of them. Things like Facebook make goodbyes a little bit easier.

For me, Timor was a great challenge -- personally and professionally.  The extreme heat kept me indoors a lot, and while I swam and snorkeled -- there wasn't much else to do. So, I wound up working -- a lot. It is too easy to get lost in your work here.  Professionally, I had a great staff and yes, work was frustrating, but it was also quite rewarding. In many ways, unlike my work in the former Soviet republics, it is possible to get a lot of work done here without the government breathing down your neck. As I often describe it -- Timor was a breath of fresh air -- more often than not -- hot and humid air with almost no breeze.

So, off I go to the land of cold and snow. For a little while, at least, I won't miss the "forever sunshine."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Timor Long Horn

 There are Texas Long Horns and then there are Timor Long Horns and this is one of the latter.  This guy lives in Dili on one of the back streets and when I snapped his picture, his minder decided he wanted to get in on the action.