Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Manners Maketh the Man

The following was posted on the self-important blog “Living Timorously” which I am sure some of you read on a regular basis.
My reply will appear after you have read the post.

Bitch Ambassador
My dealings with East Timor have brought me into contact with many different people all over the world, and normally, they're quite approachable. However, it seems that some of my fellow British citizens lag way behind other nationalities in the manners and friendliness stakes.Recently, I met the last British Ambassador to Dili. As I mentioned before, the British Embassy has been axed, thereby saving the Exchequer around £300,000. That will buy you a one-bedroom flat in central London, if you're lucky. I was interested to talk to her, and had actually been to her house, where an East Timorese friend was living while she was doing her Master's degree here.I met her at an event on Monday, and mentioned that we had a few mutual friends and acquaintances, as well as the fact that I was hoping to go out to Dili to work in the Foreign Ministry. However, when I phoned her a couple of days later, I had doubts as to whether I was speaking to the same person. Now, I regret that I called at an inconvenient time, but in such circumstances, it's common courtesy just to say "it's not a good time, some other time, perhaps?" Polite without being euphemistic - I hate it when people say "can I call you back?" But no, I got "Get on with it, what do you want? Why do you want my email address?" and, forsooth, "you're stealing my evening!" Sure, I have a short fuse, and I think that I will let rip when I deal with some of the people working in the government in East Timor - before you accuse me of being the bullying expatriate, the people I would most have a bone to pick with would also be foreigners. However, I do hope that Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of 'Timor Leste' wouldn't have been as surly or as truculent with East Timorese as she was with me.But that's the British Foreign Office for you - full of people who love foreigners and despise their own people. Canberra might have the 'Jakarta Lobby', but Whitehall has the 'Any National Capital but London Lobby'.I wish I had an Australian passport - not only would I have consular facilities in Dili, but in my experience, Australians tend to be much friendlier, even former diplomats. (I'm referring to James Dunn - I have no desire to meet Richard Woolcott, however affable he may be.) No wonder they think Poms are stuck up. Even if our former Ambassador in Dili becomes Ambassador or High Commissioner to somewhere more important, and gets a damehood (DCMG - Do Call Me God) she should remember that good manners cost nothing.

I take great exception to this post. Tina is and was a friend and one of the nicest people I have ever met. During the ‘crisis’ last year she was the personification of ‘grace under fire’.
I know you will find that Tina was never as “surly or as truculent” with East Timorese as she was with you because I doubt if any East Timorese were as arrogant, self-centered and patronizing as you probably were with her.
Oh, and if, God forbid, you do get the job at the Foreign Ministry, once in a while stop and think of the Timorese who could have had jobs building the place instead of those same jobs going to imported Chinese labour.
And as for wishing you were Australian with consular facilities here, maybe if and when you get here you should talk to some of the Australians living and working here and ask their opinions of their embassy.
Calling any Ambassador, or any woman come to that, a ‘bitch’ seems to me to be the very nadir of manners. Bad manners cost nothing also it seems.


Monday, 16 July 2007

Bloody Weather

What’s with this weather eh? Personally I blame the new non-government. Once they get their act together and form some sort of acceptable coalition perhaps they can turn their minds to something important like bringing the weather back to normal. Bloody politicians!


Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Dili Airport - Revisited

I recently posted an item about Dili airport which some of you agreed with but which one person in particular, ‘Disappointed’, obviously did not. I have copied their comment below. I don’t normally reply to the comments, I just let people say what they want, but leaving aside the inherent racism in remarks like ‘Whinging Pom’ and ‘pasty faced tourists and Malais’ I have decided that I cannot leave this comment without replying.

Anonymous said...
Got that off your chest eh? This wouldn't be a case of the whinging Pom would
Here we are in a nation that’s struggling to achieve the fundamental aspects
of social welfare ie. Access to healthcare, food, basic govt utilities, a
recognisable justice system, security etc. not to mention the estimated 1
fifth of the Timorese population malnourished and without food security and
here you are, bitching about trolleys and air conditioning at the airport!?
Maybe the IDP's in the camps, like Metinaro, that need to walk long distances
daily to collect and carry firewood and water should have a trolley or two as
well! Wouldn’t that be nice.
Did you consider offering to help the poor old bastard who was unloading all
that luggage by himself!?
As for the water, here’s an idea, the next time you’re lucky enough to be
FLYING somewhere, why don't you buy some water from one of the 3000 struggling
little kiosks around town and TAKE it to the airport.
No, maybe I’m being silly. Keeping pasty faced tourists and malais happy is so
much more of a priority right now!
Step back and have a look at what you're saying.
As for scrapping the VISA fee, please...
26 June 2007 13:05

Dear Disappointed
I go to Metinaro at least 6 times a week, and the IDP’s there have all got trolleys, for collecting their wood and whatever else they want to do. Maybe they could start a little business building them and renting them out to the passengers at the airport?
Yes, I did consider helping the ‘poor old bastard’ who was unloading all the luggage himself. But, as you are no doubt aware, as a passenger and not a recognized official I am not allowed airside once I’ve come through immigration. I thought everyone knew that. Silly me.
As to be lucky enough to be FLYING, it’s a long way to walk to Beijing to promote East Timor’s undoubted tourist attractions.
As for the water, I said it was not possible to buy a bottle. What about arriving passengers who have not yet had the delight of buying from the friendly wayside vendors?
Just for your information, we buy EVERYTHING we can from Timorese people, including beer, fags, fruit, veggies and yes, even water.
And yes keeping ‘pasty faced tourists and Malais’ happy is important to me. I am not an NGO. I work in the tourist industry. My business keeps more than 50 Timorese above the poverty line. If we can get tourists here then more real money will flow into the Timorese economy that will actually go to the Timorese and not into some UN/NGO consultant’s pocket as a fat fee.
And the visa fee is keeping people away. Believe me I know, I have asked many ‘pasty faced tourists’ about this.
Now you step back and take a look at what you are saying. As I said, I am not an NGO. I run a business here and have done for the past seven years. I pay all my taxes here, legally. I buy Timorese produce when it’s available, I have taught Timorese to SCUBA dive for no money. I believe that after the oil and gas our coral reef is our most valuable asset, both financially and ecologically. The more ‘pasty faced tourists’ I can get here to witness this for themselves then the more money is going to go to Timorese.
And the only person in this World allowed to be disappointed with me is my Mum, and I’m pretty sure you’re not her. That’s a pretty high sanctimonious horse you are sitting on. Be careful you don’t fall off.