For the last two nights, we have been defending Sonrisa’s innocence. The day we made anchor, our swing room was clear. We looked around the tight anchorage and say an unoccupied mooring buoy a good distance away. Mentally calculating the space around which a normal length boat would swing, we set our anchor and go about our business.
Returning to Sonrisa late that evening, we found a long, red and yellow boat streaming backwards from our neighboring buoy. “Wow!” Andrew says, “that looks like the Oscar Myer Weinermobile!” I kick back in the relative cool of the night time cockpit and begin processing photographs.
“Hallo, Missus!” A voice in the dark speaks just a couple feet from my left ear. It’s close enough that the caller might practically be standing on Sonrisa’s wind vane. I jump and turn around. Close enough to touch me, a Timorese man leans over the stern rail of the Hotdog Boat. Despite the man’s efforts to hold Sonrisa at arms’ distance, the Hotdog boat sneaks closer and closer to touching Sonrisa’s curvaceous stern.
“Oh! Oh dear! Hang on!” I jump up and yell at Andrew to wake up. Having no keel, the red and yellow boat swung around it’s mooring at tide change, more quickly than Sonrisa leaving us at counterpoints of our anchor/moorings.
Groggy, Andrew lays in bed and calls out, “What is it?”
“I need you up here now,” My words failing just at the critical point.
“What?” He asks, rolling over, but still tucked in. The wind is perfectly calm, with not a hint of breeze, what could be going wrong?
“Wake up, wake up! I need help. It’s the Weinermobile!” By this time, I’m turning on the motor so the anchor windlass will have enough juice to pull up some chain and shorten our scope. Andrew stumbles out, bleary eyed. He squints into the darkness and then sees the matter.
“OH!” He scurries up on deck while I put Sonrisa in gear and inch forward a bit on her chain.
It’s too dark to move in the anchorage; our charts have been somewhat unreliable in this area of the world, and there is a reef in the middle of the anchorage we couldn’t see in the dark. Not safe to move; but also not safe to stay so close to the Oscar Myer boat. We do our best to readjust, but keep as much anchor scope as we need. I sleep in the cockpit, waking to push Sonrisa off again at the midmorning tide change. At 2:00 a.m., I watch as Sonrisa clears by a foot or two. Before I became a sailor, did I ever imagine having to wake at 2:00 a.m. to make sure my house did not crash into someone else’s house? No, I did not.
The next morning, we examined the Hot Dog Boat in the light and laughed. It’s really, really long. It’s almost tricks our eyes to see how long this boat is. “When I pulled the Google Earth Photo of the chart, I wondered what that crazy long thing was!” Andrew laughed.
Yet, somehow morning turned to afternoon and afternoon to night before we knew it. We missed our chance to move Sonrisa and she had to do the tide shuffle with the Hotdog boat a second night. “Oh, excuse me… pardon me…I’ll just squeeze over this way…yes, I’ll pop over here…” Very polite, these two. I sleep in the cockpit again just in case there is trouble, but all I need do is wave cheerfully to the Timorese man standing guard the way over.
In honor of The Weinermobile Adventures, we found Castaways, where they serve a whole menu of hot dogs. I start out skeptical, but when my Chicago Dog arrives, I realize that whomever owns this restaurant must be from New York. Pizza and Dogs?
In the meantime, we locate the “Indonesian Social Visa Fixer”, Kym. She’s an Australian or Kiwi expat (not sure which) running a cute little backpacker’s hotel. She can arrange for a sponsor letter to be written then bussed across the border from Indonesian Timor to Dili. It will take about a week from the time we get her our passports, new passport photos, and application.
During our effort to find a place to get passport photos taken, we walk past a camera store where I find some DSLR cameras that may replace the one currently in its death throes. I commit to return later, once I conduct research on the relative benefits of the Cannon D80, D800, D1300, etc. But, this was never to be. The camera store was in some other matrix, and though we looked for it every day during the rest of our stay in Dili, it was never to be found. The city just isn’t that big; how do you lose a camera store?
Days pass. Each day, we try to coordinate our hike to Christo Rai with Nilthon, and each day we are thwarted by several scheduling mishaps surrounding his own attempts to obtain a visa and scholarship to travel to Australia for University or work.
We tell him not to worry, we have plenty of time to reschedule. “Not today-tomorrow, new tomorrow!”
When we finally link up, his joy is palpable. He’s bounding with energy to take us to Christo Rai; he explains he runs the stairs for exercise. (Of course he does.) The stairs are well kept and follow the stations of the cross - the story of Jesus’s last walk to crucifixion. Each station is depicted by a bronze cast image, surrounded by white marble, and blooming bougainvillea. It’s a beautiful walk.
To our left, the view of the open bay and white sand beach grows more stunning with the higher elevation.
As we reach the final station, Nilthon pauses to say a prayer. We complete the final climb up to the feet of Christo Rai. “You can take photos, but only after we pray.” He tells me, and I agree. Nilthon repeats the sign of the cross, the Catholic tradition of touching the forehead, the heart, left shoulder and the right shoulder “In the name of the father, son and holy spirit,” begins his own silent prayer. I follow suit. Andrew stands aside and waits, or maybe contemplates: is it right-shoulder-left, or left-shoulder-right. Nilthon closes his prayer with the sign of the cross again, I follow suit, Andrew stands and waits.
“You didn’t pray?” Nilthon asks, looking at Andrew. I believe this was truly a question, not an accusation. Andrew, like a deer-in-headlights blinks back. But, we are all easily distracted by the selfie-contraption I pull from my pocket. Christo Rai joins in our group photo.
Lean in, Christo Rai!
As we disembarked the Christo Rai mountainside, Nilthon asks us as many questions as he can ponder about moving to the United States, finding a job, and making his way in his 20-year-old world.
“I want to go to University and study to be a civil engineer.” He tells us. “Do you need civil engineers in the United States?” We agree that engineering would be a great job for him almost anywhere in the world. He smiles.
We talk about the relative expense of Australia, New Zealand, Timor Leste and the United States. He asks about the cost of renting an apartment or a house; when we tell him the cost he shudders. I try to explain the significantly larger space available for the average apartment or house compared to Timor, and the relative increase in salaries. He asks us how much a civil engineer makes, and we try to explain the average salary, but he hadn’t heard of the concept of an annual salary. He asked us to calculated the payment in wages per day.
“What would a small shop keeper make? You know, the kind of guy who sells soap and kitchen wares?” I knew what he had in mind, something like this:
I try to explain the concept of Walgreens and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. He asks what a person selling tools, hardware, and lumber might make. I try to explain the concept of Home Depot.
He nods as I explain, but I get the distinct impression we are not tracking each other when he asks what a fisherman or a person who owns a fruit or vegetable stand at the market might make.
“We don’t have fruit or vegetable markets like that. We have large grocery stores owned by companies.” I describe the Supermarket Dili which gives him the concept of what I’m talking about, but I explain that our Supermarkets have everything we eat all in one place: meat, grains, fruit, vegetables, drinks, bread, etc.
“Yeah, I understand, but what about a person who owns a fruit or vegetable stall?”
“We don’t have anything like that.”
Nithon scowls. I’m familiar with his expression, it’s the one I use when I am not sure if I just heard someone correctly. “Is it a language barrier, or are she really saying there is no such thing as a fruit/veggie market?” I can hear his thoughts.
“No,” I say, answering the question he hasn’t asked. “There isn’t really anything like a fruit or veggie market separate from the large grocery stores.”
Nithon’s eyes grow wide. “No fruit and veggie market?”
“Really! No fruit and veggie market?”
He makes the same “Tsk, Tsk, Tsk” sound the Ni Van made in Vanuatu when they were impressed by something. As we walk he snaps his head side to side every now and then, trying to shake off the surprise.
“No fruit and veggie market…huh?”
I shake my head. “I know, it’s weird.”
We get to the bottom of the hill, take a few more pictures near the beach, then parted ways for Nilthon to go back to work. He still wants us to visit his District, so we make plans to get in touch again as soon as we return from our scuba diving trip to the island across the way: Ataoru.