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Monday, April 18, 2005

Timor-Leste day 1

Actually, this day shouldn't count. But due to the schedule of the flights, our group had no choice but to leave today. We flew via Garuda Airlines GA 814 to Bali, scheduled at 6:30pm, but the only flight into Dili from Bali is in the morning. Thus the need to spend a night in Bali.

My mum and I took two buses to the airport and arrived at about 4:40pm, 10 minutes later than my church group had planned. By the time we arrived, everyone had checked in already. Since I had planned to carry my bag on the plane, I had nothing to check in and just needed to collect my boarding pass.

To pass the time, we went to the food court in basement one of Terminal 1. A lot of church youths had turned up because two of the five from my church are involved in youth activities. While the other group members ate chicken rice and char kway teow, I just chatted with a few people. This was admittedly my first time interacting so closely with the youth, mostly because they had joined the church while I was in the U.S.

At 5pm, we made our way to the departure area. Our pastor and a few visitors prayed for us, and then we were on our way. After we had cleared immigration, we saw a few people still watching and waving at us. So we did a Mexican wave for them, haha!

As mentioned, the flight was at 6:30pm. I listeneed to music most of the way. The crew didn't give us headphones, but fortunately, I had brought my own earphones. Always plan ahead! I heard later that the toilet was broken, but I wouldn't know because I didn't have to use it. I try to control my bladder by not drinking too much before flights. Always plan ahead x2! Dinner consisted of chicken curry with rice. The movie "After the Sunset" was shown, but I didn't watch it. They also played an episode of "Frasier"... all the way till the plane docked at the airport! I'd never seen that happen before!

We arrived in Bali at about 9:10pm, but it took us a while to disembark because the stairs in front didn't work, so the ground crew had to rig the stairs to the rear door. Clearing customs was a breeze. Then we waited for our (chartered?) taxis to the Bali Rani Hotel. While waiting, we chatted with a few other people in the trip, including Pastor Dong and Li Shan. The hotel itself was four-star standard, i.e. comfortable beds, air-conditioned rooms, usual amenities, wake-up service, etc. We were also served mango juice on arriving, yum!

A few people were heading out for supper, so we joined them at Made's Warung, which was about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. Someone had mentioned that its the best place to get supper in the vicinity, which prompted my question (which may have made me sound pompous): "Have you been to other restaurants? Otherwise, what's your basis of comparison?" But that issue was brushed aside quickly. The dishes ordered included pancakes and milkshakes.

Over supper, the conversation inevitably turned to the recent announcement by the government to build a casino. Pastor Lawrence Chua raised an interesting point: As a secular government, it cannot allow itself to be swayed by the concerns of the various religious groups. It can listen to them and take their views into account, but ultimately, it has to decide what is in the best interests of the country from a secular point of view, e.g. economically.

To clarify his point, he asked us to imagine that the government had decided not to have the casino because of Christian opposition. But if a Muslim government came to power, then Christianity (and other religions) may be marginalised. Could we, as Christians, allow that? Therefore, it made more sense, as Christians, to support the secular decisions of the government. Our solution would be to convert the entire population to Christianity, then there would be no gamblers (theoretically).

We returned to the hotel at 11:15pm. I bathed, watched an episode of "Friends", then went to sleep.


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