Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Live Free and Fly 24

August 8, 2017 2 comments

I’ve had this plan in the back of my mind for a couple of years – fly to all 24 of the public use airports in New Hampshire in one day. It finally all came together on July 26, 2017 – I was ready, the weather was (mostly) ready, I had no pesky flight students lurking around and a plane was available all day.

I had spent a bit of time optimizing the flight route based on minimum distance – you can see the route in the figure. I would take off from my home base at Keene (airport ID: KEEN) in the southwest corner of the state and either go clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on which way the weather was developing for the day.

The straight line point-to-point distance is 433 nm. The planning chart shows straight lines between successive airports for all legs but one – the leg from Moultonboro (5M3) to Gorham (2G8) has a couple of pink dot way points that are off the straight line. In fact, one of them had me venture into the alien territory of Maine (OMG!!).  This was done to stay away from higher terrain to the west and to reduce the need to climb.

For the day of the flight, the point to point time was estimated at 4 hours 2 minutes with a fuel burn of 42 gals. This did not take into consideration the time it would take to maneuver to enter the traffic pattern, land and takeoff from each airport. I guesstimated it would add an average time of 10 minutes per airport for this. So 24 airports would add 240 minutes, or 4 hours. With stops I would have to buy fuel at some point since Cessna 36C can only carry 53 useable gallons of fuel, roughly burning 9 gph.

You can see on the log sheet that I’ve circled the “Leg Remaining” distance of 199nm and the “Leg Tot” of 2:11 for the airport at Moultonboro (5M3). This is the halfway point of the trip and where I ultimately planned for a fuel stop.

When the day actually arrived, there was morning fog-plus statewide. The winds were calm and were forecast to be light all day. The fog is usually slow to burn off at KEEN, and this morning was particularly slow, delaying my departure until about 10:30. It looked like the weather would be clearing sooner on the coast, so I launched heading counter-clockwise to give the western part of the state a chance to clear before I got there.

Part of the consideration for using Moultonboro as a fuel stop was based on the lengths of the runways I would be using and concerns about weight. It was not an extraordinarily hot day, but it was warm. Density altitude would be of some concern (those conditions when the plane thinks it is higher that it actually is, and the plane’s performance is correspondingly poorer.) Bristol (2N2) has the shortest runway of the group at 1900 feet, which is why I circled it on the log sheet. (Runway length is over on the right in “Notes” also noting if the runway is asphalt or turf.) By the time I got to Bristol I would have already burned off a bit of fuel so the plane was lighter. After re-fueling at Moultonboro, I would soon be using the grass strip at Gorham which is only 2600 feet long. So I didn’t want to take on too much fuel in order to keep the weight down – just enough to get home.

Bristol was interesting. It’s the only field where I had to do a go-around. In fact, I did two. I didn’t see the wind sock until the second pass when I realized there was a pretty good tailwind landing to the north on runway 03 which is why I was coming in too high. So I turned around and landed in the opposite direction. Landing 03 I felt like I was flying through a parking lot….

Some of these airports are really close to each other, and I’d find I was no sooner climbing enroute when I needed to start descending and join the pattern for the next one. This was particularly true departing Hampton. It is only 7 miles to Portsmouth. You have to tune in the ATIS (weather) and contact the Portsmouth tower all in a hurry. I did a circle over the beach to give myself a bit of time.

Departing Concord (KCON) I contacted Boston Approach as soon as I was clear of the pattern and told them my intentions were to do a stop-and-go at Manchester (KMHT) and then continue on to Nashua (KASH), so when I was handed off to Manchester’s tower they knew what I wanted and had me depart with a right turn to KASH.  (I squeezed in between arriving and departing jets, but was too busy/forgot to take photos.)

Then, departing KASH, I asked the tower for flight following and a squawk code so I could cut through Manchester’s Class C airspace enroute to Hampton. No sweat. Departing runway 32 at Nashua the tower had me do a right turn into Manchester’s airspace on course to Hampton.

I had planned to take a photo on short final for every landing, but I often forgot and/or I was too busy flying the airplane. But I got enough to give you a feel for the variety of the airfields in New Hampshire.

The trip took 7.2 hours on the Hobbs meter. My estimate of 10 minutes for arriving and departing each airport was a bit conservative. Assuming the estimated trip of 4:02 point-to-point was correct, then the time arriving and departing each airport averaged just 8 minutes. I burned a total of 56.1 gallons of avgas for an average of 7.8 gph. Not bad for a 180 Hp Cessna, especially considering a good bit of time was spent in full power climbs, and I rarely had the opportunity to lean it out.

The airport with the lowest elevation is Hampton (7B3) at 93 feet. Twin Mountain (8B2) is the highest at 1459 feet. The shortest runway is at Bristol at 1900 feet (asphalt). The shortest grass strip is Hampton at 2100 feet (though there’s a parallel paved runway).  Interestingly, 13 of the 24 airports use 122.8 for the CTAF frequency; 4 of them use 122.7.

Oh. Did I mention it was a beautiful day? Check the pics.


The route.


Log sheet

Navigation log listing airports, runways,  runway lengths, elevations and radio frequencies.












KPSM - Pease

Aligned to enter the right downwind leg at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM).

KPSM - Pease 16

On short final to runway 16 at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM), the longest runway in the state at over 11,000 feet. You can do several “touch and goes”!

KMHT - Manchester

Approaching Manchester (KMHT) – a Class C airport. I’m lined up here for a straight-in approach to runway 17 coming south from Concord. They were using runway 06 which is the perpendicular runway, so here I’m actually lined up to enter a left downwind for runway 06.

KLCI - Laconia

Short final to Laconia (KLCI) runway 26.

KERR - Errol

Maneuvering to enter left downwind for runway 33 at Errol (KERR)

KERR - Errol 33

Short final for runway 33 at KERR.

KCON - Concord 35

On final for runway 35 at Concord (KCON). You can see the state capital dome on the left center.

KCNH - Claremont 29

Approaching runway 29 at Claremont (KCNH). Vermont is beyond the first hill.

Dixville Notch

Not an airport, but overflying Dixville Notch.

8B2 - Twin Mountain 27

A bit high, but landing runway 27 at Twin Mountain (8B2). Not in the greatest shape, the asphalt is 2660 feet long.

8B1 - Hawthorne-Feather

Hillsoboro/Hawthorne Feather (8B1).

7B3 - Hampton

Lining up for rwy 02 at Hampton (7B3). You can land on the asphalt or the grass – 2100 feet.

5M3 - Moultonboro

Entering a left downwind runway 20 at Moultonboro (5M3). The halfway point.

8B2 - Twin Mountain

Not just a pretty view of the White Mountains – Twin Mountain airport (8B2) is over there perpendicular to our flight path (the last horizontal line you see before the hills).

5B9 - Dean

In the pattern for Haverhill/Dean airport (5B9)

4C4 - Gifford

That green field in the center is the 2466 foot long runway at Colebrook (4C4).

4C4 - Gifford 22

Approach to landing runway 22 at Colebrook (4C4). It was a beautiful day!

2N2 -Bristol 03

On the turn to final for runway 03 at Bristol (2N2). The shortest field in NH, but paved.

2N2 - Bristol

Overflying Bristol (2N2)

2G8 - Gorham

The 2600 foot long turf/granite strip at Gorham (2G8).

2G8 - Gorham 12

Turning final to runway 12 at Gorham (2G8).

2B3 - Parlin 18

Approaching runway 18 at Newport/Parlin field (2B3).

1P1 -Plymouth

One of those fields is Plymouth airport (1P1).

1P1 - Plymouth 30

Short final for the 2380 foot long runway 30 at Plymouth (1B1)

1B5 - Franconia 36

On final for runway 36 at Franconia (1B5). 2300 feet long.


Taxiing at Franconia (1B5) with Cannon Mtn on the left. (A different day from the circle adventure.)






A Ferry Flight

July 28, 2017 4 comments

This isn’t a daredevil exploit, but merely a description of a trip ferrying a Piper Warrior (N138DC – November One Three Eight Delta Charlie) from Farmingdale, NY (Republic Field – KFRG) to Ellensburg, WA (Bowers Field – KELN). There’s a short glossary for non-pilots at the end as it seemed too cumbersome to add explanations in the text.

THE PLAN, Part 1

Planning for this trip began about a week before the actual departure – looking at routes, weather forecasts covering the subsequent week (looking for a good window to depart), and potential fuel and lodging stops. Although I have 1500+ hours in Cherokees, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet “Delta Charlie”, or fly her before I went to pick her up. So even though she had a WAAS enabled GPS with current database, I would fly VFR-only and would always get flight following from ATC. (As we shall see, “always” did not always translate to always.)

The “plan” was thought out with the idea that it was unlikely to be carried out as planned and would be changed – most likely due to weather. The direct route from KFRG to KELN is 2047nm. Looking at that route, it would take me through Ontario and over the Great Lakes. Some rules and caution entered here.

RULES: 1) A US-registered aircraft cannot enter Canadian airspace with a temporary registration certificate. 2) I wasn’t sure if the plane had an FCC radiotelephone station license (required for international travel, but not within the US). Either way, the temporary registration made Canadian airspace a no-go.

CAUTION: The idea of flying an airplane I hadn’t even seen yet over a large body of water was not appealing.

Nav 0B
Smooth blue line is direct route over Canada and the Great Lakes. Magenta line is direct route from Chicago. Segmented blue line is actual flight path.

The rules and caution prompted me to modify my proposed route to the south, more or less directly to Chicago before turning to the northwest. This increased the distance by a couple of hundred miles – estimated now at 2200nm.

THE PLAN, Part 2

In a Warrior flying at 100 knots true airspeed (perhaps not overly ambitious), 2200nm translates to 22 hours of flying with no stops and no wind. Adding 15% to guesstimate stops and wind, makes it 25 hours of flying. With a useable fuel capacity of 48 gallons, conservatively burning 8 gph with an hour reserve means the plane can go for 5 hours between fuel stops – though my bladder cannot. So I figured I’d fly roughly 3 to 4 hour legs with extra urgent stops as needed. All this translates to six, four hour-ish legs. The initial plan was to do two legs per day and if I fueled the plane to the brim at each stop I would always have ample reserves.

I used AOPA’s flight planning web page to lay out the plan and massage it to fit. Their planner has a provision to check fuel prices along the route and to query what services are available at airports along the way. Though fuel was often cheaper at smaller airports, I figured services would be less available, so I decided to aim for overnight stops at Class D or C airports which would have more generous operating hours.

Once the lines were drawn, I printed out the navigation logs that AOPA’s software generates for use during the flight.

Legs 1&2: From Republic Field (KFRG – Farmingdale, NY) to Porter Co. Regional (KVPZ – Valparaiso, IN) with a fuel stop in Clarion, PA (KAXQ). Total time 6:47

Legs 3&4: From KVPZ to Rapid City, SD (KRAP) (gotta love that identifier) with a fuel stop at Quentin Aanenson Field (KLYV – Luverne,MN). This was chosen because fuel was just $3.83 (!!). Total estimated time 7:33

Leg 5: From KRAP to Helena, MT (KHLN) with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:51.

Leg 6: From KHLN to Ellensburg, WA (KELN) final destination with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:34.

The total estimated time that AOPA came up with was 21:45, which did not include time for taxi, takeoff & climb, and approach to land, or wind. The reality, as expected, was slightly different as you can see in the daily summary charts.


Arriving at KFRG, “Delta Charlie” was ready to go. She was a 2001 Piper Warrior with 5000 hours on the airframe and 1000 hours on the current engine. She looked to be in pretty good shape, and the logbooks looked clean and up to date. After a bit of consternation I found the temporary registration and airworthiness certificate so all the paperwork was in order. Her instrument panel only had one communications radio and no other navigation capability than the GPS – no redundancy. So it would be strictly a VFR adventure.

A very thorough pre-flight inspection turned up some suspicious green-ish stuff coming out of the gascolator that smelled like oil mixed in with the gas. The next sample looked like clean 100LL avgas. This would be checked repeatedly enroute and was never an issue. She started easily with just a short squirt of prime. Otherwise there was nothing of concern noted.  I did a complete run-up three times in the course of taxiing to the end of the very busy runway at Republic.


There was a big TFR around the NY area (perhaps some Russians were visiting Trump Tower?), but it wasn’t significantly different than the boundaries of the Class B airspace that exists there. So, I took off and headed north to the Carmel (CMK) VOR to avoid it all before heading due west toward Clarion.

Getting up above the scattered clouds at 6500 feet made it a pretty smooth ride. From CMK I flew to Williamsport (FQM) VOR and directly to Clarion for my first planned fuel stop and found the first hiccup in the plane’s systems. When cancelling flight following going in to land at Clarion and told to “squawk VFR” I pushed the “VFR” button on the Garmin transponder to transmit “1200” and nothing happened. No sweat. Just punch in “1200”. Well, that would have been a solution, but the “2” button didn’t work. Consternation. More, harder, frantic button pushing ensued. Eventually it worked and cleared itself up during the course of the trip.

I had started a bit late today, but I figured the length of the July day would allow me to make it to my proposed first night at Valparaiso, IN (KVPZ).

Not to be.

Findlay, OH (KFDY) was my “planned alternate” in case I couldn’t make it to KVPZ. I had flight following, talking to the Mansfield departure controller. About 30 miles from Findlay I was about to query her about the storm I saw building ahead of me when she called to warn me of the now extreme precipitation which was just moving over Findlay and there was no real way around it. So, I had my first diversion. It had been a long day already, so I just elected to turn back and land at Mansfield (KMFD) for the night.

The friendly FBO (Richland Aviation) was open and gave me overnight use of their courtesy car. Town was basically dead on Sunday evening, but the Holiday Inn welcomed me, and I found a TGIF.

Nav 1

Day 1: Farmingdale to Clarion (fuel) to Mansfield.


The morning dawned solid IFR. I had to wait until about 10:30 before things cleared up enough to depart. It was unclear how clear it was, so I planned to just move on to KVPZ and check the weather again. Once I was airborne at 2500 feet it seemed improvement was in the wind. I climbed up to 4500 feet to have a better look and it looked pretty good indeed. So I advised ATC that my new destination was now Dubuque, IA (KDBQ). There were a few more clouds that pushed me up to 6500 feet, but I really preferred to be higher as I neared Chicago, anyway. And as soon as I got up that high I could see it was severe clear to the west.


Chicago in the haze

Flying direct to the Joliet (JOT) VOR would keep me south of Chicago’s airspace, but it was still a pretty busy place to be. A friend had loaned me a Stratus box which would receive and display traffic advisories on my iPad. The WAAS GPS also offered traffic advisories, and I was getting advisories from ATC. Interestingly, there was still traffic out there that NONE of these aids warned me of.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Look outside. I’ve experienced the same thing many times around Boston. It really is important to not rely on the gadgets.


West of Chicago

Chicago behind me, the skies were much less busy. In case you didn’t know it, it’s flat out there. Dubuque (KDBQ) was just a couple of hours down the road. I wasn’t too overly concerned about finding cheap fuel, but I figured I’d go for it if it was convenient. KDBQ was advertising $4.06 and it was on the way. Imagine my surprise when I discovered their advertised fuel price was exclusive of the tax ….. The net cost was $4.58! (At least it wasn’t $7.00).

Nav 2a

Orwellian tower east of KFSD. Top is at 3445′ above sea level, 1984′ above the ground.

An hour laze in the FBO, checking the weather and recharging my tablet, I launched with the aim of making it to Sioux Falls, SD (KFSD) for the night. It was extraordinarily flat. Quite a change from New England (where there are no straight roads), all the roads here go N-S or E-W. At one point the clouds were building a bit and it was getting fairly murky, but still VFR. ATC dropped me out over the corn fields somewhere, so I flew without them into Luverne, MN (KLYV) for a cheap fill-up ($3.83) before the short hop into KFSD. Well off my route, but just southeast of KFSD is an Orwellian tower – 1984 feet tall. It looked pretty enormous in the evening haze.


BBQ in Sioux Falls

KFSD is a busy Class D field. I did a tight pattern and landed short to get off the runway at the FBO at the north end of the main runway. Maverick Aviation is a fabulous FBO. No tie down fee, no landing fee, no minimum fuel purchase, great lounge, awesome vending machines, good coffee. Nirvana in South Dakota! They arranged a hotel for me and off I went to explore the sights and sounds of Sioux Falls. There actually are falls.

Oh, and barbecue. Pretty good barbecue.

Not really a “problem”, but one of the problems of traveling in a light plane is that you’re always checking the weather. It’s constant. After you land you no sooner than get the plane tied down and you’re thinking about what’s coming the next day. You check after dinner, and before you go to bed. It’s the first thing you do in the morning. Then check at breakfast. Checking again when you get to the airport.

Nav 2

Day 2: Mansfield to Dubuque (fuel) to Luverne, MN (fuel) to Sioux Falls


The modified plan for Day 3 was to get all the way to Helena, MT (KHLN). There were convective SIGMETs in effect northeast of KSFD and north of my western route. Pierre (pronounced Peer) north and west of my route had advisories out. So I launched with the thought that I’d be looking for a place to land anywhere enroute and run away when appropriate. All that flat terrain is comforting when you’re considering the possibilities of not making your destination.

I departed and climbed to 4500 feet and the first hour was uneventful. I could see the dark sky to the NW of me that was the weather over Pierre, but it wasn’t directly in my path. ATC called to advise me there was severe weather at 60 miles at my 2 o’clock – Pierre. No issue, but something to watch. A layer of scattered clouds was forming around my altitude so I climbed to 6500 feet.

The scattered layer was clumping up to an overcast layer and I climbed to 7500 feet to stay VFR advising ATC of my non-standard altitude and that I was prepared to go higher. It was starting to get murky across my entire field of view. The controller told me the storm was now from my 10 to 3 o’clock. Being the observant lad that I am, I had already noticed this and had been reviewing my chart and my options. I had just passed Chamberlain Field (9V9) and thought that would be a good spot to put down and wait for the storm to pass. (I also knew it was severe clear behind me and I could easily outrun the storm back to the east if I had to.) I advised the controller of my intentions and he said, “That sounds like a good plan.”

Nav 3a

Artist’s rendition of running away from a thunderstorm and landing at 9V9.


Convective SIGMET north of my route to KRAP

Doing a U-turn to get to 9V9 was OK, the problem was getting below the cloud layer. I headed off toward the edge of the clouds and found a big hole to descend through while tuning in their ASOS. The field was just VFR with a ceiling at 1500 feet but visibility greater than 10 miles. The wind was reported at 350/15G22. The hard runway ran 13/31, so there was going to be a bit of a crosswind on landing, but this was handled without incident. The FBO was a room attached to a guy’s house, but there was a comfy lounge chair. I dipped into my reserve of granola bars and hung out for about an hour while the storm moved past before saddling up to move on.

Upon departure the wind was 050/14G22 – storm passage had shifted the wind to a direct crosswind beyond the demonstrated crosswind capability of a Warrior (which is 17 kts). But I had another option. A grass runway pointing 18/36. Taking off 36 reduced the crosswind component to 11G17 – right on the limit. The grass was a bit long and the plane slow to accelerate, but I got up in ground effect well before the mid-point of the runway, corrected for the crosswind and was on my way.

It was beautiful. I had views of the Badlands to the south as I approached Rapid City


The Badlands

(KRAP) on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. It was really hard to make out the airport, but I finally figured out where it was, entered the traffic pattern and made my landing. Rolling up to the self-serve pump, a younger pilot in a Cessna pulled up behind me. He turned out to be a commercial student pilot from Denver doing his long cross country solo. After refueling I stopped in the FBO and chatted with a couple traveling around the west in a Commanche and now heading east toward the weather I left behind. We exchanged pointers from the road that we had acquired. (It was an early joke when GPS first came out that when ATC asked your position, you could tell them you are something like 1279 nm east of Peoria…. I heard ATC instruct the Commanche pilot to report 210nm west of Sioux Falls…)

The field elevation at KRAP is published at 3204 ft. Preparing to depart I tuned in the ASOS. It was a warm day and the ASOS was reporting a density altitude of 6200 ft. Those of us who live close to sea level normally takeoff with the mixture full rich. Under these circumstances I leaned the engine for best power during the run-up and took off with that mixture setting.


The Black Hills from the east.

During pre-flight planning, I had looked at the Black Hills on the chart and pondered going around them since I didn’t know what the winds might do and how quickly I could climb over them in what I assumed would be high density altitude.

Ultimately, I took off and turned directly on course in the climb. I climbed to 8500 feet to give ample margin over anything in the area. I requested flight following from the tower and they handed me off to Ellsworth (AFB) departure control who informed me that Denver Center would not be able to see me on radar at that altitude once they handed me off. So I climbed up to 10,500 feet also hoping to find smoother air. Eventually I fell off the radar, anyway, and was picked up later in the day by Salt Lake Center.

It was smoother, for a while. It turned out to be a bumpy afternoon. I had planned a winding route through the passes from Bozeman to Helena, but now that I was up so high this wasn’t necessary, and I re-plotted a more direct route to Helena to save a little time.


Somewhere. You don’t usually get to see a Warrior’s altimeter reading 10,500 feet. At this particular moment, my indicated airspeed is about 92kts and ground speed (on the GPS) is 94.6kts. We’re pointing west. I’m not talking to ATC since the transponder is set to 1200.

The winds were keeping me busy. At one moment I’d get the plane trimmed out with about 95 kts indicated and 109 across the ground and a few minutes later I’d have the nose up to 79 (Vy) with extra power in order to maintain altitude while my ground speed was at 80. It was mountain wave activity or thermals or wind shear that shifted back and forth every few minutes for a couple of hours. I kept looking at the hills to my left/west trying to conceive how the local topography could be doing this, but knowing that mountain waves can extend for great distances from their source I might not have been able to see the offending hills. The country below me was a uniform color, so I couldn’t convince myself that it was pockets of thermals – though it was warm below. The air was so dry (I theorized) that there weren’t any clouds forming due to thermals. Regardless of the cause, the wind shear or up and down drafts were right on the edge of the Warriors ability to maintain altitude. I just resigned myself to slower progress and kept an eye on my fuel consumption. My diversion earlier in the day cost me a bit of fuel, and the wind was taking it’s toll, but I still had oodles, and there were many options along the way.

No radar contact coming into Helena, so approach/departure control uses position reporting to separate traffic – my first report was at 30 miles to the east. Helena is a nice spot nestled among hills to the north, west and south and a nice lake to the east. The field has a Beck’s U-Pump for fueling. Next to the pumps is a small place called Mickey’s – it’s a small FBO with a full kitchen and a bunk room where you can stay for free. Never seen anything like that at an airport before. I couldn’t find a hotel that had a shuttle service, so I ended up staying at The Carolina B&B (highly recommended) in the historic district of town across the street from the original governor’s mansion. The proprietress picked me up and recommended a great restaurant a short walk from the B&B. Nice town.


N138DC on the ramp at Helena


High security at Helena. You’d never guess the combination.

Nav 3

Day 3: Sioux Falls to Chamberlain (storm) to Rapid City (fuel) to Helena.


The morning started off lazily enough in the B&B’s garden. An all-too yummy and plentiful breakfast (need to check weight and balance calculations) and a slow motion start began the last leg of this adventure. I departed slightly to the southwest to take advantage of the lower terrain heading toward MacDonald Pass as I climbed in the cool air of the morning. Helena is at 3877 feet and it took about 27 miles and 20 minutes to get up to 10,500 feet at 85 kts. Departure control advised me that Salt Lake Center would neither see nor hear me at 10,500 feet until I got past Missoula, so I settled into a nice smooth, quiet flight in contrast to the day before. There were TFR’s for forest fires south and north of my route which I had a front seat for. I had hoped to catch sight of a tanker working, but only heard them on the air and never saw them. The skies were pretty hazy all over the west – it has been dry and the fires plentiful.

Nav 4A

TFRs (the red areas) for forest fires west of Helena along my route


Forest Fire

I picked up flight following west of Missoula, cleared the mountains of Montana and Idaho (caught a view of Coeur d’Alene to the north) and arrived over the plain of central and western Washington at Spokane. Seattle Center asked me if I wanted to descend.


58 miles from KELN. The transponder is the lower box – I’m squawking 3112 for ATC to track me. The altitude I’m reporting to them is 10500. 126.100 is the frequency for Seattle Center.

“No. It took a long time to get up here, I’d like to enjoy the view.” So I stayed at 10,500 until 30 miles from Ellensburg. It was hazy. As I got closer I noticed something sticking up in the haze directly on my route. It turned out to be Mt. Rainier which was a pretty nice sight.


Mt. Rainier growing out of the horizon.


Rainier with Ellensburg in foreground.








Arriving at Ellensburg was uneventful except for the fact that after I taxied to the ramp and shut down, I couldn’t get the door open. I had to stick my arm out the pilot’s side vent window and flag a mechanic down in one of the hangars to help me get out. I really had hoped to get out of the plane at this point.


The total flight time was 25.6 hours to cover 2273 nm, which, surprisingly, was pretty close to my initial guesstimate of 25 hours. The flight time for each of the four days were 5.7, 7.5, 8.2 and 4.2 hours. I figure I burned 193.7 gallons for an overall burn rate of 7.6 gph. (Though on the 4.6 hour turbulent leg from KRAP to KHLN I burned 8.2gph.) It would have been more economical had the plane been equipped with an EGT, but I had to revert to the crude method of leaning to engine roughness and then enriching by sound/tach.

In the end, that’s a lot of time in a Warrior.

Nav 4

Day 4: Helena to Ellensburg



AOPA – Aircraft Owner’s and Pilots Association – The largest pilot organization in the US. They have oodles of free information online as well as flight planning software and weather tools.

ATC – Air Traffic Control. The folks who provide the service to keep air traffic moving smoothly. From control towers at airfields, to “approach” controllers who manage traffic arriving and departing from airports, to “center” controllers who manage enroute traffic. They may or may not have radar capability.

ATIS/ASOS/AWOS – a recorded, sometimes automatically generated weather broadcast usually only reporting local conditions. The wind may be reported as 050/11G17 which means it’s blowing from the northeast (50 degress) at 11 kts gusting to 17 kts.

B&B – Benedictine & Brandy, or Bed & Breakfast depending on your preference.

Class B, C, D Airspace – Airspace carved out around airports that partitions the space to allow multiple controllers to handle traffic and manage flow. Class B is the largest and busiest (think Boston, New York, etc.) and restricts VFR traffic. Class D is much smaller only having a control tower.

Density Altitude – When the air is warm or humid, it’s density decreases. When air is less dense, it is all disadvantageous to flying – the engine generates less power, the propeller generates less thrust, and the wing generates less lift. Flying from high altitude airports by definition means you are at a higher “density altitude” and will have worse performance. At low altitudes, when the conditions are right, it “feels” just like being at a high altitude.  A calculated density altitude based on barometric pressure, temperature and humidity equates the condition to higher elevation. Performance charts for the airplane tell you the bad news. Longer takeoff roll, poorer climb performance.

FBO – Fixed Base Operator. Where you park, get fuel, find a lounge, restrooms, ground services. Some have no charges. Some are exorbitant.

Flight Following – A service provided by ATC to provide traffic advisories to VFR traffic on a workload permitting basis. VFR pilots are still responsible to “see and avoid”.

KFRG, etc. – a four letter airport identifier. Everyone worldwide uses a three letter identifier and then sticks a letter on the front for the country (in the US, we use “K”. Canada uses a “C”. Just to show there is logic to this, Angola uses an “F”). If the identifier begins with a number (e.g. 9V9) the “K” is usually not used since these are usually dinky little airports.

nm/kts – Nautical Mile/knots – At 6076 feet it is about 15% longer than a statute mile at 5280 feet. (It is derived from one minute, a sixtieth of a degree, of latitude – thank the Babylonians.) A knot is a nautical mile per hour. 100 kts is about 115 mph.

Piper Warrior – A four seat airplane in the Piper Cherokee family. It typically has a 160 horsepower engine and doesn’t go very fast.

Run-up – Performed on the ground as part of the pre-flight checks. The engine is powered up to 60% power, or so, and the dual ignition systems are verified along with oil temp and pressure, fuel pressure and the vacuum system. No blinking red lights allowed.

Runway headings – Published as 02 or 36, for instance. Just add a zero to the end and you get the magnetic heading of the runway. And you can generally land in either direction on a runway, so they will be designated 18/36 or 02/20.

SIGMET – An inflight weather advisory (SIGnificant METeorological information) of something bad going on in the atmosphere. A SIGMET can be issued for “convective activity” (read: thunderstorms), or specifically for tornadoes, volcanic ash, severe icing, etc.  A “Convective SIGMET” is an invitation to stay away.

TFR – Temporary Flight Restriction. These can pop up for multiple reasons – VIP travel, natural disasters (fires, hurricane damage/rescue), NASCAR races, football games. They are intended to keep traffic out that is not concerned with the event.

Transponder – A box in the plane that transmits altitude and a code to ATC. The code is displayed on ATC radar screens. “1200” is the normal code for VFR traffic buzzing around aimlessly. When you request and get flight following you are issued a discrete code to “squawk” (transmit), e.g. “3114” so that ATC can identify you quickly.

VFR – Visual Flight Rules. You fly by looking outside, visually. You use navigation aids (radios, GPS) to assist, but you are ultimately responsible to “see and avoid” other aircraft.  Under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) you can’t see nothin’ and fly by reference to your instruments only.

VOR – A VHF radio navigation aid identified by three letters, e.g. JOT is the Joliet VOR.

Vy – The indicated airspeed that gives the best rate of climb for a airplane.

WAAS – Wide Area Augmentation System are ground based radio signals that supplement GPS information to make it even more accurate.

100LL Avgas – In the aviation world, we still use leaded gas. It is “low lead”, but lead nonetheless. Avgas is usually 100 octane.

One in a Few Billion.

May 24, 2013 3 comments
Timor Meets the Sea

Timor Meets the Sea

I’ve written a few blogs about my experience as a Kiva Fellow in Timor, but I haven’t written directly about a typical borrower in this very poor region. So as I wrap up this fellowship with Kiva, I’m taking this opportunity to fill that gap.

The borrower you’re about to meet lives within the city limits of Kupang on the western tip of Timor. Kupang is the provincial capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur which includes the western half of Timor, the islands of Flores, Sumba, Alor, Rinca, Komodo and 560 other small islands. NTT is the poorest province in Indonesia, but it is a beautiful place. Jagged mountain skylines (mostly volcanic, though Timor is not) are bounded by coral reefs, isolated and deserted beaches, and rich turquoise seas.

The Kiva micro-finance partner in Kupang, Tanaoba Lais Manekat (“Serving With Love” in the local Dawan language) has been operating since 1995. TLM has grown to 30 branches operating on six islands serving 7,000 clients. At this writing there are 410 active Kiva loans which will expand to about 700 as TLM uses all of the loan capacity now available to them. The average Kiva loan is about $650 and is repaid in just over two years.

Blandina with Daughter Ivander

Blandina with Daughter Ivander

Blandina has been a TLM/Kiva client for several years. She is 46 and raising six children spanning the ages of 6 to 18. She exemplifies someone who was at risk of slipping into poverty and was unfortunate enough to find herself there.

Ten years ago she would not have considered herself poor. Although they lived in a humble house, her husband, Oktovianus, worked as a mason. Together with her income as a sales clerk, and a small goods business in the local market they were able to support their family.

But a few years ago Oktovianus passed away after a long illness which drained the family savings and forced them to sell their home. Blandina was left with nothing and needed to support her children by herself. Her own illness forced her to leave her job as a sales clerk, so to meet expenses she went door to door washing clothes.

Blandina's Home and Kisok

Blandina’s Home and Kisok

The earnings from washing just wasn’t enough, so she began to generate a bit more income by opening a kiosk business from the home she now rents. It’s a small operation selling home-made snacks and baked goods (her spicy fried corn is especially yummy), instant noodles, toiletries, staples like salt and sugar, candies and other items. She began with her own capital and borrowed about $300 through TLM and Kiva to increase her stock and build a larger customer base.

After housing and feeding her children, keeping them in school has been Blandina’s primary concern. She has a unique savings system where money earned from each of her activities is put in a different colored box for different expenses – one of these is for tuition. She also has savings in TLM’s deposit program.

She recently took out her fifth loan and will be using the $400 to expand her income activity by buying piglets to raise and fatten for re-sale.

The income from her various businesses has allowed her to meet her goal to keep her children in school. Unfortunately, her oldest son recently graduated from high school and is not able to attend university – he’s working as a fare collector on one of the local mini-buses to help with family expenses.

Blandina is hoping that continuing support from TLM and Kiva’s lenders will help her build a better future for her other children. She is certainly working hard to make that happen.

If you haven’t looked into Kiva, you might take this opportunity to do so. It’s an easy method to help the neediest people directly through Kiva’s partners worldwide. It has been proven for many years that micro-finance works – micro-loans enable people to help themselves. It would be great if you could make a loan for as little as $25 to one of the billions of poor people like Blandina throughout the world.

Go to and meet someone like Blandina. Loan them a few bucks. It isn’t tax deductible because you get it back.

More pictures of NTT here: NTT Photos

Kupang Waterfront

Kupang Waterfront

Sunset from Kupang

Sunset from Kupang

Artificially Sweetened Development

April 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Usually when I’ve been in places that I declare to be “artificial” I am thinking of a Disney theme, or a place like Cabo San Lucas or Cancun – southern California or Florida transported to Mexico – a place which bears little resemblance to what it would be like if it weren’t for the tourist dollars it was created to attract. Of course, Las Vegas is the archetype for turning a desert into a sweet water oasis, of sorts.

Shopping malls are artificial in that they are sterile replacements for shopping streets. Modern shopping areas have turned most American cities into a Warhol-like canvas of indistinguishable images in slightly different hues. Show me a Walmart and there’s a Taco Bell not far away.

The Jesus Statue from the Hills Above Dili.

The Jesus statue from the hills above Dili.

Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, is an artificial place, but in a different way. The city (and much of the country) was destroyed after the rampage of pro-Indonesian militias following the 1999 independence referendum. (This followed a period of brutal repression highlighted by a concerted effort on the part of the “international community” to look the other way. Most notably Australia, the only country in the world to officially recognize Indonesia’s sovereignty, by a thirst for oil and gas in Timor’s offshore fields. And by the US in the post-Vietnam cold war era where Suharto was just about the last regional dictator available to support.)

Post-independence civil strife in the middle of the ‘naughties didn’t help. Today there are only a few remaining scars of that time – a few scorched buildings – and it is a fairly bustling place of a few hundred thousand inhabitants.

What exists today would not exist without the huge influx and efforts of UN peace keeping forces, NGO’s and aid agencies of every stripe and nationality. There is not a school or public building without a flag or plaque commemorating the foreign entity that paid for it. Some of it was direct aid like the central post office – paid for by South Korea. More recently large commercial investment has appeared. The first shopping mall and cinema (just opened late 2012) was built by Singapore developers. (You can tell it’s Singaporese because guests going from the ground floor reception desk to the elevators for the upstairs hotel must walk through the shopping center. And some rooms have lovely balconies with windows either facing a blank wall, or blocked by billboards.)

Going to visit borrowers in Dili.

Going to visit Kiva borrowers in Dili.

I’m sure there was a great deal of planning on the part of those responsible for the rebuilding, and I don’t suggest that it was not noble, humanitarian, right, and helpful to the government and people of Timor-Leste to have done this. But it is certain that what exists here today would not have sprouted from local, organic development.

Any cultural expression is limited to a few places where traditional woven cloth (tais), baskets and carvings are sold. Notable among them is the Alola Foundation created to raise awareness of sexual violence against women and girls as a result of the militia rampages of 1999 A new “Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum” (paid for by Portugal and Macau) relates the long struggle for independence. (A little ironic when you consider that Timor-Leste and Macau were Portuguese colonies for over 400 years.)

The consequences of this development are a little strange, though not immediately apparent in a quick visit. For the most part, tourists are rare, and what exists in Dili exists to support the international workforce. Supply of services is highly skewed toward them and their expense accounts.

When UN workers first arrived, there was no place for them to stay, and they were lodged on ships moored just offshore. Building “tourist infrastructure” is one of the areas where aid was and is applied. And though priced at international rates, it is not of high standard. In the poorest country in one of the poorest regions of the world, my room cost a whopping $850 per month (a slightly larger room with a chair, sofa and table was $400 more). Similar lodging on the Indonesian side of the island costs less than 1/3 of that. The main difference being the lack of a large foreign aid workforce.

Not Too Busy for Lunch.

“Castaways” bar at idle.

The UN left in December of 2012. I wasn’t there before they pulled out, so I can’t say how different it is today, but all of the beach side tourist restaurants are running at idle. There are few customers.

From the viewpoint of someone assigned there, even for just a brief period as I was, it was very nice to find the Chinese-owned grocery store shelves filled with imported goods – mostly from Portugal (great sardines and olives). And I did find Skippy peanut butter, both Smooth and Crunchy.

It Was Fresh This Morning.

It was fresh this morning.

One of the things I pictured in my mind before arriving here was wonderful grilled seafood. And there was a lot of fresh fish being pulled out of the sea and for sale along the beachfront road. But it was never on ice, often in the sun, and as the day wore on, the smell of spoiling fish filled the air. I never had a really good piece of fish in Dili, and I think most of what I got was a frozen import. You could even get five varieties of imported Portuguese dried bacalau in one of the markets.

For a short jaunt from town on a weekend I could often be found riding my motorbike 10km east along the beach to “the Jesus statue” – a 27m tall copy of the one in Rio – and back.

She Shops and Cooks to Order.

She shops and cooks to order.

Stopping for lunch in one of the beach bodegas usually meant a pretty long wait if I ordered anything more exotic than nasi goreng (fried rice). The cook didn’t keep much food on hand – it would likely go to waste for a lack of customers. She had to send out to buy anything I ordered. The chicken was a good bet to be fresh since it came back from the market still clucking.

Lunch Shopped and Cooked to Order.

Lunch shopped and cooked to order.

About 70% of the population of Timor-Leste lives on less than $2.50 per day. Coincidentally, an ice cream cone at the new mall costs $2.50. The lunch special at The One More Bar is $5.00. Most lunches out cost $8-10, though the $6.50 buffet at the City Cafe was the best deal. (I think The OMB was named with the intention of prompting you to order “one more,” but I interpreted it as “just another bar.”)

I have no survey data to support this statement, but I think I am safe in saying that 99.5% of the local population cannot participate in this economy. This is the symptom of big money aid. It doesn’t address the bulk of the population. It papers over things and gives a false sense (not in all ways) that progress has been made when, in fact, most people have been left behind.

It’s the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Good time for a Kiva plug ( The reason I was in Dili was to work with Kiva’s micro-finance partner Tuba Rai Metin ( to improve their reach to the people left behind. I suppose my time was well spent since TRM will soon be offering Kiva loans in all 13 national districts (before they were only offered in 2), and their available fundraising limit with Kiva was more than doubled. The next time you make a Kiva loan, be sure to look for borrowers in Timor-Leste.

Splitting my time as a Kiva Fellow between Timor-Leste and west Timor, Indonesia, I had two options for moving to Kupang in the west. Either a horrendous 12 hour bus ride, or a flight to Bali and a flight back to Kupang. A couple of days R&R on Bali sounded like a good plan, so I booked a hotel in Sanur, an area I hadn’t stayed in before.

Old and New, Bali.

Bali, old and new.

Bali is a different definition of artificial. Perhaps it’s just over-developed. I don’t know where the development dollars are from, but there were (and are) a lot of them. The whole southern end of the island is one traffic jam in streets full of foreign shops and throngs of paradise seeking vacationers and the people to support this industry. Yucch.

The “real” Bali is to be found inland or along the coastline well away from over-developed Denpasar, Kuta, Legian and Sanur. But does “the real” (old) Bali still exist? Doubtful. Maybe just a shadow of it.

Whether or not it is, I don’t know, but the development seems more home grown here. Even with all the tourist mod-cons and brand name shops, the building seems more in line with Balinese ideas.

Bali was probably a nice hideaway at one time, but it is a perfect example of why you should keep your mouth shut when you find someplace nice.

I ran into another aspect of this last year in Sardinia. The northeastern coast, La Costa Smerelda, was scrub land picked up by the Aga Khan in the 1960’s for next to nothing. He developed it into a characterless resort town, touted it, and today it’s a destination for the rich, the famous, the wannabies, and cyclists with only one coastal road to choose from.

A Nice Place. Maybe on Sardinia.

Another place. Maybe on Sardinia.

Costa Smerelda. Lovely.

Costa Smerelda. Lovely, isn’t it?

But I was also curious to see how the other, other half lives, and to check out the advertised splendor of the scenic coast. I was really disappointed. It’s scrub land. There are far more beautiful places in Sardinia than that (and I’m not going to tell you where).

It just shows you what good marketing and the general desire of humans to gather into amorphous clumps, dress alike, drink beer and proclaim their superiority can do, though I guess the clientele there has a better claim on the latter than the rest of us.

So I was really interested to see what Kupang would be like – only 175 miles (280 km) as the crow flies from Dili. There are no tourist brochures touting it as a destination. I’ve only been here about ten days, but I can say it is real. There’s nothing in Kupang that I can interpret as put on, or existing only to serve a foreign audience. OK, there’s Teddy’s Bar down on the water, but it ain’t much.

Kupang's waterfront.

Kupang’s waterfront.

Kupang is a noisy, bustling place. It is the business center and capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur – the poorest province in Indonesia. The nicest hotel in town is rather unremarkable and worn. The budget places are a little scary. The only foreign restaurant chain I’ve found is KFC, and there are far fewer foreigners around, though almost all of those are aid workers. There are many little snack places, and the restaurants are patronized by local people and families – a very rare sight in Dili.

You can get fresh fish in the supermarket, on ice, and you can even get Skippy (smooth only). The very nice Borneo Bakery sells local product, not imitations of perceived foreign tastes. As an added bonus, the mosquitoes seem to be more plump and juicy and crackle more dramatically when hit with my zapper.

Bemo depot in central Kupang.

Bemo depot in central Kupang.

Missing from the landscape are the white Toyota Land Cruisers with UN or other logos on the doors and hood, careering around town with little regard for anyone else.

A surprising absence in traffic are taxis. They were everywhere in Dili and always honking to get attention. I’ve seen just a couple in Kupang, but the population of motorbikes is higher here, and the traffic worse. Taxi’s must have sprouted in Dili to serve the needs of the foreigners. The normal city public transport in both places are mini-buses – mikrolets in Dili; bemos in Kupang. (The “bus, coach & minibus” section of my phrase book offers the helpful, “You’re on my foot.”)

So, as I dig deeper into the place over the next few weeks, I’ll monitor how I feel about reality. I’ll have the chance to do that while I’m working with Kiva partner Tanaoba Lais Manekat ( My main task will be to perform a “borrower verification” – meeting with 10 current Kiva-TLM borrowers spread from Sabu to Niki-Niki. And I’ll be discussing ways TLM can take advantage of Kiva’s lender base to improve their reach to the poorest of the poor.

East of Kupang. Nicer than Cost Smerelda, and not a one percenter in sight.

East of Kupang. Nicer than Cost Smerelda, and not a one percenter in sight.

TLM's main office in Kupang.

TLM’s main office in Kupang.

Standing Firmly on the Ground

March 12, 2013 Leave a comment


An Unstable Foundation

In western mythology the phoenix, rising from its own ashes, represents cyclical extinction and regeneration; death and re-birth. Human stories lack the mythical qualities of the tales they inspire.

“On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority (78.5%) of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias – organized and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people (1/3 of the population) into western Timor as refugees. Most of the country’s infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country’s electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end.” CIA Factbook – parenthetical comments and emphasis mine.

In 2000, Save the Children hired Angelo Soares to work as coordinator of their Children Youth  Development Program (CYDP) as part of the re-building effort in Timor-Leste. Timorese by birth, he had been educated in Indonesia in agricultural development and worked for the government there for 10 years.


Angelo Soares, CEO, Tuba Rai Metin

When Save the Children opened a micro-credit program in July of 2001, they asked Angelo to join that program. The micro-credit program was transferred to Catholic Relief Services in January 2002, and on May 13 “Tuba Rai Metin” (“Standing Firmly on the Ground” in the local Tetum language) became a legal entity registered with the NGO Forum. CRS continued support to TRM over the next four years with loan capital, technical assistance and grants.

Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state on 20 May 2002, 27 years after the Indonesian occupation began.

Angelo began as a field loan officer, and he rose to be a Branch Manager in 2004. By 2006 he had become an Area Manager.

An Uneven Recovery

Unfortunately, 2006 would be a year of turmoil, too.

“East Timor’s capital, Dili, descended into chaos in April and May 2006, when the prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, fired almost half the country’s soldiers for striking. The fired soldiers, who had protested against low wages and alleged discrimination, then began rioting, and soldiers loyal to the prime minister started battling them. Soon the violence had spread to the police force and the civilian population, causing about 130,000 to flee their homes to avoid the bloodshed. Australian troops were called in to control the unrest. On June 26, Prime Minister Alkatiri resigned in an effort to stop the country’s disintegration.”

Angelo remembers the date well. It was May 26 when his home was ransacked and destroyed. His family lost everything. They fled to live in nearby Motael Church with 500 other scared people. Other churches and schools across the city along with the airport filled with refugees by the thousands. They remained for two weeks until calm returned. Like the rest of his neighbors, Angelo and his family were starting from zero.

Panorama 2a

Motael Church in Dili Today

The senior manager of TRM fled to Australia “for 12 days”, but a month later he sent his resignation letter to the board and never returned. Angelo was now in charge of what had been the 5th largest of 15 micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) in the country. Thirteen of them were now closed because they lost their assets. But TRM still had physical and financial assets, loans outstanding, and clients wanting to stay in business, even though many were in refugee camps.

By January of 2007 CRS completed an assessment and concluded that the situation in Timor-Leste was too difficult to continue support. They were pulling out. TRM’s monthly expenses were $8,500, yet income was only $4,000 in a deteriorating climate. Angelo was presented with three options:

  1. Close down and pay the staff a severance package.
  2. Merge with Moris Rasik – the only other surviving MFI (larger than TRM)
  3. Continue operations with no further support from CRS.

Angelo chose the third option.

How to Exist as a Timorese Institution?

This was not without some risk … to say the least. Unable to break even while supporting 24 staff members, an outstanding loan portfolio of $168,000 with 2,800 clients uprooted from their homes and businesses and living in refugee camps, abandoned by management and an international aid organization, TRM would be a high risk venture in anyone’s estimation.

Refugee Camp, DiliPhoto by Austcare

Refugee Camp, Dili 2006 – Photo by Austcare

But how to exist as a Timorese institution? First he tried to convince the board of directors to engage with the business, but not one director was willing to meet with him. A quarter of the staff left for more secure jobs in the government. But Angelo felt he had to try and make it work. It was for his community and his young country.

The remaining staff forged a plan to manage the budget to make it work. Cuts came, and they were difficult, but there was a desire to make sacrifices to rebuild. Benefits were cut to the bone. Employees agreed to sleep in branch offices to save on lodging expenses while traveling. TRM leased one of the cars to another company. Tightening their belts, they managed to reduce expenses significantly.

There were a few challenges in helping their clients rebuild. First the 2,800 clients had to be found amid the refugee camps. Micro-finance, by its nature, is a labor intensive business. The loan officers spend a lot of time out in the community getting know their clients personally, and they meet with them when loan repayments are made. They were accustomed to doing a lot of leg work, and clients were found.

Loans were restructured, and, in many cases, additional loans were made available. It took about a month to get most businesses going again, but most did get going again. The challenge was helping clients rebuild while keeping the company afloat.

A Bumpy Road

Things were going so well that in March of 2007 TRM opened a new field office in Lospalos, Lautém District. And in May income met expenses for the first time since TRM became a Timorese business – just five months after CRS pulled out.

Working closely with their clients, they set the stage to reduce the number of delinquent loans from 75% in 2006 to only 14% in 2009.

But inconclusive June 2007 elections between seven competing parties and protracted negotiations to come up with a ruling coalition led to political unrest. Generally, there was an East-West divide of feelings. Those in the east generally favored independence parties, while those in the west leaned toward Indonesia.

Most people were fearful of leaving their own cities. But Angelo continued to make the run between Dili (west) and Baucau (east) on a regular basis to keep the business moving.

In July there was a month-long work stoppage in Baucau. Banks and government offices closed. All activity stopped. But not at TRM. In order to keep a low profile, the loan officers visited their clients on their motorbikes dressed in shorts and sandals and, when challenged, said they were out visiting friends. There were no banks to deposit their collections, and they avoided using the office, so the Branch Manager kept loan collections in his house.

The political unrest turned violent in several districts, including Baucau. On July 7 TRM’s Baucau branch office was burned along with all the records. $18,000 in cash was lost.

Stability …. at Last

Since the mid-decade troubles, the political climate has been much more stable. UN security forces moved in to stabilize the country, and they just left in December, 2012.

TRM's Kiva Coordinators Connecting Borrowers with Lenders

TRM’s Kiva Coordinators Connecting Borrowers with Lenders

TRM has been on a steady growth path with help from BASIX and the UNCDF (UN Credit Development Fund) and now serves over 7,500 clients in all 13 national districts. The loan portfolio has grown to over $2.8 million. They offer a complete portfolio of loan products, micro-insurance and deposit savings accounts.

Tuba Rai Metin has been a partner with Kiva since May of 2012, offering the opportunity for Kiva lenders to make loans directly to individuals and groups served by TRM.

I am in Dili working with TRM to solidify and expand the relationship with Kiva. Angelo and his team have just completed the requirements to move from “pilot” to “active” status. This will increase the amount of money Kiva makes available to lend to TRM borrowers through the Kiva website, as well as open the door to fund special development projects.

I hope you will look for TRM’s clients on as you search for places to connect with small entrepreneurs.

Phoenix or Mortal?

The phoenix resurrected from its ashes is a fanciful image created in men’s minds. The origin of the story is lost in time. Perhaps it was used as soothing encouragement during catastrophic times. Maybe an inducement to rise powerfully against a conquering enemy.

To stand firmly on the ground is something humans do. In the final analysis, it is the only course of action we humans have. But we can do pretty well. Perfecting our stance will do more to help ourselves and others than any flight of fancy.


Relics of the Struggles Remain

So, Where Are You From?

February 25, 2013 8 comments

As I’ve traveled around the world, my response to the “Where are you from?” question has been, “I’m from The States.”

Going Batty In Costa Rico

Going Batty In Costa Rica

I acquired this somewhat neutral title for my native land back in the 1980’s. I can trace the start of my thinking to 1982 when I was in Costa Rica on a caving expedition in Guanacaste Province.

When Amerigo Vespucci’s name was applied to maps of the three New World continents, they were all America. Central Americans are Americans, as are South Americans, Mexicans, and yes, even Canadians (though the Québécois may really prefer to be French, or at least not Canadian, though I really don’t know if their identity crisis attempts to distance them from l’Amérique du Nord. And what do people in St. Pierre and Miquelon, who are French citizens, consider themselves?).

In prep meetings for the expedition we were cautioned that self-identifying as an “Americano” was a sensitive issue. It was suggested that we say we were Norte Americanos. Or say we were from Los Estados Unidos.

On Rope in Guanacaste

On Rope in Guanacaste

Incidentally, Vespucci himself only saw South America. So South Americans may have a preeminent claim on identifying themselves as unqualified Americans.

Maybe North Americans should be called Columbians, since that’s where Columbus landed. But then Hugo Chavez would have to distinguish between his own country and the Norte Columbianos in his diatribes.

You can see it’s a problem.

But for six weeks in rural Costa Rica I was pretty careful about it, and I remember talking to a local in a bar one day when we were down from the hills. He tried to get me into a drunken trap to use the A-word, but I didn’t take the bait. The beer wasn’t that good.

Returning to Costa Rica twenty years later on a trip through Central America, I used “Norte Americano” and received funny looks. “Americano” was clearly understood as “gringo”.

There must have been a generational shift.

Ten years later (2011) and I was cycling from Malta to Dublin.

Dublin had never even crossed my mind as the final destination when I pedaled those first few kilometers from Malta to Gozo. In true vacilador tradition, it only became my final destination three and a half months into the trip – 10 days before the trip ended.

From Malta I took the ferry to Sicily and had some interesting times there. After cranking up Mt. Etna and traversing the island, I took an overnight ferry from Palermo to Cagliari in southern Sardinia.

Sicily had been fantastic. And although I liked walking around Palermo and taking in its raw grittiness, art, food, dirt, clatter, and pickpocket infested buses, a few days was enough.

Cagliari was a refreshing change – it had a holiday ambiance, and I liked Sardinia as soon as I got off the boat.

The overnight sea voyage was refreshing. Taking a lesson from the awful experience Barry and I had ferrying from the Orkneys to Aberdeen the previous year, I splurged on a private cabin. The common areas were jammed, so it was a good decision.

I know enough French and Spanish to get by, but my Italian is almost non-existent. Traveling, I was able to pick up a few things, and at least I thought I knew some pronunciation.

Cagliari – Kah-GLYAR-ee, with emphasis onthe penultimate syllable.


It is more like KAH-glyar-ee. Sort of sounds like the Canadian city of Calgary. Welcome to Sardinia.

My Tour de Sardinia began by cycling around the southwest corner of the island. There are a couple of small islands just a short ferry ride offshore, and I stopped for a few days on Isola di San Pietro at the Hotel California.

San Pietro is a beautiful little island to cycle around on day trips. Some good climbs. Gorgeous rocky coastline. Seabirds. Lighthouses. Secluded coves. Nice little harbor front in the main town, Carloforte. I almost found a sfogliatella, but the pastry shop advertising it was never open.

I just didn’t want to check out.

I’ve forgotten exactly how it started. Maybe I was standing with my bike by the pier and was looking for a direction to go. That look of indecision might have been the catalyst for this guy to come up to chat.

I could sort of tell, as you learn you can sort of tell, that this guy had something to sell. He was selling information. Information about him. He wanted to tell me his story. The price was my time. It was one of those things you fall into, being a nice person such as I am with time on my hands. He was one of those people that you don’t meet – they meet you. I started to listen.

Harbor front on Isola di San Pietro

Harbor front of Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro

He spoke fluent English, but I couldn’t place his accent. He looked Caucasian, may have been middle-eastern, but I guessed European, but from where? He had a big gold watch, big gold necklaces, and that ruddy complexion and gut that sailors have that I attribute more to hoisting bottles of port while tied to a berth than to hauling hoisting lines in healthy sea air getting into port. He was sailing around the Med. Had sailed around the Med before. Other places, too. He stopped in for the tuna festival this weekend. Are you staying here for that? No? Too bad. I’m going to fill myself. Etc.

I tried to ask only enough questions to seem to appear to be interested. I didn’t know where this “conversation” was headed.

He asked where I was from.

By this time I’d used “the states” as my origin for decades in dozens of countries and situations. I don’t know why my senses picked something up. But it’s almost that I knew instinctively that this time was different. It wasn’t quite instinct because it was a conscious choice in my response. Somehow I knew this was his hot button,and maybe it was the whole reason for this conversation.

I pressed the button.

“I’m American.”

This set him off on a mini-tirade about how arrogant “Americans” are (yes, in deriding me for identifying myself as American, he actually used the phrase “you Americans”), they don’t know their place in the world, insensitivity, yak, yak, yak, yak, yak.

“Why don’t you say you’re from the United States, or that you’re North American?”

“Because it is generally understood when I say I’m ‘American’ that I’m from the US. Just as you understood it.”

I was confused why a European would make such a distinction. Or care. I think if I told most Europeans that I’m North American, they wouldn’t know exactly what to think. Canadian, they know. Mexican, they know. American, they know. The States, they know. The United States, they think the USA, even though Mexico has 31 states and is formally called “Estados Unidos Mexicanos”. If I said “The Provinces” I’m just about 100% sure they would not think of Canada (or Costa Rica), though they might think of rural France.

Sfogliatella. Photo by avlxyz

Sfogliatella. Photo by avlxyz.

What was this guy’s accent? More importantly, why am I standing here on the waterfront in Carloforte having this discussion when there might be sfogliatella lurking about nearby?

“Look. We’re in Italy, right? What is the Italian word for someone from the US? Americano. What is the French word for someone from the US? Americain. What is the German word for someone from the US? Amerikanischer. What is the British word for someone from the US? Yank. So, what’s the problem?”

But where was this guy from?

“So, where are YOU from?”

“I live in Halifax. I spend about half the year there.”

….. (sigh) …… I apologize to my Canadian friends, but  ….. There was going to be a second hot button. I let him have the second barrel.

“You’re from Canada?!  The fifty-first state?!”

He was not amused.

Perhaps there is a huge, untapped demand for Psychologist-Geographers dealing with continental identity angst (CIA).

So. Where are you from?

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art

Getting There is (Something Less Than) Half the Fun

February 10, 2013 3 comments

Days -3 to +1 of a Kiva Fellowship

Day -3: I know when to leave a party.

More Snow than Boston was Expecting

More Snow than Boston was Expecting

A big snowstorm was moving up the east coast of the US due to hit Boston on Thursday. On Wednesday night at 22:30 I boarded a Swiss International flight for the 6 hour run to Zurich.

This might seem like an unusual choice to avoid winter weather (there was snow on the ground in Zurich), but this was just the first leg of my journey.

Day -2: Getting There….

A few hours layover and I was snuggled into my seat for the 10 hour Thai Air flight to Bangkok. I was able to see most of the film “Argo” (which I recommend) before the entertainment system failed, seemingly only in my and my neighbor’s seats.

Day -1: Getting There….

Not there quite yet, a few hours after traipsing across the huge Suvarnabhumi airport, I boarded another Thai flight, this one only 5 hours long, to Denpasar on the island of Bali. I stumbled out of the plane into 32C/89F warmth. The surfing forecast was good (it always is), and no blizzard was in sight. Using a conventional calendar to track my position in the space/time continuum, it was Friday and was 2:00 in the afternoon local time, about 27 hours and 12 or 13 time zones after boarding the Zurich bound flight in Boston.

Having changed my original travel plans and not able to re-confirm my next flight over the internet, I quickly checked into my Kuta guesthouse. Then began a three hour epic taxi journey through the busy streets of Denpasar in search of Merpati Airlines office. Boarding the cab, the flag drop was only 5,000 Indonesian rupiahs – about US$0.50, so I figured this ride would be pretty cheap.

Typical, Boring, Kuta Sunset

Typical, Boring, Kuta Sunset

The traffic was reminiscent of Hanoi. Motorbikes everywhere during the fully developed rush hour. The only difference here was that I was in a Toyota taxi, not riding bitch on the back of a motorbike taxi in Hanoi bumping knees with other riders.

I took care of my business, buying a new ticket at slightly more than double the cost of the original one, and taxied back to Kuta. I was so tired during the ride back that I started to hallucinate as my mind wandered. Focus. Dropping me near my guesthouse, the taxi meter read 167,500 IDR – US$17. Glad this wasn’t NYC.

There are three main reasons I love Asia. The insane traffic, the food, and the foot massages. The first item was already checked off, so I took a quick walk along the beach, a short nap while having a decent foot massage, scarfed down grilled prawns in Szechuan sauce with a side of stir fried morning glory, a quick dip in the pool, and then tried to sleep.

Day 0: Getting Real Close

Finally on the way to my ultimate destination, I climbed on the frigidly air-conditioned late morning Merpati flight to Dili, Timor-Leste. It was less than two hours, and I wished longer because of the great views of some of the 15,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and the towering cumulus clouds of the rainy season. Beautiful.

From Dili

From Dili

So Abundant it Grows on the TreesSo Abundant, Fish Grow on Trees

The first views of Timor showed the rugged mountains (up to 3000m), torrential wet season run-off into the sea, and the small city of Dili hugging the north coast around a small harbor.

Checked into the Dive Timor Lorosae guesthouse and took the first orientation walk of town scoping out some longer term stay options.

Dive Timor Lorosae

Dive Timor Lorosae

In the next issue – Where to stay?