East Timor

So what have I been doing here in East Timor this last month. Well I’m glad
you asked…

On the first weekend here Miriam took me to a sleepy little village called Liquica (Li-kee-sa), west of Dili. Lovely beach there and we were forced to sit on it and drink fresh coconuts that a local guy happened to be harvesting at the time.

VIQUEQUE

The next weekend I went to Viqueque (Vi-kee-kee) on the south side of the island as I was invited to a Uma Lumic (Lit: house holy) that was opening by a guy I’d meet, Josh, who is the prince of that district form what I understand. Miriam stayed in Dili as she had a workshop to do on Saturday and it was a 9 hour journey on way.

To get there we had to go via Boucou (bow-cow) which is about 4 hours east of Dili and then directly south from there over the mountain range that divides the island in half, north from the south. The habitat is much lusher in the south side and the North is much dryer and arid, much like the Australian Northern Territory.

The road was bad for most of the journey and, because we where tiring to make it to a village near Viqueque by 8am we woke at 3am in Boucou for the drive south. By the time we got there we were all stuffed and found out that the ceremony had been postponed 2 days ago till the following weekend. One of the disadvantages of having no phone lines or satellite coverage in the districts.

We went up to see the Uma Lumic anyway, which was on top of a small mountain with great views over the surrounding country side. Some of us ‘malae’ (foreigners) camped on the beach which was beautiful. Having a swim as soon as I got out of the mosquito dome.

MAUBISSE

The following weekend, Miriam was invited to another Uma Lumic by a local member of parliament she had been working with on media law, a Manuel Tillman. This one was in a village, Fatubisse, near Maubisse in the middle of the mountains south of Dili. The road was very windy an the local driver was going as fast as he could, which was only about 40kmph but we all felt queasy in the back seat by the end of it.

We stayed in a nice old Portuguese style hotel up on a panicle surrounded by mountains. It had a beautiful view in all directions and it was quite cool in the evening, which was a pleasant change. The Uma Lumic ceremony was very Christian and a bit dull as a result. I heard later that the one near Viqueque on at the same time was much more lively and festive. It started out with a catholic mass on top of a steep hill overlooking the uma lumic. Again due to every party involved being late it didn’t start until about noon and we all got fried in the sun. Miriam got particularly badly burnt on the shoulders and my bottom lip was in blisters for more than a week afterwards.

The ceremony then proceeded to a Portuguese style grave yard near by all white and aqua blue, where respect was payed to the dead. While we were doing this the old folks of the village where getting warmed up banning drums and gongs, and was a much welcome relief form the morbid Christian part of the proceedings. The crowd, of about two to three hundred attended from the local surroundings, moved back to the village where they were greeted by the elders who where done up in feathers colourful native looking numbers. The little band consisting of two people with one drum and a gong player or two would randomly burst into heavily syncopated noise for a couple of minutes at a time. The elders would dance/float around at this in circles and then stop again with the music. Some sort of handing over chanting was done with Manuel Tillman by the elders and then we all ate, and I mean all. Food, mainly roast cow, but possibly house of buffalo, steamed out continually while we were there. The elders danced on and off with the music which started and stopped every five minutes. This went on till 6am the next morning.

We spent the next day in the hotel recovering form out burning and admiring the view. We hand lunch in Maubisse at a local restaurant (the only restaurant), Mei Gorang (fried noodles) which was pretty good and one of the few dishes available here due to limitations in produce.

Other than that I’ve been hanging in Dili dodging the goats and huge pigs that roam the streets, among other things. Working ion the laptop during the week and meeting Miriam for lunch, mostly Ikan (fish) or Ayam (chicken).

I just got a six week contract to do two hours a week at Miriam’s office mentoring the local guy on network issues. Not much mullah but should cover visa expenses (about a dollar a day).

lots of love

alex