I biked yesterday to this point where I can normally find some peace. Most days kids play soccer in the dust/sand about 50m up the road, but they quit about sunset.

It’s just past the Pertamina oil depot along the beach. The island of Atauro is due north, dominating the view. I like to just stand there, leaning back on my bike, and listen to the ocean. Last night there was actually a bit of a surf. With coral reefs all around the island, we rarely even get proper waves. The sun had set over Alor, the island to the north-west.

There were no spectacular colors. Just dusty pink and a washed out blue. But it was quiet. A man walked idly by on the beach, rolling a cigarette as he went. He surveyed the water. He had new-looking flip-flops, used but clean clothes, and a baseball hat. His legs looked strong. He could have been 29 and he could have been 59. He was poor, but he seemed concerned with just being. Watching the water, stopping to light the cigarette, and take the first drag. He walked on. Not fast, not slow.

I lingered, just listening to the water. Thinking about the earthquake in an island a couple of hundred miles north of here. Wondering if we would get big waves. (We didn’t.)

As I turned to bike off, I noticed that the rusty scrap metal next to me contained a large box. It had a round piece on the door, and the door looked like it had been scraped open with a crow bar. It was a safe. Sitting there since the chaos of 1999. Rusting. Somebody had scratched some Indonesian graffiti on the top. I tried to imagine the story of this object. Who lifted it onto a truck? Militia? Indonesian military? Returning Timorese? The Australian peacekeepers? Did they succeed in opening it? (It was rusted shut and too heavy to attempt to open.) What was inside?

It was just sitting there, like a petrified tree stump. It will sit there for many more sunsets, people passing by, oblivious.


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