Teeth are often red-stained, brown, or yellowed. Rare to find bathroom tile that’s white. Rice can be white, but often it has brown parts, from the husks. Eggs are white, but hard to come by for most. Walls are often painted white but become stained astonishingly fast. When there is a surf, which is rare, it is white.

You can’t escape white. It is the color of the flag flown in front of the house for a baby’s funeral. It is also the color of women in pornography, distributed across East Timor for $1.50 per video.

As in other places, I suppose white makes right. Timorese people buy whitening lotion for their faces and avoid the sun. Confused-looking babies riding in buses with their faces smeared with whitening lotion. People call their darker children “blackie.”

Clouds are white. Priest robes are bleach white. As are whale vertebrae like the one we walked past on the weekend. Dried coconut is white.  Newborn goats, black and white, are such a clean white that we literally squealed with delight as we drove past them on Sunday.

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