Communication breakdown

To catch my readers up on the recent events in Dili, which I’m sure have been misreported, manipulated and distorted by a pathetic and frequently vacationing western media, there have been a number of incidents in the past couple of days. This is not really seen as any kind of escalation, it’s merely a continuation of the status quo after a bit of a lull last week.

Following an incident of rock throwing at a wedding in Lorumatan, near the old Comoro market, on Saturday, there was violence on Sunday, which I saw on my return from Maubara.

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After that there was rocking throwing in Jardim (Kolmera), in front of the port area, literally in front of the five star hotel where all the VIPs stay.

There maybe have been incidents in Caicoli, but they were not serious.

In Comoro, two days ago, things began heating up with something like 7 more houses burned, and one person injured. Then two nights ago, two Molotov cocktails thrown into the Jardim camp (Kolmera), it’s unclear about injuries. That same night, early in the morning, a group of up to 200 hundred youths (unconfirmed, as is everything) attacked the Airport Camp at around 5am. I think there were injuries, and the GNR came in with great force. Rubber bullets quite likely were used.

Docogirl reports that yesterday, after some rather routine rock-throwing into Jardim, Australian peacekeepers and Portuguese GNR arrived. The Australians basically assembled shoulder to shoulder and blasted into the camp, in a line. (When it was people outside the camp who apparently started the whole thing, and they were long gone.) Then the GNR apparently started throwing teargas in there like water balloons, and the whole thing got very ugly.

The Timor Post says they arrested 29 young men at the camp. The paper “confirms” (or repeats) word on the street that the kids arrested were not the trouble makers.

Taxi drivers don’t seem to like GNR. Very few people are supporting their heavy-handed tactics, which I find surprising. Because in the riots of 2002, people were calling for harder measures, more bullets. Real bullets.

What has struck me most in talking with Timorese people about the current situation is the way in which different groups distribute the blame. I can make a couple of basic generalizations.

The Timorese diaspora, or educated class with good jobs here in Dili, tend to blame the ema beik, the stupid people who have come from the districts and live in these shitty peripheral neighborhoods in Dili. Why do they resort to violence? They are ignorant. Beik. I have to say this reeks of condescension to me.

Then the average person, lucky to be making $80/month, the taxi driver, the maid or the security guard (those are basically the only jobs of that kind) thinks that the politicians and the political class is almost entirely to blame. The ema boot, many of whom spent decades abroad, and have now come to scramble for personal influence, disregarding the needs of the suffering Timorese people.

The lefty NGO community in Farol tends to side with the government, assigning limited blame for certain miscalculations it has made. The government has done a good job protecting Timor from the predatory World Bank, its Health and Education work has been pretty good, and in the end these guys want to see the “revolution” prevail, and they see Fretilin as the only way. I do detect the blame being shifted to Western imperialism, the fight for the Timor Gap. While not all people there blame Australia for attempting to bring down Alkatiri, there seems to be consensus that the Market forces, capitalism, and certain hegemonic foreign “interests” are behind the unrest.

It is rare when you find somebody to admit that all sides are screwing things up. The politicians are to blame, the ruling party, the opposition, the President all have shown a dire lack of maturity. But the “little people” too have fallen very easily into the absurd eye for an eye mentality. And it’s probably true that Australia (and Portugal) to some extent have used the Petitioners crisis to reassert their influence on the place and promote their national interests above the interests of the Timorese. And of course, there is consensus that instead of a UN posterchild, Timor was a quiet flop, a failure, that is now a real squeaking wheel. So now they are going to throw another $300 million at the situation.

Very few people can admit that Alkatiri had some merit, but really created too many enemies with his personal style and intransigence. Few are willing to rationally doubt the actions of all politicians, but support the current government because it is obviously the only way out.

Yesterday I met up with Pedro Lebre, who has been a longtime friend of solidarity activists from all over the world. He has been hosting journalists, activists and now solidarity tourists for over a decade in his Vila Harmonia in Becora. Part of it was burned, when he left briefly in June because, as he said “I didn’t want to be killed by idiots.” He confided to me that this whole situation, more than anything makes him ashamed. He blames the politicians, fair and square. He had told me years ago that he knew Timorese politics was poisonous. Back in 1975, and he knew it after 1999 too.

He will dedicate the rest of his life to promoting Timorese culture and tourism, which he believes go hand in hand.

He is talking about moving back up to his mountain village, where he grew up in the shadow of Mount Matebian. He is writing his memoir in Tetun, a gargantuan task, and he says that when he thinks back to the 1950s and 1960s, he was still living like “a primitive” which seems unbelievable but true. I said, but “a happy primitive”? He just kind of looked off, saying “yeah” softly but already mentally transported to his childhood, which was a tough but perhaps a less bitter, more hopeful place.

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Yesterday, 5:50pm

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Uma Fukun, one day to be a “Cultural Centre”, formerly the Portuguese customshouse, in the background. One of the only buildings to survive over 94 Allied bombings of Dili while in Japanese hands. Apparently used as a torture/interrogation center by the Indonesians. Recently rennovated and painted up by the Portuguese government, only to be neglected, and subsequently trashed by the “Petitioners” when they camped inside in April 2006. Now they are going to rennovate, AGAIN!

In the foreground, the royal Ai-Hale, banyan trees. They are hundreds of years old, keeping silent witness over Dili Harbor.

Halo de’it ona (Just Do it!)

Today I had the good fortune of being invited to a Timorese “business lunch” along the beach road out towards Areia Branca and the Timorese “Cristo Rei”. I called an extremely nice friend who is now a Timorese Diplomat and he said come on down and meet “us.” “It’s a business lunch, my big businessman friend will buy you lunch.” (I have a major complex about getting bought lunch because I am aware that basically crumble under pressure and do not put up a big enough resistance.) Anyways, interesting experience I thought.

So I convinced a taxi to drive me down there for $1.50, which I suppose is a testament to my bargaining skills in Tetun or the fact that the taxi driver was lazy and just wanted me to shut up.

I got closer and noticed all of these buses down there. Strange, I thought. The main road to Baucau goes through Becora. But buses to Baucau no longer go there, because there is too much rock throwing. Those buses are “lorosa’e” and hence the target of the anger of the majority of Dili (which seems to be increasingly “loromonu”).

All of the restaurants down there are new to me, with the exception of Victoria which has been there since like 2000. There is a Balinese place, very friendly, and then after a “Timorese Portuguese” place apparently owned by people from Baucau. Very pleasant, simple but clean and well decorated with views straight out to Atauro. I think this row of restaurants is actually nicer than some of the beach resort areas in Bali.

Anyways, so I sit down and Diplomat says “have a beer! This is my second” and he’s wearing these nice aviator Ray Bans, and I’m thinking, wow life is good for the foreign service everywhere. He says, and rightly so, “You never know how long you have to live, so enjoy it.” Meaning never skip beer or wine at lunch. They had ordered ikan (one each!) which came with a really nice sauce, and modo which are like watercress grown in the canals of Dili, and a salad. Really top notch food.

Diplomat’s friend, big business man, did not have a lot of bling bling or flashy clothes to indicate that he was in fact Nike’s sole representative in Timor! They explained that Nike wants to sell legitimate shoes, balls and clothes here, they believe there is a market now for such stuff. I asked if they had any Timorese athletes with the Nike endorsement yet, and he said they were working on it. He says his sales are already outranking Fiji. I told him it’s only a matter of time before he gets invited to World HQ in Oregon!

I asked him if he ever wore the swoosh, and he said yes, but we can’t everyday. He said that Nike is making a global comeback since the loss of Michael Jordan. But Adidas is still really big at the moment. Most of the customers, Diplomat laughed, are foreigners, UN types who think it’s cheaper here than in their home countries. In any case, sales are good in Dili.

Turns out that Businessman knew quite a few people who could help my research, and he actually got me thinking about some important things. I also learned that all of the roads around my region have gone to shit, and that even now in the dry season, I’ll need a 4WD car to take me out there.

Next, for a change of pace, I went to a discussion at Sa’he Institute, the revolutionary NGO named after Vicente Sa’he, the Fretilin leader who pioneered Timor’s first indigenous literacy campaigns. There was supposed to be some discussion with a famous malai activist from Australia. I felt as though I entered into a time warp, listening to the language from some of the initial revolutionary Fretilin documents. These are guys (and a couple of girls) that still use “reactionary” without the quotation marks.

It was interesting (anthropologically) but I was a bit distracted because I really wanted to talk with one of the moderators about his work on “conflict transformation.” I finally got to talk to him at a tea break; I remember meeting him briefly in 2001 before he went to study in Ireland. He is one of the (aging) youth/student leaders who is political but not “in” politics.

One thing that struck me, is that for a place that talked so much about “patriarchy”, and the preeminence of the white man, there seemed to be ingrained gender roles. It made me chuckle that when snack time came around, it was the girls who hopped up to bring out the bananas, roasted tubers and seaweed salad. The only man who got up to help was wearing a t-shirt that said “Good Bush” (followed by an illustration of a woman’s pelvis, covered) and “Bad Bush” (President Bush).

This reminded me of my parent’s story from 1970, when they were staying briefly in the same apartment as the infamous Abby Hoffman, who was on trial in Chicago. He would go to the trial all day, and leave his wife in the house to type up his notes and be his secretary.

Viva la revolución! Or better yet, halo de’it ona! Just do it!

Terror as the norm

After reading in Xanana’s autobiography that he repeated intervened to save the “pro-Indonesia” or “1959” liurais in 1977, I decided to risk it and put some effort into understand the aftermath of this “mountain” period.

I spent the day comparing data from three lists of those killed in Uatolari-Uatocarbau in 1978-79. This period followed the rendição, the surrender from Mount Matebian, where the majority of the civilian population had lived for over a year. Many died of thirst, poor health and bombings with fighter planes sold to Indonesia by the Carter Administration. Some civilians snuck out of Fretilin controlled areas on the Mountain when the suffering became too great.

But most stayed until Falintil gave the order for a civilian surrender on November 23, 1978. When people passed through the military cordon, my informants say there were already Timorese collaborators pulling out Fretilin sympathizers from the crowd of civilians. People over the age of about 12 had their hands checked for gun powder or residue of munitions.

Once “down” in the villages and towns, those who saw themselves as victimized by Fretilin power on the Mountain seized their chance for revenge, mostly by working with Indonesia to hunt down Fretilin sympathizers.

The three lists I have are all public: from the CAVR or Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission (the final list for posterity), one from an activist group in London’s human rights reporting documents, dated 1979, and one from the “Konis Santana” archive. (The latter two are held by the newly open Archive of the Resistence, which was organized by one of Portugal’s most noted historians – a medievalist – José Mattoso.)

I have a total of about 130 people killed from the subdistricts of Uatolari and Uatocarbau from the three lists. The most “complete” list is the CAVR list, but it has many repeated names and gaping holes in its information. The Activist list dated 1979 has that very “human rights”-y feel about it, with age, profession and details of death, not in any apparent order. It is handwritten. The third list has a more “local” feel in that it is merely a list of dead, with village and suco carefully noted. Neither of the other lists contains consistent village information. (This last list contains very interesting annotations on the back, indicating the involvement of some pro-Indonesia Timorese in the killings.)

I suppose the thing that struck me, reading off this list, is how such bare names, dates, “facts” can be both terrifying and “normal” at the same time. I began to forget that I was looking at the names of those who were violently killed, and who will eventually be forgotten. Some of them didn’t even go by Christian names, so they were Lequi and Cai Mau. Or if they did, they didn’t have a family name. So there were 3 “Manuel”s and a number of “Luis”. I wonder what a “political” threat men like this could have been to Indonesian power.

I remember taking a slight comfort in seeing people that were executed together, realizing that it would have been very horrible to die alone. There was one 20 year old village head who was allegedly “tied up and burned alive” by the Indonesian special forces. A number of women appeared on the lists. Two were young women who appear to have been taken to the district headquarters and killed long after the majority of men. I pushed the thought out of my head of what they must have gone through in captivity.

It is easy, even for those who study recent history on a daily basis, to forget the impact of these stories on people here in Timor.

We can quibble all day about the way people here or “there” in the first world relate to trauma and loss differently, or the total number killed violently during the occupation. But for the majority of people over 30, these abuses cut so close to their own life stories.

They lie under the surface of perception, memory and feeling. People’s ability to trust each other, to trust the unknown, to trust in political and societal change has been formed by the disappearances, the torture, the murders, the cycle of revenge and stealing.

I had hoped to refrain from using the word “evil” but it is not possible. When you see humanity’s capacity for unspeakable evil up close, it must be hard to live in the stable, crystalline world that we grew up in.

I got back late in the evening and talked with Gonçalo, the security guard who is deeply religious. I could see that “look” in his eye, this disquiet. He said when he got back from choir practice today, he learned that one of his good friends was seriously wounded in violence in Kolmera last night. Gonçalo wanted to go to the hospital to visit his friend. But even the man’s own brothers are too scared to go to the hospital, because they believe they will be ambushed by the same people who attacked their brother.

UN Trailer park

The smoke we saw on the Comoro Road on Sunday was probably linked to disturbances there that afternoon. From AFP:

VIOLENCE erupted on the streets of the East Timorese capital today as two groups pelted each other with stones, forcing residents in the area to flee their homes. The disturbance occurred between two groups of youths from different regions of East Timor near the Comoro market at about 2pm local time, witnesses said. They said the incident appeared to follow the beating of a man the previous day…Meanwhile, the civil registry office next to the Fatuhada police post in Dili was burned by unidentified men today, witnesses said.

Today I woke up what to me is bright and early, but only seemed to make it to the UN Agency Compound by about 9:30am. I remember biking across town at about 8am so I wouldn’t show up at the office all hot and sweaty. Nine am is already a sweating hour.

I was surprised when the taxi driver stopped short, just in front of the Palácio das Cinzas, Xanana’s shell of an office. On the other side of the street, there was a large gate, security check point and tons of ugly UNTAET-style pre-fab trailers. He explained that the agencies had migrated over to this trailer park a couple of months before the crisis.

Interesting, I thought. Does this not seem like a step backwards? Or maybe psychologically, working in trailers makes the UN feel less institutionalized here, like they could leave any year now?

I went in to talk to my old Boss at UN Agency. She was just heading out for a meeting with “partners”, which I took to be an epic meeting in 3 languages that would take up the whole morning. She introduced me to the person who was working on the Theater project they asked me to try to start up, which apparently has had a thriving life with the help of a couple of strong local NGOs. They told me that they were going to put on a theater presentation in “the camps” this week.

Yet the overall feeling I got there was that they were busy with the same old shit, planning and reporting.

My former boss clarified that it was actually the Timorese government who asked the UN Agencies to leave the old building up the street, and that shortly after they left, it was occupied by Petitioners and looted during the violence. Everything was torn out, even tiles in the bathroom. Now, she says, ironically, the new emergency UN mission has occupied the building (presumably with the government’s consent).

I talked to the drivers, including the Number One driver who, by the look of it, gets to sit around and shoot the shit.

They said a lot of the younger Timorese staff left to study abroad, this is true of my good friend and colleague there. But also of the young man who used to work as a sort of “office boy” doing random tasks and making coffee. Off in Jogjakarta studying.

I guess three years is enough to see even the “local staff” bail out and try something new, especially when there is little hope of promotion. The life of these institutions is quite incredible if you think about it. How do they create permanence, besides branding? Often one International staff has very little time, or no opportunity to handover to the next. There is a fair amount of reinventing the wheel. And what should the permanence of the UN in these places be, especially if it creates such a distorted economic situation?

Walking down through Caicoli, towards the University, I saw more and more pre-fab trailers. The Kiwis or Australian forces are camped out there as well, with these huge concrete barricades and sandbag installations. I got to thinking about the life of a city, the geography of “emergency”. It would be quite fascinating to map (1) The camps (2) The UN/Aid agencies installations and lastly, and more difficult (3) the residential map of “internationals” paying exorbitant rents.

Past World Vision, which at one point had shrunk down to quite a modest size, and is now a gigantic operation again.

Then I saw these big grease stains on the ground from wax with burn marks and bougainvillea flowers. A moment to recent dead I thought. Then I realized, this is where the 8 Timorese police were shot, on May 25. There must have been a candle vigil here last night. People on the street confirmed this to me, it’s been exactly four months since that heinous blood letting on a major Dili street.

Mountain people

Headed out of town early with Professor and family early in the morning. I was so happy to get out of Dili. On the road, I watched little piggies run in the mangrove mud, the people of Ulmera with their salt production, past Liquiça, which hadn’t changed much at all.

We were headed towards the Professor’s longtime fascination, the old kingdom of Maubara.

It was a Dutch enclave until 1859, where the Chinese and Timorese ran extremely lucrative coffee plantations and earlier sandalwood trade. After its entry into Portuguese jurisdiction, with the fateful (unauthorized) trade of Solor for Maubara in 1859 by Governor Lopes de Lima, Maubara became the site of constant disobedience and struggle. After Maubara was linked to the assassination of Governor Lacerda Maia in 1881, it had a bad name until 1893 when it rose up under the leadership of a rebel named Mau Buti.

Like many places in Timor, the coastal town was basically insignificant for most of history. The Portuguese constructed a fort there in 1860, and attempted to control the mountain peoples above from below. The large Chinese community in Maubara region was highly suspect to the Portuguese administration. The wealth and majority of people lived in the cool mountain areas above the port.

I had only previously visited the coastal town, known as Maubara. (And had one amazing party with the first year of Peace Corps volunteers in the fort!) The beach there is beautiful, with dark black volcanic sand. We blasted through the town, up a dry river bed and onto an old paved road.

Professor explained that this road used to be the main highway East to West in Timor. The Indonesians built the road that clings perilously to the coast, which we know today as the “main road”. This older road was typically Portuguese, with lots of S-curves and beautiful views along the mountain ridges. We passed through what is equivalent to “Outback” scenery. Dry, arid, dusty and seemingly ready to go ablaze with a spark. Only a few human settlements, where there was feeble irrigation.

Then we made it up high to the shady Acacia tree highlands. We started to see heaps of flowers, bougainvillea, a beautiful sort of wild lily, poinsettia (those Christmas plants that are poisonous to cats), and of course forests of waxy-leaved coffee trees. Coffee in Timor is shade grown, under the shade of large-trunked Acacias. This is one of the driest months of the year in Timor, and this elevated forest seems like an oasis.

To the dismay of my rear end, which was bouncing on a wooden bench, we drove all the way to the top of the mountain, not far from one of the most remote and formerly rebellious spots in the kingdom. I was happy to observe that Timor Telcom had its celluar tower up and operational, run by a generator.

Looking out to the north, we could barely make out the hazy outline of the island of Alor. Professor said the people of Maubara used to burn coconut husks on the beach when they wanted to trade with the island neighbors. The people of Alor would bring slaves to sell. To the south, we could see the dry expanse of the Lois River bed, which leads up on the other side of the valley to Timor’s most famous coffee plantations.

I try to follow Professor’s discussion in Indonesian with one of his local informants, a thirty-or forty-year old man with brown and red betelnut teeth. He tells Professor that there is a big party in town because one of his neighbors was accused of witchcraft and possession with the devil, and was forced to prove that he’s ok by offering tons of meat and booze to his neighbors.

Informant told us that people on the mountain had switched their allegiance from Fretilin to ASDT. Xavier was the first “smart” person in Timor, he said. He was a journalist, who traveled in Africa and America. (I thought to myself, nooooo, that’s Ramos Horta!)

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He also tells us he learned “his Portuguese” in an Elementary school that was down the mountain that was run by Portuguese troops in the 1970s. He said they built in the middle of the jungle, on unoccupied land. The building was destroyed in the “war” but there is apparently still a very ornate plaque there.

Professor says don’t worry, I know who can tell us all about this school. There is a Portuguese man living down the road we came up. “Avo” José Serra must be about 76 now and arrived in Timor in 1964. He knew nothing about the place when he arrived, except that his brother was here for military service. Serra refused to evacuate with the other Portuguese in 1975.

He went grudgingly to the jungle with Fretilin in the late 70s, and waited out the militia violence in 1999, which was particularly bad in his region. He showed us the only thing that survived 1999, a yellowed photo of him and two friends in the early 1980s in his garden.

Serra tried to switch from a mixture of Indonesian and Tetum that he speaks with Professor to Portuguese to speak with me. At first his speech was literally half Tetum and half Portuguese, and I myself had trouble speaking in one language or the other! But Professor insisted that we speak Portuguese and I plowed on. It was like Serra’s Portuguese had to unmelt. After about 10 minutes he was speaking what he called his Portuguese from the “interior.” (He grew up in Castelo Branco, Beira, in the north, a poor region of Portugal.)

He told us quite interestingly that he did not suffer from one bit of saudade for the 40 years he was here during Portuguese and Indonesian rule. Only with independence, and a flood of peacekeepers and professors bringing him olives, cheese, chestnuts and even water from his family’s springs that he started to get nostalgic. He said that they brought him these things to matar saudades, to kind of quench his nostalgia, but that it only made him more and more thirsty to return to Portugal.

Tomorrow he said he would go to Dili to finally take care of his passport. His nephew, who was up there visiting, told us that Avo Serra did not have either Timorese nor Portuguese passports. Just a simple “bilhete de identidade”, probably issued by the UN.

Serra believes, especially after recent events, that Dili is an evil place. It really is torture for him to go down there. He is reminded more of the fact that the politicians, who spent most of the struggle in exile, are ruining this place at the little people’s expense. He also seems very hurt by the way that Timorese people seem to always resort to violence to sort out their problems.

He was born in 1930, and only remembers Portugal when it was “repressed” by the dictatorship. He says they tell him things are very different now, with nice highways, and a better life. But he also says he is shocked by the number of forest fires in Portugal recently. He can’t say whether he wants to return to Portugal. He fears that if people in Maubara find out he wants to go to see family, they think he will never come back. People already began to mistrust his motives for getting his passport, he said.

Serra never married in Timor, and it seems fled his married life in Portugal. Certain less “masculine” mannerisms he has makes one speculate whether Timor was simply a more friendly place for him than Estado Novo Portugal.

If you need any proof of what an amazing character he is, please watch the “One Cup” documentary indicated in the links bar to the right. He is featured prominently, and you can hear his amazing way of speaking!

We made our way down the mountain, giving a ride to three young men. One was walking with a sparkling new boombox on his shoulder, like the 1980s ghettoblasters. Professor said they must not have batteries for it, and there is no electricity up there, but hell, it makes a great statement.

In Maubara, we drove past the church and down onto the beautiful black sand. Time for a late afternoon dip in the water. After the Atlantic ice of the Portuguese coast, it felt like beautiful, waveless bathwater. I don’t think I will ever like any beaches as much as I love Timor.

On our way back into Dili, we saw a plume of smoke coming from a government repair workshop in Comoro. Two Australian cops were casually interviewing some young men by the side of the road. They didn’t seem bothered at all.

Maybe Avo Serra is right, Dili is a wretched place.

Sushi, embajada and malai boot

I was back at to the books yesterday, reading the parts of Xanana’s autobiography about the time on Mount Matebian, when the whole civilian population of the East was living there in bases de apoio. Fretilin/Falintil basically convinced and coerced the civilian population into the “jungle” to resist the military occupation. They set up communal systems including schools and agriculture. But it was a severe time, when disobedience was treated as “reactionary behavior” or worse, got you labeled as a “traitor.” Xanana describes how he repeatedly saved the pro-Indonesian kings involved in the 59 rebellion from death at the hands of their more zealous communist rivals.

Then Lost Anthropologist dropped by and we went to the Indonesian canteen next door. He said he had been at Xavier’s until 3am last night. Hard core! I wondered if he had been drinking palm wine and chewing betel nut.

I told him I was looking to buy a bicycle and we walked in circles looking for the legendary Australian department store “Harvey Norman” which apparently no longer exists in my part of town. I had 40cents left, and thought if we found a place like that they would accept a credit card. He he. How naïve. In Audian, which is the commercial neighborhood, there were two Chinese stores selling the $100 mountain bike specials. They are real garbage. I used one in 2001-3. It was not pleasant.

On the left, towards Becora from Audian, I saw the Cuban flag flying. I had to check this out! We walked over, and the façade on the first floor was tinted glass. A 3 meter fence in front. The plaque above, sure enough, read “Embajada de Cuba”. This is hardly the diplomatic neighborhood, but they got into the game late and maybe there were no houses left in Farol. Or maybe this is their statement, they didn’t want to be in that club anyways. I asked the security guard how long it had been opened. He claimed only a month. He said all of the Cuban doctors are based up in Lahane, to the South above town, where the Portuguese built Dili’s first hospital and the Governor’s house.

We headed past the site of the most posh Japanese restaurant in Dili, Gion, where some Japanese engineers, neighbors of Amerioca in Manatuto treated us to the best sushi I’d ever eaten. It was still there! At 2pm there was one table occupied. But I could tell they were holding on until the new UN mission sent the hundreds of new civilian staff.

Later in the afternoon, I headed to the ANZ Bank ATM down the street from me. I tried both cards. Neither worked. I was a bit nervous about that, because I had yet to withdraw money here. Then I saw Docogirl across the street. She was with her Fixer, this very ambitious and talented friend of hers of seven years. She said they were headed to the ONLY other ATM all the way across town at the airport. We all hopped in, and cruised across town at a lovely 20 kilometers per hour, as one does in Dili.

At the ATM, I saw my former boss at UN Agency. She was hakfodak, pretty shocked to see me, especially because I had dropped so much weight and had short hair. I felt a little embarrassed because I had been meaning to go over and say hi to everybody before I got caught out like this! Anyways, she has been here for over three years. I guess the “emergency” has kept her on longer than normal.

After the ATM trip, Docogirl and I went back across town to our internet café, where I tried to no avail to use Skype. The Chinese guys displayed a form of machismo yet unseen, which is to pretend you can fix a computer for a girl, when you clearly have NO idea what you are doing. I got frustrated and left.

I have yet to be able to properly upload photos, partly because the bandwidth I get at the café is so low, and photos these days are so big.

After the café, we went walking towards the old waterfront to have a beer. Passed a couple of real dives, that used to be decent places. Then we made it to Little Padang, which used to be a lunchtime favorite. They had a nice terrace, with views out over the quiet harbor. I had a beer, and they tried to convince Docogirl not to order an orange cordial (because it would take too long to make) but she insisted and 10 minutes later she had a drink. We watched the sun set behind the clouds over the lighthouse.

Then, surreally, the Malai Boot (Ramos Horta) walked straight across our field of vision across the street, in front of the assembled crowd of young men. His gate was very stiff, as if he was either out of shape, or straight off the plane. He had two Malaysian civpol with him and some Timorese close security. He was clearly heading towards Xavier’s place to compliment him on his lovely Congress/Party.

We were tickled. I thought it was a nice gesture to walk, and not to go in an insane entourage. We finished our drinks and both admitted to each other that we wanted to see the scene, so we walked towards the party. Still drum circles. People from Caicoli in Dili recognized Docogirl, and said their neighborly hellos. One man was speaking a mixture of Mambai, Indonesian, Portuguese and Tetun through his browned and reddened betel-nut stained teeth. The younger people around were giggling.

No sign of Malai Boot, he was probably inside having a chat with Xavier. Ironically, I had also been reading Malai Boot’s book this morning, where he really rips into Xavier as anti-mestiço (racista) and is pretty harsh about Xavier’s capacity for ideology and politics. I suppose that is all water under the bridge now. These are the only guys “left” that haven’t been dragged down with really ugly allegations in the post-independence era, having a Sunday afternoon chat.