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.


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