Got a ride up to Baguia from Father Jojo really early Saturday morning. His truck was knocking like crazy about 40 minutes into the ride. Seemed like something in the back axel. We had to ditch the truck. Luckily we still had network to call down to another Salesian priest who bravely drove up and traded trucks.
Soon we were on our way, Father Jojo driving like crazy so as not to be late for a meeting with Catechists. The few smooth paved parts (with lots of s-curves) Jojo called “freeway” and drove over 80km at parts. He had been driving these roads for seven years.
He is singing “Country Roads” and asks me about the West of the US. Colorado. He has tons of family in America, but has yet to visit. He asks about American Indians. I tell him about old Andrew Jackson, on the $20 bill, our favorite genocidaire. He didn’t mention the Spanish-American war, I thought he might. (I’m so “political.”) He teaches me a couple of words of Makassai.
By 9:15am, all of the trucks up the mountain towards Yarbau or Ossu-hona, my final destination, had already departed. So I pushed my bike up to the Guesthouse run my Tio Martinho, who is a local fount of knowledge. He and his wife greeted me warmly. I told them of my plans, and they were skeptical about the bike. At this point so was I. Without a pump for the tires, it seemed mad to try to bike across the valley.
Towards dusk I wandered down to check out the basketball scene in Baguia. All male, younger, with a much higher “spaz quotient.” I loosened up an initially hostile crowd of kids, and they really wanted to talk to me and practice English and Portuguese.
Many of them were pengunsi from Dili, who had suspended their university studies. One loud guy insists he doesn’t like Portuguese because they only taught the liurais their language whereas the Indonesians taught everybody.
That night I had the lovely nonton experience. This is a word from Indonesian, meaning watch TV. It is a trance like state, where the TV is left at extremely high volume, and the whole family gathers, neighbors too, some in the doorway, some on the floor, others peeking through the windows. (I actually have had this experience in a sand-dune community in Maranhão, Brazil, too, so it is universal) Game shows and novellas are the programs of choice. On offer is only Indonesian TV. TVTL, or Timorese TV, is only available in Dili. They might as well call it Dili TV.
Here was the “base” of the resistance, Mount Matebian. Yet after Independence, the only contact with the outside world is via television from Jakarta. There is no Timorese radio here. No mobile network. No lined phones. They are watching their formerly hated occupier’s television. The little kids don’t understand Indonesian. Anybody under about the age of 14 at this point has had no contact with Indonesian, except TV.
The strangest was yet to come when, simultaneously on all stations, the end of the day prayer for breaking fast during Ramadan came on. The family sat, watching, listening, the volume still blaring.