Worse than Greyhound

“My teenage wife sucks mean dick” – I am sitting inside a bus in Baucau’s new market being subjected to this awfully crude hiphop music. It’s blaring in my ears. There is a Mestre sitting in front of me who I’m sure understands the words, but does not request them to turn it off. The bus’ name is “Sozinho” (alone).

Three to four years ago, the Mercado Baru was one of the most feared places in Timor. Now it’s downright pastoral. Except for the explicit, weird hiphop deafening me.

A textie to Dili was enough to chill me, and convince me that I would make a rather military-style incursion for cash, internet and medicine. Docogirl advises that people are none too keen on Australians after Australians shot dead two rock throwers yesterday. Caution advised in town. We’ll see how much of this is malai rumor mongering. (Now Missy Elliott’s “Get Your Freak On,” at least something ironically explicit.)

On the way here I came in a 1997 Mitsubishi dump truck bought with money from a Timorese guy working in Northern Ireland. The driver Chico, a man who stopped in Laga to be rather tongue-lashed by his wife in front of the bus by his wife. In the cabin also was Lourenço, a teacher in Baguia who was going to see about getting paid. He said all the teachers have to go individually to get paid (during a school day) because there is nobody to transport their salaries to the district. They pay their own expenses to Baucau (although I’m not sure he was asked to pay). Before in UNTAET times, the police escorted a Ministry of Education employee to the subdistricts where they paid out salaries in cash. They can’t just send one person to fetch the money because they have yet to be issued proper identification cards. (Kids around me in the bus are singing along to Shaggy now “Girl you’re my darling, my angel baby…”)

Lourenço says they are having a hell of a time learning Portuguese. Before they had a Brazilian teacher who they understood better. It’s really tough for them to understand the Portuguese from Portugal, their mouths are so closed.

Back on the bus in Mercado Baru. Hours pass. We are waiting for “two people” to show up.
The Golden Rule, I realize, is difficult to apply between cultures. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Because our standards are completely different. I’ve been on tons of buses here, I try to relax myself. But I just cannot get used to such wanton disrespect for other people’s time!

When these “two” people arrive, they seem to have no problem with the fact that there is a half-full bus waiting for them. Not only that, they stand out side gossiping and smoking with the driver for another full 45 minutes. My cultural-relativistic seal breaks. I march down and demand that we get moving. I get back up thinking, now I’m definitely the halo an foreigner! I prepare myself mentally to wait another hour.

Miraculously we get moving. (And wait for another person across town.)

When I get to Dili, I am hot, tired and irritated. But I decide to bike all the way to the house. The boys who help me fill my bike tires take me for Australian. I tell them I am not. I also point out that before, when the Australians were not shooting, they were complaining that Australia was weak. Now they are, and, Timorese say they are no good.

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