Baucau was basically invented by the Portuguese at the end of the 19C. Before then, the liurais that lived here were minor. The big kingdoms were slightly to the West, Bercoli and Vemasse.
The Portuguese picked the place for all the right reasons. Gushing fresh water everywhere, palm glades, a cool climate, and I suppose nice beaches. A nice plain to build military bases and later an airport.
Now, a great deal of the lorosa’e population of Dili is here. Many are camped out in the Indonesian part of town, up on the plain above the gushing water. They live in and around the market area.
Down here in the old town, Vila Antiga (the government signs insist, not kota lama, the Indonesian phrase), things are really hopping! In Dili people literally go to work to sleep at their desks these days. Or to take shelter from the madness outside. But here, I went to the Diocese’s press at 8am this morning to find the production at lightning speed, the manager well-spoken, informed and busy! Busy!
Next I went up to the Marist Teacher’s College, which has become a major asset to the eastern regions of Timor. Weeks before, I had seen a building across the street from the college being renovated. Today, I went in to finally meet the librarian, Zelia, and I found out that fabulous new building is to be the library and resource center for the college. There are a lot of gaps in their collection, but they do have a significant amount of material in Portuguese, Indonesian, Tetun and English.
Classes were in full swing there. People were, again, busy! Often in Timor people receive you for hours because they have nothing better to do. Here, it was a quick tour, meet the director, and I’ve got to go to work. I was really favorably impressed with their work. Their first graduating class will be receiving diplomas in two weeks. Fifty new teachers. Which is a great achievement. Now the government has to come through and place them. They are desperately needed, as the Education sector has gone haywire with the new crisis. Double the enrollment in many Eastern schools. Eastern teachers no-shows in Dili. Imagine the confusion.
Well, if Baucau is any indication, let civil society lead the way. Government can follow.
As a footnote, I will add that only not-so-industrious place I have come across here is my Guesthouse, which I call the Timorese “Fawlty Towers.” Ask for toilet paper with a rather distressed look on your face, and the teenagers working there might be back with it in about 14 hours! One malai observed, this is a Do-It-Yourself guesthouse. But hot water and nice ocean views. I can’t complain.