Bride price blues

Well, it wasn’t without minor car trouble (fixed with the help of three local mechanics on a beautiful mountain road), but my quick trip through the mountains with a Princess was very fruitful. Princess is the last daughter of the ex-liurai of one of the kingdoms that rebelled in 1959.

My mind feels blank after a long day of travel from Uatocarbau, which is the most remote subdistrict in East Timor. From the seat of the subdistrict on the beach, in the dry season, it is 3 hours to the district seat. Three hours of bone shaking, wrecked pavement. When it starts raining, the Bebui River (the one in which the Portuguese executed seven people in 1959), cuts off the subdistrict. Access is cut to the East by the Irabere River. There is no port, and the mountain road through Afaloicai and to the North to Baguia is unpassable.

I was talking to one of the best nurses of the subdistrict (who is, not coincidentally the Liurai’s older son), and he said that they are utterly cut off from the rest of East Timor for a good three months a year. There is no telephone, no road transport or access by the sea or mountains. The government is (finally) building brides to bring Uatocarbau back to Timor, but these will only be ready in 2007.

Until then, even during the dry season, there is no phone, and infrequently they receive newspapers. There is no radio there, only Radio Australia and Voice of America Indonesian service.

The Princess herself was lamenting her 80-something father’s traditional ways. She is quite light skinned, a Doctor, and pushing 30 years old, and not married. These facts are not unrelated, as her bride price is astronomically high. She has a steady boyfriend, who apparently cannot afford her. She studied for twelve years in Java, where people were freer to love more the way they wanted. Here you can’t even really hold hands in the street. Nor can you marry for love, if you are a pretty daughter of a liurai.

Below are photos from the old posto of Afaloicai Uatocarbau, which the reader will remember from previous entries, is even more isolated than the subdistrict seat on the beach below.

Pintotrip01

Pintotrip02

More excellent feline company, helping me interpret some anthropological articles.

Pintotrip03

And of course, the spectacular eucalyptus trees growing on the fractal mountains west of Manatuto, one of my favorite parts of traveling to the East in Timor.

Pintotrip05

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