Tough sell

Malai. Mrs. Senhora. Mrs. Ma-lai! Professora. Psssst. kiss. Cartaun. Cartaun. Psst. Senhora. Professora. Kolega. Cartaun.

Cartaun are the pre-paid credits from Timor Telcom. Now available in $5 and $10. They run out in about a week. Call overseas and they run out in about 4 minutes.

They have also become the currency of petty corruption in Timor. If you want something “done” in government, everybody knows that a couple of “pulsus” (phone credits which are bought and sold anonymously) will do the trick, help “facilitate” your papers, and your request.

I walk down Dili “main street” across from the burned-out hulk of Hello Mister.

A “fuk mehan” (Timorese red head) catches my eye. I visibly turn my head. (Most are from Baucau-Viqueque area!)

He realizes his selling potential. “Ola kolega. Cartaun? Jornal?”

I laugh.

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