Before 7am in Dili (6am in the district) a lot is possible. I set out basically straight out of bed this morning. Curiously City Café was already open at 6:30. A Red Cross Landcruiser with green plates – diplomatic immunity – drives up the wrong direction on Malai Road, which is one-way. I guess traffic laws don’t apply before 7am either.
There was virtually nobody in the street until I got closer to the Bishop’s compound.
I noticed a father pushing around a little toddler in a tricycle-car in the park with Nossa Senhora in white plaster. He was going around and around the statue. As I passed, the baby pointed and said “Ma-lai!” “Ma-lai!” The first “comment” of the day directed at me, but actually it was more a salutation than a comment.
I crossed the street and was halted by a sleek sedan leaving the Bishop’s compound. In the back was the goateed Bishop himself, with a rather smug expression and the white robes and skull cap.
I decided to walk along the beach, noticing the difference between the trash here and in Caparica south of Lisbon. Here there are so many plastic water bottles. Not many shoes.
The sun was still quite low on the horizon, and the stones made shadows on the dark sand. The tide was way out, I could see it hitting the coral reef.
I noticed the buses to the East lined up in front of the US Ambassador’s residence.
Some Timorese men were out exercising and training. I walked past the Santana river which is basically a pond of sewage blocked before it reaches the ocean, as it has yet to begin raining.
I had just passed the Gruta de Sant’ana which is (another) shrine to Nossa Senhora at around 7am.
The hour of peace had passed. Two six year old boys broke the tranquility asking me for sex.
I turned around.
I walked along the bridge over the Sant’ana river, to avoid the sewage smell. There were pigs snorting their way through the stagnant water. Bidau Sant’ana was one of the big trouble spots in 1999, known as a militia stronghold. Now they still seem to be keeping it together. The buses all gather at the foot of the bridge.
The green “Sozinho” was there, a bus remember not too fondly. Rather dreading taking the bus to Baucau tomorrow.
Lecidere would be cooler at this hour than returning on the beach. So I cut in on the first street. Poppa C and Professor had both lived in this neighborhood at different times. I had collected various stories about the neighborhood.
The neighborhood carpentry is essentially a coffin maker, probably due to its proximity to the Diocese. There were about 6 baby coffins, and 6 adult coffins finished and for sale, not a very good ratio. I remembered the first week I was here I watched the whole first season of Six Feet Under on DVD.
I kept walking. An effeminate man sweeping up the leaves with a stick-broom in front on a house with a large veranda. We exchanged greetings.
Back at the Bishop’s residence I remembered what the 80-something Portuguese Jesuit priest had told me about the Diocese’s library. It went up in smoke on September 6, 1999. Maybe Bishop Belo was able to rescue books out of there, but most likely he was trying to save lives of the refugees hiding there.
The same day they attacked the Red Cross Compound, adjacent to the Bishop’s. Poppa C was next door when the attack began. He heard the terror. Docogirl was able to film a little from Hotel Turismo before all the malais were evacuated by the Indonesian military. The Timorese were being lined up on the beach, and men marched away from the port, towards the Cristo Rei. Many were never seen again. Flip flops were founded floating out on the beach by peacekeepers two weeks later.
I passed about six Maubere Security guards seated chatting in front of the ANZ ATM. We traded muted Bom Dias. As I approached the house, the angry black dog was waiting for me. Teeth barred. I had to ask Gonçalo to come escort me to the front door!
As a consolation, he handed me the fluffy puppy and held back the mum while I petted him. “Boi” he is called, or male cow. “Rita” is the smaller black one. Big Boi and Lovely Rita.