The visible

Hitting the ground running on Saturday, there was much more this year that jumped out at me as compared to last year. Changes of the visible kind in Dili are quite numerous.

The number of motorbikes, the “New York” yellow taxis, the growth of the seedlings planted in the sidewalks – now nearly trees, stacks of $12 subsidized rice sacks, the fish vendors with their new tents on Pantai Kelapa, Jardim as a functioning and quite popular park with children playing, young lovers holding hands and people walking around… A large number of Indonesian fishing boats in the harbor, the Port brimming with containers, the absurd Casa Europa on the waterfront, and the new pavement on the Bidau waterfront, as well as the fruit stalls…

Dili is cleaner than I have ever seen it – thanks to loron limpeza? Or due to a functioning sanitation system and the ban on pig and goat roaming? (The pigs are strangely missed – as a friend pointed out, it will be hard to shoot the “Pigs of Dili” Calendar she has been dreaming about.)

It is as though we are beginning to see the lusotropical Dili “utopia” that Doug Kammen recently described come to life. (Although where is the progress on the “Hello Mister” development by Wideform? It seems only the Chinese have been able to construct in the past year.)

The city and surrounds are unexpectedly green for July, which is probably due to late heavy rains. But the green seems symbolic of a budding of the physical space. Is this proof of what Emilia Pires claimed was Timor’s exceptional avoidance of the global financial crisis? Surely it is not all due to government spending on rice, on the urban improvements, on the IDPs, on a universal old-age pension and payments to veterans, but these seem to have had quite immediate effects. The scaling up of the UN missions in the past has had more delayed “trickle down” effects.

I also cannot help but wonder what the impact of the hundreds – thousands? – of Timorese in the UK has had not only of the economy, but on the physical.

Just as the late rains probably have a few worried about the climatic implications for the coming rainy season, I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about “the visible.” But I am going to try and keep a check on my Malai Grinch sentiments and keep seeking out the positive.


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