The night before I left, grass fires lined the hills, like bleeding gums.
I had been asking myself over and over again, toying with in my head, how Dili could be this calm, this “ok” only three years after the violence. The calm, at times almost giddy, sense of prosperity.
In 2006, people were pulled out of mikrolets and forced to prove they could count to ten without the wrong accent. Those who failed to effortlessly say “h-at” for four were beaten, or worse dragged away. People lived wracked with fear of their neighbors. Of strangers. They lived in fear of themselves. There was no longer a jackboot, it was a terrifying Timorese shinelo.
All that remains on the city landscape of 2006 is the memorial for the police killed in Caicoli.
But what happened to the dead civilians?
More importantly, the roadblockers? The mask-wearing rock throwers? The rama-ambon makers? The house burners? The civilians who FDTL distributed arms to?
During tours of the city limits of Dili — through Becora, down through Bidau Santana, then out to Cristo Rei, and back out up the back of Delta Comoro, back down through Fatumeta, then up Taibesse’s up and around China Rate and back down Lahane – I wonder how much is stored up there — how is stress and anger contained. Where does it go? Is it swallowed? Is it buried? Is it literally stored away like an unused rama ambon?
I met some young people who have made a conscious decision to leave Dili, to go to Indonesia, to go to England. Dili is too small to contain all of their stress and anger.
It is hard to transmit how it felt in 2006, so it is hard to capture the strange dissonance with today’s Dili.
The mad construction keeps the city busy, and Prime Minister’s spokesman gloats over 12% growth in GDP.
Heaps of carpenters buzzing away making window and door frames with deslokadu money; the massive $400,000+ Civil Society Fund renovation of Motael Church, and the bigger and more expensive work on the Cathedral; the new wooden crocodile heads around the Monument to the Discoveries in front of the Palace of Government (a symbolic encircling of the colonial object); the traditional houses going up like lightening around the new Presidential palace, and in time for the big party in August.
While most people display a dangerous level of distrust in their political leaders, Dili seems perfectly lanu and mosu at the moment.
Have people begun to tell 2006? How can it ever be told?