Contemplating one of the best Dili parties ever – which started at about 10am on Areia Branca and involved legions of hyperactive children, who seemed able to appropriate nearly every flotation device on the whole beach – I was reminded of the feeling of seemingly unstructured joy at the night in Funar when we went to the gathering to “look after God”.

People gathered in different groupings around the house, some adults and elders around the spread of food in the middle, some young people seated front of Maromak (God, or the Virgin Mary statue being “looked after”), men outside gambling, a large group of adults and young people dancing tebe-tebe, and little kids running around like loose electrons.

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Rai klaran

We went up to Funar this weekend, with the company of two daughters (of sorts) of the household we would stay in. One was an anthropologist, who had stayed with the family for nearly two years a couple of years back. We’ll call her Menina. The other was Menina’s best friend and “sister” in the village during her fieldwork, who now lives in Dili.

I suppose any trip up to the mountains, up to a spot reachable only by 4WD on foot or by pony, for me ends up feeling like an amazing meeting of worlds. (It starts with the climatic shock of leaving the hot coast.)

Funar lies about half an hour’s drive (now that the road has been rehabilitated) above Laclubar, which in turn is now two hours rough ride from Manatuto on the coast. Time was the road to Laclubar was one of the best in Timor, as former Indonesian governor Abilio Osorio is from the region. But not so at the current moment! On the way up, we had to risk squeezing by a cargo truck bogged in a mud patch, about half an hour from Laclubar. We had inches to spare on either side of the car.

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