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.
Menina briefed us later on the significance of the attendance of many different groups – basically it is worth noting that it was not just we outsiders who felt something special. That night was rame – crowded. I am only now learning to fully appreciate the word Geoffrey Hull translates the word as “cheerful, merry; busy, bustling”.
One of my biggest hindrances here is my individualist lens on everything. In the US, we are trained to believe in the importance of the self, we are taught that our own inclinations, interests and dreams are worth more than our families, worth more than the opinions of our peers and neighbors. We come of age reading Thoreau and contemplating wilderness and solitude. The upside of this is critical thinking, innovation and confidence to leave the bustle, qualities which seem to have been essential to US global domination in recent years. (The downsides are so obvious I need not mention them.)
When up in Funar, as we were walking last week, they told us that these strange foreigners showed up last year walking, carrying tents and they set up on the mountain opposite the village, not far from where the cemetery is. Nobody understood why they were walking alone, let alone why they would not want to stay in the village.
When I asked at UNTL’s internet café yesterday why Timorese people liked Facebook, and the students said it is because everybody is there. Facebook is rame.
I have been thinking about “citizen media”, specifically why the Timorese “blogosphere” (if it could be called that) is so meager. Perhaps for many, a personal blog would be like setting up a tent on the mountain far from the village.
But then the question is: can one concentrate enough, and have confidence enough, to express oneself from within in the “bustle”?