Fatin Histórico

More history developments!

A friend on Facebook drew my attention to this exciting site/project to help Timorese people document the history in and around them. “Fatin Historico” (Or “Historical Place”) is a blog in English and Indonesian (with Tetum language videos) where editors hope people will contribute photos, video and text. I can’t endorse the idea enough.

They write

This project is a labor of love of several youths who want to document the sites that made Timor Leste. We are interested in buildings from the ancient, Portugese, Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian era, urban (and village) planning, hideouts, old conversations and the soil and sea of Timor Leste.

Take a look at the post about the Japanese caves in Venilale, a place that you may have noticed from the car and been curious about.

The editors are Kamil Muhammad of the University of Melbourne’s Architecture program, and Pedro Ximenes, a Baucau based journalist. They will be partnering with Architects for Peace.

I hope to contribute material when I get a chance. I think it would also be great for them to include an interactive map of the posts they publish.


The little prince

Here I hope to bring to a wider audience the tragic and compelling story of a Topass “prince” from the island of Timor who was essentially kidnapped by a Dominican priest and abandoned in France in 1750.

Pascale Balthazar, the 12 year old son Topasse ruler Gaspar da Costa was taken with a couple of dozen slaves to Macau. There his charlatan “protector” Dominican Father Ignácio sold most of his slaves in Macau and his nice clothes in Canton, after which time they continued on to France, in a journey which took about nine months. During the journey, the priest convinced the boy not to reveal his status or walk around freely on the ship, as the French sailors were monsters and would eat him.

Continue reading

Collapse three years into one

South Sudan gains its independence today – with many more dark clouds than East Timor had at the time. Troubling reports of fighting and of mass displacements in the border regions.

East Timor’s struggle against an invading force was quite different that South Sudan’s. In 1998, a referendum (and a half-hearted ceasefire) was brokered. 1999 was the year the referendum, the build-up and the bloody aftermath and mass displacement of the East Timorese population.

After a horrendous scorched earth campaign which cost many lives, transferred much wealth to Indonesia, and seriously disrupted the territory, East Timorese had over 2 years of UN administration before they formally declared independence (for a second time).

I cannot help but see events in South Sudan as a sort of “pile-up” of Timor’s 1999 and 2002. Continue reading

Search terms

I have been watching over the years what search terms draw people to this blog. Most visits are from search engines, which makes sense because I am infrequent blogger and the “blogging community” if it exists in English is very weak. Also because I mention obscure places and historical events that people are curious about, but as there is so little material available to Timorese they end up here. (Which somewhat saddens me.)

I think these are of interest because they give us some (limited) insight about what information people are seeking on the internet on Timor.

(That said, a look at the statistics reveals that US Marines are my most frequent visitors, thanks to a post I wrote comparing Alfredo to a rooster. Which leads me to think all military men are actually peacocks. But we’ll leave that for another post.)

Timor related top search terms in the past year are (in descending order of number of hits)

Continue reading

Crowdfunding for Timor

I still work in the “development” business. I confess my sins elsewhere, i.e. Twitter.

But I will say, I have been searching for alternatives to help people support people in other places that does not involve big international organizations with operations and ‘footprints’. So I have been reading a lot about crowdfunding.

The idea of creating an online, global “kitty” is nothing new. Kiva has been around for years, but has recently undergone much scrutiny. It is hard to get these systems right, so that they are fair to recipients and donors.

That said, I wanted to draw attention to two crowdfunding experiments in relation to Timor. This is not a full moralistic endorsement of either, this is more like a plea to “give it a shot because everything else is annoying me right now”.

Continue reading


Arbiru. It’s an adjective and adverb in Tetum. Quite useful and on a list of words that are important and tough to translate. Interesting that I grasp for other Asian words in the English language to translate its meaning. Somewhere between kamikaze bravery, running amok, randomness. As a memory aid, I would think “arbitrary” in English.

Arbiru can go right and it can go wrong. It is somewhere on the edge of chaos, and something essential to the war machine.

Looking through Luis Costa’s Tetum-Portuguese dictionary, I notice that there are few words in Tetum that have ar- as a prefix. The only other words from Tetum (Terik) are aruma (meaning whichever, whatever) and aran (meaning to hate, synonym with hirus).

But the word’s second and third syllables are more potent. A biru is a totem, or an amulet, possessing power to turn its holder invincible in war. Falintil guerrillas used these.

Continue reading

Dear Juba

Independence was a vision shared by hundreds of millions of people culminating in decolonization and independence for most after the Second World War. Being involved in the Timorese cause for self-determination I got a taste for what that must have been like. But in the years following, I also got a taste of the “after.”

I remember one of the lines of conversation most repeated in East Timor. I have had this conversation multiple times over the past ten years. To paraphrase

Continue reading