A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009


Tuesday 2nd June – Thursday 4th June

What, are you serious? You want an entry, again? I have to wash my underwear SOME time, people.

Posted by timortimes 18:58 Comments (0)

First day of June, first day of ‘winter’

Monday 1st June – 6 months, 16 days

Hey, look at that. It’s June.


It occurred to me this morning that in all my musings about this year, I’d never actually kind of seen beyond May. Of course I’d make it to the end of the year; November, for example, had taken shape in my head, because I’ll be back in familiar places, seeing familiar people and doing familiar things.

But June? July? August? September? October? Hadn’t quite thought about what I’d do with those. This is so rare for me, it was really disconcerting. I *always* know what I’m doing in the months ahead. I’m not so good at *years* ahead (I’ve never been able to imagine my life realistically more than about a year or two ahead – it just doesn’t seem real), but I’ve always got a plan for the immediate future. Not right now, though.

Maybe it is the warm weather. Of course it’s ‘cooled down’. But the never needing to wear a jumper and getting hot every single time you walk into the sun sort of mucks up your sense of the passage of time. (Incidentally, Canberrans, you know that amazing moment after every Canberra winter where you go outside into the sun and you can actually feel the faint, feeble rays on your skin? Focus on that right now).

Hmm. Well, whatever these months hold, it will be a hell of a lot warmer than Canberra winter. HAHAHAHA

Posted by timortimes 18:56 Comments (0)

The Drive Back: The Longest Road Trip Ever

I won’t do this one in timeline format, otherwise you’ll be here for SIX AND A HALF HOURS LIKE I WAS.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t literally the longest road trip ever. I’ve been on longer ones in Australia, and people go on crazy long ones around the world. But this was the longest in terms of trying my patience.

And, I was really happy to get to go home. We weren’t meant to go home until Tuesday, and just as I was thinking on Monday around lunchtime ‘geez I could just go back home right now’, Armando piped up and said ‘We are thinking this car will go back to Dili tonight.’ I was allll for it.

But now, just for a moment, let’s cast our minds back to that first drive, shall we? Remember how I said, Tino drove like a bat out of hell, and the roads were crazy, and yet we made it in 4 and a half hours?

How did we manage to add two hours to our trip on the way back?

Why, look here! I have a text message saved in my phone, sent to the lovely Kristy at sunset (6pm) when we’d hit the town of Aileu, which will explain.

‘I am on the slowest road trip ever. In 3 hrs, which would normally be 2 hrs drive, we have stopped for: petrol, boys to pee, to climb to a mountain shrine to take photos, for garlic, for vegies, for guavas, and FINALLY for the girls to pee [we have higher standards for toilet stops]... And now that’s done, the boys have disappeared to buy a new goddamn SIM card. And we are still 2.5 hrs from home!!! Wahhh I want to get home before midnight.’

After I texted that to Kristy, the boys reappeared a few moments later and did another one of those classic moves where they very politely offer me something I really don’t want. ‘Mana Kate! We have stopped, we get coffee. If you like, you can take a drink, take rest, eat dinner...’

I’m afraid I lost all patience at that point and got a tad cranky. ‘No. I don’t want dinner. I don’t want a rest. I want... to go... to Dili. I thought we were going to Dili tonight!’.

Oh dear.

I think they realised I’d had it with the pit stops then, because we didn’t have any more stops after Aileu. I felt bad about snapping (and I didn’t even get that cranky, by Australian standards – Timorese are so polite, you feel you can’t do normal levels of cranky), but I hadn’t said anything up to that point, just bit my tongue and tried to be patient. In any case, there were no more stops. Until...

9 k’s out of Dili, when we had to stop on the mountain, because there had been an accident an hour or two before. (Australian army dude put his vehicle into the ditch. No serious injuries, happily, but man, I wasn’t impressed with my countryman.) I was so far beyond fed up at this point that I didn’t really react: didn’t cry, didn’t get annoyed, just thought ‘Well, I guess we’ll be here all night then’.

Amazingly, I was wrong (I think we can credit the Australian army with this: it seems they cleared up the area and made it safe within a couple of hours – no mean feat on a narrow, winding hill road) – we were only there half an hour.

As I dragged myself into the house at 9.32pm, I tried to tell myself that hey, maybe it was a good thing we took such a long time: we could’ve been in that accident if we’d been earlier, or, we could’ve just had a longer wait on the hill into Dili. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve, some how, some way, been worse.

Posted by timortimes 18:53 Comments (0)

Politics about electricity

This is an example of silly things that happen in Timor which seem perfectly reasonable to Timorese people and incomprehensible to malae.

On chatting to the two English teachers staying in the guesthouse, I discover that they have had electricity (from the generator) only for the last three nights, although they’ve been living there for two months. Why? I ask. Couldn’t you ask your organisation to pay for the petrol?

It was supposed to be included in our rent, they say ruefully, but the manager in Dili says he’s giving the owners enough money, and the owners here in Same say no, they aren’t getting the money.

A Portuguese army guy turns up to live, though, and all of a sudden the generator’s running every night.

Seriously, what can you do in a situation like that? It’s ridiculous.

Posted by timortimes 18:52 Comments (0)

The Book Thief

You might be thinking, this entry is a book review. I did read Marcus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' earlier this year, in fact. (Quite good.) But no. This entry is about another book thief. Me. I have become a book thief.

Oh dear.

Look, this is how it happened. We went to the warung for dinner on the Friday night, like we had on Thursday. But we got turned away: ‘No food’ (not unusual, apparently).

So, we headed down the road to the ‘restaurant’, a restaurant by virtue of the fact that it was in a slightly bigger shed than the ‘warung’.

And, in the restaurant were books. Many books.

I was excited because I’d only brought two books with me and I’d already finished one (stupid!). When we asked if we could borrow books, the answer was a flat no. We were disappointed. I thought to myself, man, I know they think people won’t bring the books back, but seriously, I’d pay them for a book. Oh well.

Anyway, I thought I’d look through the collection. And what a collection. Any anthropologist circa 1985 would have been very proud (in fact I suspect that the original owners were just that – probably got here and left their books behind because they were too heavy to cart home). I wrote down some titles to share with you:

- New Guinea Body Decoration
- Antiquity and Survival New Guinea
- Oceanic Art
- Canoes of Oceaniea
- The Island Civilisations of Polynesia
- Gods and Rituals: Readings in Religious Belief and Practice
- The Material Culture of Kiribati
- String Figures of Papua New Guinea
- Archaeology of the Dreamtime
- Micronesian Customs and Beliefs

In fact, it was a little disconcerting. Someone with an abiding passion for the cultures of developing countries had put this collection together with care – carted it 5 hours from Dili or Baucau to Same – and there wasn’t a single book *about* Timor in it. 1985 was ten years into Indonesian times, when the pattern of no one goes in and no one goes out was well- established. And in the 70s, when cultural anthropology was huge in all these other places, Timor was dying a slow death thanks to the Portuguese - which was suddenly ramped up by the Indonesians. So nothing was being published about Timorese people or customs (or incidentally the Indonesian invasion, but ho hum move along nothing to see here, folks) at this time.

Anyway, I chose a couple of interesting-looking books and settled in to read while we waited for dinner (you might be the only customers in the restaurant in Timor, and it’ll still take an hour for your meal to be cooked).

As I was reading, I happened upon a couple of paragraphs of information on brideprice – my thesis topic.

Interested, I flicked through the rest of the chapters. OMG! Two on marriage! One on marriage customs! I *need* to read this book for my literature review, I thought. I haven’t got ANY other published information so far. Maybe I could come back tomorrow and copy it out? But... it’s like, three chapters. Hell.

And then, I looked around. There was only our little group of four, with the other three chatting away in Tetum while I read, and another two Chinese – Timorese looking guys drinking coffee on the other side of the room. No one was looking at me.

I slipped the book into my shoulderbag.

Nobody noticed.

And just like that, I became a book thief.

Next night, I came back with a bigger bag. And took two more books that had chapters on brideprice customs in the Pacific. Sure, it’s not on Timor, but I need to be broad about my lit review, because as I said, there’s not much published.

When I’m done with them, I’ll put them into a proper library collection. And I won’t steal any more books – unrelated to brideprice, that is. I promise!


I guarantee every single member of my family who reads this entry will say ‘Only YOU would steal a BOOK for your THESIS’.

Posted by timortimes 18:49 Comments (0)

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