A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

Bad Spirits at the Postu

Like many eerie, deserted, forgotten places, it gave me a feeling that is difficult to describe (I know, I know, I keep saying that, but it *is*). As I walked up the hill the first time, a thought popped into my head - that this Postu I was going to might be a place of bad spirits. Later, one of the English teachers mentioned it before I could ask. Aha, I thought.

If I think logically, of course I can see how this came about. The Portuguese would’ve used Timorese people as their servants in those pretty, pretty houses. The Indonesians definitely used it as a place to detain and torture people: lovely little cells they have up there. So, most Timorese in the area have a bad association with the place.
At the same time, the bad spirits are very real to them, as all cultures’ ghosts are (including white Australians’). Elfrina was very concerned about me going up there : ‘It’s a bad place, mana, bad spirits, you should not go on your own’. She convinced herself that I would be ok, though, firstly because I was malae (apparently the spirits would not hurt me because of this), and secondly because I told her that I had asked my grandmother (who passed on many years ago) to protect me. ‘Oh, ok mana. I don’t want to go anyway, I’m Timorese, we don’t like to walk! I will sleep.’ Ok, mana.

Posted by timortimes 18:42 Comments (0)

More on the Postu and why I keep rabbiting on about Timor

In any other country in the world, a place like the Postu would be something you’d have to see with a tour guide, or with people crawling all over it, squatting in the buildings, or all the old buildings would have been knocked down and it’d be a bustling town square, all modernised. This is the reason why I keep telling people they should come see Timor: you get to see things like you do not get to see them in other places. You’re a tourist, sure, but you’re the ONLY tourist. It’s not sanitised. You have to work things out for yourself. And maybe you get some of the info wrong, but so do tours. I found out that the school building was a school , an agricultural high school, when I was making a little map for myself. One of the squatters (I reckon I saw about ten people up the top at various times), a young guy, came to peer interestedly over my shoulder as I drew, and I thought I’d try to confirm my guess.

And you know, he liked that I was there. In crappy Bahasa and Tetum (mine, not his), we chatted and he wanted to know where I was from, thinking I was Portuguese. I explained my parentage as best I could and he was very pleased, as people sometimes are (‘Timor ho Australia, kolega diak!’ – Timor and Australia are good friends!).

Timor needs tourism and they certainly have the attractions. They just haven’t worked out how to tell anyone they exist, or let anyone get things off the ground. Apparently a guy called Jeff (I did meet him briefly) lives in the pink-and-white house, and wants to turn it into a little hotel... but it’s very hard for foreigners to do anything like that in Timor, you’re just not allowed to own property. In Dili Aussies run pubs, but it seems to be classed differently. It’s a real shame.

Posted by timortimes 18:40 Comments (0)

The Postu

That title really doesn’t convey the magic of my three morning walks up the little hill to the place known as the Postu. I’ll try to describe it, though, and as always, you’ll have to wait for pictures when I return to Australia and a better internet connection.

Angie, having recommended a trip to Same if I could get there, also suggested that I go for a walk to the Postu, ‘if I could convince my colleagues’. Interested, I asked the (totally lovely and friendly) English teachers Kris and Rose if they knew what it was and where it was. Oh yes, lovely walk, 15 minutes up the hill, it was a Portuguese colonial post originally and then the Indonesians took it over and now the Timorese government’s done it up a little.

Cool! I want to see that!

So I walked through the town and up a road which wound gently around the side of a small mountain. I looked out back out over the town and towards the mountains in the south. I got to the top, and looked over the mountains to the north. I thought about how Mum and Dad and, I bet, especially my Grammy, would enjoy this walk. A cockatoo, of all things, flew over my head and posed for me in a tree, before taking off ahead of me (my guide and protector, perhaps?). And then I came to the Postu.

It’s a site-specific artwork, I think. Difficult to describe with words or pictures. But, try to imagine, arranged around an overgrown town square complete with two defunct fountains and old-fashioned, decorative, broken light poles:

- cute 1950s* bungalows – two red and white, one pink and white, one blue and white.
- an abandoned school, with basketball court out the front
- old, old, moss-covered simple huts, roofs gone, obviously used as sentry boxes and detainee cells
- Portuguese signs – ‘Port Fuzileiros’ – Indonesian signs – five rules for good government (Indonesians love putting lists of rules up in public places) – Timorese signs (for recently opened government offices, in the three buildings that have been done up)
- What looks like a former prison observation cell now being used as a radio station
- Two empty swimming pools amongst green, green grass: a 50m pool, 3m at the deep end, with a vaguely familiar logo painted on the bottom that I still haven’t placed, of two crossed rifles over an anchor (I thought it was a UN thing – maybe it was something from the Portuguese in their heyday); and a little kiddy pool beside it.

It was terribly sad and sobering. Thinking about how other people had come in and taken this little mountaintop (along with everything else) from the Timorese, to monitor and govern by force and hurt them; but, shamefully (on my part) also because it must have been a really fun place in its heyday, and it was sad to see such a pretty little village-square setup in quiet decay. I mean, the Portuguese chose well. There is a kind of fortress wall on one side, so they did mean business, but – seriously – pools? They must have had some awesome cocktail parties.

And so I have to admit, while I feel extremely bad about admitting this, I am no longer enamoured by the thought of buying my own house in Australia: I want to live in a cute red and white 1950s Portuguese bungalow on the top of a mountain with its own swimming pool. I’d add a waterslide, though.

  • I know this because one had ‘1953’ on the side in matching tile.

Posted by timortimes 18:37 Comments (0)

Yes, please (grimace)

Same was fantastic, but the food was some of the worst I’ve eaten in my life. And I lived in a university college for four years, so I know what I'm talking about.

It’s funny, it’s much easier to be grateful for food when it’s really bad and you know it’s your only option.
Bad food included: lukewarm noodles, lukewarm rice, odd bit of lukewarm, stringy chicken, and at one work function, every single dish including boiled rice* and salads having red meat in it**. My favourite: at morning tea, boiled potatoes - *badly* boiled potatoes (I have no idea how they do this, ruin boiled potatoes, but they do) and muffins that *look* safe to eat, but actually taste like fish. WTF.

I think I’ve said this before – possibly two weeks after I got to Dili – but I am NEVER eating rice EVER AGAIN after I leave here. I didn’t really like it that much before I came here, so I was resigned to the fact that I’d have to eat it all year, but man. NEVER AGAIN.

So I went to the market on Sunday with my friend Elfrina (we had elected to stay behind while everyone else went to the beach again – much more relaxing), bought peanuts and mandarins, and was super happy because my food was (a) palatable at room temperature (b) NOT RICE.

It later turned out that Elfrina thought I was really weird because I didn’t want to go to the warung for lunch - ‘Timorese always need rice for their meals, mana! Three times a day!’ – and in her accommodating Timorese way (unlike selfish malae) had just decided to do what I did. Funny girl. I tried to explain that of course I would have gone with her if I had known, or she could have gone on her own, but she said ‘no, no, I do what you do, mana’. Hmm.

  • They had arranged tiny chops in a pretty circular pattern on top of the big bowl of plain boiled rice. Too bad if you actually *were* vegetarian, or vegan. I’m not, and I was grossed out.
  • * A lot of people who generally eat red meat, including overseas, often give it up on coming to Timor. I’ve become one of those.

Posted by timortimes 18:36 Comments (0)

No, thankyou (grimace)

When you are overseas, people often advise you to just eat or drink whatever you are offered, as it may cause offence to refuse. I try to subscribe to this, but my Timorese friends / work colleagues are very good at politely offering me a lot of things I don’t want.

For example – food:

Mana! Please! Would you like a banana? – Oh no, I’m fine. Thankyou (I hate bananas, they are mushy and gross).

Mana! Please! Have a coconut! (from about five different people in half an hour) Oh no, I’m really not thirsty (I hate coconut, it tastes *rancid*).

It makes me argue: Is it *really* more polite for me to take a sip or bite of something I know I don’t like, make a face and then leave the rest of the item, therefore wasting it? I’m not a good actor; I just can’t pretend I like food I don’t like.

Other examples:

Mana! You should dance! (at 11 in the morning, at a work function, to Indonesian pop music) Oh no, you guys dance, you don’t need me (It’s 11am for Christ’s sake. And it is taking all my strength to sit in this chair and not run far far away from that bloody music)

Mana! We want to go to a party tonight! Would you like to come? – Oh no, I think I will stay and sleep (We started partying at 11am, is there something in those coconuts you’re drinking?)

Mana! We are going to the beach! Isn’t it great? – Uh, yeah (uh, no – we came from the work function so no one has swimmers, it’s dirty grey volcanic sand anyway, and hello it’s lunchtime and there is no food here. Can someone please take me back to town so I can eat?*)

  • groan*
  • This last line makes me sounds fussy, but I did actually eat the regular three meals we got. Bananas and coconuts were extra snacks, so I felt I could reasonably refuse them.

Posted by timortimes 18:34 Comments (0)

(Entries 46 - 50 of 62) Previous « Page .. 5 6 7 8 9 [10] 11 12 13 » Next