A Travellerspoint blog

July 2009

How to deal with things in Timor

I’ve kind of adopted an attitude of not worrying about a single obstacle, because no matter what I attempt to do over here, there will always be at least ten obstacles to whatever I want to do that are completely unforeseen and I never would have imagined them. So you might get to do what you wanted, and you might not, and if the answer is ‘not’ it probably involved the combined forces of somebody’s contrary mood, somebody else’s bizarre sudden personality change, the sudden and inexplicable deadibones-ness of the internet, and two goats in the wrong place at the wrong time. Friday Cleaning Day, people’s fondness for two-hour lunches and shop owners that close their shops at really weird times (like 10am or 2pm) also feature a lot.

Posted by timortimes 01:43 Comments (0)

Trip to Baucau for Thesis Interviews - Interviews

I decided to write this paragraph as a separate blog entry because I thought these people deserved it. Doing the interviews, while it was hard work (not just for me but for Herminio, interpreting, the awesome Gender Focal Point and District Administrator, and everyone who was interviewed), was so rewarding.

It wasn’t just because the interviews went well, although that is fabulous. It was actually extremely humbling to get to talk to older people of these little communities, because they have all lived through Portuguese and Indonesian times. Two of the older women’s husbands were killed ‘in the Indonesian times’, they said, and one of them also had a son killed during these times. ‘During Indonesian times’ is code for ‘by the Indonesian military’, of course. A small part of my research is on the differences between Portuguese times, Indonesian times and now in terms of the cultural practice I’m studying, and I so appreciated that these women could tell me this part of their story.

Posted by timortimes 01:42 Comments (0)

Trip to Baucau for Thesis Interviews - Baucau

Friday 24th July – Saturday 25th July – 8 months, 8-9 days

So, I’ve mentioned previously that I’m writing a sub-thesis (only 10,000 words) to finish off my Masters. My topic is barlake, or Timorese bridewealth practices, and I finally got things organised to get this first interview trip happening. (It was a close thing, I can tell you.)

Firstly, it was really lovely to get to Baucau at last. Everyone raves about Baucau and although I didn’t get to see much, I am definitely going to go back for a *fun* non-thesis weekend before I leave. Must find someone to share the driving and share the weekend with, though, three hours is just a little bit too much for me to drive on my own. (Dili readers! Who wants to join me?)

The Kota Baru (New Town) is, as everyone says, pretty stark and horrible. Think shacks made from corrugated iron, piled higgledy-piggledy down the side of a hill and ready to blow away at the drop of a hat. What I saw of the Kota Tua (yep... Old Town) is, as everyone says, gorgeous. When I go again, I want to stay in the Posada (Portuguese castle), where we had a lovely AVI dinner on Friday night. And apart from any of this, it was awesome to get to see the mountain and coastline scenery on the drive there. I don’t think I will ever *climb* Mount Matebian, a particularly significant mountain for Timorese people, but I have at least *seen* it!

Secondly, the people. My gosh. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have lovely Timorese friends in Dili and many acquaintances and friendly interactions every single day. But I stumbled onto the loveliest group of young people* in the 10 minute walk I permitted myself before heading off for interviews (at 8am on a Saturday – argh!).
I’d just intended to take photos of a couple of wrecked buildings on my street, and was doing so, when a pretty girl with round cheeks and tightly curling hair walked up to me and cheerily asked me how I was and what was I taking pictures of? She was Timorese, of course, but she spoke English with a lovely clear accent and so I started chatting to her. She asked if I would walk round the corner and take a photo of her school, and so I ended up chatting to ten of her best friends, and taking photos of all of them with their school building. They thought I was a bit weird for wanting to take pictures of the inspirational sayings they’d painted on their buildings (I tried to explain by saying that I am interested in art on buildings and I wanted to show pictures to my friends in Australia), but they accepted it (no doubt thinking ‘crazy malae’, oh well).

It turned out they were Science of Life Systems scholars, which as far as I can work out is a life education program as well as a literacy program. Apparently (I’ve heard this from other malae, not these guys) it’s about teaching Timorese youth to be punctual and responsible, in order to help prepare them for the workforce. Whatever it teaches, I tell you, these guys were hiiiiiiiigh on life. I don’t know whether it’s because people from the districts really ARE happier, or these lot were just a particularly happy bunch. I was really sorry to have to tell them that I had to go to Bercoli (the village where we interviewed), not least because they seemed excited to practice their English, but I am going to go back to the school and say hello when I’m there again later. They were all hanging out there on the Saturday morning, chatting and playing ball games, even though school wasn’t on, so I presume I’ll find some of them there again.

  • I have to call them ‘young people’ because am no good at picking people’s ages and could not decide if they were teenagers or early 20s.

Posted by timortimes 01:41 Comments (0)

Timor is Opposites Land

Thursday 23rd July – 8 months, 7 days

Something I found really weird when I first got here was the fact that people here think nothing of letting their phones beep and ring constantly through meetings. This goes so far as to have people answering their phones during meetings. I’ve seen Ministers and heads of departments do this (which makes the meeting a tad awkward, as they tend to be the ones running the show). Nobody even bothers to put their phone on silent. There is a strange kind of etiquette where people will have a five minute whispered conversation behind their hand into their phone, like that’s less disruptive to the meeting but somehow also audible for the person on the other end.

I am trying not to get into bad habits and still put my phones (yep, phones) on silent when I go into a meeting, but I can just see myself forgetting, idly checking texts during a meeting back in Australia and getting the icy polite stare of doom from someone senior. Oh dear.

Posted by timortimes 01:40 Comments (0)

*shrugs* That’s what working here is like.

Tuesday 21st July - Wednesday 22nd July – 8 months, , 5- 6 days

I was sitting in an external meeting which was having a ho-hum kind of moment between speakers, idly pondering the giant poster my workplace had put up on the wall behind us. It seems to me like it would’ve been an expensive job, but people get this kind of stuff done here a lot – they get a shiny big banner printed up for a one day or two day meeting. I don’t know what people do with these posters after the meetings. Take ‘em home until someone uses it for a tarp, I guess. (Rule #43 of Timorese living: Never, ever, ever throw a single item away. I know, I know, you thought I was a hoarder. Timorese people win hands down in the hoarding stakes every time, trust me.)
Anyway, I was looking at it, wondering if it was a good thing it only had one spelling mistake, or a bad thing it was in a rather key word.

And while I was looking at it, the sticky tape holding this (4 metre long, heavy plastic) banner pulled off the wall, and the banner narrowly missed falling on a senior staff member’s head as they were about to begin speaking.

  • shrugs*

That's what working here is like.

Posted by timortimes 01:38 Comments (0)

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