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.