A Travellerspoint blog

August 2009

Chega Exhibition (trigger warning, describes violence)

Tuesday 25th August – 9 months, 9 days

I can’t go to the Posada in Baucau and stay there anymore like I was planning because I found out from the exhibition what happened there... it was a place of imprisonment particularly for women, women were taken there and raped and tortured.

‘Chega’ means ‘enough, stop’ in Portuguese. I’m not sure how empowering it is to use the language of one oppressor to tell another one to fuck off (cukup, jangan mean something similar in Bahasa) but I guess it’s not the Timorese’ fault that Portuguese stunted Tetum’s growth.


The Chega exhibition is a museum of sorts, chronicling the human rights violations in Timor. It was a prison (the Comarca) under the Portuguese and also under the Indonesians. It was abandoned and basically turned into a farm with walls, until an organisation called CAVR was formed to chronicle human rights violations (‘lesser’ ones so that the court system would not be flooded but people, both perpetrators and victims / survivors, would have a way to tell their story and resolve the issue). There are timelines of Timor, the story in the country and its place in world history, there is a library, there are photos. The ‘dark cells’ where people were confined in the dark and starved, beaten, raped for months, have been preserved in all their their grotty, graffitied glory.

The dark cells also have a larger-than-life-size colour photograph of a Timorese woman with a blindfold over her face, naked except for a pair of stark white blood-spattered underpants. She lies on the floor while soldiers snarl over her. You can see blood on her body, blood on the floor, and their bootmarks on her body.

It is in fact stunning how many places around Timor were used as places of imprisonment by the Indonesians and the Portuguese. The Indonesians win for creativity though, using hotels and a museum as impromptu prisons, police headquarters, interrogation units etc. While I was reading the eclectic selection of examples, I thought of the Postu, that mountaintop broken-down Portuguese paradise in Same. How I looked at little rooms and worked out which were the abandoned cells. All over this land dead and tortured girls, boys, women, men have screamed; I hope Timor's version of ‘free’ today is enough for you now.

I do wish I’d seen this earlier in the piece; it would’ve been useful (and maybe I would’ve been able to get over the Posada prison palace and stay there). I love a lot of the buildings they’ve mentioned, they’re very familiar to me and they’re places I see almost daily.

The exhibition's ‘end’ has a garden and meeting space with ‘What will you do to preserve human rights?’ painted on the wall (in typical garish Timor style, in yellow with green outline) in Tetum and English. When I see these challenges I’m fervently grateful that I decided I wanted a career ‘helping people’, something I made up before I originally started working in development, and never dreamed it would take me to the kind of work I do today. I need work that helps people.

  • **

As I left the building, I asked a woman carrying too much stuff if I could take some things for her. It looked like a lot and also she was pregnant, not that approximately half the adult female population isn’t pregnant at any given time, but still. We chatted in Tetum while we walked out to the gate (I love that I can say this, ‘We chatted in Tetum’). When we got to the gate, she said to her friend, ‘Malae ajuda’ which is ‘Malae helped’, in pretty much the same tone people often say ‘Malae bulak’ (Malae are crazy) in. But they smiled in a friendly way at me so I am taking it as ok that I helped.

Posted by timortimes 00:07 Comments (0)

The Tour de Timor and the 10th Anniversary of the Referendum

Monday 24th August – 9 months, 8 days

OK. Sports – not really my thing. But the Tour de Timor thing is (I believe, after listening to Ramos-Horta talk on Radio Australia about how peaceful and stable Timor is now*) an event to showcase Timor, not just a bike race. Symbolic, like. It was also a chance for the national police forces to have a go running something (instead of international / UN police always being in charge).

So I happened to get into work early on Monday morning and (naturally) the net was not working. Neither was the aircon. So I thought I’d get some air on the balcony while waiting to see if the aircon could be fixed.

And, oh my, lack of aircon has never been so fortuitous before. I walked out onto the balcony right as the Tour de Timor riders rode past the Palacio do Governo (they’d started from the President’s palace, which had just been hastily finished and spiffed up in the last week – actually, it wasn’t quite finished, haha).

And I’m a sook, and I have super heightened emotions this year, so tears did come to my eyes when I watched everyone riding by, including the Timorese riders. I can’t imagine how tense the country must have been ten years ago this week, waiting for the independence referendum; and then the violence and destruction afterwards... I have heard other malae say this week that some Timorese people have said to them, they don’t feel that the parties and big events is what the 30th of August is about; it’s a time of reflection and remembering what came before. I get that.
But it’s nice how everyone can come for a (gruelling) bike ride and parties to celebrate, too.

  • SEE Mum, Dad, all those times I have told you I think Timor is really peaceful and stable, well now the president of the country is backing me up!

Posted by timortimes 00:06 Comments (0)

At the beach again

Sunday 23rd August – 9 months, 7 days

We took wine this time (by ‘we’ I mean ‘my awesome friend brought and shared’). I may or may not have recited a Roald Dahl poem. Twice.

It sounds funnier when I admit we had wine, but in reality I am such a show pony I would totally recite for people when stone cold sober.

Posted by timortimes 00:05 Comments (0)


Saturday 22nd August – 9 months, 6 days

You may remember, I paid $544.75 to get the electricity fixed in my flat.

My neighlord wanted to buy my furniture when I left. I estimated it to be worth $360.

One of my neighbours (lovely, lovely neighbours) negotiated for my rent to be $100 for the 2 months and 10 days I’m left here, instead of $515.

I’m a little afraid to say it in case a giant anvil drops on my head, but FINALLY. A teeny tiny little break. Thankyou 2009. OK so I do not recoup the money for the electricity, but I was prepared to live with that. yayyyyyyyy

Posted by timortimes 00:03 Comments (0)

Dili is not even a small town: it’s just insane

Friday 21st August: 9 months, 5 days

Before living in Canberra, population around 330,000 people, the largest place I had ever lived had a population of around 24,000 people – when uni was in session. I grew up in a small town (550 people), I went to high school in a bigger-but-still-small regional town (18,000 people at the time), and lived in Farmidale for university. Nobody is more comfortable with small-town atmosphere than me, ok?

And yet, Dili (approx. 100,000) is claustrophobically small. It is simply impossible to go anywhere without bumping into everybody you know. It can’t be just the malae population as I’m always seeing all the Timorese people I know too. Driving to interviews the other weekend, we were overtaken by the Vice Prime Minister (how do I know? Personalised Govie numberplates, baby), who we share a wing of the Palacio with. You go to the beach – doesn’t matter which beach – you will accidentally bump into friends who decided to go there completely separate of you at exactly the same time. I even have the somewhat disturbing problem where now when I walk to work people will randomly call out ‘Mana Katee!’ and I have *no idea* who they are but they definitely know *my* name...

Posted by timortimes 00:01 Comments (0)

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