I can’t believe I live in a country where:

-Ash Wednesday is a public holiday.

-Dogs sleep for hours in the middle of the street.

-It’s perfectly acceptable to say to a woman in a job interview, “We heard that you’re pregnant. Are you? How far along are you? Will you work up until you deliver?”

-Flowers grow like weeds. In fact some of them are weeds. Anyhow, the most ordinary yard is like a botanical garden. [The header photo is a collage of common snapshots from our yard.]

-There’s lots of violence, and more than a few machetes, but no guns. The strongest gang graffiti is things like “Piss” and “Asshole” and “Black Spider” – twice.

-The word for “a lot” in Tetum, the local language, is “barak” which is the same as the Arabic root for “blessing.”

-When it rains, the foreigners run inside and the Timorese run outside. For Timorese, rain = time to swim, play on the beach, and go for a run in flip-flops or barefoot.

-The waitress says “I haven’t seen you in such a long time” when it’s Tuesday and you saw her on Friday. And she means it. And she’s right. It is a long time between Friday and Tuesday. At least in Dili.

3 thoughts on “Where

  1. hi lisa –
    good to see that you’ve noticed some of the graffiti around town! it certainly has left a mark.
    there is more than piss, arsehole and blackspider!!!!!
    i have been documenting it since 2004 and it has lead me into some wonderful stories, situations and little laneways. it really is representative of something of a territorial marking for the gangs, as well as a development on a communicative technique used throughout the resistance.
    in the current climate, it is highlighting a mentality that, at once, is ill informed, yet anthropologically fascinating. there is something eerie about aligning oneself with vietnam and israel, for example.
    anyway, part of my collection is available at:
    see what you think!

  2. What the hell are you doing in East Timor? Just get out there if you cannot cope with the situation. The Timorese people do not like person like you.

  3. Chris – thanks for that. I really appreciate having thoughtful responses like yours, because obviously I am puzzling out these things as a newcomer. [clever name for your flicker site…]

    Joao – I am afraid you’ve misunderstood my post. I am not having trouble to “cope” with the situation – just the opposite, it seems easy to live here compared to many places in the world.

    My blog is designed to note the differences between East Timor and other parts of the world where I have worked, especially Dubai where I just moved from. Dubai is Islamic and so I’m used to public holidays that celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad. Dubai is a busy city with a million people and an enormous traffic problem, so dogs are not able to lie in the middle of the road without being run over.

    The comment about violence was because it is so much LESS scary in Timor than, for example, Afghanistan, where we lived for two years. I don’t like it that people throw rocks at my car here, but it’s not going to make me leave. I’d rather stay to help Timorese colleagues; they seem to welcome that.

    Of course, if you’d prefer that all the NGOs to leave East Timor, we could do that…. but that doesn’t seem like a good way to “cope with the situation.”

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