401 East meets West Timor in land of living we dead spitting betel-juice
SoE, West Timor—Jan 4, 2015
Shifted to West Timor .. by air from Bali .. rough flight .. a bit unnerving considering the plane that just crashed in Indonesian waters a few days ago .... landed in Kupang .. where we started our Indonesian trip sum 24 yrs ago .. so not only intresting to see change since then but also difference between West + East Timor where we traveled 2 years ago ..
.. didnt even go into Kupang but straight up into the hills .. 2 or 3 hour drive .. some town called SoE .. not exactly a tourist destination .... but not why we here .. basic room .. stayed in worse .. spotty electricity .. no Inurnet .. no hot water .. no fans or bednet (+ high malaria + dengue here) .. but oddly modern bldg w/ all these strange animal sculptures + murals everywhere ..
.. 1st room electricity not working .. 2nd full of termite wings .. 3rd bathroom flooded w/ standing water .. 4th no TV but OK by us .. every1 else also searching like Goldilocks for room just right .. then dinner at a tasty Muslim fried chicken place ..
Woke 0530 + went running .. judging by the amount of traffic on the roads coming up + the lack of shoulder seemed a daunting proposition but happened upon this brand new 4 lane highway completely devoid of traffic .. kinda surreal .. ran for 10k + not a single car did we see .. just a few mopeds + people walking cows .. + tho not a single other bule (white person) we've seen no 1 stares or takes notice .. just a few 'hallo mistair's .. unlike rural Africa where every 1 makes a big deal .. aksing if need us a ride or thinking u in distress .. kids running next to u etc .. but every1 here super chill + kinda shy .. even the dogs .... even had a run-in w/ the police .. literally .. our hotel next to the police station .. saw our room + gate looked same as our hotel so turned in .. out of breath + sweating .. said selamat pagi to 4 cops standing there + they said hallo mistair back .. walked in a ways more before realizing inside a police compound .. police didnt even care or think it strange .. thought we just looking around ..
.. tagged along w/ our better-½ + colleagues to visit a few villages .. 3 trucks full .. 4WD since rough + muddy .. rainy season in full swing (been raining every day so far) ..
.. same drill as in Africa or Asia or other places we've accompanied our better-½ (even tho in a different capacity for different organization this trip) .. the «bottom billion» round the world always the same .. welcoming gracious hosts + even tho dirt poor go out of their way to offer u what they have in terms of food + drink .. every1 wants to shake your hand .. + most of the time spent w/ formalities + introductions .. people of importance making speeches saying requisite things before getting down to bizness (sharing information about food + nutrition + agriculture etc ..) ..
.. they have these unique thatched beehive huts they use for cooking + smoking food (to preserve it) .. + right after women give birth they have custom of putting them in these smoky warm huts to keep them + the baby warm for the 1st 40 days ..
.. all of Timor has H20 problems but the 1st community we visited in particular not a lot of H20 to work with .. only rains for 2 months (Dec-Jan) + the rest of year dry + no irrigation .. all rain-fed agriculture .. so right about now they planting + after harvest they need to store enough for the rest of the year .. not to mention H20 for drinking + cooking etc .. which they have to walk sometimes a few klicks to nearest well to fetch .. + when that dries up all the way down to river .. if that hasnt dried up ....
.. onward to next village .. usually an hour or 2 in between on rough roads ..
.. o + they eat dogs here .. strange cuz dogs everywhere walking around like them pets .. surprised the dogs haven't wised up to their destiny ..
.. the 2nd village every1 really put on their sunday best .. + a formal welcoming ceremony they had for us .. after all the requisite formalities + hand-shaking they directed us to stand up in front + this shaman-like guy started in on this intense chanting + the community would chime in on certain words .. he was swaying + getting quite emotional enough to make hair on back of our neck bristle .. not sure what he said (not even in bahasa Indonesian but in their local dialect (dawan)) .. then 2 women came along + presented us w/ sum sort of betel nut offering + put these scarfs around our necks like we receiving olympic medals or something .. very strange .... + then they brought us fried bananas + kopi (coffee) + felt us funny + bad so we took the plate + handed it around to the villagers in the audience who need food far more than us well-fed bule bule .. + here they fielding questions when shd be out in field working .. as always feel conflicted w/ these visits cuz u disrupt their day-to-day lives .. + as always not so productive not just cuz of all the time spent on such formalities but everything needs to be translated from English to Indonesian or dawan + back .. + a lot becomes lost in translation + most often ppl just tell u what u want to hear not the reality (like how often they meat or eggs..) ..
.. the red stuff on the ground in the photo above = betelnut spittings .. every1 addicted to the stuff .. their teeth red + after many years of use rots your teeth out .. u ask them why + they say helps them work harder + not need to sleep as much .. just like them say in Peru about chewing coca .. to the uninitiated might seem freaky .. like them mouths red w/ blood + spitting red juice like vampires .. + they all carry fancy satchels w/ their fixing kits (they mix lye + sum sort of leaf w/ the betelnuts pinched in a big wad between cheek + gum) ..
.. btw in case u wondering Timorese dont mind having photos taken .. they say they want us to take photos to show people back in America how they live ..
.. then again to a 3rd village .. this time we met in a church (even tho Indonesia mostly Muslim .. Timor predominantly Christian .. tho mixed still w/ many of their animist beliefs) .. more handshaking .. must shake 100s if not 1000s of hands in a day .. so if 1 person sick u can only imagine .. + again all the usual formalities .. in this village we went to look at health outpost .. which seemed fine on the outside only to discover no equipment or doctors on the inside .. just a shell of a building some NGO built years ago + didnt bother to staff or maintain or train for self-sustainability ..
.. then we walked all of us down to their community vegetable garden ..
.. finished reading We The Living by Ayn Rand .. not into it much .. specially the soap operaish drama of it (the protagonist using men for ulterior motives) + idealistic bourgeois preachiness + long-winded omnipresent storytelling .. but got us to thinking more about individualism + communism .. specially in context of where we at now .. such tight-knit «primitive» communities w/ big difference between haves + have-nots .. not as oppressive as say communist Russia (tho Timor Leste messed up in large part cuz of American fears of communism) .. surprisingly little difference (culturally) between East + West Timor xcept Timor Leste lacks basic infrastructure .. + infrastructure in West Timor actually pretty good (roads even better than Bali or Java) cuz Indonesian army needed easy access to border during war .. but even tho most of villages in West Timor have very little the more time u spend w/ them u realize each person very different + unique .. they have ambitions like any1 else in the world just not the means to break out of poverty cycle .. in Timor Leste u cd blame it on the war or govt neglect .. but here not so sure .. specially considering the rest of Indonesia better off .. sposedly not related to religion (not neglected or discriminated against by Muslim govt cuz Christian) but has more to do w/ drier climate + remoteness + lack of knowledge (agricultural + otherwise) .... i dunno .. have more time here so continue these thoughts next post ..
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