Fila mai Timor-Leste.
Well on 15 January I returned to Timor-Leste to live, once again. I have been a frequent visitor for the past 2 years, with short interludes in Liberia, Sudan, Haiti and Afghanistan – whilst hiding out in the interim in Indonesia.
When I was first told I had to return to Dili I was annoyed. I had little choice in the matter due to some practical realities of life related to our Peace Dividend Marketplace project. As I type this I am waiting to meet with Helio Tavares our new’ish point of contact in the Ministry of Tourism Commerce and Industry.
Whilst I was annoyed, I also welcomed the prospect of returning full time to Timor-Leste, it has become something of a second home to me over the years, and to be honest my first home seems a distant memory.
I first arrived in Timor-Leste with UNTAET some 11 years ago this very month just about. Between then and now I have meandered around the world but always it seems being drawn back to Dili. In Timor-Leste I have worked for (or acted as consultant to) NDI, the International Crisis Group, the State Department, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, DPKO and now the best job of them all, Peace Dividend Trust.
Timor-Leste and the Timorese have been very good to me, and its something I never forget.
Despite all the problems that Timor-Leste has, it still a land of possibilities – when I compare it with the other fragile states I have visited in the decade or so, Timor-Leste has considerable promise. This is primarily a result of the Timorese, the nature of the conflicts here, and the fact that neighbours and friends are genuinely friendly – at least the vast majority of the time. Timor-Leste has its own money, it does not suffer from waves of illicit weapons and land-mines. Its people have a greater sense of common purpose when compared to other communities emerging from conflict. It does not have neighbours which seek to undermine it at every turn – much unlike some places.
While I have to say I love Timor-Leste, Dili as a city is changing fast, and these are the things I like, and don’t like, about my second home’s capitol city.
Things I like about Dili:
- Getting on the ferry to Oecusse to visit my first good friends in this country (which I have regretfully not done in a long time).
- The very late evenings when driving around the empty streets of Dili on my 2006 green and black Honda MegaPro.
- The staff in the office.
- The cockfights – terribly politically incorrect I know – but where else do you get to see what people are really up to and hear all the “real” gossip. Although this is admittedly just a bunch of men.
- The grilled fish in Meti-aut, supplied by my old Sagrada Familia friends.
- The back roads of Ailok-laran where all my buddies from Ainaro seem to live in some of the most confused back alley ways going.
- Eating dinner at a Liquica buddy’s house in Marabia overlooking Dili at night.
- The sea.
- My old neighbours in Meti-aut, Delta I, Akidirihun, and Tasi Tolu.
- Tuasabo bought from a little old lady from Laga in Comoro market.
Things I don’t like about Dili:
- Its dirty, although there are some moves to fix this.
- The cliquish social scene.
- The dust in the dry season.
- The mud in the wet season.
- Manhattan prices.
- The new traffic jams (although on two wheels it is better than four).
- When mangos are out of season.
- Trying to navigate entrance into UNMIT.
- That my new Blackberry is dead in Timor – although I am going to help TT get hooked up to RIM if possible.
- Poverty, especially when juxtaposed in close quarters with wealth.
One day I must tell you about a “young man from Iliomar.”
Note: here is the MegaPro. A man from Mehara, Lautem modified the mirrors, much better…