Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Botarde! That's Good Afternoon in Tetum

Stealing a moment before lunch to read some emails and blog. I'm doing exactly what Catherine would always make fun of me for doing at Much - sitting at my computer, giggling away. Is it really that weird? It must betray my intensely deep nerdiness when I take so much delight in your electronic mail.

I caught myself daydreaming about fall fashion and emailed Sophie to secure a shopping date for when I return. She wrote back to say that she was sooo relieved to hear that I want to shop. To paraphrase: "Will and I were getting worried about you going around the world to do good deeds." I laughed wickedly (and lots) at that. I may be travelling with only the basics (clothes, mosquito net and heavy-duty DEET) but I'm still lugging around the September Vogue.

And then Sabrina sent me an update on the film festival. I remarked to myself inwardly, Wow - I really love hearing about this stuff. It feels like home. Sab actually apologized to be sending me such a frivolous email. Are you kidding? A snap of Borat giving someone a high five at his movie premiere is like placing a nugget of gold in my mental landscape. I may be in East Timor but I still want all the gossip.

I've had moments of loneliness on this trip but I feel really good today. I guess being lonely, especially when surrounded by people, is about being unable to relate. I feel the pull of human commonalities when I'm in the IDP camps or trying to interact with the young boys who loiter on the street selling papayas and phone cards, but strangely, I've felt most loneliest in the company of my fellow Westerners. It makes me wistul and appreciative of my friends at home. The people I'm travelling with are amazing individuals, lots of fun and easy to bunk with. But swimming around in NGO-speak with nary a raft of a common topic makes me feel like I'm constantly lagging behind in the conversation, just trying tread water and catch up. It's really nice to be learning so much, though. That's what steep learning curves feel like, I suppose. Like an uphill trek.

This morning we interviewed a musician in East Timor's most famous band, Cinqo d'Oriente (Five from the East). Eggo is not only a musician, but an NGO-worker as well. We visited him at his house, he gave me a fabulous interview, he played his acoustic guitar and then we had boiled taro root and coffee. It was a very nice morning. This afternoon I'm going to shoot some more of the peace-promoting graffiti that's going up in front of the CARE compound (why do all graffiti artists the world over have dreads?) and then we'll watch a dance performance that will be happening on the lawn.

The weather has been nothing but perfect since we've arrived. It's hot but not humid, which was the tough part about being in Banda Aceh.

By the way, I'm fascinated by the Tetum language. It's a mix of Portugese and the indigenous language here. There are less than a million people in East Timor! This is such a precious and fragile language! There are also tons of dialects all over the country - in fact, I hear they even differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Anne told me at lunch that she read that the world has 7000 languages and that in Indonesia alone, they speak 4000! I have to verify that somehow. It's just blowing my mind.

Lots of love from Dili.
H

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