WHOOOMP! BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE... SCREEEEEECCHHHWHIRRRRRR.... KLONK! it was a smooth landing at nicolau lobato intl airport. a smooth landing by merpati standards, that is. so i'm back to dili, almost to the day 10 years after i first got here. and somehow it feels like a good place to restart my blog, now that i've finally found the inspiration to do so again, an inspiration that had dissipated out of me about 1,5 years ago for a number of reasons i haven't fully explored but do have a vague sense of. but, be that as it may, the drive to publish the outpourings of my cerebral cortex is back again.
so its back to t-l, and this time i'm here as a mere lowly tourist, with (almost) no other agenda, and i'm seeing the country from a wholly new perspective. instead of trying frantically to arrange research meetings or trying to get my head around the latest political developments, i finally have the time and headspace to appreciate the beauty of the morning mist enveloping the fishing boats and vietnamese freighters in dili harbour, the dignity of the old villagers sitting in the late afternoon sun, the exhilaration of cruising along the hilly coastal road on a motorbike, the colours of the vegetable market, the strong coffee, the casual conversations.
nonetheless, the place has a peculiar, almost surreal touch to it, things which i have written about earlier here as well. the co-existence, in such a small geographical space, of the parallel worlds of the ex-pat malae, the non-ex-pat foreign laboureres and traders, the nascent local upper and middle classes, the urban under-classes and the rural population. and the heavy militarisation of the place, the striking, deliberate and calculated casualness with which the young local and foreign men (and on occasion, women) in uniform strut their assault rifles in public, implicitly displaying their readiness to use violent, lethal force.
since the last time i came here over half a year ago, the stability seems to have taken root in a more, there seems to be more confidence that it might last, but the fear of a communal 'relapse' is also evident. symptomatically, the sound of the siren of a passing ambulance had the cafe staff freeze, with grave worry etched on their faces. and as always, there is a sense of foreboding in discussions about the future. 'if all goes well in october,' then we will be ok was the refrain this time, the previous time it was 'if all goes well in january,' previous to that it was 'if all goes well in august...' nonetheless, things are moving on here, places are being fixed up - strikingly, especially those with a religious connection: the statue of jesus, the cathedral, motael church, the statue of mary. i hope the reconstruction will turn out to be more than just a fresh coat of paint, in more ways than one.