This week was one worth forgetting. My mother warned me I’d have “days like this” but a week’s worth is nearly too much. Then comes the weekend, thankfully.
The simplicity that we had craved in our crazy Western life hit us front-on this weekend as we strolled around a local art and craft fair, visited a weavers’ market and took a long, leisurely drive through the mountains and along the beach.
There was a lack of action, bright lights and noise. There was, instead, the gentle hum of life in Dili and surrounds. Saturday morning presented the sweet, local sounds of guitar, violin and ukulele, accompanied by labarik feto (the cutest young girls from nearby Atauro Island) wearing traditional dress and proudly holding hand-written names of their villages.
It’s where beauty pageants should have stopped in their tracks; a bunch of dear little girls displaying their culture and heritage through dance, dress and smiles. Their beauty was immeasurable but the bursting pride and sheer happiness of their mothers, sisters, neighbours and aunties was most moving. These women, who have much to complain about and wish for, were simply radiant in their love and pride for these small children, their own.
Next stop was to find the tourist-trap known as “Tais Market” which I have avoided to date due to that impression. I had expected a contrived, sterile place where vendors would harangue me to buy things that I didn’t need or couldn’t justify buying. Wrong. My friend, who speaks the local language fluently, guided me through the most quaint, mesmerising burst of colour that I could have imagined. Tais, the Timorese woven scarf-like cloths, some made in-situ into some of the most tantalising products, that I would argue would compliment any modern interior; table runners, bags, bedspreads and cushion covers. After taking photos, chatting to vendors and having plenty of laughs, we walked past two fighting roosters and a bunch of small children squealing and giggling over flying a home-made kite, in the small car park. Two dogs slept under a truck and washing lazily moved with the breeze as we made our way to the car. There was nothing contrived about this place.
Rising early today we packed a picnic and piled into the car, all eager to taste the fresh and cooler air of the mountains, far from the concrete and bustle of Dili. I wouldn’t be happy until my camera’s memory card was full and I was not disappointed. After bumping and thumping over tracks (gazetted although barely passable dirt roads) we flipped through the photos: walls of tropical green just outside the city, chest-high browned grasses in the valley, sporadic verdant green of vegetable patches, low hung and precariously placed power-lines, and finally the expanse of beach that falls into the vast depths of surrounding Timor-Leste waters.
It’s an assault on the senses and a thrill to be part of, as you realise that you are sharing it with hardly anyone. This is a relatively undiscovered part of the world and being able to take a Sunday drive through it is a real privilege.