From Dili to Jakarta via Bali (1)

It was the last day of June 2013.

I was full of excitement as a teen.

Waiting for my Sriwijaya flight at the Nicolau Lobato Airport in Dili.

With a mind of a wanderer, I asked,  “Would this trip be a jolly?”.

Later the flight came and I went ahead in a tremble along the departure gate.

I got on the airplane; a beautiful air hostess with red dress greeted me.

She had the most beautiful smile of the day.

I showed her my boarding pass; she guided me to my seat.

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I sat contently yet carefully paying attention instead.

Another air hostess was demonstrating the flight safety guide.

After an hour, the plane left the ground and started to take off. My heart jumped.

‘I am flying high!’ my mind exclaimed.

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It was my first trip from Dili to Jakarta.

There is a short transit at Ngurah Rai airport of Denpasar in Bali.

That was also my first time to see Bali, although just at a glance.

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Down there, I saw Bali’s beautiful blue sea with the white cliffs.

The red-brown houses formed like beads.

They spread over a huge green carpet of its green field.

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A very long bridge shaped a curvy line over the sea.

How I wondered to explore those places one day.

“Oh, how wonderful isn’t it?” myself said.

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I had heard about Bali since I was a child in 1990s.

People said that Bali is an island of gods, a paradise for tourists.

That time, I wish that one day I too could visit Bali, as a tourist.

I wanted to see the gods. I wanted to enjoy being at its paradise.

Finally, my wish did come true. Even though only for an instance.

Vitalia Ze, Dili-Bali-Jakarta, 30 June 2013.

My First Lunch in Jakarta

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It was a hot day in Jakarta

I was enjoying my first lunch

A plate of soft white rice

Accompanied with fried tofu, fried tempe* and an appetite-teasing brown fried chicken

The delicious jackfruit Gudeg* in a glossy redness to me

Together they greeted me with their special aromas

That was my first lunch in Jakarta

“Happy Eating…’

VZ, Jakarta, July 2013
*Tempe = A specific Indonesian food made from boiled soybeans and fermented then become a    soybean bars.
** Gudeg = An Indonesian-specific red curry dish made using jackfruit and is typical of popular food from  Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

A Taxi Driver’s Grumble

 

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Photo: http://www.dsw-photo.com/Travel/A-trip-To-Bali-Dili

 

Yesterday, in the afternoon, I stood on the roadside of Caicoli Street hailing a yellow taxi, which then stopped right in front of me.
Immediately, I opened the door and sat in the seat behind the driver, and then said, ‘ Please take me to Becora maun*. “The driver nodded as he continued to drive.
From the car window, I looked at the weather of Dili that was having a gray overcast. Perhaps, soon it will be raining. I felt the taxi is running a bit slow.
“Will you hurry up sir? Actually, I’m in a hurry. “I begged.
“Yes, mana**. But on this hour, it is usually jammed. I also want to be quick but there are many cars in front of us. “I sighed impatiently. In front of us, a Land Rover car also drove slowly.
“Yeah. You are right. This hour is usually a jammed hour. Usually, the most stalled roads are the roundabout of Merkadu Lama Street, and the crossings of Audian and Kuluhun Street. ”
“Yeah, those places are the point of congestion in the city center of Dili.” The driver replied.
We arrived at the Audian intersection road and there was a traffic jam because it was going-home time. One and two traffic police officers were on standby guarding in the middle of the road but traffic jams kept trapping the people. We were forced to stop for a few minutes before getting through.
Mana, look at those police officers. They only served there until the high ranked officials passed by. After that, they too will go home.” Said the driver.
“Really?” I asked, surprised. “I did not know about this. Instead, they must be on guard until night, mustn’t they?
“Right mana. They supposed to do so. Until now, the traffic police we have do not stay up until nights. Do you know what mana? The traffic police officers often make us their victims. “He sighed.

“Victims? Victims of what? “I asked curiously.
Each time they do a checkpoint, they often try to find excuses to blame us so that we pay a fine. ”

“Geez. Is that true? Then you would have to complete all the documents from being fined, right?”
“Yes, of course.  We indeed already have the complete document and driving license. Otherwise, how can we drive our cars for public transport? Ah, these police officers also do bully on us. If we complete the document, they will check our lights. If the lamps are complete, they will check if we were wearing the full uniform or not. If we were caught only wearing our pants and not wearing the shirt then still we will be fined. Yet mana, the uniform has a thick fabric and it got us sweltering. Especially on a hot day. ”
“Hmmm … really? Did they give you the bills or ticket to justify their reason to fine?  Usually, this ticket or bill should be paid at the transportation department office and not be paid directly to them.” I said wistfully.
” No mana. Not at all. They did not even give us any bills or ticket when they fine us. They just insisted us to pay the fine right away. We have to give away the money so they can let us go. We cannot be stuck with them all day long. We need to chase our passengers to earn a little amount of money for our family.” He continued to grumble but I look at him in disbelief and felt a little sympathy for him.

 

“And mana. What even worse is that these police officers sometimes also liked to threaten us. Especially those who are from Lorosa’e (Eastern regions of Timor-Leste). If they knew we are coming from Loromonu (Western regions of Timor-Leste), they will continue to hold our small mistakes and not letting us go quickly. While for other drivers, if they are known both come from the  Lorosa’e, they would be allowed to go as soon as possible. ”
“Ah, that’s not fair maun. Maun and your friends should bring this as a complaint to the Department Of Land Transportation office. Do not just let it happen. Later, they may behave worse in their actions. ”
“Yes, we supposed to be so mana. But what can we do? Later if we report to the Transportation Department office, we will be sent home. It is just a waste of time, though. “The driver said in a desperate face.
When we had reached the front of Fuxida shop, a Chinese-owned shop in Kamea road of Becora, I immediately asked him to stop.
“I get off here maun.” I looked for my purse inside the bag and pulled four coins valued 50 cents each to give him.
“Thanks, maun. Do not give up ya. “I said smiling and then got out of the taxi and shut the door. Instantly, I saw a beam of spirit in his eyes.

 

*maun = brother in Tetum language

*mana = sister in Tetum language.
Along the way of Caicoli-Becora, Dili, 3 March 2017

Debus Seloi (Seloi Lake) in Aileu Municipality

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Debus Seloi lake

According to a local people I met, the word Debus mean lake in Mambae, a dialect spoken by people from Aileu. Seloi is a village in Aileu municipality, a municipality in the northwestern part of Timor-Leste and is one of only two landlocked districts, the other being Ermera. It borders Dili to the north, Manatuto to the east, Manufahi to the southeast, Ainaro to the south, Ermera to the west, and Liquiçá to the northwest. It was formerly part of the district of Dili but was split in the final years of Portuguese administration.

I had my first visit to this lake in 2013 during an office assignment. To get to this lake, one has to travel during one hour from Aileu Villa (Aileu city) with a four-wheel drive typed vehicle to reach this village. It takes around one and a half hour to reach Aileu from Dili. I did not go closely to the lake but I could only enjoy the view from the hill. Debus Seloi is a permanent lake that becomes the source of irrigation for rice fields and the vegetable field surrounding it.Looking at the Debus Seloi from the hill where I stand made me shiver with its serenity as the cold wind blowing slowly towards me. Aileu has a cold and fresh weather temperature.

A local people came nearby greeted me friendly and I greeted him as well. He then told me that every year prior to harvesting time, there is a communal traditional thanksgiving ceremony held in this lake. People in Seloi village mostly grow paddies, corns, and vegetables. Indeed these agricultural products become the supply for vegetable stocks in Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste. A ceremony he told me has held annually as an act of gratitude towards the universe and the soul of deceased ancestors for the blessings on the crops for this year and the hope for best harvest for the coming years as well.

Prior to the ceremony, the head of each sub-village together with the Lianain (traditional village authority) in the Seloi villages will make coordination in order to discuss the materials needed for the ceremony and the contents of the ceremony programs. Within this coordination, an agreement will need to settle as well as the certain arrangement and task distributions to be made amongst the head of villages to organize their people to work for the preparation of the ceremony. On the agreement of the coordination, each head of villages arrange will animals such as buffaloes, chickens, goats or pigs to be sacrificed during the ceremony as an offer to the rituals. Later during the ceremony, the sacrificed animals will be handover to the community to be cooked and consumed during the ceremonial festivity. During this festivity and local men and women, adults and young people will be expected to participate in the ceremony as a compulsory social contribution.

Apart of the ceremony, there is a fishing race program held, where each representative from the sub-villages will participate and do the fishing in the lake as a symbol of gathering the lucky for the village. The more fish every fisher caught, the luckier the fisher would be and as well as his sub-village, the local villager told me.  However, the fish that have been caught are not allowed to be taken to the home and should be returned back to the lake as the fish are considered by the Lianain as sacred entities and they are the spiritual owner of the lake who looks after the lake and maintains the water in the lake to continue available for the village.

During the ceremony, there will be dancing and singing in traditional ways such as Dahur (dancing and singing together in the group) and Tebe (rhythmical step dancing with traditional acoustic drum instruments called  Babadok)  where everyone can enjoy the festivity.

VZ, Aileu, 2013