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Weltreise 2007

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One Island and two countries
12. December 2007, Ingo Froeschmann. The differences could not be bigger. The western half of the island of Timor is a remote part of the biggest island nation on earth. The eastern half of Timor is a newly independent country. East-Timor is struggling with the problems of nation building since 2002.

Ingo und Begleitung in Com! vergroessern (Source: Ingo)

I took the PELNI boat “Awu”, despite its length of 99m rather cramped, from the city of ENde on the island of Flores to Kupang in West-Timor. The situation on board was not quite as bad as one might expect it from Indonesian ferries. To this moment I had only heard of Indonesian ferries that had already sunk. It was a sunny day during my passage.

But try to imagine my surprise, when this massive ferry entered the harbour area and instead of docking at the quay it anchored out in the bay. The draught of the ferry is too large. So an estimated 600 passengers had to get into small boats to get out to the ferry. The whole thing was quite a show, worthy of being shown in a circus as passengers crawl over each other to get good positions in the boats. The next surprise was the so-called cabins. I travelled economy class and cabin here means a massive dormitory-like hall. It resembles a refugee camp in East-Timor, only without the tents. Laundry is being dried while mothers breastfeed their children while their older siblings carefully edge closer to the rather pale foreigner in their midle. As there is no other place to get away from that mayhem, I spend most of the time outside on the upper deck.I check out the Bioskop (the cinema), but they show soft porn movies. Especially crass is the fact, that the cinema is next to the Musholla, the prayer hall. That's how relaxed the Indonesians are about their religion.

West Timor is clearly part ofIndonesia. Thee is a local language and dialect, but the lingua franca is definitely Bahasa Indonesia and I have no difficulties to use it. In Kupang, the biggest city in West Timor there are a few people who speak limited English, but that completely stops in the smaller villages.On the way to East Timor I stay in Soa and Atambua, two small mountain towns and there I am the only tourist in town which makes me instantly famous. Everyone shouts "Hello Mister" and wants to know where I come from and where I go. I love the blunt curiosity here, especially of the young boys. There is nothing mean about them and they are definitely not after my money. Nice.

East Timor is totally different. The country is just coming out of 400 years of colonial rule and some moght argue that it still is under colonial rule, now being disguised as a UN mission.At first the Portuguese ruled this half of the island and not the Dutch, which explains why it is predominantly catholic. The Portuguese left in the early 1970s andd the Indonesians added East Timor as their 27th province. They did built up an infrastructure, something the Portuguese never did, but they also suppressed the population. UNder international pressure the Indonesian army had to leave in 1999, not without destroying much of the infrastructure and housing. Ever since then many people live in tent camps in the middle of the capital and it seems that they are going to stay there for a while.

The refugee camps are cnters of unrest for two reasons. First there are various political factions fighting each other, usually on the street and with primitive weapons and rocks, which is why those events are called rock concerts.They don't happen all the time though and while I was there things were quite peaceful.

The second reason for unrest is the aid itself that is being delivered by the UN organisations. Refugees in the camps are being provided with shelter, food, water and healthcare so the pressure to leave the camp is actually quite low. On the contrary, the camp dwellers sometimes actively see to it, that they can not leave the camp. They simply burn down new housing developments. That leaves UN organisations in a catch 22 situation. If they stop delivering aid there will be unrest, if they continue to deliver aid, they might have to do it for a long time.

My personalopinion is, that it does not work. After dark the streets are deserted, there are no taxis because the drivers are afraid of people throwing rocks. During the day the UN police drives areound the city in big and shiny white cars. The streets of Dili are so dirty that they must wash them every day. At the same thime there is not always running water in my hostel. My feeling is, that if you are rich and you come to a poor country to help the people, you should treat them with respect. Driving around fast in luxury cars will be perceived as arrogant. And it is also dangerous. An Australian police officer confirms that when he says, that at least one UN car is involved in an accident almost every single day.

Compared to West Timor, people in East Timor respopnd very differently to foreigners. The ocals are not curious and open like Indonesians, but rather closed and indifferent. To be fair, if you have 10 000 foreigners running around in your 200 000 people capital, foreigners are nothing new. The girls in my hostel are friendly, but they are totally hysteric and irresponsible. One of them got a car key from a UN policeman she was flirting with and drove to a restaurant to get soem food. She has no driving licence and she hit a motorcyclist. Not much happened and she only had to pay 10 dollars. Had she killed the guy she might have lost her life, unless she paid 1000 US dollars.

I hope the country finds a way out of this vicious cycle. Financial help is coming from Australia, which transfers one million dollar every day in compensation for a possibly Timorese oilfield that Australia is exploiting. The money is in the bank and the interest is the government's budget. It can ot be that much. Back in March the governemnt had to lay off 600 policemen because of financial problems. In turn they went straight onto the street to cause trouble.

Shortly before I left I got invited to wedding with 400 guests, among them a few foreigners and the President of East Timor. There was not much to eat or drink, but the bride and groom were beautifully dressed and sat on a stage, while almost everyone else danced. After every song the dancefloor emptied and everyone sat down, only to lump up again a second later to find a new dance partner. Quite a show!
Quelle: Ingo zur Übersicht...

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Com, East Timor!

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Copyright 2004-2006 Raumfahrt24.de Blog für unsere Weltreise 2007 Herausgeber: Lilian & Ingo