How to de-sex a dog in Dili

I was at my aunt's house in the south of Dili when I notticed one of her neighbour's dogs had a badly swollen testicle. As I looked closer I notticed that the end of the dog's scrotum was tied up tightly with a rubber band. As it turned out, this dog has been enduring this treatment for nearly two days, and this is how to de-sex a dog, at least in this part of Dili. A couple of days later, the dog's scrotum popped and his testicles fell off, literally. I wouldn't recommend this kind of operation for any dog or animal anywhere in the world. It's best to leave this kind of operations for the vets. As for the dogs and other animals in Dili: vets needed.

Yes. The Dili traffic lights are not the best new addition to the already chaotic traffic. But worse still are the malaes who disrespect road rules by not stopping when it's red, when there is a STOP sign, failing to give way, driving on the wrong side of the road, driving against traffic direction, driving while drinking alcohol, driving in excess of the allowable speed limit and parking their 4x4s wherever they please. If the malaes respected the road traffic rules as they would in their own countries, maybe the local motorists can get a little inspiration and make Dili traffic a bit better and safer.

Timor-Leste or?...

In early 1999 when the political development in Timor-Leste was
gearing up towards the referendum, a friend and I were working
together to design a pamphlet calling for a rally in support of the
East Timorese independence movement. A disagreement suddenly came
upon us two on how the name Timor-Leste should be written in English.
I said East-Timor and he disagreed. He said East Timor, without the
dash in between the two words. I argued, the East Timorese resistance
movement has adopted the official name for what used to be Portuguese
Timor and it is Timor-Leste, with the dash in the middle of the two
words. Therefore and English translation should also carry the dash.
He countered my argument saying that there is no such thing in
English as writing a name composed of any two words with a dash to
connect them. I thought his argument was a bit unconvincing,
nevertheless I caved in. He was much older than me and he was
completing his PhD in some political science at some prestigious
university in Melbourne. I said "OK. You are right. I trust you." But
deep inside me I held out to my conviction. I just couldn't find the
right argument to defend my choice. Years later this episode came
back to me. "Heck. It is my country and I have the sole right to name
my own country and you should respect the name I give to my country
and the way I want my country to be called wether it be caled in
English, in French, in German or in Chinse" I thought lately. This is
what I should have said to him years ago when we sat down together to
design that pamphlet. I know. This is a very trivial debate and a
complete waste of time. It was just a pamphlet to get people to come
to a rally in support of the East Timorese independence movement,
which is more important than whether a name should carry a dash or
not. As for the rally, it turned out be very successful. It was part
of smaller rallies which culminated in the massive one that took
place following the referendum.

In the recent weeks the same discussion came up again. I wrote
something on this blog on how this country formerly know as
Portuguese Timor should be called. I said it must be called Timor-
Leste, its official name, whether one is speaking in English, French
or German. But some readers responded in disagreement by pointing to
examples from various other countries. A favourite of mine to choose
from the examples they provided are the names for countries like
Poland, which in Polish it is actually called Polska, in Portuguese
is is actually caled Polonia, in English, it is Poland, etc. Germany
is actually another very good example. In German it is actually
called Deutschland, in English, Germany and in Portuguese Alemanha. I
wonder if the Chinese have their own name or if they use the English
name? Or just use Deutschland like the Germans? I freely admit that
these examples are quite convincing. Why should everyone use Timor-
Leste? They can just call it whatever they want to call it depending
on the language that they speak. Timor-Leste in Timor-Leste, East
Timor in English, Timor Est(?) in French, etc.

But why? What is so hard about saying Timor-Leste? Is it a question
not being able to work one's tongue around this short collection of
vowels and consonants? Or is it aesthetics? That English or French
must be so pure that any non-English name must be Anglicised? Don't
we have the right to have the names of our countries written in the
way that we want it to be written? José has not become Joseph, etc.
João has not become John, Jean or Hans. Maria has not become Mary or
Marie. Why not Timor-Leste?

Lorosae V Loromonu

During the crisis last year which nearly paralysed Timor-Leste, a couple of Tetum words became a prominent feature in many people's attempt to explain the root causes of that crisis. They are lorosae and loromonu, literally sunrise and sunset, meaning east and west respectively. Somehow Timor-Leste, already a half-island occupying the easter half of Timor with the rest forming part of Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara, became a country with two main ethnic rivals, the Easterners and the Westerners. Although as an East Timorese I have always been aware of this "division" and have often referred to those coming from the eastern half of Timor-Leste as an easterner and the other half as westerners, it never crossed my mind this dichotomy would one day translate into such a depth dividing the East Timorese into two ethnicities which is only as relevant as speaking about a Sydneysider and a Melbournian.

For me the use of the words lorosae/loromonu is no different to saying, Shinzo Abe and Manmohan Singh are Asians and Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo are Africans. The use of these tags has no connection with anyone's cultural or ethnic inherence. Actually if you lived in Dili, this lorosae/loromonu tags don't even apply to you, an interesting point which will help me explain how these words came to be used the way they are. It is arguable in my opinion that the Dili residents, to a large extent the Dili elites, are responsible for introducing the new meaning and use of the terms lorosae and loromonu.

But how did the East Timorese begin to employ these tags to label each other the way they do? I think the answer lays in the way Timor-Leste is shaped geographically. It is a long half island with Dili situated right at the centre. As we all know, Dili as the capital of Portuguese Timor was the centre of colonial and religious administration, trade, education, etc. People from all over Portuguese Timor would have flocked to Dili regularly to deal with each other as it was also the most central location in that half island. Although I would not attempt to guess what someone from Lospalos would call his brethren from Baucau to Maliana, I would suspect that to Dili residents it would not have been too difficult to refer to the outsiders in a most simplistic way. Those coming from east of Dili are lorosae or Easterners and those from west of Dil are loromonu, Westerners. To the east of Dili are the areas of Manatuto until Lospalos, to the west, the rest. So the east/west division took shape and became an essential part of Tetum vocabulary and of its use.

I don't know if there is any recognisable trait in the East Timorese population that would make it possible to describe someone as a typical lorosae or loromonu. Although if you speak to an East Timorese they would say that someone from Lospalos is typically tall, fair skinned, etc. In my experience this is nothing more than a popular myth. If you put two East Timorese together there is no way of knowing who is from where. In fact you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between any two population from different islands in the Lesser Sunda. An East Timorese look no different from a West Timorese or a Florinese or a Wetarese. To add this is the fact that the East Timorese population has also taken on the genes imported from Portugal, Africa, India, China and Indonesia and lately Australians.

Linguistically, it is more relevant and will go on to contradict this supposed ethnic divide. The languages spoken in Timor-Leste is divided into two main language families, the Austronesian and the Papuan. The Papuan family includes the languages of Fataluco, Makasa'e, Makalero and Bunak of Lospalos, Baucau/Viqueque regions, Iliomar (a sub-district of Lospalos) and Bobonaro respectively. The rest of the languages belong to the Austronesian family. To the east of Dili you have Austronesian language speakers coexisting with the Papuan speakers side by side. In Baucau and Viqueque districts, there is a large population of Austronesian speakers (the Kawaimina languages and Tetum). In fact the main language in Viqueque is Tetum Terik of which Tetum Dili is derived from. To the west of Dili you have the Bunak speakers, a Papuan language enclave surrounded by Austronesian speakers.

So if there were to be any division at all like an ethnic division, the existing linguistic differences in Timor-Leste would present a more tangible point for which anyone can turn it into a rallying point. Maybe something like the Papuan speakers against the Austronesian speakers? But in Timor-Leste you just don't find any sign of any division of this kind. Bobonaro is a district made up of Kemak and Bunak speakers while Ermera is composed of Mambae and Kemak. Yet the Kemak speakers would say that they are either from Ermera or Bobonaro. The same goes for the Makasa'e speakers of Viqueque and Baucau. Therefore when we take a closer look into how the simple lorosae/loromonu tags could have caused such a deep crisis which threatened to plunge the country into an irreversible cycle of violence, it can only leave us with a conclusion that indeed this crisis has nothing to do with ethnicity. The cause is something else.

One other thing worth noting is also the fact that lorosae/loromony is not the only contrasting tags in circulation in Timor-Leste. If you speak to the Dili residents, in particular those who have always lived there until 1999, they would talk about the influx of ema foho into Dili. Dili residents regard themselves as ema Dili in contrast to ema foho, meaning those who come from the mountains. Ema foho connotes the traits supposedly associated with these mountain people such as being uncivilised, illiterate, backward, etc. Today's Dili residents admit privately that after 1999 events, as these ema foho settled in Dili, this town has degenerated. Many even suggest that the only solution would be to send them all back to their villages in foho (mountain, rural area). And of course another notorius one is the firaku/kaladi pair. But for this I will need to write a different entry altogether and hopefully soon.

In general almost every district or every linguistic region has their own tags which stereotype them. The Maubisse are known as fehukropa, the Tetum name for potato. Maybe this is due to the amount of potato grown in this place. But being called a potato is not a compliment however. Potatoes age grown by peasants who are perceived as illiterates, backward and uncivilised, so that to be associated with a potato is to be associated with these qualities. The Atsabe people are referred to as lipadois or smelly sarong. I don't know why. The Bobonaro people are called kudaulun or horse thieves. The Makasae people are known as masters, the Bahasa abbreviation for mahasiswa terminal meaning bus station university students. It is said that the Makasa'e youths tend to mill around at the bust terminals which also doubles as their "school." The Makassa'e people are also called muturabu. It is a Makasa'e word that describes anyone with violent tendency. Interestingly there is no such tag reserved for Dili residents.


For those of you (usually Anglophones) who keep saying "thimolesht" or "tximolesht," if you cannot work your tongue around the correct pronunciation, then try this:

Ti as in tea
mor as in Morgan
Les as in less
te as in terrible

And yes, I know that the Lusophones sort of swallow some of their vowels and have their own pronunciations so that when they say Timor-Leste, it actually sounds "timórlesht." But, unless if you are a Lusophone, it kind of doesn't sound good. So try to say it the way the East Timorese say it, that's my opinion.

Still, there are also some people who write Timor-Leste in a most peculiar way like Timor-L'Est or even Timor le Este. I don't know how or where they got his from. The correct way is of course Timor-Leste, with the dash in between and everything. The rest is just not on.

...teen is not a compliment

In Tetum, any word than ends with "teen" (read it as in number 10),
in most circumstances denotes a vice. On its own, "teen" means
excrement, leftovers or waste. Any adjective that ends with "teen" is
not a compliment.

baruk (to be lazy): barukteen - lazy person

naok (to steal): naokteen - thief

karak (selfish): karakteen - greedy

beik (dumb): beikteen - stupid

tolok (to swear): tolokteen - someone whose every second word is an

kaan (to want): kaanteen - greedy, glutton

tabaku (tobacco, cigarette): tabakuteen - smoker

tua (wine): tuateen - alcoholic

lanu (to be drunk): lanuteen - drunkard

nakar (to be naughty): nakarteen - naughty

hirus (to be upset): hirusteen - someone who is always upset

tanis (to cry): tanisteen - crybaby

dukur (sleepy): dukurteen - sleepyhead

Timor-Leste = The official name of the country. Remember Burma? Now
it is called Myanmar. Portuguese Timor was replaced with Timor-Leste
after the country was unilaterally proclaimed independente by
Fretilin. In 2002, the Constituent Assembly restored Timor-Leste to
be the official name of the country. This is the name of the country
whether if you want to write in French, English or German.

East Timor = The unofficial English name.

Timor Lorosa'e = The unofficial East Timorese (Tetum) name.

Timor Timur = The official name of Timor-Leste when it was still
Indonesia's 27th province.


A friend of mine asked me what it meant when her East Timorese
adopted family referred to her as "ferik" (old woman). And here is
my response.

NOTE: here "they" means the East Timorese.

Situation 1:

* You fit the category of a "ferik" if you look like and old woman,
meaning you have grey hair.

* You have grandchildren and you have told them that you do.

* You are a "ferik" even by your own definition.

They would class you as "ferik." Sometimes they also say "nia ferik
ona" meaning she is old.

Situation 2:

If you have a good relationship with them, they may refer to you as
"avó" (or "abó") and sometimes call you "avó Jeanette," say. If so,
bring the children lollies next time you see them.

If your relationship with them is so-so, then the adults would refer
to you as ferik and maybe their children would call you "avó" out of
respect. But if you are in bad terms with them, they would refer to
you as ferik, specially in heated arguments.

Sometimes you will not know that there are problems with your host
family because the Timorese tend to avoid direct confrontations. A
sign for this is that they refer to you as ferik behind your back but
as avó or mana in front of you. If they do it in passing, or near
your ears, then they are trying to make it obvious.

Situation 3:

You don't fit the above category and you look young. You may even
have children in their late teens or older. Usually they call you
"tia" (auntie) or mana.

You are in good terms with them and they accept you as a good friend
or even part of the family -- a sign of this is that they take you
along to visit their families, to their weddings, and other family
occasions -- if they call you ferik, then they are just having a
relaxed time with you.

If you are not in good terms with them and they call you "ferik,"
then they are being rude to you, whether they are saying it in front
of you or behind you. If they said it in a way that you can hear but
not to you, then they are trying to make it obvious that they have
issues against you.

Timor is a patriarchal society so the usage of ferik and katuas also
differ. For men, if you are with a friend who is obviously older than
you, it is ok to refer to the older man as a katuas, in fact it is a
sign of respect. For women, calling your older peer ferik is
insulting, unless if it is established that the person referred to is
indeed a ferik, in age and in having grown up grandchildren. Still,
it is not polite. Avó or avó-feto is acceptable. When I was much
younger, I was not allowed to refer to anyone as "ferik" or I'll get
in trouble.

Obrigadu or Obrigada?

In Tetum, the word "thank you" has a feminine and a masculine form.
The word is borrowed from Portuguese "obrigado." Men say "obrigadu"
and women "obrigada. But be warned. While it is OK for a woman to say
"obrigadu," it is NOT OK for a man to say "obrigada." Never! Or you
can do so at your risk of being ridiculed.


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