#3 Cheese

March 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Living in a third world country, the expat feels a sense of strong moral superiority in the sacrificing of certain luxury items that are difficult or expensive to purchase in Timor Leste. The lack of certain goods from their origin countries makes the development experience more authentic for the expat and fills them with a sense of great achievement (perhaps otherwise lacking in their actual job). Development requires the struggle and restraint of going without….. One can not adequately occupy a space of giving selflessly to a community or ridding ones self of priveledge without personal hardship. Therefore the expat subconsciously feels sated by feelings that great change requires great work and suffering. One of the great sufferings experienced by the malai in Timor is the lack of cheese.

Pictured: Suffering

Cheese fulfills some primordial necessities in the modern expat worker in Timor that will inspire them to spend over 15 dollars on a block of small shitty black and gold cheese or an entire conversation boring another expat about how much they miss their certain upper-middle class brand of specially aged gorgonzola. Often trips to the big 2 supermarkets can erupt into a small panic when word gets out about a rogue shipment of haIoumi has found it’s way into the Leader dairy section and expats will scramble over each other to get a sweet slice of lactose before its gone.


"I would give my bebonuk security guard's salary for a sweet slice of you right now"

In fact the average expat is so obsessed by the lack of cheese in Timor they will jealously goad each other about their ability to eat cheese when on vacation leave to their home country. Any presumed reconnection with family or lovers is forgotten in the assumption that the expat is actually returning solely to eat cheese. Bribes will be made, promises of lifts to the airport, even vague hints of greater organizational liaisons or funding will be offered in order to secure a piece of cheese transported back into Timor.

Obtaining portions can be a great source of pride amongst certain expats who will metaphorically hold their cheese high like a trophy in conversation, subtly dropping hints of their cheese connections. This in the expat’s eye raises his or her standing as they are now in a greater political space of cheese power.

The height of cheese power

More often than not the expat is oft reduced to buying plastic cheese, such as Kraft singles, particularly if the ex-pat is living outside of Dili. This is a great source of shame and frustration for the malai and they will vehemently and loudly talk about their current disappointment with having only plastic cheese to offer other expats. This is usually followed by a 10 min polemic about their favourite cheeses in order to impress on the other malai that they are not some general plastic cheese eating riff-raff, but fenced in by the development constraints of a nation only now beginning to get back on it’s feet and yet to develop it’s own cheese industry. If the visiting malai is wise they will quickly accept the offer of plastic cheese and change topic or otherwise be subject to a lengthy pontification about the development opportunities of cheese production and upland dairy farming in Timor Leste.

future of cheese

The Future of Timorese Cheese Production



§ One Response to #3 Cheese

  • Ken Westmoreland says:

    Oh the irony! In a place where people disagree over whether to use Tetum, Portuguese or Indonesian, one thing that in all three languages, it sounds the same – keiju, queijo, keju…. and that it’s overpriced and of poor quality. Seeing as the Portuguese introduced it (or at least the word for it) maybe they could help out!

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