#7 Talking About Road Conditions

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Expats in Timor will freely admit that they take a lot for granted back home…broad band internet, 24 hour power, convenient access to developments in fast food indulgence that cross the line between merely inedible and new levels of disgusting obesity (link)… A few weeks in Timor puts in perspective the trials and tribulations that residents deal with on a daily basis. One thing that drives expats to prolonged bouts of ranting and contemplation, is the condition of roads.

And the lack of sweet jumps to take your bike off

Expats love talking about the conditions of roads in Timor. Their deteriorating form emphasizes the challenges of accessing development programs or re-enforces the lack of government culpability depending on the expat’s outlook. The attention demanded by them because of their ever-changing nature  through paths of least resistance, give the malai access to a view of the malleability of environments and provide avenues for contemplation at the contstant interruption of an expected continuous free-flow of movement. It also gives the malai reason to swear venomously at the Avril Lavigne microlet that won’t let them pass at the Cathedral road works.

"You Shall Rue the Day!"

Although the expat enjoys the ever changing nature of Dili’s road work, the real thrill experienced by expats, is in the districts. Most journeys out into the districts with a car exhausted of conversation or Bon Jovi CDs will be broken by a passing comment on the current state of the road. The road becomes all encompassing and dominates the enjoyment of the trip. Smoothness, speed, safety… even time restricted in a car with a snoring workmate are all at the whims of THE ROAD. In fact, one of the first phrases a malai learns after arriving in Timor Leste is “Estrada at”. Whole 5 hour journeys will be made with a Timorese driver that consist of nothing but this phrase and a grave shaking of the head. The driver will respond by affirming this strikingly insightful observation before the expat sinks back into the uncomfortable hum of the bitumen beneath the tires.

"You say the road is broken? How very perceptive of you."

Roads are also of course the conduit that ferries malais and their vehicles into the interior of Timor for recreation. Malai will frequently take weekend trips out to the districts, but scarcely a word will be uttered about the outstanding remote beauty of the area visited before a lengthy bragging session about the deplorable state of the remote road they traversed is begun. The nastier the road or the more perilous the river crossing, the greater the points scored in the expats mind.   This is often linked to development worker subconious ideas of suffering in foreign landscape linked to a greater amount of good will achieved. Hence the expat over time will begin to embellish the state of a road driven by them until it reaches the equivalent of pakour obstacle course by the time they have returned to their own country.

Expat's self perception of driving conditions in Timor

Often malai do not feel that this can be conveyed adequately enough in words, and so evidence of how truly adventurous they are will be collected in the form of 100s of photos showing the state of road disrepair. This collection of photos will sometimes prove more numerous than photos of anything else from this journey but serve to prove to other malais how much more “engaged” they are with “real Timorese”.


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