Saturday, July 28, 2007


just returned from a brief interview trip to oecussi, an enclave district of east timor tucked away in the middle of indonesia's west timor. the only way to get there (unless you are UN staff with access to exclusive helicopters) is a twice-weekly, overnight ferry from dili. the trip there is an adventure in itself - picking a path through a human patchwork of sleeping bodies...under the moonlight...on a rocking boat...poses quite a challenge!

throngs of people crowding their way into the ferry as the tide comes in.

a few passengers waiting at the ferry port against the mountainous backdrop of pante macassar, the capital of oecussi.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

::[need for speed]::

at the enthusiastic behest of several friends who have been rallying for this photo, i am finally giving in. i hereby present you with a picture of me on the motorbike that i've rented to get around dili during my time in east timor. i have to admit that i get a real kick out of scooting around the city on my new wheels. still, at every turn, i await the inevitable First Big Spill, which simply has to happen, given both my luck and the general non-observance of traffic regulations in this country. so, even though it is ninety degrees out here, i always ride around in full-length jeans and a sweatshirt like a paranoid eskimo. i've dressed down a little for this racy pinup, however. enjoy...

Monday, July 23, 2007


while disturbances happen pretty regularly during dili nights, they are mostly limited to isolated rock throwing and fights. last night however, things stepped up a bit. my housemates and i were eating dinner when we heard a few minutes of gunfire rattling off. pretty soon after, the security forces rolled out; armored personnel carriers thundered by our house, and unlit helicopters started roaming the skies to conduct some night vision recon. when we went up to the balcony for a peek, we could see an enormous plume of glowing smoke coming from a few blocks away. it turns out that gangs had been setting fire to houses, tires, and even the australian helipad and military base. the peacekeepers eventually had to use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse everyone. things didn't quiet down until the morning, but are pretty much back to normal now. let's hope they stay that way. for more about last night and its context, check out this article in the international herald.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


now, a geography lesson! unlike the rest of the islands in its archipelago, east timor is not volcanic, but rather a product of the battling asian and australian tectonic plates. it is literally the border between the two continents. east timor's topography is characterized by long, high mountain ranges crossing the middle of the island. over 44% of the country slopes at more than a 40 degree angle! east timor boasts of beaches, sandalwood stands and teak forests, hot springs, waterfalls, a landmark cristo rei statue, crocodile lagoons, and traditional architecture...for some examples, see below!

a traditional house perched on a ledge in the mountainous inner regions of the island.

the village of kaikua, near the seashore, where we visited and interviewed a former legal aid client.

sunrise over the cristo rei statue - a statue of jesus much like the ones in brazil and portugal (east timor is a former portuguese colony). you can see the statue's distant silhouette on the leftmost peak of the peninsula - there! this shot was taken from the beach in front of my house...

Friday, July 20, 2007


over the past couple weeks, i've been holding interviews in various offices and verandas throughout the eastern districts. did you know: the word "timor" bears a close resemblance to the indonesian word for "east" (i.e. "timur"). which means that the name "east timor" in bahasa sounds very much like "east-east". this, in turn, means that visiting the eastern districts of east-east is about as far in that direction as i can go, i figure.

anyway, here are some portraits of the people i have come across during my trips...

men dressed in timorese tais taking a rest near maubisse.

a girl peeks out of her house in baucau, east timor's second largest city.

waiting patiently along the road for a ride in the afternoon sun.

these kids couldn't wait to have a photo snapped of them! they live in the village of behali, in manatuto district.

Friday, July 13, 2007

::[east timor]::

riding in from the airport on the asia foundation truck.

so i finally arrived in east timor and am settling into the rhythm of life here. the island is astonishingly beautiful, with its crown of green mountains fringed with white sand beaches. time seems to run in slow motion because of the bright and striking heat. the city itself is pretty diffuse: cement buildings interrupted by dusty lots, strands of magenta flowers or palm tree clusters, and the occasional IDP camp. last year's crisis generated upwards of 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), most of whom are still occupying makeshift tents strung up in clusters throughout the city.

a dili street.

an idp camp near my home.

i've been using these past few days to catch up on east timorese current events and learn about how the asia foundation (TAF) operates in-country. for the remainder of my time here, i will be visiting TAF's legal aid partners throughout the country and interviewing former clients, in hopes of gaining insight into their experiences, their problems, and the impact that legal or mediation assistance has had on their lives.

gety, the asia foundation's lead program officer, translated my first interview with rozinda, a lawyer working at the dili-based legal aid clinic Lembuaga Bantuan Hukum Ukun Rasik An.

the sun sets over timor-leste...

on my first day here, i dropped by a beach outside of dili, where i saw the clearest, most brilliant sunset of my life: molten gold pouring down the horizon into a gentle, silver sea. i was kicking myself for having forgotten my camera in my jetlagged state, so the next day, i went back to the beach, only to come across a completely different kind of sunset. The tide was out, the sea was still, and the sun washed the entire sky in an incandescent red. i'm looking forward to enjoying many new and different skies during the next couple months...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

::[airport tour '07]::

five planes, four layovers, and 64 hours - that's what it takes to get from guatemala to east timor. i left for the guatemalan airport at 4am friday morning, and arrived in dili on monday at noon. the only thing that kept me sane during the long and exhausting journey was a personal project i had invented to distract myself: a little photoessay of airports of the world! it turns out that airports are actually quite compelling when you are exploring them with a purpose. i ended up with quite a few interesting images...here are just a few to give you a sense of my trip.

top to bottom, left to right: tokyo narita airport, japan; lobato airport, east timor; la aurora airport, guatemala; singapore changi airport, singapore; tokyo narita; la aurora; ngurah rai airport, bali, indonesia; los angeles international airport (LAX), united states; tokyo narita; la aurora; LAX.

Friday, July 06, 2007


No sé que extraña flor
es mi corazón.

Echa raíces
de la tarde a la mañana,
en cada despedida
hay que arrancarlo

y cómo duele.

Humberto Ak'abal
Poeta Maya K'iche