Arrival Day

There are 2 main ways to get to Dili from OZ. One is via Bali and the second is via AirNorth from Darwin, which was our chosen option.

AirNorth operate a ~25 seater Embrauer twin-prop plane. Cabin space is much tighter than your typical jet so cabin baggage is also limited. Clearly there had been some sort of dispute at the check-in over cabin baggage and one argumentative sod had clearly defied instruction not to take his huge sports bag into the cabin. He spent 15 minutes removing stuff from his bag in the aisle while overlooked by 2 unhappy hostesses.

I attempted to alleviate the tension (and delay) by listening to my portable music player. I didn’t notice the hostess come over and start giving instructions to those sitting near the wing emergency exit. She castigated me for not listening and went on to ask if we were prepared to remain sitting here and if necessary, unlatch and eject the emergency door. As I was sitting next to the emergency door, I think she meant me. However, I missed the bit about doing it “on her instruction”.

The flight was uneventful. Cabin service included free noise, a beer, peanuts, crisps, a piece of cake and a Mars Bar. Nothing much for the health freak, I’m afraid.

It was clear blue skies all the way until we actually reached the island of Timor. It was encased in dark brooding clouds and we wended our way through gaps over pretty rugged terrain to Comorro Airport on the other side. It had been raining and was still raining lightly, but it was surprisingly cool.

The customs and immigration procedure was near non-existent and no specific security procedures were evident (compared to the usual high security rig-ma-role elsewhere). A vehicle was waiting on arrival to take us to the Hotel Timor.

The 10 minute drive took us through a very rural scene but in the urban area of Dili. The rain didn’t actually make it look that comfortable out there.

The Tetun Minefield

Now that the end of formal Tetun approaches, one can reflect on some of the forthcoming issues.

Firstly, not everyone in Timor Leste speaks Tetun. There are about 33 different languages. Tetun is but one of them. Although it is spoken in a number of areas, there are many local variations and local accents which may make it appear different anyway.

Tetun also comes in a number of forms – Tetun Prasa (also known as Tetun Dili and Tetun Franca), Tetun Terik, Tetun Loos and Tetun Classic. It is for another day to ponder the similarities and differences between them. At this stage, it is fair to assume that although there is a familiar core, there are differences in both vocabulary and grammar.

While Tetun Terik, Tetun Loos and Tetun Classic use pure Tetun words, Tetun Prasa includes a liberal spray of Portuguese and Indonesian. And just to complete the spray, it appears it is up to the speaker to decide just how much of these other 2 languages to include. As a student with little Portuguese or Indonesian knowledge, this can be confusing.

Although it could be said that Tetun is fairly easy to learn, it does suffer from a lack of high quality learning materials and a lack of freely available written material to supplement this. There is only 1 Tetun news source on the internet and we have used this in class as study material. It takes about 5 seconds to realise that the standard of Tetun is not high, with a casual regard to grammar, spelling and amount of Portuguese or Indonesian spray.

As for other texts available for reading, there is the Timor-Leste Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bible. Choices, choices … not.

Me thinks that Tetun will not have made it until Herge’s Adventures of TinTin is published in pure Tetun.