I relate these 2 stories as told and have no doubt they are true.

The first concerns an expat who lost his mobile phone, presumed stolen.

At the time, he was amongst a group of Timorese and he really wanted his phone back. One of the Timorese told him to see the local witchdoctor (matan do’ok), so he did. After a few minutes of wailing and eye fluttering, the witchdoctor told him the name and address of the person who had his phone.

In order to flush the thief out, the witchdoctor organised a little ceremony with all the people who were in the vicinity at the time of the theft. In what seems to be a standard ritual, all present were required to hold a burning candle and swear that he or she did not steal the phone.

The thief trembled and shook but still managed to go through the pledge, but shortly after returned the phone.

The second concerns the Com resort which is about 200kms east from Dili. This resort pipes water in from the hills a few kilometres away but on a regular basis, experienced cuts to its water supply. Some local people objected to this resort in their area and had taken to destroying the pipe and at one point, the resort was forced to close.

The resort turned to the local witchdoctor. I don’t know if money changed hands (although I presume it did), but the doc conducted a little ceremony involving a small wooden coffin the size of your hand. According to his incantations, anyone who destroyed the pipe would die and shrivel up to fit into this coffin.

They never had water problems again.


It has already been driven home that Dili is a small town from an expat point of view. The reality is that most expats operate at significantly higher standards of living and incomes than do local Timorese. As a natural consequence, one tends to share similar experiences with accommodation, restaurants, shopping locations etc.

There seem to be about 10 restaurants frequented by expats on a regular basis. And although there are a number of others, food safety concerns tend to limit the patronage outside these ten.

As for your typical supermarket shopping, if you are after the one stop food shopping experience, you are limited to a handful of supermarkets which stock Australian, Indonesian or Chinese sourced stuff.

So whenever you go out to do any of this stuff, one invariably meets someone you know or will know sometime in the future.

And I can now say that I know 2 people (of the 20 on board) who were on our incoming flight from Darwin.

But perhaps the scariest moment was when someone who I met for the first time yesterday said “I hear that you are having problems with your house … I heard that the shower cubicle is so small, you can’t bend down to pick up the soap”.

I was speechless. I had made the (sarcastic but true) soap comment to someone quite far removed from the speaker above. Note to file : don’t gossip in Dili.