Imagine Portugal is having a family reunion Brazilians dominating the conversation… Angola and Mozambique are off in the corner.. And Cape Verde is joking around with São Tomé and Principé Then some random Asian dude walks wearing a scarf, holding a guitar and chewing on a betel nut. Welcome to the party, East Timor! [It’s time to learn Geography, NOW!] Hey everybody I’m your host Barby. Welcome to the first ‘new’ country to enter into the 20th century East Timor is small but loaded with back-story Let’s start off with the location shall we? So first, I know technically the country is called Timor-Leste but just keep in mind the word Timor is derived from the Indo-Malay word for East So, when you say it that way country’s name is actually “East-East” However if you really want to get in semantics use the native Tetum name for East Timor; “Timor Lorosa-e” Which means: ‘The Rising Sun of the East” OK! So first of all East Timor is located in South East Asia occupying the Eastern portion of the largest and Eastern most island in the Lesser Sunda islands Timor which they share with Indonesia right at the convergence of the Banda, Savu and Timor Sea, just a quick hop away from the northern coast of Australia Making East Timor the only Asian country to be located completely located under the Equator In addition to the east side they also occupy the Oe-cussi municipality which is an ENCLAVE surrounded by Indonesia’s half of the Timor Island The country also contains the islands of Atauro and Jaco The country is divided into 13 municipalities with the capital and largest port Dili located on the North-Eastern part of the country. Back to Oeucussi, you might be wondering why East Timor is split up this way? And why they even have an exclave? Or why they occupy the East side, like wouldn’t it be easier if they just controlled the entire Island of Timor? In the simplest way I can put it, Portugal came, but then the Dutch came, they drew lines and the Dutch were like: BYE! and then Indonesia came and then Portugal was like BYE! And then things got real messed up for 2 decades until finally ‘yay’ East Timor! Dili, the capital is the hub of culture and commerce about a fifth of the entire population lives in the city and you can even see Atauro Island from a distance The country has 8 main commercial airports mostly operating flights between Australia, Indonesia and Singapore. And although Dili has a nice sea-port, there are no international commercial cruises that dock anywhere in the country, only freight vessels and private recreational boats are allowed in. As one of the only two predominantly Christian countries in South East Asia, the other one being The Philippines, Cathedrals can be found all over, and traditional Portuguese architecture As well as the ‘Cristo Rey’, a statue of Jesus Christ on top of a hill on a peninsula overlooking the sea. Which, interestingly enough was a gift by the former Indonesian president whom was a Sunni Muslim, I guess that’s Ok to do in Indonesia.. Granted, it was the 20th anniversary gift back when East Timor was still integrated with Indonesia and it was an incredibly awkward gift, it was like: Hey East Timor, you know, it’s been like 20 years and uh, we know you’re Christians and stuff so uh here’s a Jesus statue, so, we cool? Uh, you do realise we hate being a part of you right? Oh yeah uh that thing uh, well I mean you guys were like this close to being communist back in the 70s and you know, we, we couldn’t have that so. Just 5 years ago, do you remember what happened at the graveyard in Dili? Uh uh…. Uh, but leave the statue, I kind of like it. Oh East Timor! It’s pretty funny though because even though West Timor is legislatively different the people in land are virtually identical in so many ways…. kind of. Let’s talk more about the land. East Timor has had many years of conflict but an eternity of South East Asian tropical beauty First of all, the country is predominatley mountainous with the Ramleau Mt. chain creeping across the spine of the Island from the coasts to the boarder. The highest peak, Mt. Tatamailau located just south of Dili Of course located just a few degrees south of the equator East Timor has a tropical humid climate that allows an abundance of flora and fauna to flourish in broadly forest with a rich undergrowth of shrubs and grasses Most heavily in the first conservation area The Nino Konis Santana National Park A great spot for tourists that includes a tonne of beautiful hiking spots and the largest lake Ira Lalarlo la la la… This thing There’s also home to quite a few species of mammals and birds and reptiles such as the Timor Shrew, a Yellow crested cockatoo, a Timor Green pigeon, reticulated pythons and the cuscus Not to be confused with couscous, although to be honest I really can’t tell the difference just, wow the similarities. Deforestation has been a huge problem in the past though to clear way for farms and on top of that, the island is subject to earthquakes and cyclones and tsunamis But thankfully no volcanoes! Nope that will be in the next episode! Economically, East Timor is really kind of struggling I mean they rank pretty low on the GDP Index and they have a heavily dependent market economy driving by coffee, oil and sandalwood Since independence, oil has made up most of the national budget in return earning them the title given by the IMF as the most oil dependent country in the world. However it’s weird because it’s located in the Timor Gap, a spot that’s kind of disputed with Australia. it was kind of awkward because it was like: Alright! We found a tonne of oil! Let’s start drilling! But it’s closer to me though! Oh ey uh hey East Timor didn’t quite see you there uh Uh, I’m kind of in a bit of a struggle Uh maybe we can share it! Great! I’m on it! Let’s go! Coffee is a huge commodity out here, typically it’s exported dried, organic and unroasted About 46,000 coffee farms exist in the country employing about a fifth of the entire country’s population Most people survive off of subsistence farming which can be a little nerve-racking considering that East Timor actually has a “hungry season” If there isn’t enough rain, they usually have to resort to Akar the plan B staple; made of dry palm bark, beaten into powder, mixed with water and cooked over fire. Otherwise East Timor’s cuisine can actually be quite scrumptious unlike other islands in the area, the East Timorians have a cooking style influenced by the Portuguese so you see more ingredients like corn and pork incorporated into the dishes. Remember a lot of the other Indonesian island surrounding East Timor are predominately Muslim, so you don’t find many pork dishes. Of course though, they add their own island flair with things like tamrined, coconut and capscos spice Crazy right? It’s like a mix of islander and Portuguese and a touch of South-East Asia Kind of like the people! Let’s cover that now! This is where things are gonna get a little colourful, yet mysterious First of all, the country has about 1.3 million people and is the only Portuguese speaking country, if you don’t include Macau, in Asia Ethnicity wise, it’s a little tricky to get the exact numbers because the country doesn’t really emphasise reporting social identity in their census. Almost the entire population is of Austronesian decent that’s people who are generally mixed with Malay, Polynesian heritages. The population of east Timor actually has roots closer to the aboriginal peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea than the rest of the Indonesian archipelago. Add in a pinch of possible Portuguese ancestor and voilà! you have an East Timorese person Nonetheless distinct tribes and people groups inhabit the area the largest groups to the best of calculations are the Tetum at about 10% The Mambai at around 8%, The Tukude, Galoli and Kema at 5% (each) And the rest is just kind of like a tonne of other smaller Timorese people groups and tribes. With a small population of Europeans and Hakka Chinese. Once again, those numbers are general estimates and probably not fully accurate but uh the ball part I actually contacted the East Timorese embassy in Washington DC and even they didn’t have the exact numbers. It’s that complex! *Papua New Guinea*: Just wait till you get to my episode [Laughter] The country has two official languages; Portuguese and Tetum, a native language which actually has various dialects in itself However there are over 30 regional languages and dialects spoken throughout the country Till this day, Indonesian is considered a “work language” whereas English is just starting to make its debut considering how much business potential lies in English speakers Speaking of which East Timor uses the US dollar as its currency, they do have their own centavo coins, however those coins are actually meant it in Portugal Culture wise, East Timor is kind of like a vibrant blend of Islander, Portuguese and Indo-Malay influences. You can see Islander rituals, clothing, dance and handicrafts all over that are unique to the Timorese people. Ok, now this is where things can get a little confusing, let’s talk a little about West Timor West Timorese people have some similarities yet there’s a reason why they deliberately choose to stick with Indonesia For one, just like East Timor, the entire East Nusa Tengarra province of Indonesia is predominantly Catholic, unfortunately though this’s kind of where the similarities end. Although both are Catholic, West Timor speaks Indonesian and predominately comes from the Uab Meto speaking tribe, that is actually quite different from the rest of the island peoples. This in conjunction with the higher economic index is partially the reason why West Timor never really wanted to join East Timor in making a single Timor country. Money and language are powerful things! Nonetheless the two sides of the island still find ways to cooperate as they do with other parts of the world. A transition! East Timor is kind of new to the game of self-sovereignty but they definitely don’t go at it alone. First of all! They get along with other Portuguese speaking countries Brazil, although far away, likes to follow up once every so often. And as a sister city to Dili Macau is like the other Asian sibling that East Timor occasionally gets to see once a year. Despite the past drama, Indonesia still does good business with East Timor and about 50% of all exports come from Indonesia. They moved on, and they’re kind of cool now. Their best friends though would have to be Portugal and surprisingly Mozambique Portugal has always held ties with East Timor even after they left in the 70s and today Portugal host quite a few Timorese citizens like-wise, Portuguese and Timor. Mozambique is like the cool friend that they met when they were both colonies As the closest African lusophone country they shared culture and ties for centuries. Many political leaders have actually lived in exile in Mozambique including president José Ramos Horta and former prime-minister Mari Alkatiri. In conclusion, East Timor or Timor Leste or Timor Lorosa-e has held on fiercely to its Portuguese roots and has proved that sometimes, culture in itself is enough to stand up and stand out. Stay tuned! Ecuador is coming up next!