Its story time.
About 2-1/2 years ago a man appeared outside our house. He had a little wooden push-cart with a wobbly wheel and was selling coldish drinks (Fanta) and Garams (kretek ciggies). At the time our street was actually very nice. There were fish-on-stick sellers, chicken-on-stick sellers, people walking up and down selling live mud crabs and lobsters, little stalls selling sweets, water etc etc. These people were from all over the country, East, West and Dili and seemed to get on very well.
Our chap, who we did and still do call Johnny The Tooth (the reason will become apparent later) comes from Baucau and is very very dark. Our local scrotes, who actually were not scrotes then, just cheeky chappies, gave him a very hard time about his colour, his poverty, his looks and just about everything else they could. Johnny was stoic, took it and gave it back when it all got a bit out of hand. We got to admire Johnny very much and would buy Fanta and Garams from him whilst telling him to get some beer and Marlboros in stock as well. I cannot stand Fanta or Garams. Johnny took our advice, started selling beer, of a sort; it was 4X Gold after all, a bit like drinking a bottle of perfume. His profits started increasing; he improved his stock, fixed his wheel, gave the cart a good paintjob and basically turned into an entrepreneur. We get a lot of visitors in our house and most of them like a beer or ten. So, we started teaching Johnny some English and our visitors started to learn some basic Tetum. It was just numbers and ‘Please’ ‘Thank you’ etc in both languages.
Then April May and June happened.
Johnny’s cart used to be parked under a tree which was also the site of a fruit and veg. vendor. The two businesses’s nicely complemented each other. Unfortunately for the fruit and veg. family they also were from the East. Cut a long story short. The fruit and veggie family were burnt out and Johnny was terrorised away. We missed him and were very very worried about him.
About the middle of June I was driving through what was then the new old Comoro market at Pertamina corner when I spotted Johnny sleeping under a sack. He looked bloody awful. He stank, his cloths were rags and he no longer had his cart. He had two packets of Garams for sale, which I bought. While I was talking to him everybody else was gathering around and watching very closely, so to buy the ciggies (1 dollar, 2 packs) I wrapped a fifty dollar bill up in a one dollar bill and gave it to him. The next time I saw him was at a press conference at Fretelin HQ. He looked a lot better and his stock had improved, which of course I bought up there and then. About 10 days ago we encountered Johnny again. He had a new cart, looked smart and was doing good business. The new cart was bought with the money from the Garams.
I’m not sure if there is really a point to this post but I just wanted to point out another, of many many Timorese, who DO NOT WANT THE SHIT THAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW. They just want to get on with their lives, in peace, not have to be scared at night, all night, every night and bring up their families as best they can with maybe some help from the State.
Johnny wants to come back to his old pitch but he cannot. He is too terrified.
Johnny The Tooth - What a Guy!
See the post ‘Nothing To Report’ for the story of another local hero.