Monday, January 4, 2010

East Timor - A Fight for Freedom

In 2002 East Timor became a new nation. But independence has not been easy. Indonesia occupied the country for twenty-five years and it resulted in the deaths of about 100,000 Timorese people. But even after independence the atrocities against the Timorese people didn’t stop.

In 1975 Portugal withdrew and Indonesia invaded. World powers turned a blind eye during some of the worst atrocities of modern times. Some world powers supported the occupation by supplying weapons to Indonesia. When the East Timorese voted for independence, loyalists to the Indonesian militia murdered hundreds and burned down villages. An international peacekeeping force stepped in to stop the mayhem and the United Nations helped rebuild East Timor. But security has been volatile and it’s been a bumpy road. East Timor is one of Asia’s poorest nations and it relies heavily on foreign aid.

The tourism industry is practically non-existent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel there. There are still plenty of things to do: dive, snorkel and enjoy the beaches. You may find some decent accommodations but there are still many unpaved roads. Perhaps, for the more adventurous traveler, that’s part of the charm.

Even though the cuisine from East Timor is influenced by Indonesia and Portugal they eat lots of seafood and tropical fruits. Our meal was simple. It consisted of grilled fish, papaya, and boiled cassava.

A simple dish for a country with a disturbing and complicated past.

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