asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
We didn't set out with any plan do anything like a boat tour, and when we saw a brochure in a visitors' center somewhere, featuring a puffin wearing a captain's hat and a promise of seeing puffins, we thought it would be fun, but still it wasn't something we were actually planning on doing.



conversation, legends, and bird information under the cut )

My attempts at photographing puffins, razorsbills, bald eagles, black guillmonts ("white wing patches, and sexy red legs" was how Ian taught us to recognize them), and cormorants hanging their wings to drain and dry were hopeless, so I'll post a couple of the Van Schaiks' own photos:

puffins!


razorbills




... and share my sketch of some seals instead. The scribbled note says "Mark said, when I said that they have dog faces, that his dad said the males have dog faces and the females have horse faces."



1 I can't find any corroboration for this legend elsewhere, and I may have mangled it--but anyway, it makes a good story. (The closest thing I find is the remarks of John MacGregor, published in 1828, remarking about fishermen on the other side of Cape Breton, that they
are Acadian French, who live by pursuing cod, herring, and seal fisheries, together with wrecking; at which last occupation, in consequence of the frequent shipwrecks about the entrance of the Gulf during the spring and fall, for several years, they are as expert as the Bermudians, or the people of the Bahamas.
asakiyume: (dewdrop)
In the past in Timor-Leste, and perhaps still now (I didn't have the ability or opportunity to talk to anyone about these sorts of things, during my visit there), it was said that geodes are often homes to nature spirits. Such geodes are called foho matan--stone eyes.

If a person finds a geode in the wilderness, they can expect a nature spirit to visit them in a dream and offer them a special relationship--benefits and blessings in return for service. If the arrangement suits the person, then they take the stone to the place it asks the to take it and build an altar there. The spirit, in turn, becomes the person's guardian.

Sometimes, though, the spirit in the geode won't be interested in establishing a relationship. One village told the ethnographer:

If I take home a stone that is [sacred], when I dream that night, the spirt comes to me and says, "My name is Miguel [or whatever name it claims to have]. I am a [sacred] stone. You must put me back!" In the morning when I awake, I return the stone to its original place."
--David Hicks, Tetum Ghosts & Kin: Fertility and Gender in East Timor (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2004 [originally published 1976]), 40.

Whenever I've seen geodes in the past, I've always thought of the crystal caves that imprisoned Merlin--the geodes seemed like miniature versions of those caves. Now, if I see a geode, I'll wonder if it's the home of a nature spirit.


asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Mt. Kablaki is not the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste; I think it's the third-tallest. But it's a sacred mountain, like Mt. Ramelau, the tallest--and it's visible (and hike-able) from Ainaro.

Mt. Kablaki

kablaki


One of the students asked me when American independence day was, and I told her it was July 4th and asked when Timor-Leste's independence day was. May 20th, she told me. Then I told them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It's a myth, but it encapsulates values we'd like to think our first president had. Then I asked them to tell me a story about Xanana Gusmão, their national hero and current prime minister. One of the students told me how, during the resistance, local people hid him on Mt Kablaki.

I've also read that he got a protective amulet there--the sort that lets you move unseen past your enemies.

I've also heard that he could transform himself into a dog. There are many many dogs running around loose in Ainaro, so that would be a good disguise. I asked one girl if she had any dogs, and she said yes, four or five. I asked what she fed them, and she said rice, or rice gruel.

Later, when I was rinsing rice for dinner (and in Timor-Leste there's much more reason to do this than there is in America, because in Timor-Leste the rice contains lots of bits of chaff and hull), I went to pour off the water in the yard, and one of the local dogs came trotting over eagerly. Aha. Rice gruel, I thought.

neighborhood dogs

dogs at Olympio's


But back to mountains. All the mountains roundabout Ainaro are beautiful.

dramatic skies

Here's dawn over the pre-secondary school, across the street from where I was staying.

dawn from the Teachers' House



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