When we arrive in Lospalos, it is already dark, and when we get out of the hotel the next morning, we are curious what daylight will show us. A thin layer of fog hangs over town when we walk towards the north, out of town. We see plenty of people at the market place, even though it is only 6. People walk towards the market with carts, goods to sell, some with plastic chairs tied to their stuff. It is clear that on Saturdays, the place to be is the market, so we turn around and take a leisurely stroll over it. People from all over the east of East Timor come here, and there is a lively crowd walking around, haggling over wares, striking deals, and walking home with their new purchases. The market is mostly about vegetables, meat, and fruit, but there are also stalls with clothes, shoes, tobacco, and other items. While busy, the market has plenty of space, and the atmosphere is relaxed, and the people remarkably friendly, welcoming us with big smiles.
The Lospalos region is famous for its traditional houses. One sample of such a house can be found in the town itself: standing high above ground on four wooden poles, it has a square room with small square windows on all sides. The outside is decorated with carvings in the beams and on the outer wall. While the one in Lospalos actually is a new building, the old one being burnt down by the Indonesian army during the war of independence, the replica looks surprisingly old. But there are villages in the vicinity where original, old houses still stand, and we are lucky: one of our Timorese friends is born in one of those villages. Not only do we get a close look at the three houses in a row, one of the inhabitants even allows us to climb the ladder and have a peek inside. Surprisingly big, the room is assured of a breeze, cooling it of, and has views on all sides through small, square windows.
On the day of our departure, I make sure to be out at sunrise again, and walk the main street in the city centre. Even on this Sunday morning, people are up, but it is noticeably calmer than the day before. I pass the traditional house again, where the carvings in the wooden beams look even better in the early morning light, and close by, find the catholic church. Its tower has the shape of a traditional Fataluku house, and is decorated on the outside by shells. People gather for Sunday mass, dressed in their best clothes. I watch them go in, and wait until mass starts before moving on. I walk out of Lospalos, take a turn to the right, and end up walking a palm-tree lined trail into the fields. A few more turns, and a walk through a meadow, past cows and horses, brings me to a road, and I walk back to the market place. On the way, another traditional house, richly decorated with shells, and a local who invites me for a drink at his place. But I am expected to be back for breakfast, and have to decline. At the market place, there are very few people now, it is a stark contrast with the day before. Our visit to Lospalos was too short, but at least we got a taste of life in the east of Timor-Leste.
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