Today my Alim Cansio had a bunch of friends roughly our age over. They had two big containers of palm wine. Cansio killed a chicken and tossed onto the coals of a fire feathers and all. It cooked quickly and dried out. Soon we were breaking off delicious stringy meat and drinking.
The day was too hot for drink and soon I was loopy. Cansio’s friends kept quizzing me about life in America. I scrolled through my foggy mind for something interesting and decided to explain knock knock jokes. Even with Cansio being a dab hand at English this proved difficult. Go ahead, you try and describe a knock knock joke and it’s function in your native tongue see if you don’t get lost. Now imagine doing it slightly drunk in a language you have a fifth grade mastery of.
Tc: “Hein, Hein. Belle. Hau hetete hanesan nee. Knock Knock.” (Wait Wait. Okay I say, “Knock Knock”.) Victario: Tambasa? (Why?) Tc: Tamba nee komik! (Because it’s funny!) Victario: Tambasa? (Why?)
This impromptu lesson went on for twenty minutes. Victario and Feriatu, another of Cansio’s colleagues, were taking it in the serious manner only slightly drunk men can. I finally got them to accept that in America we knock on doors to gain entry and that it was alright we didn’t have an actual door. Then we weathered an argument about whether Knock was the right sound to use. In this we agreed Timorese doors sound different but this door we were imagining was American. Then I took a little while to explain what an American door looked like. Finally we tackled the reason that it was funny, which is where things pretty much fell apart. It ended with this roughly translated.
Victario: Knock Knock! Joquim: Who is this? Victario: It is I Victario and I am funny!
Once we got laughing we didn’t want to stop, after all there was a whole other container of wine. So I asked them if they had any jokes. This didn’t translate well. Historia Komik Keek. (a small funny story) Cansio helped me over the rough edges acting as translator and occasional crutch as I swayed.
Turns out they do have jokes both long and short form. They are well known and it is alright in this culture to say, or bellow, the punch line with the teller if you know it. Their humor is either more simple or more true than ours. Here is my favorite Timorese joke.
Q: “Why do the men of West Timor never go to work?” A: “Because they are drunk all the time!” HAH!