April 4th 2021; a Sunday of Flood in Dili.

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While sleeping, I had a dream about my landlord. I saw my landlord suddenly passed away in my dream, and I was helping his family install the black cloth in the street in front of the house as part of the funeral decoration custom in Timor-Leste. I started to feel shocked at his sudden death, and it awoke me. I could hear the noisy sound of the rain crashed on top of the zinc roof. The rain has been pouring heavily since last night at around 8.00 pm. “How come it still rain like this?” I asked myself in sleepy mode. Someone came and knocked on the door of my room. It was one of the landlord’s niece.
“Mana, maun, the water is getting into the house,” she said and moved to another tenant’s room to warn them.

In shock, we quickly got up from the bed. As we put our feet on the floor, it was no longer the dry floor we usually stepped on but a wet floor covered to our ankle level. Damn it! We realized that we were having some of our stuff put on the floor, and they must have been soaking wet. The books in the paper box, groceries we purchased last night were still kept in the cloth bag and kept on the floor—a suitcase with our essential documents maintained under the bedroom. Fortunately, we stored the rice in a plastic box. The water must have been getting into the room for about an hour ago. If it remained, we should find an upper place to keep our stuff. We quickly move all things to the upper-level object such as bedroom, table, or high-legged chairs as soon as possible and ensuring nothing was missing. We went out to check the surrounding. To our shock, the interior of the house has turned to a pool. The water level was reaching our shank.

Soaking wet and cold, we try moved to check the entrance of the house. As soon as we open the entrance door, the water came like a river. The water has covered the gate entirely, and as we got through, the water level has reached our knees. It is due to the entrance part of the house is shallow. Trying to calm our hearts, we moved forward to check the outdoor surrounding. Although the place is close to the street, we no longer see the road but only a stream of muddy brown rainwater flowing like a river in front of us. We were in flood.

We have been living in this rental house for almost eight years, but this was the first time we experience the worst flood. Although this area is prone to flood, unlike last year, we could manage to prevent water from getting into the house by quickly taking out the water with a bucket many times at the entrance until it dried. But this year, the water stream was strong, and no matter how hard we try to take out the water, it kept coming into the entrance and the house. It was already six o clock in the morning, yet the heavy rain and flood showed no sign to stop yet. The heavy rain had been pouring since last night. As we could not do much at that moment, the least we could do was to help each other keeping the stuff and belongings in a safe, dry place. The upper-level objects like a table, chairs, or upper part of the cabinet would be helpful for us to put the staff for the time being. Meanwhile, we were hoping that the rain would stop instantly and the water level would not rise higher.

Gathered outside the house with our feed soaked in the floodwater, we observed how water had covered our neighborhood street with its muddy brown color. On the other side of the road were our neighbors and some of the student tenants. They were also soaking wet upon trying to save their stuff and belongings from the flood water that infiltrate their rooms. Some of them were trying to reduce the water level by persistently taking out the water with buckets or sweeping out the water, although the water level remains. Some children and youth who might not be much affected by the flood were merrily playing in the floodwater and enjoying the rain shower in the flooded streets. One of the neighbors even took out his balloon mattress and put it on the streaming water, pretending to ride a boat in a river.

On the other side of the neighborhood, a tree was broken and falling, blocking the main road. Since our neighborhood street can be an alternative road, the cars and motorbike passing by our street and their driving gave added pressure to the water and made it getting into the house even worse. To minimize the water getting into the house, we blocked the road with two empty drums put on each side of the road as a sign that they should drive slow when passing by our street.

The rain has not stopped yet while the water kept flowing. The electricity was off. With the remaining battery in the smartphones and a weak internet connection, we tried to log in to Facebook to check how others were doing that day. To our shock, it broke our hearts to see friends and other people posted a live video about how severely they were affected by the flood in their areas/neighborhood. There were also posts about how water covered many roads in Dili in brown muddy water. Meanwhile, some other roads collapsed. Many houses located at the edge of the rivers collapsed and were carried away by the water current and people watching these views in horror.
From Becora Terminal (bus station), Bidau, Caicoli, Villa Verde, Palapasso, Aitarak Laran, Fatuhada, Comoro until Tasi Tolu, all these populated areas in Dili areas were all in flood. Many people from these affected area immediately evacuated themselves to the nearest evacuation centers. Unfortunately, many of them claimed that they could not even save their household belongings and important personal stuff. The live videos shown people shocked, scared and crying. We could only saw these posts in silence while the floodwater soaked our feet. In our hearts, we prayed that the rain should stop soon, but as we saw the sky above the hills of Dare at the northern side of Dili, it was still a grey cloud covering the mountain, which meant the rain remained heavy there and the flood will remain as well.

Suddenly one of our fellow tenant neighbors told us that he needed to go to Comoro to see his relative, a police officer, who just died in a flood. The police officer was trying to save someone who was carried away by the flood, but after getting the person to the safe edge of the river, he got carried away instead. The body was found quite some miles from his original place. Soon after leaving with a motorbike, our tenant neighbor immediately returned because roads were difficult to pass through. Again we heard another news that a family lost their babies and other adult family member during the flood. Some were lost in the water current and not yet found.

Hearing this news was so saddening that even looking that even the coldness and muddiness of the floodwater were less cold and muddy than our sorrow. We could not imagine how hard it must be for the family who lost their loved ones on this day. Even though this day was the Resurrection Sunday, which many Timorese catholic suppose to celebrate through morning mass (amidst COVID19 and mass are held online), instead of celebrating it with joy that morning, we celebrated in sorrow.

Until around 10.00 o’clock in the morning, the rain eventually stopped, and the water level started to diminish. We gathered up, and everyone took a bucket to help each other take out the dirty muddy floodwater from the house’s entrance little by little. Extremely exhausted, it took us almost the whole afternoon o finally get the water out and thus allow the water level inside the house to diminish and dried out. Although we had to suffer cramp and back pain for taking out the water many times, the next thing we still got to do was to clean the house thoroughly by sweeping out the remaining water and mopping and rinsing the floor almost six times to get every room adequately cleaned. Until lunchtime, we could not cook because there was no electricity and inside the house it was dark. The landlord bought us each a pack of biscuits and a small bottle of cola drink for lunch as his token of appreciation and solidarity. We ate with no appetite, our legs were sore, and our back felt so much pain when sitting. Upon finishing with the cleaning and leaving them to dry, we went out and sat outside with our fellow neighbors. The street surface was then able to be seen after the floodwater has dried. Upon experiencing the flood on that morning, I learned that seeing the road clean and dry without floodwater covered it was indeed a blessing. Seeing a clear sky is a blessing. Seeing things in the house clean and dry with floodwater coming in is a blessing. Usually, we never appreciate this and see those aspects as trivial matters in our daily life.

Later in the evening, the electricity was back to normal; however, as the night came, we no longer feel safe like the other regular nights before. Still, we were worried that the tropical cyclone of Seroja might not have passed yet, that the heavy rain may come again, and that the flood might appear again. We saw the post about thousands of people staying in the evacuation centers that night. We believed they too must have missing to be in their own house, and they must have been worried about the situation at their homes. That night, I found many of my fellow tenants and neighbors slept late for the sake of anticipating the heavy rain that may come again. Would the heavy rain come again? We hoped not. May it passed soon.

Dear Ally

Dear Ally

I remember the first time we met

we were trying to befriend each other

and we got along well

despite our differences

I am blue, while you are red

but I thought we would blend well later

One day I started to feel

that something was not right between us

as you started throw shades to me often

for every trivial silliness I had

and for being a clumsy

and that I am not a perfectionist

Like you

You are a perfectionist Ally

and I am an ordinary just-want-to-be-myself me

why suddenly you changed

for I could not change myself

to pretend someone I was not?

Dear perfectionist Ally

On the day you behaved rude to me

I was so hurt and could not understand why

why could you be so mean to me?

What had I done wrong?

I did not understand

Even until the day we parted ways

Dear Ally

Today I heard you have found your way

to something you called as a perfection

I am indeed still far away from it

I am still hurt from the hurt you left in me

But today

I want to let it go

All this resentment to you

in my heart and my mind

I forgive you

for everything you have done

for everything I have felt for you

for everything we have felt together

let us find our happiness

and be peaceful with our mind

I want to congratulate you

for every perfection you have achieved

may you always be happy and peaceful

from your old pal

The Ordinary

#letter #prompt #forgiveness #resentment

On the Death of George Floyd

Photo source: https://images.app.goo.gl/XxzsT8SiYxwL. Instagram: johnboyega

Between 2013 and 2014, I first time heard about the Black Lives Matter movement, and reading through about it helped me to realize that the African-American people still facing systemic racism even today. The shooting of black people incidents such as George Zimmerman, teen Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown by the police officers was brutal and was unacceptable that lead protests and unrest in Ferguson in New York.

Before knowing about Black Lives Matter movement, I had heard about Martin Luther King’s story during a group discussion of Theology class at college which allow me to browse about his powerful speech of ‘I have a dream’ which expressed his significant dream that one-day black people would enjoy their freedom as a dignified human being in the society and being the citizens of the world with equal rights to fulfill their potentials and that their rights are respected. In 2009, this dream was fulfilled as it reflected through the winning of Barrack Obama, the first elected black president in US history.

Reading the history of slavery of black people, apartheid in Africa and colonialism across the world by the westerns for which my country was also experienced one made me somehow feel connected to the pain of injustice that the African-American people had experienced. In 2008 I watched The Great Debaters, a biographical drama movie depicted three black students from Wiley College who were coached by their teacher (starred by Denzel Washington) to win in a public speaking competition against Harvard University students. Apart from the heat of competition that attracted me to watch this movie, I was also able to get to know the how African-American community had to endure lynching that limited their freedom of expression and their rights as citizens and human beings in the USA.

Watching a trailer of Frederick Douglas’s biopic movie also again brought me another cringe of the bitter truth of slavery in the USA. Other times this year I watched another African-American starred movie such as Hidden Figures, Madea, and Get Out, these three different genre movies, starring mostly African-American actors and have different stories but they present similar themes about injustice towards black people in the USA. Perceiving similar messages portrayed in these movies allowed us to understand that racism exists and it is a serious matter to look at and to learn to eliminate it by cultivating respect towards every people regardless of their skin color, race and ethnicity.

This week, I read the news about the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who died after being knelt on the neck for almost nine minutes by Derek Chauvin, a Caucasian Minneapolis police officer in Minnesota who came to arrest Floyd for suspecting him of passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a deli. This incident reminds me of a scene in Madea movie series where Madea (starred Tyler Perry) and his friends were stopped by an aggressive Caucasian police officer to check the driving license and treated them so harshly but fortunately, they managed to leave. Unfortunately, how heartbreaking it was that Floyd, who had lost his job as a local restaurant employee due to stay-at-home-order during the COVID19 pandemic had to left his two children at this tragic death. Despite Derek Chauvin and the other three police officers have been fired from their post and the mass protest had shown the rage for this incident to demand justice, this is again another incident where police brutality and racism could take people’s life for a lame reason. George Floyd’s death is another tragedy in how power is misused by the authority who supposed to not necessarily shot people to death when arresting them. This tragedy is truly a bitter truth of how brutal racism is and that the battle to eliminate racism is still going on in a country that was known for its spirit of freedom and human rights preaching. 

I am actually living a thousand miles away from Minnesota, USA and as I saw this horrific incident, I reflected how the police institutions in my country, Timor-Leste, also had a similar issue with some of its police members misbehaved and some even cause death of innocent civilians. This reflection brought me a thought that proper training about human-rights and racism as well as anger management are important to be included for police training as they are guardians of law and order in the society and not the ones who exercise their mental instability towards the people during conducting their duty. Yet most importantly, I realized that learning and understanding about racism and its impact to people’s lives in the society and the world are crucial as a first step to prevent the racism as well as learning to promote respect and tolerance towards difference among the people in the society and the world, and for this, it shall start now.  

A Flying Airplane

When I was still a little kid

I love to see the airplane flying high across the blue sky

It was to me like a surprising magic visitor for my plain afternoon

It looked like  a tiny mosquito in the sky’s huge ceiling

As I laid down on a tiny green grass covered ground

I would wonder and asked myself;

“Why does that airplane looks so tiny?

Was it because my eyes are too small to see it?

Is it because of I am looking at it as a child? 

Will an airplane still look tiny even when it does not fly?

Can it see me from high up there?

Does it know that I am now looking at it in admiration?

and so my question went on and on until I almost fell asleep on the ground

Mom called me in a loud voice to get back into the house.

The airplane had gone away.

‘See you again airplane,” I said before leaving the ground.

The Longing for Palm Sunday this Year

Timor-Leste, a small country located in Southeast Asia that once ruled by Portuguese for some hundreds of years and then occupied by Indonesia during 24 years. It is the a country where a majority of population is Catholic and Catholic church is one of most influencing institution in the country. Being a Catholic religion follower is to comply and attend the relevant ceremonies held such as Sunday morning mass and other festivities celebrated through the mass. It has became a custom for the Catholic followers to attend the mass and to many other Timorese people, the religion itself is seen as the identity while they also continue to keep the traditional cultural beliefs in the believing power of Uma Lulik (Sacred House) and the blessings of the ancestors. The cultural belief and the faith compliance to the religion has been assimilated well.

With the Corona Virus Pandemic affecting the world due to it is easy to spread among people, the Government of Timor-Leste has applied mandatory lock-down to all the territory after one positive case was confirmed in late March and the church also has been requested to suspend all religious activities and gatherings a week before the lock-down. The suspension of the religious activities, in particular for catholic church goers however is seen as an unexpected change in the religious customs as it stopped them to not attending the mass as usual as people are required to stay home, limit the movement, to do physical and social distancing and to maintain hygiene. In social media like Facebook, there was a video of local man protesting church to not suspend the mass ceremonies and there were others who posted how they missed the ambience of the Sunday mass.

Today in Catholic religion is the celebration of Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter that begins the Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of the Lent commemorating the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect. Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory and has been used on Palm Sunday as the symbol for the commemoration.

As I saw that there is the longing from many Catholic fellows to attend the palm Sunday mass, following are some of the pictures of Sunday mass shots I took in Baucau from 2015 to cure the longing.

Moris iha Tempu Molok COVID-19

Ho pandemia virus Corona ka COVID-19 ne’ebe oras ne’e ejiji ema hotu tenki hela iha uma, mantein hijiene no halo distansia fiziku no sosial muda tebes ita nia lalaok moris loron bainleet nian. Iha Timor-Leste mos aplika ona Estadu Emerjensia ka Lockdown hodi limita sidadaun ida-idak nia direitu ba movimentu no atividade sosial sira.

Jeralmente, sosiedade Timoroan sei fo reajen ba mudansa ne’e ho laran-husu oinsa mak pandemia bele muda sosiedade nia moris sai oinseluk hodi kria limitasaun hanesan ne’e? Iha loron bainleet ita hare’e ema lao ba mai ho livre, joven sira tuur iha estrada laliga rai, ema halibur malu iha uma hodi halo atividade oioin. Oras ne’e lalaok sira ne’e menus ona ka ita sei la haree durante tempu Estadu emerjensia.

Fotografia hirak tuir mai maski husi tinan lima ka neen ba kotuk mai ha’u sai fali hanesan pedasu nostaljia lalaok moris loron bainleet hirak ne’ebe ita halao ka haree molok pandemia COVID-19.

VZ, Marsu 2020.

In Birmingham

One fine day

I would like you

To be here with me

In this city of Birmingham

You will be my tour guide

showing me around

And makes me listen

To all your bittersweet stories

On how your first time was

When coming here

As an immigrant

From our little country

Sometimes unknown

To this country

VZ

Completion of My Visit to the 13 Municipalities of Timor-Leste (Part 2)

By: VZ from Dili, Timor-Leste.

A day at an old chapel, Ainaro villa, Ainaro, 2017

7. Ainaro – Ainaro Municipality

The word Ainaro is a derivative from the Mambae expression ai naru means ‘tall tree’. Ainaro municipality located in southwest part of the country, generally regarded as the coldest municipality in Timor-Leste due to it is located uphill and close to mount Ramelau, the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste. Ainaro is also known for its fertile land that actively produce vegetables, beans, flowers and coffee production by its farmers. My first time visit to Ainaro in 2018 last was realized during my return trip from Covalima to Dili. Along the way is full of green scenery view, landscape full of green hills, mountainous views, grass field and serene house along the street in Ainaro villa town. The city also has many Portuguese and Indonesian historical building remarks. Mambae is also one of main dialect spoken widely with Tetun and Indonesian language are widely understood. The municipalities also has interesting pattern of cultural traditions and historical places to explore especially as it becomes one of historical shelter during Timor-Leste resistant combatants during struggle of independence. The municipality has 4 post-administrative which are Ainaro vila, Hato-udo, Hato-builico and Maubisse. It took 3 to 4 hours to reach Ainaro from Dili and one has to pass by Aileu municipality beforehand.

Dom Boaventura Statue in Luak, Manufahi, 2017

8. Same -Manufahi Municipality

I first time visited this municipality in 2017 on a field trip and mesmerized by the beautiful scenery along the way there. Curvy roads, high steep hills, serene city, fresh cold air. Same is the capital of the municipality and the municipality name Manufahi according to local tales was modified version of the original word in Mambae ‘Maun Fahe‘ means brothers went apart according to local tale that once upon a time there were 5 brother who have to parting ways from their home. What fascinated me most about Same city is the story of Don Boaventura, a local king and regarded by most as hero for his resistance movement during The Great Rebelllion in 1910-1912 against Portuguese colonialism. The statue of Dom Boaventura located in a village named Luak, 20 minutes away from Same city. The city has interesting cultural and historical context to explore with local people. Mambae is also one of main dialect spoken widely with Tetun and Indonesian language are widely understood. The municipality has 4 post-administrative which are Same, Fatuberliu, Alas and Turiscai. It took around 8 to reach Same city from Dili and one will pass by Aileu municipality and Maubisse post-administrative of Aileu beforehand.

The chapel of Black September massacre in Suai, Covalima, 2018

9. Suai – Covalima Municipality

On my first visit to Suai city, I was very excited and intrigued to figure out the city and in particular to see the local chapel where the 1999 Black September massacre happened. It was one of the horrific story of massacre happened to Timorese civilians during the announcement of result of East Timor referendum in 1999. On my arrival, I rushed to see this place first and accompanied by a local guide from the hotel I stayed in. It is an old rustic chapel and some of the windows have been broken but inside was still functional to be used by local people to held catholic church activities. It was in this church that during the civil unrest, local people came to evacuate to this chapel that located uphill guided by four priests (three Timorese and one Indonesia priest) trying to protect them but local the militias came and shooting the civilians including the priests and burnt the chapel. Though the chapel was then renovated, its rustic look and serenity inside tells a lot of untold memories. Suai is one of post-administrative of Covalima Municipality and this municipality located in southwest part of the country.

The municipality borders the Timor Sea to the south, the municipality of Bobonaro to the north, Ainaro to the east, and the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur to the west. Suai city located in coastal area and the weather is hot during the dry season. However, the Suai Loro beach was nearby and is beautiful to visit with precaution not to bath at the beach or go closer as there are warning of crocodile existence around the water. The sea around Suai is southern sea regarded by Timorese as Tasi Mane means male sea due its loud and resonance sea). The municipality has interesting cultural diversities in its tradition, local arts and beliefs.

The municipality has 6 post-administratives consisted of Fatululic, Fatumean, Fohorem, Zumalai, Maucatar, Suai, and Tilomar.  Tetun Terik, Kemak and Bunak are main dialect while Tetun and Indonesia are also widely uunderstood. Cova Lima municipality also regarded as the furthest municipality to reach from Dili as one has to pass by the curvy road of Aileu and Ainaro to reach Suai city during eight to nine hours trip with car or public trasnport from Dili. Nowaday, one can reach Suai city with ZEEMS flight (a CESSNA type plane) which costs $ 41 to $51 USD flies once a day from Monday to Saturday from Dili with duration of around 35 minutes. Suai has got a new airport build and planned to accommodate the petroleum and gas mining research and activity there.