Gentlemen’s Hangout in Maubisse.

Two men on sunbathing chat in Maubisse, Timor-Leste

‘My Brother’

‘Yes’

‘What a beautiful morning, is it not?’

‘Yeah. It is indeed.’

‘The sun rays are nicely warm.

‘Yeah. It is.’

‘Let’s do sunbathing with these lovely babies of ours.’

‘Sure, my brother. They will love it.’

‘My dear brother…’

‘Yes.’

‘Something is bothering me.’

What is it? Do tell me. 

‘I received a news that a relative from my wife’s family has just passed away.’

‘Oh poor you… Sorry to hear that. So why it bothers you?’

‘I do not have enough money to submit for my family clan’s contribution. May I ask you to lend me some? Please do help me’

‘Oh man… No worry. I’ll see what I can do for you later. But now, let us enjoy this beautiful sunbathing first.’

Maubisse (Timor-Leste), September, 2017.

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SOCCER AND TAXI DRIVER

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I rarely engaged myself in being fan of any soccer team of any sort of match but I love to feel the vibe. From real life to the virtual platform of social media people commenting, cursing, praising and satirizing each other’s favourite soccer team to express their feelings on how they see the performance of these soccer teams and thus creates an atmosphere of entertainment to chill up the life’s boredom routine.

This afternoon, I went home riding a yellow taxi. After telling the taxi driver the direction to my destination, our conversation then changed to how calm Dili city is today. To me it was just another normal calm Sunday in Dili. But to the taxi driver, it was because of Portugal soccer team lost last night after defeated by Uruguay team. I did not even know who this taxi driver is, and sometimes I felt uneasy to talk with taxi drivers as some of them may appear flirtatious or rude to woman passenger. Despite so, some are also appear to be polite to the passengers and I found this taxi driver to be one.

‘Thank God, Portugal lose, otherwise there will be a noisy convoy around the city the whole day and for sure it will add more traffic’ he said.

‘Yeah, it’s true’ I replied agreeing to his comment.

Then the conversation continued with me asking him which soccer team he supported, which team that he thought would made it to grand final and if he did some betting on every match. His responses flowed as smooth as the speed of his vehicle. Later, I realized that we already arrived to Villa-verde street, my destination.

I gave him the coins of his taxi fee and wished him luck for his bet. He will bet for Spain. After he left, I realized how amazing that soccer can engage two strangers into an interactive conversation.
VZ
Comoro-Villa verde (Dili-Timor-Leste), 1/7/2018

A Stopover in Loes

FOR THE WORLD CUP

‘Hey listen,
I like Argentina.’
‘You like Brazil?
‘He likes France.’
‘She likes Germany.’
‘We like Italy…’
‘You like Mexico?’
‘They like Portugal.’
‘Each of us with our preferences, right?’


Every night, here we gather
In front of a TV screen belongs to a decent neighbour.
Watching the soccer match starts
scanning who the players are
judging how well they perform
betting which team will won at last
Yelling when one shoots the goal
Cursing when one cannot make it
Counting the time slot, analyzing the penalty, describing the match. Dramatically.
‘It is fun. It is intense. Stimulating. Dissappointing’. Everybody comment.
For almost a month will we bound to this gathering
As this is the month of World Cup
With a hot Timor coffee served in the plastic cup
By the mumbling wife of the TV owner.

VZ

Villa-verde, 19/6/2018.

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OJEK: A Lospalos version of Thailand’s Tuk Tuk

26904247_10215246973431895_2294865965664384956_nLast year was just the same with the years before in Lospalos city, one of post administrative of Lautem municipality. It is usually difficult to get public transport whenever people wanted to go somewhere around the Lospalos city unless they have their own motorbike or willing to walk. However, this year, I am quite surprised to see a new type of public transport exists here. It is a rickshaw type of vehicle with three wheels imported from India. In Lospalos this rickshaw vehicle is called ‘Ojek’ which is referring to the service it provides as public transport within the city. Looking at this vehicle reminds me of Tuk Tuk, the similar type of vehicle existed widely in Thailand as a popular public transport.
Being different with Thailand’s Tuk Tuk that goes faster, this Ojek or Lospalos version of Tuk Tuk goes gently against the road. Until today, some parts of the road in Lospalos are still smoothly paved while some parts are lately have been roughly paved with white rocky soil and it makes the road became a little bumpy. The good thing about riding Ojek is that it enables us to easily see the view along the way while getting some fresh air as it is an open-air vehicle. There is another type of this rickshaw that is enclosed with a transparent glass window that can be open when needed. However, when it goes through the bumpy road, we will be shaken and get a bit upset if we do not hold tightly to the vehicle.
The unique thing about this vehicle is that it uses electricity as the source of energy by recharging it directly to the electric socket. According to the driver who operates it, he at least will need to recharge the vehicle during five hours and it costs around 2 USD of the pre-paid electric card. The price of using Ojek service is depending on the distance with the service cost ranges from 0.50 cents for the nearest distance to 2 USD for the further one. In a day, on average, an Ojek driver can earn around 15 to 20 US Dollars as the income.
The electric rickshaw operates recently this year in Lospalos city. Before Lopalos city, this type of vehicle has been used as public transportation for few years in Manatuto that has similar characteristic of a flat landscape with Lospalos. Indeed, using Ojek can help people moving around to the nearby places in the city that are too far to be reached by walking.
The driver also tells that at first people are quite hesitant to use Ojek as public transportation perhaps because of this type vehicle is new to them. However, lately, Ojek has gained the local passengers attention, especially the students during school time and common people in general. Somehow, during vacation, the number of people using Ojek is not as much as the school time.
“Tiu (uncle), I wish this Ojek had existed in Lospalos since I was here many years ago. That would be much better, right?’ I told to the driver while sitting behind him. He gave me a brief laughter.
‘Oh.. dear sister, I wish for the same too. But it just came recently and we also have just known about it’. He replied.
I chuckled gleefully. What he said was correct.
Lospalos, January 3rd 2018
Note: Lospalos is one of administrative post belong to Lautem Municipality of thirteen municipalities in Timor-Leste country.

Timorese Women as Veteran

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A day before celebration of international women day March 8, I joined an on-air literary radio program with my Timorese poet friend Abe Barreto at Radio Liberdade Dili which aired on every Wednesday evening started at 6.15 pm at local time. A week before we came to this program, we had to have an advance planning and preparation on the theme we will present, how should we present and do a mini research for supporting materials for the discussion.

When discussed on choosing the theme, it came to our mind that in the first week of month, Timor-Leste celebrated a national veteran day on March 3 and on March 8 will celebrate international women day. Then, we got the idea to combine the two celebration into one theme ‘Women as Veteran’. For this theme Abe then invited Mena Reis, one of a Timorese senior woman activist, ex-resistance member and a poet to join us on the discussion and she participated.

The discussion started with describing the link of the two celebration on veteran day and women day, how we perceive women’s role and significance as veteran and what literary action can be done to help maintain the precious values as a veteran and as a women. That evening, at Radio Liberdade studio, we presented our discussion along with some intermezzos of musics and poetry recitals from Mena Reis with her own poem title Feto Timor-Lorosae (Women of East Timor), Abe with his poem about Mother and myself reciting poems by Rupi Kaur and Yacinta Kurniasih (an indonesian feminist writer) with feminism themefor which we called ‘literary salad’.

Throughout the discussion among three of us, I grabbed some important point for my reflection as following:

  • The word ‘veteran’ is not only about a title given to the ex-resistence individual/group for their military contribution as we may generally perceive but is indeed referring to the capacity, ability or skills they master for a long period. In the context of Timor-Leste’s resistance history on seizing independence, this capacity is about being able to survive physically and mentally amidst the invasion of merciless destroying bombs , poverty, terror, threat, humiliation, violence, abuse, lost of family member and one’s own life, grieve, and other miseries during the occupation time. Apart of surviving, is to learn to fight back and this required a through process of learning in an individually or collectively process on how to organize and succeeded with the guerilla.
  • In Timor-Leste, when talking about veteran, most of the attention goes to men veteran rather than women veteran as media tends to expose more of men veteran’s stories and thoughts rather than women veterans which suppose to also received equal praise and recognizement as men veteran. Not only that, even many women veterans until now still live in difficult life and not receiving any support. Furthermore, many women veterans have not received any follow up notice on the lost of the family members during the occupation time which leave their grief remain.
  • Another saddening issue is that women veteran tend to be seen by society as less intellectual and less capable. This is not good because society should understand more about the women veteran’s struggle internally and externally. Despite of receiving less praise and credit, some women veterans continue to show their serious effort on contributing to development of the country with all their capability (even if it is limited) in the area if education and other sectors in their community. One of great example today is Ms. Maria ‘Kasian’ who opened a kindergarten school with her money received from veteran subsidy. This is example of the important value that women veteran want to share to the society and to the new generation as an example that commitment for contributing to development should started from our self first.
  • However, women’s role and battle as ‘veteran’ (not only the military veteran in literal meaning) are not yet over but instead came up with a new context of role and battle according to the latest life fashion issues. Women’s veteran role is nowadays becomes more challenging in all aspects of life that requires women’s ability to cope with, such as in the social, politic economic, health, education area, etc. Until today, many women in Timor-Leste still facing injustice, gender inequity, discrimination, violation which mostly tends to be approved by the society and lack of system support when they need it the most. Thus, being a veteran for women to master and cope with all the life pattern struggle is an eternal role and perhaps a lifetime battle.
  • On the literary resources about women veteran’s contribution in Timor-Leste is still seen as lacking because again most of the stories tends to focus on male role and influence and speak little about women. However, nowadays, the chance to have these stories exposed is even greater and young generation should be encouraged to gather, write, read and share those stories so they can reflect and understand better the core value of Timorese struggle for independence.
  • Another issue highlighted on promoting literary work in Timor-Leste is the absence of copyright law to guarantee the protection of author’s work when producing literary work on women issues. This is indeed a challenge and request for government to consider as well since it is necessary to safeguard Timor-Leste’s stories to the current and future generation as references.

To conclude, I would say that today, every woman is a veteran and being a woman veteran is a lifetime role, a lifetime battle. To carry out this role is not solely women’s responsibility as support from all the relevant sectors like government, civil society and grassroots level collaboration from all parties, all genders and generation is extremely needed.

Happy Timor-Leste veteran day and Happy International Women’s day.

VZ

A Mother and Her Foreign Worker Son

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It has been five years since they parted.

His mother lives with her four small kids in a firm gray brick house with two floors built by his son’s hard work result.

Her son lives in a room of a flat together with his friends as foreign workers in that city with the Big Ben. Every night, he works up all of his sweat as a factory worker for a bunch of pounds sterling for him and for his family who lives in the far eastern edge of the world. When he comes home, he stares at the sky of the night from the window while painting the face of his beloved old woman with prayers.

Meanwhile, at that the old grey brick house, every night his mother continues to set aside the dinner on his son’s favorite plate. If her other children ask her ‘why do you have to always set aside a plate of food on the table mom? Our brother is not here.’

Her mother would reply ‘kids, this is for your brother. Hopefully, in that overseas land, he is also enjoying dinner like us’.

After finish, the dinner, each of her kids begin to fall asleep in the bed. Before she washes all the dishes, she looks again at that one plate of food with a smile and tears in her eyes. She misses her faraway son badly. She does not know when can she hugs him again, just as when her son was two years old, started learning to walk and run to her embrace with a cheerful laughter.

Next day her son called ‘mom, perhaps we have to go back home.’

‘Why? Did you cause some trouble there, son?’ her mother asked in worriment.

‘No mom. This is just a possibility. The native people here may require us to go home’.

Her mother is actually so happy to hear the words ‘go home’ which she has been waiting for so long.

‘Son, if you have to come home. Then let it be. Your homeland and our family have always welcomed you. We can start all over again like before’. Her mom suggested.

‘No mom. I cannot return just like that. There are still a lot of things that I have to do here, mom’. Her son replied.

Later after that, the conversation on the phone was over between them. However, that one concern of the mother and her son is indeed not yet due.

 

Dili, Timor-Leste

June 28th, 2016

There are lots of Timorese work as foreign worker in UK factories. When Brexit issue was happening, there was a concern that foreign worker might be required to go home.

Christmas and New Year are Never Easy Here

It’s December and it is Cristmas! Yeah, of course. December and Christmas are always understood as one package. At least that is what we have been understood and living with since my childhood.

Starting from November, Christmas songs played everywhere throughout the territory. From the twelve munipalities to Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste. Various genre of Christmas songs are played at the shops, at the houses, in the Taxis, buses and in the ‘microlet’ (other sort of common public transportation) and also in the radios like a public reminder.

Christmas ornaments are everywhere decorating each houses, each ‘bairros’ (neighbourhood) and each corner of the city with glittering lamps and lights around the artificial Christmas trees. Shops open Christmas sale with discounts, grocery stores offering Christmas package displayed gracefully at the entrance of the shop. Local vendors open temporary street sale with many people crowding around looking for new clothes and stuff to buy in cheap price for Christmas and New Year. All those elements have made Christmas and New year materialsm spirit dominated the whole month and the mind of people to buy things and have fun. But this is not the real meaning of Christmas for me although I love to have new stuff but I am realistic enough on the ratio between the money in my pocket and the prices of things I desired for. The ratio is 1 by 5 and it’s not enough. Forget it! Who cares about me not wearing a new clothes or buy new stuff? 

People say Christmas is the time to reunite with families and friends. And yes, all I want for Christmas is to be with my family. They live faraway from Dili city and it took me eight hours trip to reach the municipality where they live.

However, going there from Dili during Christmas and New-year week is really a struggle. This is the peak of busy week for buses to load passengers and seats are limited as they are mostly reserved to the loyal subscribing passengers. In normal days, buses will try to catch the passenger but in Christmas and New Year week, the passengers have to catch for buses. Who ran faster, will get the seat easier. Who came late, will have to stand along the way. Don’t ask how does it feel to stand in the bus along the long way home for eight hours. The roads are bumpy and curvy and it makes us shaking inside the bus everytime it takes a road turn. Not to mention, the exhausted driver who play loud music like discotic atmosphere to keep his sleepy eyes up, other passengers who smokes freely, or some other passengers who throw out from the window because of the car sick. In some cases, that exhausted driver may get a bit collapseD and causes the whole bus to be in a big trouble. A really ‘big trouble’ that may end your life or left you in bad injury because of road accident.

Christmas and New year are never easy here for those who have to return to their munipalities from Dili. Somehow, no matter how hard the trip is, people keep going  to municipalities to see their family. It’s a worth thing to go through, though. Because today we may still be  together, but tomorrow, who knows?

VZ, Dili, 23 December 2017