THE QUIET BOY DID BECAME A PRIEST.

Lospalos was a city of cold summer breeze when I knew him for the first time at a local middle school.

His name is Jonio. He was a friend of someone introduced to me by somebody. I barely knew him and so did him to me yet by observing him from afar had given me a perception. His facial feature made me guessing if he might have an Indian or Srilankan ethnicity gene. I should have confirmed that to him during our Biology class on genetics (but I never did until today).

Unlike many other boys who tend to be overt, Jonio always looked quiet, gentle and shown serene gesture like Siddarth Gautama after became a Budha, especially when he smiled. He had a smile that could soothe your soul.  Some girls who knew him that time told me that he was typical of ‘quiet outside, but smart inside’ person as he was also known to be a smart boy in his classroom.

According to the general opinion of our girls talk-group (which based on our random unscientific probability theory), this typical guy usually will end up continuing his study at the seminary, a school for Catholic priest-to-be. Therefore, as an advice from our girl’s talk group, do not ever think about dating this type of guy as he would turn down your expectation to make him your future husband. How silly.

That time, when a boy could study in a seminary, he would then be considered as charming and ideal future man by most of the girls in the city – since he was studying in seminary, a school for future priests, future intellectuals and religious leaders. Many Timorese famous political figures were mostly known as seminary students when they were young. So, there was a common impression that a boy who studied in seminary, if he would not end up being a priest, he might turn to a future political leader or an influential figure thus became a potential future husband if you could win his heart.

The seminary students usually would only be seen until they returned home from vacation and only appeared occasionally at the Sunday church mass with an appearance of an eloquent humble gentleman as their new look. It was indeed a style that was once not seen in some of them before they enrolled in seminary school.

But Jonio was an exception. He had possessed that eloquence and humility, even before he enrolled. After finishing middle school, I heard that he enrolled in a popular seminary school located out of the district. For us, the ordinary student, the story of seminary school as a dream school has been just like a fairy-tale. Many people would love to go and study there, but only a few were selected. It was said that the admission to seminary school was strictly selective and rigid. Thus to past the admission test (document check, written and oral test) was already an initial achievement prior to study there.

That was how I believed that the unscientific prediction in our girl’s talkgroup was proven correct. Jonio would be a priest and no girl should dream of dating him and Jonio had never been known or heard to have a crush to any girl or dating since the mid school (or maybe he did but we never notice).

If the invisible label ‘You are now a charming guy for being a seminary student’ can be printed in a salenda, then one day, I thought, when he returned to the city for the vacation, sometimes at Easter or Christmas, he too would have that scarf wrapped around his neck with a lot of congratulations and admiration stares from the girls.  And with this title wrapped in him, despite his charm, those girls would also realize afterward that one day he would be a Catholic priest (who will not marry and live a celibate life). Would he be a priest or would he not?

On a Christmas Eve, I finally befriended him. Thanks to his friend who befriended me so we got acquainted with each other. We were not so close as friends, but it was nice to know him in person and despite his quiet personality, he actually had a good sense of humor and also a good listener. Perhaps because of being a seminary student, he remains to be a quiet, humble and polite boy I ever knew in my teenagehood generation. I never caught or heard him cursing or speak badly to others (maybe he did some and I had not known yet).

After finishing the high school at the seminary school, I heard that he still willing to continue his study in higher seminary school and became a novice of a well known religious community in Timor-Leste.

On one occasion, I had a chance to meet him when he was delivering the child and youth Sunday school service in a village of Uailili in Baucau. I met him again at his seminary school where I dropped by as a visitor. He just had finished lunch with his friends. They had rice, red bean soup and spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch.  Among them, there was another three familiar faces of my former schoolmates in high school. I went to meet and greet them. We were surprised to see each other as if that day was destined to be a reunion day for the four of us. They told me how they managed to survive in the seminary with  those red bean soup and Italian pasta as the popular menu.

Meanwhile, in a corner of a corridor, I found Jonio  smiled, joked and laughed more when he was with his other seminarist colleagues. Yet when I greet him, I felt that he suddenly turned back to the quiet and polite boy like he usually was.  Seeing him there made me wonder if he would keep going on with his journey to be a future priest or he might change his mind in the middle of the road. Some ex-novices or ex-seminarist friends I knew who quitted in the middle of the road, later reasoned that God did not choose them – as Jesus said ‘for many are called, but few are chosen’  (or maybe it was they themselves who did not want to be chosen, who knew). Would God choose Jonio? Well, it may be or may be not. Only God and Jonio would know.

After another ten years or so, we met again, but only in a virtual world of social media called Facebook -an online book where you can find many faces of everyone in the world include your own face.  Jonio’s rank in his religious community study had raised from a novice to a Brother. We had a cliché conversation about ourselves, about his study or merely greeted each other for the birthday celebration that was notified prior by Facebook. How wonderful it is that today Facebook makes you know more about your friend’s personal identity which in the past was just as discreet as a personal underclothing.

Somehow, in the following years, we did not talk more except clicking thumb up symbol as our ‘like’ reaction when one posted a nice picture or words on the Facebook personal wall. Suddenly, it feels odd to ask the same old thing or many random trivial things to your friends through a virtual world.

Last year, I saw that he was in Manila, Philippine, one of the Catholic majority country in Southeast Asia. He studied there with his community fellows. Sometimes, he also posted some nice touristy places they visited in Manila. Mostly beaches with beautiful clear blue water and white sand like Cristo Rei beach in Dili. Anyway, I felt proud and wondering about him as well. Would he keep going ahead with his study? Only he knew.

This year, I saw him already ordained as a deacon in Manila and he looked contented when he did his liturgical tasks. On one post, it is shown him Christiniazing a Filipino baby in a church. I did not know why, I suddenly felt emotionally surprised,  touched and proud at the same time seeing him gracefully conducted his service.

Last month, I read another post about his official announcement of ordination in Fatumaca, Baucau. I could not go even though I really wanted to. I wished his ordination mass would be held in Dili. Then after a few weeks, he posted another announcement that there would be a thanksgiving mass for his ordination to be held in his home town. Again, I could not go because it is too far from Dili. I would miss out again to see him holding his first mass in his hometown for the first time and witnessing another remark of his journey in a religious path.

Well, I could only extend my virtual congratulations and best wishes in the Facebook comment box that already crowded with many other people’s congratulations words. And so, the quiet boy I used to know in the middle school had officially become a priest and yes he did.

Deep inside my heart, I do know and I would like him to know that I felt so happy and proud of him and wish him for the best in his journey being a priest. May he continue to be the chosen one.

                  ***

Salenda = a Timorese typical woven clothes scarf

To fr. J.

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Cristo Rei beach in Dili

If you come to Dili as visitor, one of the popular place you would have to visit is the Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili). It is a 27.0-metre-high (88.6 ft) statue of Jesus located atop a globe in Dili, Timor-Leste. The statue was designed by Mochamad Syailillah, who is better known as Bolil. The statue was officially unveiled by Suharto in 1996 as gift from the Indonesian Government to the people of East Timor, which at that time was still a province, the twentieth seventh province of Indonesia. The statue nowaday is one of the main tourist attractions in Timor-Leste. It located on a top of the hill located at southern part of Dili and from the top of that hill you can enjoy the view of turquoise blue beach with white sand from each side.

This beach namely Area Branca (White Sand) beach can be seen at the rightside from the top of Cristo Rei statue hill. To reach to this beach one can use Microlet no. 12 (minivan type of vehicle for public transportation) which cost $ 0.25 or by taking yellow or blue taxi that may charge around $ 5 USD depends on the distance from where you stop the taxi.

This beach can be seen leftside from Cristo Rei statue and is named Dolok Oan beach. To go there, one can go through a downstair way from Cristo Rei hill. 
#travel #places #tourism #timorleste

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.

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