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.

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. 

Completion of My Visit to the 13 Municipalities of Timor-Leste (Part 1)

Last year, 2018, was the year I completed my visit to the thirteen municipalities of my country, Timor-Leste or usually known as East Timor. This may sounds weird as why as native who grow and live in my own country, I could only made to complete my visit to the country’s thirteen municipalities lately  last year due to personal limitations. After all, thanks to my youth explorer trip during college days and chances of joining field trip as a non-profit institution worker allowed me to travel, work and enjoy the beauty of each municipalities I visited and I could documented their glimpses of beauty in few pictures I took with my camera.

Map of Timor-Leste country

As a beginner in photography, I enjoy doing it for personal fun. To mark my not-so-fancy-explorer trip and capture the glimpse of beauty in each municipality I have ever visited, doing photography for me is an amazing medium to capture the endless impressions on a trip and it also worked as one of a relaxing therapy for my longing explorer spirit. Here are pictures of some interesting spots in the 13 municipalities of Timor-Leste and brief notes of my impression on them.

A Roundabout of Lospalos city, 2015
  1. Lospalos – Lautem Municipality

Known as the eastern edge part municipality of the country, Lospalos as one of post-administrative has became a place where I spent most of my childhood till my adulthood. The name Lospalos was modified by Indonesian government from its origin name Los Pala means ‘the garden’ in Fataluku language, a main dialect in Lautem municipality. The landscape are mostly flat lands and are predominant with grass field. The city at the present day become quieter as most of its young population are emigrating to UK and Ireland to find job. However, this municipality has a lot of interesting touristic places to be visited, strong cultures and traditions continued to carry on and yet many other stories about its people to be explored and retold. The Lautem Municipality composted from 5 post administrative; Lospalos, Tutuala,Lautem, Luro and Iliomar.
Fataluku is one of main dialect along with other dialect such Makassae, Maka-lero and Lovaia (may already extinct at the present day) but Tetun and Indonesian language is widely spoken and understood. It took 8 to 9 hours one day trip with car or public bus to reach this municipality from Dili, the capital of the Timor-Leste.

The restored Mercado Municipal in Baucau city, 2015

2. Baucau – Baucau Municipality

Being a student and living in this city in 2007s, Baucau is popularly known as the second big city in the country and considered second most crowded city as daily movement is seen as active as in Dili the capital, compare to other municipalities. Located at the eastern part of the Timor-leste territory, it is the second municipality people passed by from Lospalos to Dili. The city is also popular for its rocky area dominating its landscape. The Portuguese historical buildings are left among several landmarks in the municipalities and this municipalities also has a lot of beautiful places and interesting stories ad cultures to be explored. The city is also known for it active business activity from its people and religious activities are actively held in the town as the second diocese office located in the city thus become the center of catholic religion administrative at municipality level to cover 4 municipalities such as; Lautem, Baucau, Viqueque and Manatuto. Baucau municipality has 5 post administrative such as: Baucau, Venilale, Vemasse, Laga, Baguia and Quelicai. Makassae is one of main dialect along with other dialect such Uai-maa and Midiki but Tetun and Indonesian language is widely spoken and understood. It took 3 to 4 hours one day trip with car or public bus from Dili to reach Baucau city.

Hanging bridge, Viqueque, 2015

3. Viqueque – Viqueque Municipality

I first time visit this municipality in 2008 and the main city seemed a little bit secluded in the low land and high hills surrounding the landscape of the municipality. The word Viqueque is modified version of the words We Keke (means the eroding water while other local folktale account said it means arm bracelet water) from Tetun Terik, one of a main dialect in Viqueque post administrative. It is located at the south coast part of the Timor-Leste territory and people can reach this municipality from Baucau city or from Manatuto city when coming from Dili. The municipality known to have wider area of grown coconut plants, grow local several varieties of local rices, grow cashew nuts and has some historical places that shares memories of struggles during Indonesian occupation and also beautiful places to visit as well as the interesting cultures and traditions to explore. Viqueque municipality has 5 post administrative such as: Lacluta, Ossu, Uatolari, Uato Carabau and Viqueque. Tetun Terik is one of main dialect along with other dialect such Nau-ueti and Makassae but Tetun and Indonesian language is widely spoken and understood. It took 8 to 9 hours one day trip with car or public bus from Dili to reach Viqueque city.

Subaun hill, Manatuto, 2015

4. Manatuto – Manatuto Municipality

Manatuto city is the city everyone has to passed by when coming from Lospalos, Baucau and Viqueque city on the way to Dili. Located at the central part of the country, the city is known for the historical places with catholic missionary influence in Soibada, ancient kingdoms historical values to retold, culture and traditions of its people, local festivities especially on its gastronomy. The popular one is Balisaun (salted baby shrimps harvested once a year) and akar babilak (palm fiber pancake). The municipality also known for its popular dance on festival of shrimp harvesting named suru boek dance (taking the shrimps in hand/harvesting shrimps). Subaun is one of the popular thrilling steep hills when passing by Manatuto to Dili, however, other landscapes such as beautiful beaches and hills are along the way to enjoyed. Galolen is one of main dialect along with other dialect such Tetun Terik and Idatee but Tetun and Indonesian language is widely spoken and understood. Manatuto municipality has 5 post administrative such as: Barique-Natarbora, Laclo, Laclubar, Laleia, Manatuto and Soibada. It took 2 to 3 hours one day trip with car or public bus from Dili to reach Manatuto city.

Acait harbour at the front of Palacio do Governo, Vera Cruz, Dili, 2015

5. Dili – Dili Municipality

As the capital of the country, Dili is the most crowded city in the territory of Timor-Leste and becomes the central of development of the country thus people from other thirteen municipalities are all move to Dili to reach for a better livelihood and made it the most populated city. There are many interesting places in Dili such as Cristo Rei Statue and beach, Tasi Tolu lakes with Pope St. John Paul Statue to honour his visit in 1989, and many
modern restaurants and bars to hang out in along the way from Comoro road (Nain Feto post-administrative) to Cristo Rei area. However, what I noticed about Dili when I first time came to this place was that many people loved to hang out at the harbor in front of Palacio do Governo (Palace of the Government) in Acait street to enjoy the view of the sea, Atauro island at the northern side and the sunset. Palacio do Governo itself was a historical Portuguese building which today’s served as one of government office. There are many remarks of Portuguese and Indonesian buildings and legacy of dark past of struggle to independence in this city such as Santa Cruz cemetery, Balide prison and other places that record a lot of mementos of the country’s independence and history. Tetun is one of main spoken language along with other language such as Indonesian language, Portuguese and English along with dialects from municipalities. Dili municipality has 5 post administrative such as: Atauro, Cristo Rei, Dom Aleixo, Metinaro, Nain Feto and Vera Cruz. It took 2 hours flight on one day flight from Bali to Dili and trip duration from other municipalities are vary.

A vegetable garden in Seloi village, Aileu, 2013

6. Aileu – Aileu Municipality

What I remembered the most on visiting Aileu for the first time was the
sparse eucalyptus trees and grasses along the road and the fresh cold humid air along way. The word Aileu according to local tale was derived from the expression Ai Kleuk means bent tree is perhaps due to its curvy road.  My first visit was to Remexio post administrative in 2008 and there, the fog always covered the area in the afternoon. My second visit to Aileu city was in 2013 and I noticed the city to be the city of vegetable gardener as many local farmers run garden of vegetables and rice-filed as one their main livelihood source. I love to enjoy the view of the coffee garden, beautiful steep hills and there Seloi lake is one of beautiful place to visit. Aileu is known to be the municipality that supplies vegetables such as green vegetables, cabbage, cauliflowers and beans to Dili and also produce coffee plants. Being located in northwestern part to Dili, it took 1 to 2 hours one day trip with bus, car or motorcycle to reach the city. Mambae is widely spoken among the community but Tetun and Indonesian language is widely spoken and understood. The municipalities also has interesting pattern of cultural traditions and historical Portuguese buildings to explore. The municipality has 4 post-administrative which are Aileu Vila, Laulara, Remexio and Lequidoe.

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.

BELINDA AND AN ADVICE OF BEING YOUTH AS A GIRL

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Meriam Belina until today is still a popular Indonesian actress and singer since I was still studying in kindergarten school in 90s era.  She has a beautiful Indo look that catches every eye and performed very well in every acting role in the movies she starred. Even today, she still plays in some Indonesian TV series that I have lost interest to watch. At the moment, she must be doing her life well in Jakarta, Indonesia while I am remembering him from Dili, Timor-Leste.

In 2000s, hundreds miles away from Jakarta, I met Meriam Belina’s doppelganger from Lospalos, a post administrative of Lautem Municipality of Timor-Leste. She was a popular girl I saw at school on our seventh grade. She has a fair skin, slender figure and a brown highlighted silky long black hair. Her long facial feature, nose shape, brown eyes and her smile almost resemble Meriam Belina on her youth version. People could even say they both were sisters if they took picture together. People called this girl Belinda.

First time getting to know her, I told her she looks like Meriam Belina and her name too was almost same. She laughed and has her cheeks blushed a pink shade.

Belinda to me was kind of a free soul and an easygoing girl who loved to enjoy life’s present blessing without having to worry about tomorrow’s burden. It was commonly known by other girls that time that she dates several boys for fun. Something which was considered bitchy by many girls.

On our adolescent time and being high school students, I remember one of friend retold me on her advice about youth time. She said, ‘my friend, our youth time happens only once. Therefore, you have to enjoy it for the best as you can. On dating, she then said ‘girls, date as many boys as you can and do not dwell on sadness of having a break up. You may have many boyfriends and exes when you were young but later you will end up with one man only or two if you are lucky, depend on how your destiny will be.’

While being taken by her bold advice, I did realize that that time, one of girl’s common talked problems (only among girls) was how to deal with dating and breaking up with boyfriend. Many took days to move on after break up. Some were wondering if they would be able to find a good man, if they might end up marrying a good man or marry the love of their life.

While fantasizing about the right man or prince in the armor suit to save us the damsel in distress, we did not realize that apart of dating a boy there are so much more for girls to pursue for the future. Studying and learning various knowledge and skills are very important means of preparation for the future.  However, I found that not all girls are lucky enough to have the chance and opportunities to continue explore the opportunities to learn and work. Many of girls in my youth era either ended up marrying and getting pregnant in a young age by their own choice or forced by some circumstances. Some marry to save the family reputation without proper mental preparedness and has to marry for the sake of saving their and the family’s reputation as being pregnant without marrying is culturally a shame.

Those wishes, I think, are the influences of popular romances and culture where woman are destined to wait for the right man is very strong belief among young girls. In a culture where patriarchy is dominant, a man is seen superior being while a woman – despite of her achievement – will be still underestimated and should not be more superior to men in society’s normative judgment. Today in my adulthood, I just realized how important it is that our youth generation needs to have a proper guidance from the society, from the world about how to enjoy their youth accordingly.

One day I met Belinda. She is already a married woman with two or three kids and a loving husband (as I perceived in her social media display). Every time I met her, she reminded me of her advice about youth and dating. She might be ended up marrying a right person and live happily who knows. However, nowadays, I think her thought is indeed still relevant. For girls, it is very important to not dwelling on the break up grief but to enjoy their youth through a meaningful and careful way. Moreover, as I would like to add, it is important for girls in their youth to explore as many opportunities as possible by studying and learning more and it society has great contribution to empower them through proper guiding and support.

#youth #memory #girls #empoweryounggirl

AL

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