I promised to my mom

Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c0/29/ae/c029ae23a6bfe4208711c3f0f65053b9.jpg

When I was still a little kid
My mom used to tell me
“My child, do not get too close to an adult man”
I asked her ‘why’?
And she replied
“Because there is a monster hiding inside them.”

When I grew up as a teenager
Once again, my mom reminded me
“My dear girl, do not get too close to the boys nor the adult man”
Again I protested her “but why?”
And she replied to me with a glare
“Because they can turn to a monster anytime!”

As I became an adolescent girl
my mom said
“Please, do not rush to choose a man for your life, okay”
“But mom…” and she interrupted
“Because you may have ended up choosing a monster instead, dear”

Today, I am a grown-up woman
Still, my mom said
“Please ensure that you live well with the man you have chosen”
I said “mom, okay. I heard it”, and she insisted again
“Yes, you should my dear. And please make sure that he will never turn into a monster to hurt you and your children, I beg you.”

“Okay, mom. Okay. It’s noted. I will do.”
I promised my mom.

Vitalia Ze

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.

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.

I Met Gibran in Baucau and Fell in Love with Poetry

Khalil Gibran, the famous Lebanon poet was waiting for me in a kiosk across the roundabout street of Villa-Nova city in Baucau. I saw him through his cover, a tightly wrapped book in plastic yet it is dusty because the cars and motorbike were passed by throwing its dusty greeting.

With some notes of Dollars I left for the kiosk owner, I brought Gibran home with me, barely knowing him. Together, we rode the microlete and look at each other with hidden smile trying to avoid the questioned look of other people in the microlete. I guess Gibran might be another storyteller I would spend my long night with in silence.

It’s 8 pm at home. I finished my dinner. The dishes are done. I knew I was ready to join Mr. Gibran in my bedroom.

“Good evening Mr. Gibran” I said while opening the plastic wrap off him. It felt like uncovering the veil of the bride for the first time. How awkward yet exciting to get to know him page by page before the first page. His title. Secrets of the Heart .

“So you are a poet Mr. Gibran,” I said and keep reading him through the page. Reading every line of the verses. I completely lost in every words of him.

“Mr. Gibran, how could words transformed in such They are hypnotically romantic and ironic at the same time. a magical way that it could touch the mind and soul? Even God becomes closer to you in words.”

“Poetry is not an opinion expressed. It is a song that rises from a bleeding wound or a smiling mouth,” Gibran said in smile.

That night we end up sailing in the ocean of poetry.

Baucau, 2008

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

36381999_10216592378586183_1345983329693859840_n.jpg

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

Dad’s Wrist Watch

Time flies. Time moves forward. Time rotates on its axis inside a wrist watch, my dad’s wrist watch.
Two nights ago, that wrist watch witnessed how I spend time with my dad. As the flow of time is irreversible, what can you do to enjoy each moments of its flow? 
One of my answer is to listen to folktale. Two nights ago, I spent time with my dad and his folktales. He had some folktales he got from the ancestors. 
There are few that I remember most; a tale of Cockatoo princess, a tale of two brothers, a tale of a dead brother and the tale of Matebian mountains. I haven’t been able to record or rewrite them. But I remember how the tales go on.
I love to hear those tales over and over again but dad said folktales are meant to be told at particular occasions only such as during harvesting time or during traditional cultural gathering. So, I have to wait for another occasion to hear another tale. It can be an old tale or a new one. 
My dad left and time flies away but those tales remain in my mind.
#noteoflife

Childhood Memory

Dear mom

I am now recalling my childhood memory with you

It was not a good one though.

You left me raised by your sisters

As you went away for some days, sometimes even couple of weeks

They said you went away to get me some bread and sweet cakes.

I did not want them. 

I missed you so much 

Yet you did not come back for weeks

I felt so hurt. 

So I cried out loud every night.

Your sisters almost gave up on me.

They told me to stop crying and be quiet. 

That was how I learnt to stop missing you. 

Then one day you came unexpectedly. 

I was playing alone with my clay toys. They told me to get up and run for you and welcome you home.

I did turn around and stared at you blankly. I did not know what to say. I just sat still and being quiet again.

Your face turned regretful. 

Then you came to me and greeted me. ‘Are you alright, darling?’ you said. I just nodded and be quite again.

You felt strange with me. So did I to you.

Since that day, I did not know how to restore this bound between us.

But you keep trying to restore it and you never stop until today.

Dili, 2018

VZ