Deciphering… and fixing
Wednesday, day 49
Back in Lospalos, and it is nice to be home! Despite the fact that I’ve spend less time here than I have anywhere else so far, it still feels like my home base. It is the only place I can leave things, and where I am not a guest in someone else’s home. Valda is back and cooking her wonderful food. Ona is away this week, and I have missed her. I am joined here this week by my mother and by two friends from Melbourne so I have the decidedly strange experience of being someone else’s expert in this country despite feeling like such a beginner.
I realised today – with a slight sense of dismay, I must admit – that the majority of my energy and thinking these last 7 weeks has gone into ‘managing’ my relationships with people here and trying to make sense of them all. It’s a constant daily task because Timor is not an easy place! But I am learning. I noticed, when my visitors first arrived, how many assumptions they made. They might see a particular event taking place, and leap from that to a whole chain of assumptions and presumptions and tangents. I realised, through sharing their first experiences of Timor Leste, that I’ve learned not to do this, because so many things are not what they seem. So many things that people tell you aren’t quite what you may understand them to be. You learn to assume you actually haven’t got all the information you need!
It is tiring though, to be constantly having to decipher things.
Simon confessed to me, on his first night here in the Lospalos house, that he “actually felt quite traumatised – in shock!” I had tried to prepare him by saying that the best way to approach it is like camping. “I’m not a good camper,” he told me.
Still, mornings here make everything feel more possible. It is quiet and still, and from our positions on the big verandah we can look out over the lush green garden and watch the constant parade of people as they walk into town – groups of children fanning themselves out across the street, women walking with their hand carts of goods for their market stall, or carrying baskets on their heads, solitary strollers in single file…. We eat the fresh bread with tomatoes that Valda prepares for us, add dollops of the butter that Mum found in a supermarket in Dili, sip our hot coffee, and ease into the day.
Simon must have felt more his usual creative self that first morning, as he took it upon himself to find a solution to the broken toilet seat. The seat and lid had broken away from their plastic fastenings to the porcelain throne – years ago, I would say. Simon took the skein of rope that I bought on a whim in the hardware store in Dili (because it was so soft and white and natural – unlike all the nylon ropes you usually see here), removed the broken fastenings from the porcelain, and threaded the rope through the holes and around its base, so that it looked like the toilet had been lassoed. Yee-ha! We were all very impressed.