I knew virtually nothing about Timor-Leste before traveling here. I sat next to two wonderful people that live in Timor on the plane ride from Denpasar, Bali. They were the ones that began to tell me about the history of Timor in hushed voices. The open wounds left behind from endless years of oppression are still fresh in people’s minds.
The people of Timor-Leste have been brutally exploited for hundreds of years. They carry wide smiles but sad eyes. I feel they have learned to cope with trauma differently than people in western countries. For example, the man who checked me into my guest house in Dili casually told me he had just came from his brother’s funeral. He said this so nonchalantly that he could have been telling me about the weather. He was still friendly and wore a genuine smile, barely acknowledging my apology for his loss. The people here have thick skin in the presence of grief. They seem to overlook the pain or bottle it up deep inside of themselves. I can only begin to imagine how these events have psychologically affected the people who live here.
Oppression ran rampant for the majority of this island’s history whether it was at the hands of the Portuguese, Dutch or Indonesians. I was told that the people don’t hold grudges against Indonesian people; they don’t blame them for what happened throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It’s the Indonesian military culture that the people of Timor-Leste will not so easily forgive. Despite everything that has happened here, the country is growing faster than most developing countries. The Timorese are ready for change and are working hard to make it happen for themselves.
To learn more about Timor-Leste and how you can help this beautiful country thrive go to: https://www.care.org.au/country/timor-leste/
Here’s an alarming article describing sexual misconduct of UN staff in Timor:
If you are interested in being deeply disturbed by a dialogue you will never forget, scroll to the end of this article: https://newint.org/features/1994/03/05/simply
*Disclaimer: Not Original Photos*