asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
[personal profile] asakiyume
If you're going to meet an actual hero, a freedom fighter and former political prisoner who helped birth a new nation--that's YOU, Mr. Xanana Gusmão--you would do well not to be 45 minutes late. Alas, Google maps misled me about how long it would take me to drive from my house to the Pell Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mr. Gusmão and a panel of distinguished experts were going to be talking about the future of Timor-Leste. And then I made a wrong turn at the very end and got lost. By the time I was driving down Bellevue Avenue, past RIDONCULOUS mansions, I was more than a half-hour late. But damn it! I did not drive all that way just to ... go home again.

Finally I found the place. A guy waiting in a bus kitted out like a trolley told me yes, this was it.

The talk was happening in a room with gilded Baroque-style accents.


I entered quietly. There were five people sitting on the panel, one talking about USAID and Timor-Leste, and a moderator standing at a podium, but no Xanana Gusmão. But then I realized that the USAID guy was directing his remarks not so much at the audience at large but at one person sitting in the front row. The back of that person's head, which was all that I could see, definitely looked like it was potentially Xanana's. (Yes, in my head I'm on a first-name basis with him.)

A few other panelists talked, all interesting, though my favorite was a retired US lieutenant general, who talked about the difference, in his experience, between states that succeed and those who don't, post conflict.

There was only time for one question, and then Xanana made a couple of final remarks, the students who had been there all departed en masse for classes, and the moderator told the lucky invited few to board the special trolley bus, which was going to whisk them off to somewhere else.

I hung back in the hallway, hoping to somehow say something, anything, to Xanana. I knew I wouldn't really ask him if he could shapeshift, or if he'd like to collaborate with me in writing a story based on this experience, and I didn't want to just gush that I was a fan, but I wanted to say **something**.

And I got my chance. He walked by and saw my expectant face and stopped and smiled at me. And I started blurting out that one small thing he'd done that made me admire him was get out and direct traffic one day in Dili, when there was a traffic jam. I think I said more presidents should do things like that. But before I got two words out, he had lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, all the while looking at me with an expression of friendly affection.

I can see why people would die for him--or better yet, live and struggle for him. He was EVERY BIT as charismatic as I thought he would be, and then some.


Date: 2017-09-19 12:47 am (UTC)
osprey_archer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] osprey_archer

You realize there is now an alternate universe you who is now running a dangerous but heroically necessary and just secret mission for this man.

Date: 2017-09-25 09:15 am (UTC)
snakypoet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snakypoet
Oh, I didn't realise they had separated. :(

Date: 2017-09-19 01:24 am (UTC)
pameladean: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pameladean


Date: 2017-09-19 02:10 am (UTC)
queenoftheskies: queenoftheskies (Default)
From: [personal profile] queenoftheskies
He looks charismatic.

That sounds so thrilling!!!

Date: 2017-09-19 01:36 pm (UTC)
queenoftheskies: queenoftheskies (Default)
From: [personal profile] queenoftheskies

Date: 2017-09-19 05:00 am (UTC)
minoanmiss: (Default)
From: [personal profile] minoanmiss
If anyone should have such a wondrous experience it's you. I am sure you made his day!

Date: 2017-09-19 10:55 am (UTC)
amaebi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amaebi

Date: 2017-09-19 05:41 pm (UTC)
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivy
How wonderful! Also, I did a lot of reading about the history of the country and its politics because of you and this post... thanks for that! Super interesting; you have sent a little finger of knowledge out into the world.

Date: 2017-09-19 01:35 pm (UTC)
missroserose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] missroserose
Congrats! I'm so glad you made it - what a lovely experience. :)

Date: 2017-09-19 05:18 pm (UTC)
noachoc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] noachoc
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! (On your behalf, mostly)

Date: 2017-09-20 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] khiemtran
Very cool! I still think the shape-shifting story warrants further investigation...

Date: 2017-09-25 09:15 am (UTC)
snakypoet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snakypoet
You are SO lucky!!!

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