asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
A bit back I posted about spirits that live in geodes in Timor-Leste. Here's a real-life example people interacting with the spirits. It sounds like something from an old folktale--only it's from 1994. I came across it in the memoir A Woman of Independence, by Kirsty Sword Gusmão. She, you may recall, is the wife of Xanana Gusmão, the current prime minister of Timor-Leste. In 1994 Xanana was in prison in Indonesia, and Kirsty was his English teacher and liaison. They were communicating only by letters, and Xanana sent Kirsty this letter, regarding a photo she had been given to send to him, of a boy in an orphanage, a boy Kirsty had been told was Xanana's son.

My dear, thanks for the photo of my son of war )

This story entrances me, the story itself, most of all, but also the way Xanana shared it with Kirsty. It's a delicate thing, explaining about beliefs. The world is a complicated place, and how people live in it is different in more than just material ways. Some people experience a world that's thick with spirits, others a world with very few, others a world with none at all.

More on the book when I finish it--I'm nearly done.


asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Mt. Kablaki is not the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste; I think it's the third-tallest. But it's a sacred mountain, like Mt. Ramelau, the tallest--and it's visible (and hike-able) from Ainaro.

Mt. Kablaki

kablaki


One of the students asked me when American independence day was, and I told her it was July 4th and asked when Timor-Leste's independence day was. May 20th, she told me. Then I told them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It's a myth, but it encapsulates values we'd like to think our first president had. Then I asked them to tell me a story about Xanana Gusmão, their national hero and current prime minister. One of the students told me how, during the resistance, local people hid him on Mt Kablaki.

I've also read that he got a protective amulet there--the sort that lets you move unseen past your enemies.

I've also heard that he could transform himself into a dog. There are many many dogs running around loose in Ainaro, so that would be a good disguise. I asked one girl if she had any dogs, and she said yes, four or five. I asked what she fed them, and she said rice, or rice gruel.

Later, when I was rinsing rice for dinner (and in Timor-Leste there's much more reason to do this than there is in America, because in Timor-Leste the rice contains lots of bits of chaff and hull), I went to pour off the water in the yard, and one of the local dogs came trotting over eagerly. Aha. Rice gruel, I thought.

neighborhood dogs

dogs at Olympio's


But back to mountains. All the mountains roundabout Ainaro are beautiful.

dramatic skies

Here's dawn over the pre-secondary school, across the street from where I was staying.

dawn from the Teachers' House



asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
After working all day, tonight, when it was all soft and dark out, and the breeze felt pleasantly cool, the forest creatures and I went out to look at the fireflies, or the moon, or both.

It ended up being both--the fireflies spangling the fields on one side of the road, pure magic, and the moon the color of lemon custard and bright as a candle flame above the other.

--okay but here's what I've been thinking about. It's because of getting all these extra immunizations to go to East Timor. Immunizations and prophylactic medicines: they're like wards. I feel like the medical establishment is laying spell upon spell upon me: "Now you will be able to walk through flames and over scorpions, and you will emerge unscathed." (Except really what they said was, "You know this typhoid shot is only 80 percent effective, so be careful of what you eat" but even so. Eighty out of one hundred typhoid scorpions will not sting me.)

But I can't help thinking, What about everyone who lives there all the time? I bet they're not on prophylactic doxycycline all their lives. They have to just rely on mosquito nets and bug spray to keep away malaria. Or, y'know, they just get it. And same with all the other ailments. But I get to waltz covered in wards. Oh: and whatever germs I might be carrying with me from New England, they're certainly not warded against. ... I shall try not to breathe on people.

catalpa wands: blossoms threaded on grass
DSCN3681

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