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.

Jakarta 2

Aug. 22nd, 2013 06:58 pm
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
This will be probably the most sobering of my entries on Timor-Leste.

First, a tiny bit of history )

The fighting was intense in Ainaro--Wikipedia notes that 95 percent of the buildings were burned by the departing Indonesian forces. One of the young men whom I talked to remembers his house being burned and fleeing to the mountains when he was ten years old. Another lost a father, an uncle, and seven half-brothers in the conflict. Many of the buildings remain in ruins:

ruins of war

A short walk from where I was staying is a place where the land falls away in sheer cliffs on both sides of the road. This place is known as Jakarta 2. It's where the Indonesian forces conducted executions--pushing people off the cliff. There's a concrete crucifix there now:

Crucifix at Jakarta 2

another memorial

memorial at Jakarta 2

The guy who took me here told me that when cars drive by here, they will slow down, out of respect, and people on motorbikes or foot will often stop for a moment to say a prayer.

We looked over the edge. I didn't take a picture. Too many ghosts.

All of which makes the children at the school across the street from where I was staying, singing Timor-Leste's national anthem while raising the flag of their eleven-year-old country, extra moving. (Voices you can hear are the voices of my two hosts.)

(If the embedding doesn't work for you, go here.)

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