Friday, November 11, 2005

Simple pleasures


I have just completed reading a fabulous book: a travel memoir by Alice Steinbach Without Reservations: Travels of an Independent Woman. It charts her one year voyage to France, England and Italy; a journey she undertook in her early 50s after her two children had left home. It is beautifully written and evoked for me memories of the many places I too have lived or visited. I commend it to you.

I was thinking to myself while reading Without Reservations how sad it is that the Timorese cannot read in their national language as Tetun was until very recently an oral language (and Portuguese is only spoken by 5% of the population). There are very few books available in Tetun and in fact I have seen none but I am told that there are a handful of books for small children. It should not therefore surprise me that I never see anyone reading a book! I see school children carrying their textbooks (in Bahasa) to and from school and I once saw two children reading Lafaek (crocodile) the human rights comic magazine aimed at children produced by CARE and the World Bank. Some of my colleagues read the local newspapers and Daniel has seen at least one of his colleagues read a book in Bahasa.

I would feel absolutely bereft if I could not read and the fact that the Timorese cannot due to widespread illiteracy and no materials being available in their local dialect or Tetun induces in me a sense of loss for them as a people. It also explains my frustrations in dealing with the limitations of the culture in that there is very little intellectual or cultural curiosity amongst the majority of the population, including my work colleagues. The same applies in the West as I find people who don’t read (quality resources) generally uninteresting and often moronic people. However, at least in the West there is no excuse for not reading.

I have decided that in order to experience any joy while living here, I have to focus on simple things. After all, how much pleasure can one expect to experience living in a Third World country (and the poorest in the Asia Pacific region at that)? Poverty is not something that raises the spirits, in fact quite the reverse.

My list of joyful moments includes: the smile of a small child, the birds singing in my garden, the sight and sound of migratory birds at Tasitolu Peace Park, the feel and sound of the wind, the view of the ocean from my house, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, swimming in the sea as night falls, a black night sky full of bright sparkling stars, a full moon, the sweet coldness of a banana lassie at my favourite Indian restaurant, reading books in English, watching DVDs from various countries sub titled or not, listening to Radio Australia or the BBC World Service. Is it enough to sustain me for two years? Only time will tell.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Português/Portuguese Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified

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