Saturday, December 24, 2005

The courtship of Argentina and Alberto

We also took the opportunity to ask “our family” about a young woman who lives with them but is not their daughter. We have been intrigued as to her circumstances because we know that Timorese families often have other members of their extended family live with them who often perform household duties, in effect their servants. We were very pleased to hear that the woman, Argentina, is their niece (the daughter of Senyor or Senyora’s sister) and she lives with them because she is studying law at the National University of Timor Leste (UNTL). We asked about her parents and her mother still lives in Bobonaro district near the border with West Timor (Indonesia). Her father however is a Javanese (Indonesian) police officer who has returned to Indonesia due to sexual assault abuses against Argentina’s mother. We speculated that Argentina is probably the result of the rape of her mother by this Javanese man given that she was born in the mid 1980s when Timor was a colony of Indonesia. During Indonesia’s 24 year occupation of Timor, many Indonesian police and military men systemically raped Timorese women often forcing them to become their “wives” (ie sexual slaves). Many women subsequently bore children from these “marriages”. Most of these Indonesian men had wives and children back home and when it was time to leave Timor, abandoned their Timorese “wives” and children. As you can imagine, there are many children in Timor whose fathers are Indonesian.

We have noticed that Argentina spends many hours sitting outside under the eaves of the still under construction family home, with a young man. As they sit directly opposite our kitchen window it is hard to ignore them (and remember, there is no such thing as privacy in Timor; everyone knows your business!) We have also been curious as to what this is about and of course assumed that they were courting. So again, we took the opportunity to ask our family and indeed, Alberto, an architecture student at UNTL, is courting Argentina. I find the process of courting in Timor terribly old fashioned but at the same time quite endearing (although I also know about the lengthy, expensive and disempowering process involved in bride price which I totally abhor.) Argentina’s family (her uncle, our Senyor) is in discussion with Alberto’s family (his uncles) about their future and in time, I hope that we will receive our first Timorese wedding invitation. I’m also wondering whether I should talk to Argentina about contraception because if she is ever to use that future law degree, she will need to control her fertility, otherwise she will be reduced to nothing more than her womb’s ability to produce eight Timorese children. (I’m beginning to feel like I’m a member of an underground Timorese women’s movement with the secret knowledge of where to obtain the highly sort after modern miracle drug: contraception.)

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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