Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Festa ba krizma

It began at 10am Sunday and didn’t stop until 1am Monday. The “vizinu” (neighbours) diagonally opposite us had a “festa ba krizma” (confirmation party) for their 16-year-old boy child. A child experiences three “krizma” during their lifetime (as a baby, young child and teenager). The “vizinu” directly opposite us (you know the ones) provided the music. We had to endure many repeat performances of Rod Stewart’s “I am Sailing” sung badly and in various languages. It was tolerable during the course of the day and when we experienced a power blackout at 7pm, we thought, great, they can’t continue and we can go to bed. How wrong we were. With power restored around 9pm, the music started up again blaring out from industrial strength speakers. I was so incensed that I went and asked “our” family if they could go over to the revellers and ask them to turn it off. No such luck, the partygoers were drinking and got antsy with Senyora Domingas for even asking. I certainly did not want to have to write about “baku malu” (fight) number three (see “Baku malu” number 2 and Welcome to the neighbourhood).

We sat and stewed (me in particular) in our bedroom for the next two hours hoping that it would stop. Soon after 11pm, we went outside to find the adult members of “our” family sitting outside in the dark unable to sleep. They pulled out the ubiquitous plastic chairs, which pass for furniture in Timor, and we sat around talking in Tetum (with Daniel translating the bits I didn’t quite understand). Sitting chatting with “our” family was the only good thing to come out of the whole bloody episode. Senyor Raphael as expected did most of the talking while the three adult women listened. He said that the problem with the men playing the music (one of whom is Senyora’s younger brother) is that they were raised in “tempu Indonezia” (Indonesian times) and thus have no respect for others. He said that those Timorese (including himself and Senyora) raised during “tempu Portuges” (Portuguese times) were more respectful and wouldn’t behave in such a manner. Moreover, these young things won’t be told to turn off their music!

However, Senyor’s comments deserve further analysis. I don’t believe that the Portuguese were any more of a disciplining influence on the young than the Indonesians. The latter were far more brutal and suppressed all dissent, but this isn’t quite the same thing. I believe what Senyor was referring to is the change in Timorese society where young people are starting to question their elders and beginning to live freer lives (comparatively speaking). It is no different in the West when the older generations complain about the lack of respect they perceive in “young people these days” and that the solution to their insolence is more (violent) discipline often combined with calls for the reinstatement of national service. What often isn’t appreciated is that we increasingly live in a world where people are encouraged to question their elders and community leaders and to think for themselves; and this is a pre-requisite if genuine equality is ever to flourish. It can also reduce the incidence of child abuse as children are taught to take care of themselves and not to let others violate them simply because the violators are adults and therefore must be obeyed (respect for elders also has a very dark side). All of this I totally support for I want my children to question me (as much as it may pain me at the time!) and to develop respect for themselves and others, which isn’t based on deference for hierarchy (gender and age) but based on an individual’s human rights (see also Teaching children with violence and Violence as a means of resolving problems).

What I don’t like is the total and utter lack of respect for others that these young men clearly regularly exhibit (as do many young and not so young people in any country). They don’t understand that living in a community requires one to treat others as they would like to be treated (respect for self and others). With greater freedom and expanded rights comes increased responsibilities and the need for self-imposed boundaries. Recently two of them decided to service their motorcycle at midnight and we had to endure the loud revs of the engine. A few weeks later, it happened again but this time with their “mikrolet”. Why the hell did they need to service their vehicles at midnight? Their unthoughtful actions impinge on my and many others’ right to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. This is simply unjust, but how can I address it? Consequently they are very bad role models for the five young children who live in the (very small) house with them (five adult men and two women live in the house but I have yet to figure out which children are whose).

We are thinking of tracking down the “xefe aldeia” (village sub-chief or councillor) and asking her/him to have a word with our problem “vizinu”. “Our” family’s connection has in the past had some influence on their behaviour, but it is clear that the need to party can take precedence. Maybe it is time to take the matter to a higher authority. In the meantime, I am suffering from sleep deficit and consequently feel like crap.
Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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