Friday, March 10, 2006

A Timorese lad called Skip

On the journey to work this morning, a young Timorese man started a conversation with me in English. I held my end up in Tetum. I soon noticed that he had a broad Australian accent and surmised that perhaps he was Timorese Australian, because many Timorese fled to Australia as refugees when Indonesia invaded in 1975 and again in 1999 when the Indonesian military and their Timorese militia went on the rampage. But no, Skip as he liked to call himself learnt English in Dili in 1999 from an Australian who hailed from Brisbane. I thought this was very funny and commented to him about his broad ‘Strine’ accent. He replied that every English speaking person comments on it. Skip speaks fluent Makasae (the local dialect of his community), Tetum, Bahasa Indonesia, Portuguese and English. He is now learning Spanish and Japanese. Obviously he has a gift for languages. (I wondered if he speaks every language with a broad Australian accent or has acquired different accents in each language.)

Skip worked as a translator for Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove, the head of INTERFET back in 1999. He subsequently worked for another big wig Australian military man but now he’s unemployed. He’s only 23 and is still completing his high school education. He’s hoping to obtain a Portuguese passport so that he can look for work in England. His uncle and twenty-four year old cousin have been working in a factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland since 2002/3. As they are earning good money, they have no plans to return to Timor for at least ten to fifteen years.

Many Timorese men have obtained work in Europe due to their ability to acquire Portuguese passports. (One of the (few) benefits of being a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. ) Unfortunately, if not all, then a great majority of them are men and not women. This is just one example of the gendered nature of work and opportunities that prevents Timorese women from obtaining economic independence from their male partners and family members.

Skip was born in May 1982 in Viqueque on the south coast of Timor. When he was six his mother died and his aunt brought him to Dili to raise him in her family. He now lives alone which is highly unusual for a Timorese person.

He seemed a nice enough young lad but loved talking about himself. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was just because he wanted to practise his near excellent English or whether it was because he was male.
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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