Who Am I?

No, this is not a knock-knock joke. I have found myself thinking a great deal about who I am in Timor-Leste compared to the person I am in the USA. The persons are startingly different, hardly recognizable to each other.

In Timor-Leste, I am a malae (foreigner) and continually reminded of that fact with the shout of every child I pass, almost every time I pass. So, that means I am a minor celebrity, along with all malaes. As English is my first language, I am also in a higher subset of malaes, as all up and coming Timorese want to talk with English speakers. And, I am a native speaker of American English, which puts me in a higher set yet, as there are very few Americans in this far away land. American English is preferred because, quite frankly, Americans speak slowly enough to be understood, a trait not present in many Aussies and Kiwis.

I am a middle-aged woman who rides a purple one-speed bike all around Dili, my purchases limited by the size of the front basket. This puts me in a very small subset (myself as far as I can see). There are numerous bike riders, young, muscular xtreme-types who ride up many mountains maintaining fitness. There are even a few women in this category, but none that ride about town buying eggs and vegetables. And now that I have a blue cowgirl hat shadowing my face and neck, I really am more distinct than ever (and quite stylish, I must say.)

I am “teach-a” to many of my college-aged students, someone who demands timeliness, discipline, and a straight back, and who fails those who fall below 50%. This shocking behavior is having a positive effect, however temporary, and my passionate outbursts against laziness have been most entertaining for those outside of the target group.

And, most notably, I am a woman of privilege, who brings to this very poor country a background of education, culture, travel and support which puts me in the stratosphere of high flyers. Regardless of my volunteer status, I am rich beyond compare when it comes to “available options”. And, my Catholic connections that have brought me here continue to support me in every way through the Canossians.

The list is very short indeed when I consider who I am back in the good old USA. I am a middle-aged Italian-American woman, married with three children and two grandchildren (hurray!), with an MA in Adult Education and some unique living experiences in various Asian countries. I will be unemployed in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates and an educator in a state which is laying off educators as fast as the union will allow. My single most satisfying achievement is the raising of three amazing children, which will not get me anywhere in the job market. But, my Catholic faith and the knowledge acquired in Timor-Leste, will continue to provide a solid perspective and hope about the future. God is good. The future is our apple.   [posted by Rory]

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4 Responses to Who Am I?

  1. Anonymous says:

    It will make me happy if you continue to post after your return. And plan on writing a book. These are terrific posts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Rory, I hope you feel you are “more” than either of these descriptions!
    As we both approach 60 years of living it seems who we are has much more to do with our spirit then our physical reflections.

  3. Saralee Howard says:

    Rory–folks at both University Reformed Church and at the Diocese of Lansing have spoken highly of you and said firmly…..”that’s someone you must talk to.” So here I am hoping to get in touch and wondering which country and which extraordinary adventure you are in. Am running Shared Pregnancy Women’s Center in downtown Lansing. Come visit….or call…or e-mail….Saralee Howard
    517-484-1882 (o)
    517-2856819 (c)

  4. peter says:

    Try the same in Tanzania Rory and you will never regret. People of your qualifications are highly in demand and conditions of acceptance and living are not that ambiguous.

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