We will be in Dili for 5 more weeks. I realize how much I have adapted to this strange place and am a little nervous about adjusting back to life in the wealth and comforts of the USA. I remember clearly that I thought I could NEVER make it for even one year when I first arrived. Countless adaptations have been made, most imperceptible, but constant. I have been reformed, and now, that form has to be remolded again. Harder than you might think.
What is most helpful for me to consider here, is that poverty has no social stigma attached to it. The land is hard, the country is new, the people are uneducated and history has not been kind. Being poor is the normal state of being: poor people, poor schools, poor roads. Poverty leads to hunger, malnourishment, stunted children, ignorance, domestic abuse, nepotism and corruption. No tropical paradise.
And yet. The people exude a joie-de-vivre, an openness to the possibilities, a warmth, a love of children, a respect for education (with a very broken system) and a general contentment, qualities that are difficult to find in the States.
This strange mixture of horror at the ugliness, the trash, the bombed out buildings and the chaos with the growing realization that these people are far happier, that mixture is what has turned my world upside-down.
Yet again, the more I learn about the internal workings of the government and the cultural acceptance of abuse towards women and girls, this makes me want to run. With so few people trained to lead, to educate, to run businesses, leadership has been based almost exclusively on established hierarchy. This group, which speaks Portuguese, has established that language as the official lingua franca of Timor-Leste. And, that is a very long blog discussion, to be sure.
Suffice it to say that Timor-Leste does work itself into your heart, rather like that mangy, flea-bitten stray who just keeps hanging around, then you fed it out of pity and somehow it becomes part of your family, outside of any thought or plan.