I told a friend that Timor Leste does not evoke any artistic desires in my heart. I don’t feel inspired to write poems which I often do in other countries except when I see the sunrise and sunset in the horizon of Sunda Sea.
The history of the country is heavy like most countries I worked in the past. The story of death and desperation is written in almost all the books and non-fiction materials I came across with while there and it breaks my heart, and I tried as much as I can to understand where the people I encountered in my work are coming from when I started to deal with the Timorese — I am not always successful because people are complex and like every human I make mistakes. At some point the government advised the people not to write their report summaries with the story of the atrocities committed to them as the introduction instead to talk about their resilience of overcoming their adversities and become the one of the youngest democratic nation in the world. They became an independent nation in 2002 as the eastern half of the Timor Island.
The lack of literary inspiration was soon over shadowed by finding good friends that can be there to listen to you vent when the going gets tough and laugh with you at the silliest joke. The poems were instead replaced by memories and images of the times we spent together that I will cherish until the next time.
Coming from different background and with different responsibilities the girls and I bonded over evenings of stories, dancing, photography, karaoke, shopping, drinking and of course food. We took road trips. We supported each others work until we parted as besties after our contracts and missions are completed.
Over those Thursday dinner the regular became the Quinta Girls (and the boys became Domingo Boys much later). A name we coined because we sort of regularly meet towards the end of the week – Thursday and plan the weekend to unwind from the week that was and relax before the next week. We brought whatever we can on the table and started chatting, sharing stories and there are times we cook from scratch and finish off with good dancing or music. Eventually my house shared with A became known as the Quinta house – one and two since we moved twice in the almost 4 years I was in Timor Leste.
The girls are experts in different field — human resource development, photography and film directing, monitoring and evaluation, agriculture, HIV / AIDS, rural development, organizational development, aqua culture, social inclusion, project management, disability, climate change, people and culture, video editing, grant management. Name it most of the girls (and boys) have opinion on issues affecting world peace but we definitely know how to have fun.
But above and beyond our professional backgrounds, we became good friends until it was time for us to leave and move on to the next mission, to home, get married and become parents. Still in touch, updating each other and catching up on each others adventure after Timor Leste.
This is one of the perks of being an expat — finding gems in the rough and in my time there these gems are the sisters, friends I collectively call Quinta girls 🙂