Hannah is back with us in Lospalos after 8 weeks in America visiting family and friends. She tells us that she really loved her time in the States, and she sees that there is so much more opportunity in America than there is here in Timor. And still, she loves her lifestyle here: laid back, not worried about the petty school-yard mishaps that she imagines would rule her teenage world back in the States. For Tom and me, to hear our 13 year old daughter share these insights brings smiles to our hearts: she sees the difference, and can embrace the value of both of these places.
As Hannah and I were taking a walk around the neighborhood, we passed by a group of little kids playing in a pile of muddy rocks outside of one home. Corrugated sheet metal fences, rusted out from age, edged peoples’ yards. Plastic water bottles and food wrappers of various colors littered the roadside; garbage management is just starting to exist here in Lospalos. I asked Hannah how it makes her feel to see the living conditions here. She said passively, “I don’t really notice it.” To Hannah, it’s just part of her –very broad—reality.
While she was in the US, Hannah shopped at Target and the mall, and visited Wisconsin Dells for waterpark fun. She flew to Indianapolis to visit cousins and grandparents, and travelled north to Duluth to visit old friends. She went to state fairs, state parks, and to St. Louis, Missouri to watch the total eclipse of the sun. She ate a lot of meat. We wondered if she would want to come back to East Timor.
I would have expected the lingering flavor of opportunity in America to be heavily coating Hannah’s taste for life for some time after her return to Timor. So, when she said, “I don’t really notice” the garbage, the pigs, the dilapidated houses that we walked by in Lospalos, and instead said, “I like my lifestyle here,” my heart leapt with gratitude and joy. I know that she does, in fact, notice the outward signs of poverty here. Some of her friends live in metal shacks. Everyone’s staple food is rice and vegetables. There is litter everywhere.
And yet, Hannah takes joy in eating fresh mangos or starfruit right off the tree with her Timorese friends. She loves to help with church fundraisers that include butchering an animal and making satay. She loves the youth group adventures: driving an hour or two loaded in a bus or truck, to the beach, or the one swimming pool in the eastern half of the country. She is fluent in Tetum, but she really wants to learn Fataluku, another one of the local languages, too.
While Tom and I are focused on our work with the church and with the clinic, it is all too easy to focus on the weaknesses and problems we face in our current context. Hannah and Simon help us keep our focus and priorities in order. And the kids’ ability to embrace life here, in all its beauty and simplicity, reminds us to do the same.
Tom and Monica Liddle serve with the Protestant Church of East Timor. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.