Christine Tsoi (2013)

Going to East Timor was not in my internship plan. When it was suggested that I apply for the trip I didn’t think it was reasonable for an ‘outsider’ to take part in the Australian Timor Leste mission. However it was indeed a precious chance to see the new born country with ASCM and Dr. Helen Hill and to satisfy my curiosity about relations between East Timor and Australia.

The capital of East Timor, Dili, reminded me of a town in China; when we stepped out of the international airport, there were a few taxi drivers waiting for us with the hope that as tourists we would hire their taxi and bring them some income. Our taxi driver was a young man who liked to sing along with the Portuguese song he played in his taxi, contently and jauntily. With the delightful music, the streets of Dili told me that the people are enjoying the peace after an extended period of unrest. There were lots of streets and buildings under construction but also a sense of safety.

The place we lived in was a shared house owned by a middle aged couple. The landlady was a kind and beautiful woman from Indonesia. Her husband was Timorese and she was a housewife and a mother of 4 children. On the first afternoon, the couple drove us to the Timor Plaza to show us the place that was most like home to me. There were supermarkets with goods from Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe and from all over the world and I found Cantonese food vendors and Gloria Jeans, which are my favorite shops. The couple spent the afternoon with their youngest kid in the exotic food court while Brigida and I were wandering in the supermarket. It is a privilege to be a foreigner in Timor especially if you’re middle class.

We visited different NGOs and museums in Dili and met with the Student Christian Movement of Timor Leste (SCMTL). Francisco had joined SCMTL when it was established in 2004. He is very knowledgeable about SCMTL and the country. He shared how he risked his life to translate the news about the country from English to Tetum to let the people know the world was supporting their independence. He shared the miracle that God had carried out when he was arrested by Indonesian police. He shared his work for the United Nations in Timor and his plans for after the program closes this coming December. He said he has been working for many years and now he would like to spend more time by himself and with his family. His plan for himself represents the autonomy of his country to me. Finally, both of them can make their own plan and act for themselves.

At the Food Conference held by Victoria University and the National University of East Timor , I could see how Timorese people are passionate about the development of their country, how eager they are to see the country’s prosperity and how much they want for their county. There were thousands of brilliant ideas in only two days, all just about food. I was impressed that the country is full of hope and I believe that the country will grow healthy and strong with her people.

Besides the people and the country I saw during the 9 days in Timor, I also learnt about the solidarity betweens SCMs from the visit to SCM Timor Leste with ASCM. Both their work and contribution to their movements are important. The visit showed me the possibility of connecting different SCMs and I hope that there will be more such solidarity programs or exchanges so that we can unite and be one and build God’s kingdom on earth.