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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Report on Timor-Leste trip

Here's my report/presentation/speech that I presented on Sunday at church:

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Ruth, I know that I still owe you my report on our trip, so here it is.

Bon dia. Diak kalai?

And for those who don't speak Tetun, I just said, "Good morning. How are you?" The interesting thing is, before the trip, I had printed out all of these English-to-Tetun phrases. But the only ones that I remember are those two phrases. Then again, I've never been good at non-English languages, like Chinese.

Many people have asked me how the trip was. And my reply has always been that it was an interesting and eye-opening experience. This was my first time going to an undeveloped nation, or a so-called Third World country. I had never seen so many run-down buildings in a city. There were few road markings and no traffic lights for the hundreds of vehicles. And each time I stepped into a provision store, I kept wondering if it was safe even to buy that bottle of water.

But these fears and anxieties were not to be found in the people. In spite of the difficulties that they faced, life went on for them. They did not treasure things like hand phones or fashion or American Idol. I don't know if any Timorese travelled halfway across town to eat some special dish. I don't even know if there is a dish that East Timor is famous for. Jason had wanted to find something called "paun", which I think is like a cake or puff, but we couldn't find it anywhere, in spite of its so-called fame.

Instead, the people I saw were happy just to have food to eat, roofs over their heads, and family members close by. Most of all, I remember the reactions by children when they saw us strangers. They didn't shy away from us. At a kindergarten, they proudly showed us their artwork and performed stunts for the camera. At a beach, boys stripped naked and dived into the water. You've already seen some of these children in the video, so you know what I mean.

And that is really why I had gone on this trip. In truth, I treated it as a holiday, to get away from materialistic Singapore and travel to a place that had a simpler way of life. I wanted to reaffirm my faith in the human race. For too long, I have been surrounded by people who dream of getting rich, and then getting richer. Where wealth equals happiness.

Of course, it is easy for me to say that. Would I really be willing to give up my TV, computer and iPod? The simple answer is no. As a Christian, I am taught to be simple and humble. Store up your riches in heaven. The meek will inherit the earth. Meanwhile, we have million-dollar preachers, million-dollar Christian merchandise, and billion-dollar church buildings.

Some people thought that I had a higher calling from God. Sorry to disappoint you, but no, I did not receive any such divine word.

At our first team prayer meeting before the trip, I admitted as much to my team members that I had no real spiritual reason for going. At another meeting during the trip, Ruth asked me if I felt God speaking to me. Again, the answer was no. Or maybe I'm going deaf. That's what TV Mobile will do to you.

But I'm not here to give a sermon. I'm here to say that I hope that I can return to East Timor, maybe on a more spiritually-inclined level. I may be trapped in my materialistic way of life, but I need to remember that there is a simpler way to achieve happiness.

Thank you.

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1 comment:

Tym said...

Lovely. I can hear your "voice".

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